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Trust Curator Tom Wright maps Hibernian’s famous 1972 League Cup campaign, with the Leith side playing Celtic in the final of the competition.

On Saturday 9th December 1972, Hibernian faced Celtic in the Scottish League Cup Final at Hampden.

For weeks, cup fever had gripped the green half of Edinburgh and on the day of the game every available coach in the city had been called upon to transport the huge exodus of Hibs supporters to Glasgow, as well as the three football specials that left from Waverley Station and a convoy of private cars.

It had only been a few months since a heavy defeat by Celtic in the Scottish Cup Final, but just weeks before, the Easter Road side had gained a modicum of revenge when defeating Celtic 5-3 in the final of the sponsored Drybrough Cup competition. A great number of the Hibs fans made their way to Glasgow in an expectant mood.

The season proper had kicked off with a new look League Cup format that for the first time featured lower league teams paired in the same section as First Division sides, and that the top two sides in each section would now qualify for the later stages of the competition as opposed to just one in previous years.

In a section that included Aberdeen, Queens Park and Queen of the South, Hibs would finish second in the table behind Eddie Turnbull’s former side Aberdeen on the same number of points but with a slightly inferior goal average. The opportunity to better a 4-1 defeat at Pittodrie was missed when Hibs could only manage to beat the Dons’ 2-1 in the return game in Edinburgh the following midweek, but the fans at Easter Road that evening could not have known it at the time that they had just witnessed the very first competitive outing as a unit of an eleven that would soon achieve legendary status at Easter Road: Herriot, Brownlie and Schaedler, Stanton, Black and Blackley, Edwards, O’Rourke, Gordon, Cropley and Duncan – ‘Turnbull’s Tornado’s.’

In the next round, O’Rourke scored a hat-trick in a 5-2 victory over Dundee United at Tannadice with all the Hibs goals scored in the second half. The result made the return game at Easter Road a formality and so it was to prove, when despite another tremendous performance by the home side, the game ended in a anti-climatic 0-0 draw much to the great disappointment of the Hibs fans.

In the quarterfinal the goal-scoring spree continued with a 6-2 defeat of Airdrie in the first leg at Broomfield. Hibs were two behind at the interval, but once again all goals for the Leith side had been scored in the second half, two by right back Brownlie, surely at the time the best attacking full-back in the country, leaving the fans to wonder just what the manager said to his players during the interval.

A few days later Hibs continued where they had left off in midweek with a 5-2 drubbing of poor Airdrie, this time in a league game at Easter Road before completing the rout against the ‘Diamonds’ with a 4-1 victory in the return League Cup game in Edinburgh. Two of the goals had been scored by Jimmy O’Rourke who had only narrowly failed to record his fifth hat-trick of the season, the other goals scored by Edwards and Stanton, evidence that every player in this side was a potential match winner. The convincing victory had earned Hibs a place the semi-finals of the competition for the fourth time in five years and a game against old adversaries Rangers.

In a game packed with constant stoppages and stray passes, the expected physical play of Rangers had nullified any chance of good football. Hibs had performed well below their best but even then had still been far too good for their opponents. With chances at either end few and far between, just 20 minutes from the end a brilliant solo goal by Brownlie when he crashed un unstoppable drive past McCloy from just outside the penalty area after a tremendous thirty yard run, was enough to send his side into its third League Cup Final.

It will be no surprise to learn that Hibs opponents in the final would once again be Celtic. As part of the mind games leading up the game, Celtic manager Jock Stein had been reluctant to release his team selection until just before the kick off. At Easter Road however, Eddie Turnbull had no such problem and the settled side that had taken the club all the way to the final playing a scintillating brand of football would be taking their places in the starting eleven.

Watched by a crowd of over 70,000, the two best sides in the country at that time faced each other on a wet Saturday afternoon at Hampden. The first half turned into a tactical battle with few real chances at either end although Celtic probably had the edge, Macari coming close with a header that went over the bar midway through the half. The nearest to a goal in the first 45 minutes came just before the break when the Celtic captain Billy McNeil conceded a corner whilst attempting to pass back to his goalkeeper, Stanton forcing a tremendous save from Williams from the resulting corner with a powerful header that looked a goal all the way. The first half however ended goalless.

