Tom Wright profiles the Edinburgh Select games that took place regularly at both Easter Road and Tynecastle in the 1940s through to the 1960s.
During the late 1940s and 1950s, the Edinburgh Select Charity game was an eagerly awaited precursor to the new season. In the days before television as a fixture in most households, as well as its commendable aims of raising money for deserving causes, the charity game gave football supporters the opportunity to see many of the top players from England in action. Originally a wartime measure to raise funds for numerous charities in the area, its early success guaranteed that it would continue after the end of hostilities.
To help the war effort, during the years of conflict many fund raising or benefit games had been played, usually between or against, representative or composite sides in aid of charities as diverse as the Spitfire Fund and the Red Cross. Hibs themselves had played their part, with matches against a United Services XI at Hampden in July 1942, and another against a Royal Air Force International Eleven at Easter Road a few weeks later.
With a Charities Committee now in place under the patronage of the then Edinburgh Lord Provost William Darling, and a handsome Charities Day Challenge Trophy donated by Chairman William Allison, an Edinburgh Eleven had defeated an all-star Royal Air Force side in 1943.
The first of what would now become a regular feature in the capital during the next eighteen years took place at Tynecastle on August 5th 1944. The game, between a combined Edinburgh XI, featuring players from both Hearts and Hibs alongside several guest players from other clubs including Jimmy Delaney of Celtic, Morton’s Billy Steele and the Preston North End player Bill Shankly who was then a guest player with Partick Thistle, faced the top English side Aston Villa, the side that had won the North of England League Cup the previous year.
Although Hearts had played Arsenal in a charity match at Tynecastle in 1941 and an Edinburgh Select had defeated an all-star Royal Air Force team in 1943, this was the first game as a City Select under what would become the accepted format.
It was not a recent phenomenon for both Edinburgh sides to combine for charitable means however. In 1915, an Edinburgh Select had faced an International XI at Tynecastle in aid of the Belgian Relief War Fund, and in the early twenties a Hibs/Hearts Select had faced a Celtic/Rangers combination to raise funds for the construction of the War Memorial at Haymarket. Both Edinburgh sides had also combined for a game against a Rangers/Celtic Select at Tynecastle in April 1933, in aid of the dependants of the victims of the Granton Trawler Disaster.
Advance bookings for the game against Aston Villa had already guaranteed the success of the all ticket fixture, and over 30,000 watched the game including many wounded servicemen who were recuperating in the area. After a short delay to accommodate the huge number of fans desperate to see the game, the teams took the field with former Hearts favourite Alec Massie leading out the visitors who sported their usual claret and blue jerseys including the novelty of identifying numbers on the back. Hibs captain Bobby Baxter led out the select side wearing all white jerseys with black shorts for the occasion. By coincidence, both Massie in 1934, and Baxter in 1939, had captained Scotland against England. The Middlesbrough player Baxter had also guested for Hearts at the outbreak of hostilities before a dispute with the Tynecastle side had led to him crossing the city in 1940.
In what would turn out to be an exciting encounter, Villa were leading 2-0 at half time and were actually 3-0 ahead in the later stages of the game. Then, in an enthralling four-minute period, the home side managed to draw level only to see the visitors score a late goal to earn them what in the end was probably a deserved victory.
The game had been considered a great success. Raising a record £3740, which would be distributed between over two dozen deserving charities, it had also guaranteed the fixtures continuance in the immediate post war years.
The Edinburgh Select players who contested the inaugural fixture in 1944 were:
Edinburgh Select: Brown (Hearts), Shaw (Hibs), McClure (Hearts), Bill Shankly (Partick Thistle), Baxter (Hibs Captain), Kean (Hibs), Jimmy Delaney (Celtic), Walker (Hearts), Smith (Hibs), Steele (Morton) and Caskie (Hibs).
Referee: Bobby Calder (Rutherglen)
The 1945 fixture against Huddersfield Town, again played at Tynecastle was another all ticket affair. This time the select took to the field wearing the traditional maroon and white of Hearts. To balance matters, Easter Road would host the following two fixtures, but thereafter the game would alternate each year between Easter Road and Tynecastle, the select team on the day wearing the colours of the home side, and usually featuring five players from the visiting side and six from the other.
The Arab Legion Pipe Band, who were appearing at The Edinburgh Festival, entertained the Easter Road crowd before the Edinburgh Select game against Newcastle United in 1955
For the game against Huddersfield the former Hearts player Alec Massie who had captained Aston Villa the previous year, was invited to represent the Edinburgh Select as one of only two guest players, the other being Harris of Queen’s Park. Thereafter, the Edinburgh Select would feature only players from both Hearts and Hibs. Perhaps as an indication of more innocent times, at the pre match dinner the evening before the game, Lord Provost Gray addressed the Huddersfield directors and invited guests, confirming his determination to do all in his power to suppress the betting on football matches that was gaining in popularity at the time.
CONTINUING A POLICY OF BRINGING ONLY THE TOP ENGLISH CLUBS TO THE CITY, OVER THE DOZEN YEARS OR SO THE EDINBURGH PUBLIC WOULD BE TREATED TO SCINTILLATING PERFORMANCES BY MANY OF THE TOP STARS OF THE DAY.
Continuing a policy of bringing only the top English clubs to the city, over the next dozen or so years the Edinburgh public would be treated to scintillating performances by many of the top stars of the day including the England players Raich Carter (Derby County 1947), Stanley Matthews (Blackpool 1948), Jackie Milburn (Newcastle United 1950 and 1955), Billy Wright (Wolves 1949), Nat Lofthouse (Bolton 1954), Tom Finney (Preston 1957) and Jimmy Greaves (Chelsea 1960).
Hibernian goalkeeper Tommy Younger during a Select game against Wolves at Easter Road in 1953
By the early 1960s, however, the annual charities match had started to lose its appeal with the fans, possibly due to the then increased popularity of competitive European football. With gates generally in decline throughout the country, the 20,000 crowd for a recent game could still be considered a reasonable attendance but it fell far short of the over 40,000 that the fixture had once attracted and the game against Burnley at Tynecastle at the beginning of the 1962/63 season, a 4-2 defeat for the Edinburgh side, was the last in the series: at least in the meantime.
In 1985 an Edinburgh Select side that also included Meadowbank’s Alan Lawrence defeated Bayern Munich 2-1 at Tynecastle to win the Festival Trophy, but it really now would be the end for a once extremely popular fixture.
Edinburgh Select versus Bayern Munich, Festival Trophy, Tynecastle, 1985
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Complete list of Edinburgh Select results between 1944-1962
(Edinburgh Select score first)
1944 Aston Villa 3-4 (Tynecastle)
1945 Huddersfield Town 4-0 (Tynecastle)
1946 Aston Villa 3-3 (Easter Road)
1947 Derby County 4-5 (Easter Road)
1948 Blackpool 1-1 (Tynecastle)
1949 Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-3 (Easter Road)
1950 Newcastle United 1-1 (Tynecastle)
1951 Liverpool 1-2 Easter Road)
1952 Portsmouth 3-2 (Tynecastle)
1953 Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-3 (Easter Road)
1954 Bolton Wanderers 3-2 (Tynecastle)
1955 Newcastle United 1-1 (Easter Road)
1956 Birmingham City 2-1 (Tynecastle)
1957 Preston North End 1-3 (Easter Road)
1958 Liverpool 2-2 (Tynecastle)
1959 Newcastle United 4-3 (Easter Road)
1960 Chelsea 5-4 (Tynecastle)
1961 Burnley 4-7 (Easter Road)
1962 Burnley 2-4 (Tynecastle)
Written by Tom Wright