Maroon Memories: Title is won after 61 years

Alex Young was instrumental in Hearts' win
Alex Young was instrumental in Hearts' win
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Hearts won the Scottish League Championship for the third time when they beat St Mirren at Paisley.

They gained a point more than the one necessary to ensure their success, but the 1957-58 achievement was far ahead of those in 1894-95 and 1896-97 when the league was much smaller.

In the many seasons in which Celtic or Rangers have won the First Division title it was reckoned that the period of New Year Holiday matches was the most telling of the season and that the club which survived it best were almost always the ultimate winners.

Hearts had laid the foundations of their success well before the New Year games, but when they won all four, the first at Parkhead, against Celtic, then serious challengers, they put themselves in a very strong position.

The official programme at Paisley also asked for strong character, warning Hearts that they would need to play like real champions if they were to gain the point they needed for the First-Division title.

That was obviously another way of saying that the home club would have no feeling of inferiority.

Neither in the event had they, but neither also did Hearts play like champions though they not only achieved the coveted draw but another point into the bargain.

Indeed in the last quarter of an hour most of the Hearts players looked anything but like members of a club deserved of their first league title in 61 years. They appeared more like a boxer aware that he has an overwhelming lead on points, but still fears the knockout punch.

In that last 15 minutes St Mirren played as if they and not Hearts were the top team in the league and twice in the final five minutes they were unlucky not to equalise for the third time in the match.

First Miller and Wilson by switching positions as they attacked puzzled the defence and Miller shot into the net from the edge of the penalty area after his pass to Wilson, on the left, had rebounded from Kirk.

The referee’s whistle had correctly gone for offside against Wilson, however.

Yet on this glorious warm day, on which Ferguslie or Kelburne would probably have enjoyed themselves as much as St Mirren, Hearts were clearly the superior footballers. In the early part of the first half they controlled the lively ball superbly, and St Mirren would have lost far more than the goal scored by Young in seven minutes had Wardhaugh in particular not been careless with his shooting.

As it was, Alex Young’s goal was presented to him by Buchanan, who chose to try to control the ball instead of clearing it in orthodox fashion.

St Mirren’s first equalising goal 15 minutes after half-time was even less memorable, the ball landing in the net after a scramble of defenders and attackers.

Jimmy Wardhaugh headed Hearts’ second goal within a minute and Wilson scored by far the best goal of the match midway through the second half after fine, free passing by Bryceland and himself.

Again St Mirren’s joy was quickly interrupted, for in 28 minutes Young, isolated in the penalty area and looking offside as Buchanan claimed him to be, scored from Ian Crawford’s lobbed pass to secure the title.

Hearts: Marshall, Kirk, Thomson, Cumming, Milne, Bowman, Blackwood, Murray, Young, Wardhaugh, Crawford.