THE PLAYERS

 

Players to wear the green and white of the Hibees.

Here is a growing collection of players and internationalists to feature for Hibernian throughout the years.

Position Midfielder

Chic Charnley made an immediate impact and quickly won the Hibernian support over, producing arguably the best form of his career in green and white.

 

 

The midfielder provided some lasting memories to savour, which almost ended with an overdue international call up.

Hibernian fans normally give new signings time to prove themselves, but occasionally, a player is unveiled at Easter Road, who leaves the fans distinctly underwhelmed and questioning the judgement of the manager.

James 'Chic' Charnley was one such signing. A journeyman albeit talented player with a suspect temperament, and only one booking away from a long suspension was not what the doctor ordered to save Hibs from a relegation battle, but manager Jim Duffy decided the gamble was worth it, and signed him on a pay per play deal.

Chic however made an immediate impact and quickly won the Hibs' fans over, producing arguably the best form of his career, and providing some lasting memories to savour, which almost ended with an overdue international call up.

Sadly, a change of management signalled an end to Chic's Hibs' career, but he left Easter Road with the best wishes of the fans.

Chic was born on 11 June 1963 in Glasgow, and was brought up in the tough Possil area of the city where his undoubted football skills were evident from an early age. His first name is James, but he earned the nickname 'Chic' as a youngster selling frozen chickens acquired from a questionable source round the doors of the estate.

He attended St Theresa's school, and played football for the St Theresa's Boys' Guild, where he earned the first of many red cards for showing off against lesser opponents. His secondary school was St Augustine's, but amazingly Chic only played twice for the school team as he spent every Saturday following his beloved Celtic, home and away.

Even then, he managed to get in trouble with the authorities after running onto Somerset Park to celebrate a Celtic goal, before being escorted from the field by none other than former Hibs boss Jock Stein.

Whilst still at school, Chic joined Possil Villa who played in the Glasgow Suburban League before joining Rutherglen Glencairn in the juniors, where he was spotted by Dave McParland at Hamilton Accies. After a trial against St Mirren, Hamilton offered Chic a contract, but at the last minute, Alex MacDonald stepped in and took him to Tynecastle for a week where he played in a reserve game alongside John Robertson who scored a hat-trick.

Hearts decided against signing Chic, but Ricky MacFarlane stepped in to sign him for St Mirren, and things started to look up for the teenager, but a change of management saw Alex Miller arrive at Love Street, and Chic's days in Paisley were numbered when he threw a pair of muddy boots at his new manager during a dressing room bust up.

Chic's ability hadn't gone unnoticed and he moved to Ayr United where he played 17 games scoring three goals before decoding to give up the professional game at the ripe old age of 21, when he received a better offer to work on the oil rigs and play in a weekend league in Nairn, alongside former Hibs player Johnny Hamilton. He also turned out for Rockefeller's pub team, before Pollok Juniors swooped.

Once again, it wasn't long before senior club Clydebank became Chic's next port of call where he played 31 games, scoring an impressive 11 goals, before moving to Hamilton, then to Partick Thistle under another former Hibs man, John Lambie.

In a three year spell, Chic made 73 appearances, scoring 22 times before returning to St Mirren, alongside another future Hibs player, David Elliott, for a reported £300,000.

During his second spell in Paisley under David Hay, Chic was loaned to Bolton Wanderers who were managed at the time by former Liverpool great Phil Neal, and teamed up with yet another future Hibs player, Andy Walker. Things didn't work out to plan at Burnden Park after Chic suffered broken ribs, and he returned to Paisley but was released at the end of the season.

Next stop was Sweden with Djurgardens where he played 12 times before the winter break, then Neil Warnock made him an offer to go to Huddersfield Town; however the deal fell through after a poor performance in a trial game.

Instead Chic returned to his spiritual home at Firhill and spent two years with the Jags, playing 46 times, scoring two goals.

It was during this time however, that Chic almost signed for his boyhood heroes Celtic under Lou Macari, and actually turned out in the hoops in Mark Hughes' testimonial match against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Initially, Chic suspected that John Lambie was at the wind-up when he called with the news, but quickly decided that he was in no fit state to travel with the team, following a heavy drinking session the night before.

Instead, he travelled south with pals and met his new team mates there, before taking the field to a chant of 'There's only one Chic Charnley' from the Celtic fans. Celtic won 3-1 and Chic set up a goal for Simon Donnelly, before swapping his jersey with Ryan Giggs. In the dressing room however, Chic realised that he couldn't part with his Celtic top so he explained the situation to Giggs, who generously handed it back over.

To this day, Chic has a photograph of him running away from Eric Cantona with a broad smile on his face. This was taken after Cantona had tried and failed to nutmeg Chic who robbed him of the ball in midfield and easily swerved past the French superstar.

After the game, Macari asked Chic whether he would be prepared to go on a three week tour with Celtic to Canada and North America, but typically, he refused; instead going on a week's end of season party in the Algarve with his Partick Thistle team-mates.

So instead of Parkhead, Chic started pre-season training at Firhill, alongside another former Hibs favourite, big Gordon Rae, and the two of them were involved in an incident which has become part of Scottish Football folklore. As the players were training at Ruchill Park, Chic became involved in an argument with two abusive spectators, which culminated in them leaving and returning with two Japanese style swords, plus a ferocious looking dog.

With the help of Gordon Rae, Chic chased the pair and without going into the gory details, justice was done and neither returned to the training.

