Freddie Glidden: A modest Hearts defender who belongs alongside Tynecastle greats

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A dominant defender who won the Scottish league title, two League Cups and a Scottish Cup with Hearts. Freddie Glidden’s death at the age of 91 leaves the Edinburgh club in mourning despite his indelible place in the Tynecastle Park history books.

Glidden spent 12 years in Gorgie winning every domestic honour alongside some genuine Hearts royalty. He is, and will forever remain, an icon in his own right thanks to his achievements in maroon during the halcyon days of the 1950s.

Freddie Glidden, third right, celebrated with his team-mates including Willie Bauld, Jimmy Wardhaugh and Ian Crawford after leading Hearts to the Scottish Cup in 1956

Freddie Glidden, third right, celebrated with his team-mates including Willie Bauld, Jimmy Wardhaugh and Ian Crawford after leading Hearts to the Scottish Cup in 1956

“He is an absolute legend, there’s no question about that. That word is used very easily nowadays but in Freddie’s case he was the real thing – a proper legend. He was up there with Dave Mackay, Willie Bauld and all of the Hearts greats.”

READ MORE: Hearts’ Scottish Cup-winning skipper Freddie Glidden dies aged 91

The words of George Foulkes, the club’s former chairman, capture the depth of feeling for Glidden perfectly. Born in Newmains, Lanarkshire, on September 7, 1927, he was provisionally signed by Hearts in July 1945. After a spell with West Calder Home Guard XI, he was farmed out to junior side Whitburn and then Newtongrange Star. He made his senior Hearts debut in 1951 and went on to make 229 competitive appearances before joining Dumbarton in 1959. He retired from playing in 1962 and later worked as a sub-postmaster for more than 20 years.

“He was a real gentleman,” added Foulkes. “I met him at the regular Willie Bauld memorial dinners and he was such a nice man. Freddie is part of Hearts’ history and he will be sadly missed. I don’t remember him as a player but I got to know him as a former player when the club had various events. I got to know him quite well and he was always very friendly and genuine.

Action from the 1956 Scottish Cup final

Action from the 1956 Scottish Cup final

“He carried his fame very lightly, he never got carried away with it at all. He was very understated and a very modest man. He was actually always a bit taken aback by how many people knew about him and wanted to meet him.”

Glidden was the last surviving member of Hearts’ 1956 Scottish Cup-winning side. He captained one of the finest teams in the club’s history at Hampden Park on April 21, 1956, leading them to a 3-1 Scottish Cup final win over Celtic.

Ian Crawford scored a double and Alfie Conn claimed the other goal that afternoon, with legendary figures like Dave Mackay, Jimmy Wardhaugh and Willie Bauld all playing. Glidden lifted the trophy in what he termed the sweetest moment of his footballing career.

“He was such a great servant to Hearts at a time when Hearts were consistently the best team in the country in the 1950s,” remarked Les Deans, another former Tynecastle chairman who got to know Glidden.

“Back then, the top of Scottish football was just as good as the top of English football. There was no difference like there is nowadays with all the money. So you could say that the top Scottish clubs were amongst the top clubs in Britain.

“The fact Freddie played year after year for one of the top clubs in Britain says a lot for him and what a good player he was. He was an absolute rock at centre-half in those days. I’m very sad to see him go, sad to see another great leaving us.”

Glidden remained a regular visitor to Tynecastle for matches and various club events throughout his retirement. His character and bashfulness made him an endearing figure to all who encountered him.

“Freddie was an enthusiastic attender at the Willie Bauld memorial dinner when I was chairman of the committee,” said Deans.

“As were a lot of the other former players like Davie Laing and Bobby Kirk. From the other side of the city, there were Lawrie Reilly and Eddie Turnbull. Freddie Glidden must be one of the last from that particular era.”

Glidden chose to remain a part-time footballer for the vast majority of his career and worked for the West Lothian water board in tandem with being a Tynecastle mainstay.

To his credit, it never affected his fitness or performance level. Whether at right-half or centre-half, he was always regarded as one of the most robust players in Scotland. Three years at Dumbarton rounded off a career that will live long in the memory.

Spells in the junior ranks earned him two international caps at that level but Glidden was never more distinguished than when he was in a maroon shirt, defending with authority and leading by example.

He carried that class with him in person and remained a true Hearts man who supported the club throughout his life.

“I’m so sad to hear of Freddie’s passing – a man who from a Hearts perspective was a legend,” said former midfielder Gary Mackay.

“He was an absolute gentleman off the field. He had time for everybody and was such a genuinely nice guy,” added Deans.

“He was the last man standing from such a great Hearts team – a team that will never be forgotten.”