The Hibernian Historical Trust was saddened to learn of the passing of John Grant, who featured for The Hibees in the late 1950s and early 60s.
Born in Edinburgh on 22 July 1931, John Grant began his football career as an inside forward with the amateur side Colinton Mains United, before moving on to Merchiston Thistle. While with the juvenile side, Hibs spotted and realised his boyhood ambition when the then-manager Hugh Shaw signed him in the summer of 1949. Turning out regularly for Hibernian's highly successful Third Team, the promising youngster would score 38 goals in just 44 games while also managing to make a couple of appearances for the reserves.
As an apprentice joiner with a Leith firm, Grant's work meant he deferred his National Service until he had completed his apprenticeship. He would be inducted into the armed forces at the start of the 1952-53 season, a move that would seriously hamper his progress at Easter Road. Nicknamed 'The Duke' by the rest of his team-mates on account of his immaculate dress sense and elegant manner, the stylish Grant, could play either in attack or in defence. He would make his debut at right-half in a 2-1 home victory against St Mirren on 4 December 1954, deputising for the injured Eddie Turnbull. It was one of 14 appearances he would make that season. By that time, the halcyon days at Easter Road when the club was the most entertaining side in the entire country, winning three league championships inside five years, was behind them. The team was in transition and eventually finished fifth in the league, five points behind local rivals Hearts.
Football card featuring John Grant
However, the versatile Grant would quickly develop into a rugged and dependable defender who never shirked a tackle. After earning rave reviews for his outstanding performances at centre half, including in both games against the French side Reims in the semi-final of the inaugural European Cup in 1956, the elegant player would eventually revert to wing-half, before finally settling at right-back playing behind the experienced Eddie Turnbull.
In the Scottish Cup tie against red-hot favourites Hearts at Tynecastle in March 1958, an inspired move by manager Hugh Shaw would see Grant pushed into the inside-forward position. This move nullified the midfield probing of the Hearts duo Jimmy Milne and Dave McKay. This change worked better than possibly even Shaw could have anticipated. The space created in midfield allowing the young Joe Baker to score all his sides goals as underdogs Hibs claimed a thoroughly deserved, although unexpected 4-3 victory.
By this time, Grant, a robust and tenacious tackler with a remarkable recovery who was also useful in the air, had found his proper position at right-back. He held this position for the next few years, regularly lining up alongside full-back partner Joe McClelland. Grant's refined approach to the beautiful game, was perhaps in direct contrast to McClelland's far more direct and robust playing style. Their first appearance together as a recognised defensive partnership would be in the replayed semi-final victory against Rangers in the Scottish Cup as the Easter Road side went all the way to that year's final, only to lose narrowly to Clyde at Hampden.
Grant's consistently dependable performances would soon catch the eye of the Scottish selectors. He would make his international debut in a 3-0 victory over Wales at Ninian Park in October 1958 when lining up alongside fellow debutant 18-year-old Denis Law, then with Huddersfield Town. It was also Matt Busby's first game as manager of the national side. A 2-2 draw with Northern Ireland at Hampden a few weeks later would be his final appearance for the full side. However, he would make a further six appearances for the Inter-League side between 1959 and 1962.
In his long career at Easter Road, he had regularly captained the side, and Grant would score only three goals for the first team. Two in competitive fixtures, the first from the penalty spot in a 3-2 victory against East Fife in December 1957, the last in a 4-1 home victory against St Johnstone in October 1963. His only other goal would be in a 3-3 draw against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane in October 1956.
The Hibs side before the East of Scotland final at Tynecastle in March 1962.
Left to right back row: MacLeod, Easton, Preston, Simpson, McClelland and Fraser.
Front row: Scott, Baker, Grant, Stevenson and Bogie.
After almost 15 seasons at Easter Road and a fixture in the first team for nearly 10, Grant's last ever appearance in a green and white jersey would be at centre-half in a 5-0 defeat by Celtic at Parkhead in March 1964. Just a few weeks later Jock Stein would replace Walter Galbraith as the Hibs manager. By that time, the popular Grant was approaching the veteran stage of his career. Stein would return to his former club Celtic within weeks of his appointment to make centre-half John McNamee his first signing. This move would spell the end of Grant's time at Easter Road, and, eventually, he was given a free at the end of the season.
After a season with second division Raith Rovers, during which he would make 29 appearances for the Kirkcaldy side, Grant would retire entirely from the game and would eventually settle in the Cheshire town of Bramhall.
Highly regarded by team-mates and opponents alike, in his ten seasons as a first-team regular at Easter Road John Grant would make over 300 appearances in all games while wearing the famous green and white jersey. He is another who will be fondly remembered by all who saw him play.
His memory marches on.