Trust Curator Tom Wright details season 1964/65, a campaign that would hold a mixture of contrasting emotions under the guidance of Jock Stein then Bob Shankly.
At the end of the 1964/65 season, Kilmarnock would win the League Championship for the first and so far only time in the club’s history. For the Easter Road side however, it would turn out to be a season of contrasting fortunes.
Just a few weeks before the end of the previous season, the former Dunfermline manager Jock Stein had replaced Walter Galbraith in the Easter Road hot seat and within months, he would turn a relegation haunted side into one capable of challenging for major honours.
Previously a centre-half with Albion Rovers, Stein had been a member of the Rovers side defeated by Hibs in a Scottish Cup tie at Coatbridge in 1948 on the afternoon that the Hibs manager Willie McCartney had complained of feeling unwell at half-time, dying of a heart attack later that evening at his home in Edinburgh.
Jock Stein chats with Club Chairman Willie Harrower after a Board meeting in March 1964 (pic: TSPL)
After a move to the Welsh non-league side Llanelly in 1950, Stein would make a surprise return to Scotland to sign for Celtic. After a spell in the reserves, injuries would mean a quick promotion to the first team, permanently as it would turn out, and as captain he would lead his side to victory against Hibs in the Coronation Cup Final in the summer of 1953 and the league and cup double the following season, the first time that Celtic had won the championship since 1938 and their first league and cup double for forty years.
In 1957, an ankle injury would bring his playing career to an end, and he was immediately offered the job of looking after the Parkhead reserve side.
In March 1960 Stein was appointed manager of a Dunfermline side that was all but mathematically assured of relegation, but against the odds the Fife side would win all six of their remaining games, including a 3-2 victory against his former side Celtic to guarantee safety.
It would be only the start of a remarkable period at East End Park. In 1961 Dunfermline would win the Scottish Cup for the very first time in the replayed final against Celtic, before going on to earn an impressive European pedigree including the famous 6-2 home victory against Valencia after a 4-0 defeat in Spain.
For Hibs however, the new season didn’t get off to the best of starts when they failed to qualify for the latter stages of the League Cup. Worse was to follow with a 5-3 home defeat by city rivals Hearts in the first league game of the season, but a 3-2 victory against Aberdeen in the Summer Cup final at Pittodrie, a game that had been held back from the end of the previous season due to an outbreak of Typhoid in the Grampian area, gave the long suffering Hibs fans something to cheer about at last. Although not an overly important competition, it was the Easter Road side’s first silverware for almost 13 years and the first cup success since defeating Rangers by six corners to five in the Southern League Cup Final in 1944.
With no competitive European football in the city that season, in September 1964 Hibs defeated the Spanish giants Real Madrid 2-0 in a friendly at Easter Road. Although Madrid were no longer the great side of a just few years earlier, the victory had nevertheless brought great prestige, not only for Hibs and Edinburgh but the whole of Scottish football.
A few days later, the same eleven defeated Rangers 4-2 in Glasgow, the visitor’s first league victory at Ibrox since 1952 and Hibs were now the most talked about side in the country. The result had lifted the club into fourth place in the table, their highest position for several years. Even this early in the season, there was a definite belief that this could be Hibs year.
With new signing left-back Joe Davis facing his former side, a few weeks before Christmas a 5-0 victory over Third Lanark would see Hibs rise to third place in the table and well placed in the race for the championship. A famous victory against Hearts at Tynecastle on New Year’s Day, Willie Hamilton scoring the only goal of the game from an almost impossible angle near the bye-line, followed by a 6-0 victory against Falkirk at Easter Road the following day, lifted Hibs into second equal place in the table alongside Hearts, and the Easter Road fans were now starting to believe.
At the end of January, both Hibs and Rangers took to a snow covered Easter Road pitch wearing black armbands as a mark of respect for the former Prime Minister Winston Churchill who had died earlier in the week. Watched by a huge crowd of well over 45,000, a Neil Martin goal would give the home side a slender victory and their first league double over the Ibrox side for 62 years, a feat not even achieved by the great side of the 1920s or the team of the halcyon post war years.
Hibs now had second place all to themselves. Unfortunately, the euphoria of the victory would be tempered later that evening with the breaking news that manager Jock Stein, who had achieved so much in such a short space of time, would be joining Celtic at the end of the season.
After victories over the recently formed ES Clydebank and Partick Thistle, Hibs had been drawn to face Rangers at home in the third round of the Scottish Cup. In a hotly competed contest watched by yet another huge crowd, the sides were level at one goal each with just two minutes remaining. Supporters of both sides were stating to make arrangements for the replay in Glasgow, before Willie Hamilton managed to get his toe to the end of a John Fraser shot that appeared to be going in any way to score the goal that would give Hibs a famous victory, the first time that the Easter Road side had defeated Rangers three times in the same season.
On the Monday morning however, as the Hibs fans were still celebrating the momentous victory, they were brought crashing back to earth with the devastating news that Jock Stein would be joining Celtic, not at the end of the season as first thought, but with immediate effect, the announcement casting a giant shadow over Easter Road. Since taking over less than twelve months before, Stein’s time as manager had been nothing short of phenomenal. Of the 37 competitive games played, 25 had been won with six drawn, 88 goals scored against just the 37 conceded.
He would be succeeded as manager at Easter Road by his great friend Bob Shankly, brother of the perhaps more famous Bill of Liverpool fame. Along with the former Hibs player Sammy Kean as coach and the great Gordon Smith at outside right, in 1962 Shankly had completely transformed Dundee into title winners for the first time in the clubs history, also leading the Dens Park side to the semi-final of the European Cup the following year.
Seven points secured from the following four games, including a 4-2 victory against Celtic at Parkhead, with Neil Martin scoring a hat-trick, would keep the Easter Road side well in contention for the championship, but hopes of the elusive league and cup double would be shattered when losing 2-0 to Dunfermline in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup at Tynecastle.
With five games left to play however, Hibs were now just three points behind leaders Hearts in the championship race but still with a game in hand. Unfortunately, back-to-back defeats by Dundee and Celtic would finally destroy any hopes of the remaining half of the ‘dream double.’
In a quite incredible end to the season, as Hibs were losing 4-2 to Partick Thistle at Firhill, that same afternoon at Tynecastle Kilmarnock needed just a 2-0 victory against Hearts to secure the championship. Any other result as long as Hearts scored would have given the Gorgie side the title, but on the day Kilmarnock scored the goals that mattered to deny Hearts on goal average. Near the end of the game, the future Hibs player Alan Gordon would miss a great chance to score the goal that would have given his side the title, a miss that according to the player would haunt him for the rest of his days.
Hearts would later be the main players behind the move to replace goal average with the goal difference that would have given the Tynecastle side the championship against Kilmarnock. Ironically, had goal average still been in operation instead of goal difference, then Hearts would have won the championship in 1986 instead of Celtic.
The 1964/65 season would be the only time before or since that neither of the Old Firm had finished in the top four, Rangers finishing fifth, Celtic eighth. Hibs would end the season a disappointing fourth, four points behind leaders Kilmarnock and Hearts and three behind Dunfermline.
For Jock Stein however, it would be only the start of an incredible journey. His new side Celtic would defeat Dunfermline 3-2 in that seasons Scottish Cup Final before going on to secure not only a historic nine consecutive league titles but also eight Scottish Cups, six League Cups, and in 1967 would become the first British side to win the European Cup.
Written by Tom Wright