Hibs great Tiger Thomson made mark on Europe

Jimmy Thomson in action. Picture: TSPL
Jimmy Thomson in action. Picture: TSPL
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JIMMY Thomson, a stalwart of the Hibs squad which made history by becoming the first British team to reach the semi-finals of the European Cup, has died, aged 80.

The footballer known as “Tiger” died last week in Edinburgh. His association with Hibs blossomed despite his upbringing in the Gorgie/Dalry area.

Jimmy attended Tynecastle High School and was in the same class as future star Jimmy Murray, who made his name with Hearts and scored Scotland’s first World Cup goal in Sweden in 1958.

The former impressed early as a goalscoring forward with amateur team Edinburgh City, his performances catching the eye of Hibs manager Hugh Shaw.

The youngster was invited to join Hibs and made his first-team debut in a friendly against Sheffield United in March 1954.

It took just another month to earn his first competitive game for the club in a 3-0 defeat to Celtic in front of 45,000 fans at Easter Road.

The disappointment of that debut turned into joy just two days later as he scored his first senior goal against Aberdeen in a 3-0 home win. Jimmy’s only other game that season was a 2-2 home draw versus Rangers.

He would go on to find his true calling as a midfield lynchpin.

It took an injury to established right-half Archie Buchanan to pave the way for Jimmy’s emergence as a member of Hibs’ youngest half-back line, alongside Jackie Plenderleith and Tommy Preston, in the historic season of 1955-56.

He would make 25 appearances that season, earning the moniker “Tiger” because of the power he brought to the midfield.

The stocky footballer revelled in the muddy conditions that greeted the club in their first European Cup tie in Essen, West Germany, in September 1955.

The team routed German champions Rot Weiss Essen 4-0 in that game. A 1-1 draw in the second leg allowed Hibs to qualify for the next round.

Hibs went on to defeat Swedish side Djurgardens 3-1 in their next match. Jimmy earned widespread plaudits from the media across both rounds.

Jimmy had been ruled out of the second leg of the semi-final through injury, with the team losing to Reims to exit the competition.

The midfielder played 14 times during the 1956-57 season and made a further five appearances in his final season during 1957-58.

Jimmy’s final game in the green and white jersey came in a 2-1 defeat to Clyde on May 3, 1958. He played out his career at Ayr United, Cowdenbeath and Vale of Leven.

The player was distinctly proud of never being booked during his four-year Hibs career despite his tough, competitive tackling style.

Jimmy is survived by wife Lucy, daughter Elaine, and a brother and sister.