After leaving Partick, Chic played three times for Cork City, 18 times for Dumbarton under another Hibs legend Murdo McLeod and 27 times for Dundee before arriving at Easter Road to team up with former boss Jim Duffy.

To say the signing wasn't exactly popular with the Hibs fans at the time would be an understatement. Chic was 34 years old, had more clubs than Tiger Woods and been sent off more than anyone else in Scottish football; plus he was one booking away from a lengthy suspension.

Hibs were in danger of relegation at the time, and given the fact that only a few years ago, the club had signed players from Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund and Celtic, it was understandable that Chic's arrival caused a few heads to shake.

Surprisingly however, Chic was an instant hit with the fans, exchanging banter particularly with the supporters in the East Stand. His warm up routines brought the fans in early to watch, and as a party piece, he would wait until a linesman was checking the nets before unleashing a thunderbolt into the goal.

Chic made his debut in a 1-1 draw with Raith Rovers at Easter Road, and virtually immediately won the fans over with his silky skills and determination. Hibs drew the first three games he played, including a 1-1 draw with Celtic in the Scottish Cup.

Because of his disciplinary tightrope, the fans held their breath every time he made a challenge in case an over fussy referee decided to produce a yellow card and sure enough after 11 games, the booking happened. However, this was not for a mistimed tackle, but instead for getting into a heated argument with team-mate Joe McLaughlin.

On the eleven games Chic competed in that season, only three ended in defeat, and these were against the old firm and Hearts.

Without Chic, Hibs stuttered to a second bottom finish and eventually stayed up after two nerve racking play off games against Airdrie.

Jim Duffy made a number of signings and the following season started in style against Celtic at a sun drenched Easter Road. Lee Power gave Hibs the lead before Chic almost added a second with a sensational 30 yard strike which rebounded off the bar. Malky McKay equalised for the hoops, and with time running out, Celtic made a substitution, bringing on a dreadlocked foreigner that few had heard of before named Henrik Larsson. Larsson's first touch was a misplaced pass to Chic who smashed the ball low into the bottom corner of the net, sparking wild celebrations on and off the field.

The next game was a home League Cup tie against Alloa which Hibs won 3-1 and which is still talked about today, thanks to a unique goal by Chic from inside his own half, shooting up the slope toward the Dunbar End.

 

Chic Charnley celebrates with manager Jim Duffy after scoring against Alloa at Easter Road

 

The following Sunday, Hibs drew 1-1 with Dundee United, when Paul Tosh scored from a quickly and cleverly taken free-kick from Chic after the United keeper had picked up a pass back six yards from goal. As the United players were trying to organise a wall, Chic slipped the ball to Tosh who easily passed the ball into an open goal.

The feel good factor had returned to Easter Road and Hibs next home game saw a 4-0 win against Kilmarnock, with Pat McGinlay scoring from the just over the half way line, as Chic was quick to point out. The next home game was a 5-2 win over Dunfermline and Chic scored twice, the second following a lung bursting run, seeing off a number of defenders before slipping the ball under the goalkeeper.

The results saw Hibs near the top of the league, and a 'Chic for Scotland' campaign supported by many fans and pundits alike was mounted, but Craig Brown decided against the move, although Jackie Charlton had made enquiries as to whether there was any Irish blood in his veins.

Those demanding Chic be capped were in good company as both Eddie Turnbull and Jim Baxter both publically praised his ability.

Sadly for Chic and Hibs, the Dunfermline game was the pinnacle, as Hibs went on a lengthy run without picking up a win. In fact Chic never played in another winning Hibs side, despite playing another 16 times.

After Duffy was sacked, his replacement Alex McLeish quickly decided that Chic did not feature in his plans, so it was back to Clydebank where he played a trial match before returning to Firhill.

After five games, Chic decided a pay rise would be in order so he joined Tarff Rovers. The chairman at the time was determined to get into the Scottish Cup first round, which required four victories, and Chic played his part in the first three. The deciding fixture was against Dalbeattie Star whom Tarff had beaten 7-0 in a previous league game, but as always with Chic, the plans went astray and they lost 1-0.

His next stop was Portadown where he was sent off on his debut. .Portadown are seen as the Protestant club in Northern Ireland, and whilst that didn't bother him, he was annoyed to be compared to Mo Johnston when he played against the Catholic side Cliftonvale.

Chic was back in Scotland within the year playing for Kirkintilloch Rob Roy where he spent three seasons seeing out his career, until he received a call from John Lambie asking whether he would return to Firhill to coach the youths. He even made another two first team starts for the Jags at the ripe old age of 39. Ironically his last ever senior game was against Hibs at Easter Road where he received a warm welcome from the Hibs fans, coming on as a substitute in a 3-2 win.

The next season he was appointed coach at Thistle under manager Gerry Collins, but when Collins was sacked by the Thistle board he resigned in protest at their decision.

He did return to Firhill for former teammate Kenny Arthur's testimonial match versus a Celtic XI. With the game in injury time and Thistle losing 2–1, Chic rifled home a 25 yard strike to draw level.

After leaving the game, he co-owned The Thistle pub in Maryhill Road, but was later enticed back into the game in 2011 when Jim Duffy lured him to Broadwood where he was assistant manager for a short spell.

The fans' admiration for Chic was recognised in 1998 when the club issued a CD containing number of songs written by the supporters. One song contains the lyrics "You gave us Paddy Stanton and you gave us Gordon Smith, not forgetting every single famous five. Now we turn up Saturday to watch the likes of Chico play and you've given us the best years of our lives."

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