Trust Curator Tom Wright paths the career of Hugh Howie, including the wonder goal scored by the Hibernian defender in a Scottish Cup tie against Motherwell in 1947.
The tremendous 40-yard lobbed goal by Icelandic player Gylfi Sigurdsson that gave Everton an away goals victory against Hajduk Split in the recent Europa League qualifier rightfully received widespread acclaim in the media, but it has some way to go to beat the goal scored by the Hibernian defender Hugh Howie in a Scottish Cup tie against Motherwell in 1947.
Signed from Newton Juniors during the war, the versatile Howie was comfortable in both full back positions, wing half or centre half. A first team regular during the first official post war championship in 1946/47, he would be an integral part of the side that reached the semi-finals of both the League Cup and Scottish Cup competitions that same season, both games played at Hampden on consecutive Saturdays in March.
Despite a late goal by Cuthbertson, three first half goals by Rangers had ended Hibs interest in the League Cup and it would now all depend on the Scottish Cup. After earlier victories against Alloa, Rangers and Dumbarton, Hibernian would now face Motherwell in the semi-final of the coveted trophy. Watched by a crowd of just under 50,000, a goal against the run of play by Eddie Turnbull who was wearing the number nine jersey gave the Leith side an undeserved first half lead, but only a magnificent performance by goalkeeper Jimmy Kerr had allowed the sides to change ends at half time with the score remaining the same.
In a breathtaking second half there had been numerous chances at either end with both teams failing to score until just 12 minutes from the end when right half Howie was adjudged to have handled the ball inside the penalty area while attempting to protect his face from the ball. The Motherwell full back Willie Kilmarnock scored from the spot kick and it was then on to extra-time.
There was no more scoring during the extra period and the ‘golden goal’ then came into operation.
The ‘golden goal’ was actually an extension of the wartime ‘emergency regulations’ that had been designed to reduce travelling difficulties in the case of replayed matches. If a game remained level at the end of the regulation 90 minutes then two periods of ten minutes would be played. If the game was still level, then an extra ten minute periods would be played until one side scored what would be deemed to be the winner.
Despite the valiant efforts of both sides the score still remained the same until the 142nd minute when the Motherwell goalkeeper Johnstone came right to the edge of his box before clearing from his hands. Howie, who was just inside his own half met the clearance first time, the ball soaring over the bemused custodian and into the back of the net to earn the Edinburgh side a place in the first post-war Scottish Cup final.
There was some doubt as to who was the most surprised, Howie or goalkeeper Johnstone. It had perhaps been only poetic justice that Howie should make amends for his earlier mistake by conceding a penalty to score the winning goal, but for the rest of his time at Easter Road the Hibs player would be known by fans and teammates alike as ‘Hands Howie.’
Incredibly, the ‘golden goal’ regulation had also been required in an earlier League Cup tie against Airdrie that same season, but this time ‘only’ 125 minutes had been needed. Then, after a 4-4 draw at Broomfield and the return game at Easter Road remaining goalless at the end of the regulation 90 minutes, a strike by Willie Finnigan would be enough to send Hibs into the semi-finals where they would eventually lose to Rangers.
The ‘golden goal’ had proved highly unpopular with players and supporters alike and it would soon be replaced by ‘normal’ extra time and a replay if necessary. The Scottish authorities had initially favoured a return to the use of corner kicks to settle matters but thankfully the other Home associations outvoted.
In the first-post war Scottish Cup final, Hibs would face Aberdeen, but despite Cuthbertson opening the scoring for the Easter Road side in the very first minute of the game they would eventually lose 2-1, the former wartime Easter Road guest player Stan Williams scoring the winner late in the game. It would be the first time that the Scottish Cup was received by the players on the field; before it had been presented to the winning captain in the dressing room. It was also the first time that medals had been presented to the competition runners-up.
The goal against Motherwell would be one of only two that Howie would score during his time in Edinburgh. In October 1948 he became the eleventh player then at Easter Road to gain international recognition when he was selected for the full Scotland side to face Wales at Cardiff, scoring the opening goal in Scotland’s 3-1 victory. It would turn out be his one and only appearance for his country.
Howie had taken over the right back position in the national side from teammate Jock Govan only because of Govan’s illness and it was fairly unusual at that time for two players currently playing for the same side to represent their country in the same position.
However, Howie’s elation at joining the international ranks was destined to be short lived. Only a few weeks later he complained of feeling unwell and would eventually be diagnosed as suffering from Tuberculosis, then a far more serious illness than today. Financed by the club, part of the treatment would consist of many months spent in the pure clean air of Davos in the Swiss Alps. His recovery would take some time but he would eventually return to reclaim his place in the first team in time to win Scottish Championship medals in 1951 and 1952 to go with the one from 1948.
After more than ten years at Easter Road, at the end of the 1953/54 season Howie would hang up his boots, the last of his 267 appearances in all games for the Easter Road side including the Coronation Cup competition and the trip to Brazil earlier in the year. Howie’s final fixture was a 3-0 defeat by Rangers at Ibrox on 26th December 1953.
He retired from the game to become a sports reporter with the Daily Express and it was while working for the Glasgow based newspaper that he was tragically killed on a notorious black spot on the Hamilton Road between Blantyre and Cambuslang in January 1958 when the car he was testing for a friend swerved off the road and struck a lamppost. He was aged just 33.
Written by Tom Wright