All the game had lacked so far was a goal and this was remedied within 15 minutes of the restart when Hibs scored twice inside a six-minute period. The first came after an intelligent free kick by Edwards over the Celtic defensive wall from just outside the penalty area found Stanton. At first the Hibs captain seemed to have missed his chance when he was forced to take a step to the side but managing to regain control, he then proceeded to crash a tremendous drive past the despairing dive of Williams from 12 yards.

 

1972 league cup 1

Jimmy O'Rourke celebrates scoring in the 1972 Scottish League Cup FInal against Celtic

 

Just minute’s later, Stanton turned provider when his accurate cross from the right found the head of the inrushing O’Rourke who had no trouble in doubling the lead for the Edinburgh side. It was now all Hibs. Goalkeeper Williams dropped a Stanton effort on the goal line that was eventually scrambled to safety, a Gordon shot was cleared off the line by McNeil when it seemed easier to score, Stanton later hitting the post with a 25 yard drive.

With 13 minutes remaining Dalglish pulled one back for Celtic but although Herriot had to be alert in the closing minutes to make a save from Hood, in reality the final result had never been in any doubt for some time and in truth Hibs could well have won by more than the one goal.

Earlier trouble on the terracing had prevented the Easter Road side from making the traditional lap of honour at the final whistle, but before receiving the cup Stanton led his victorious players towards the huge Hibs support that had mainly congregated at the west end of the ground where they received a rapturous acclaim from the ecstatic fans. To his credit, the Celtic manager Jock Stein was magnanimous in defeat, shaking the hand of every Hibs player as they made their way to collect their medals.

The teams that day were as follows:

Hibernian: Herriot, Brownlie and Schaedler, Stanton, Black and Blackley, Edwards, O’Rourke, Gordon, Cropley and Duncan (Substitute: Hamilton)

Celtic: Williams, McGrain and Brogan, McCluskey, McNeil and Hay, Johnstone, Connelly, Dalglish, Hood and Macari (Substitute: Callaghan)

It was only revealed after the game that Brownlie had been a major doubt in the days leading up to the final. This however had not prevented the defender from having a major part to play in the end result. Stein had started Jimmy Johnstone on the left in an attempt to nullify the attacking flair of Brownlie but the tactic proved ineffectual and Johnstone was substituted after an hour.

There had been no failures in the Hibs side. From the impeccable Jim Herriot to the often unpredictable but exciting Arthur Duncan, each man had played his part in the historic victory, but special mention must be made of captain Pat Stanton who had what many considered to have been his finest ever game in a green and white jersey. As well as scoring the opening goal himself, his all round play had inspired his players to eventual victory and it was perhaps only fitting that he should go up to receive the cup from Glasgow’s Lord Provost Sir William Gray.

Later that evening, the players would make the journey from Corstorphine, along Princes Street and down Leith Walk by open topped bus, the entire route packed with euphoric fans before the festivities continued well into the night, both inside the North British Hotel for a victory reception for all the Easter Road staff, and throughout the city as the fans paid tribute to the momentous cup win in their own way.

The last word should perhaps be left to the former Hibs legend Bobby Johnstone who stated, “we should now forget all about the Famous Five and start talking about the Famous Eleven instead.”

And it was to be only the start. The following Saturday at Easter Road both the Drybrough and League cups would be paraded before the fans in a game against Ayr United. Cropley had opened the scoring after just eleven seconds in the eventual 8-1 victory, Alan Gordon’s third goal midway through the first half was Hibernian’s 100th strike in all games that season.

A week later, a Celtic side desperate for revenge would be held to a 1-1 draw in Glasgow. This would be followed by a 3-2 victory over Aberdeen at Easter Road. It was a truly magnificent few weeks climaxed with the now famous 7-0 victory over city rivals Hearts at Tynecastle on New Year’s Day.

 

Written by Tom Wright

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