Tom Wright details Hibernian's 1965/66 campaign, which included a record 11-1 victory over tonight's opponents Hamilton Academical.
Jock Stein’s surprise resignation to re-join Celtic in March 1965 took everyone at Easter Road completely by surprise. After replacing Walter Galbraith as manager in April 1964, in just under twelve months Stein had totally transformed Hibs from a relegation haunted side into potential candidates for honours.
His replacement at Easter Road would be the former Dundee manager Bob Shankly, who along with the former Hibs player Sammy Kean as coach and the incomparable Gordon Smith, had led the Dens side to its first ever league title in 1962 and the semi-finals of the European Cup the following year. With just nine league games of the season left to play, Hibs had been well in the running to win the championship and also in the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup, but unfortunately in the end they would fall just short of both targets.
The 1965/66 season would get off to a disappointing start for Shankly, when immediately following a 3-1 League Cup defeat by Falkirk at Brockville, the extremely popular but flawed genius Willie Hamilton left to join Aston Villa. The disappointment of losing the influential midfield player however would not last long.
During the following few months the club would go on an unbeaten 15 game run, reach the semi-finals of the League Cup, exit Europe only after a third game play-off and break two club goal scoring records, one of them against tonight’s opponents Hamilton Academical.
Just days before a 5-1 victory against Morton in the league at Cappielow, a 4-2 win in the League Cup at the same ground would give the Easter Road side qualification for the later stages of the competition. In the quarter-finals, Hibs would be drawn against Second Division Alloa, the first game away from home. At Recreation Park a Pat Quinn goal in the very first minute dashed any hopes of an upset by the lower league side and another in the first half by Neil Martin against his former side all but ended the game as a contest.
Worse was to come for poor Alloa just seven days later as the home side went on a goal rampage at Easter Road. The previous Saturday, doubles by Eric Stevenson and Jimmy O’Rourke at Tynecastle, the first in the opening minute, had set Hibs well on the way to a comprehensive 4-0 victory over city rivals Hearts, with all the goals scored inside the first ten minutes of the derby match.
Against Alloa at Easter Road on the Wednesday, it would take the home side all of 15 minutes to reach this four goal target and by half time they led 8-0. Poor defending added to some clinical finishing and allowed Hibs to seemingly score every time they crossed the halfway-line. Without exaggeration, Hibs could well have scored 20 and they even managed to miss a penalty.
Neil Martin and Jim Scott both took the goal scoring honours with four goals, Stevenson and Quinn one each, full back Joe Davis completing the rout from the penalty spot after Eric Stevenson had been brought down in the box.
To give plucky Alloa their due, they kept battling away and their persistence paid off when they scored twice in the second half, although it has to be said courtesy of some poor defending by the home side. The eventual 11-2 victory was Hibs’ highest ever score in the competition, almost double their previous best of six, a total that had been achieved on no fewer than five occasions in the competition over the years.
On Saturday 6th November 1965, just days after a 3-0 Fairs Cup defeat by Valencia in a third game play-off in Spain, Hibs faced today’s opponents Hamilton Academical in a league game at Easter Road. Promoted as runners-up to Stirling Albion at the end of the previous season, Hamilton had already found wins hard to come by and even this early were considered favourites for the drop. From the previous eight league games only one had ended in victory. A 4-0 home defeat by Aberdeen had been followed by a 7-0 reverse at Tannadice and only the previous week they had lost 7-1 at home to Rangers.
With the former Hearts players Andy Bowman and goalkeeper Wilson Brown in their line up as well as the former Hibs player Johnny Frye, Hamilton’s first visit to Easter Road on league business for eleven seasons had started brightly, the visitors creating the first couple of decent chances before the roof fell in. Thereafter, the home side looked like scoring whenever they pleased, with the goals spread evenly throughout the team.
Eric Stevenson took the opportunity to record his first ever hat-trick in senior football, Jimmy O’Rourke and Jim Scott both scoring twice, another by Peter Cormack with even full back Joe Davis getting in on the act, and unusually for him it was not from the penalty spot.
In only his second appearance for the first team, a young Davie Hogg scored the final goal for Hibs in the last minute of the game, the other an own goal by centre half Small. The final scoreline of 11-1 was the club’s highest ever in a league game in its 90 year history, beating the ten scored against Port Glasgow Athletic in a Second Division game during the 1893/94 season.
The scoreline was also the visitors’ heaviest ever defeat in a league game. In truth, Hamilton had looked completely out of their depth at this level, and sadly there was to be no respite for the Douglas Park side seven days later when they went down 6-1 at home to Dunfermline.
In the return game between Hamilton and Hibs at Douglas Park later in the season, there would be no repeat of the high scoring spree. After a slow start, Hamilton took the lead early in the first half when the former Motherwell and Scotland player Bert McCann capitalised on a mistake by centre-half John McNamee to open the scoring.
Although there were plenty of near things in the home penalty area, it took Hibs until five minutes before the break to equalise when Colin Grant fired past goalkeeper Lamont.
Hamilton almost regained the lead early in the second half when a great drive came crashing back off the post before the ball was eventually scrambled to safety, and although play then raged from end to end it took an own goal by left half King near the end to give a mightily relieved Hibs side both points.
Despite reaching the semi-final stage of the League Cup where they would lose to Celtic after a replay and taking Valencia to a third game play-off in the Fairs Cup, after the tremendous early season run, it had been yet another disappointing end of the season for the Easter Road side, finally having to settle for sixth place in the table, one ahead of city rivals Hearts only on goal average.
For Hamilton however it would turn out to be much worse. With only three wins and two draws from the 34 league games, scoring just 29 goals while conceding 127, they would finish the season anchored firmly at the foot of the table, a huge 13 points below second bottom Morton, and a return to the Second Division.
It would be another 20 years before Hamilton would again grace the top division, but continuing the Hibs connection, as well as the current manager Martin Canning several other former Hibs players including Ronnie Simpson, Bertie Auld, John Lambie, John Blackley, Billy McLaren and Iain Munro have also managed the club, with the legendary Joe Baker spending a short spell at Douglas Park as second team coach in the 1970s.
Written by Tom Wright