The 5 best Hibs strikers of the last 50 years

The fourth instalment looking at the five best Hibs players from the last 50 years in each position

Friday, 10th April 2020, 5:14 pm
Updated Saturday, 11th April 2020, 12:12 pm

We have reached the final part of our series of the five best Hibs players from each area of the pitch since 1970. We have so covered the goalkeepers, defenders and midfielders. Now it is the turn of the strikers:

Derek Riordan

It’s February 2004. Derek Riordan has peeled left. Nearly 30 yards out, just past the width of the box. The ball arrives at his feet. Using a supporting run down his outside as a decoy, he nudges it infield with only one thought in his mind: ‘Shoot’. He unleashes a ferocious but controlled shot which whips with fantastic pace and trajectory outside Craig Gordon’s despairing dive and nestles into the top corner. It was one of the finest strikes Easter Road has witnessed.

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Derek Riordan is one of Hibs' most talented youth products in the club's history. Picture: SNS

The goal was Riordan in a nutshell. Technical brilliance, confident, impudent and just special. He was the most talented player Hibs had produced in a generation. He wasn’t big and strong, he wasn’t powerful or rapid, but what he possessed was fantastic skill, a deft, quick use of the ball in one v one situations and the ability to strike off either foot. And so often he would save the best moments for the Edinburgh derby.

He finished top scorer for the club in three successive seasons during his first spell. When he came back in 2008 he hit double figures in each of his three campaigns. On top of that he picked up the young player of the season double following the 2004/2005 season. He won SIX player of the month awards between 2004 and 2005.

Jimmy O’Rourke

A man with the nickname ‘Stumpy’ isn’t meant to be a football great. Yet, that’s how special Jimmy O’Rourke was. Plant him in today’s game and he certainly wouldn’t give the look of being a footballer but there is no doubt he could still hold his own. He was a striker who possessed a cavalcade of weapons in his arsenal.

Despite not being a big laddie, he could compete in the air. Despite giving up a few inches and pounds to defenders, he could really mix it. Fire a ball into his feet, he was controlling it. Team-mates making runs off him, he would find them. A sight of goal opens up, he would get a shot away no matter what foot he was shooting with. O’Rourke was a key part of the squad from the mid-60s, but it was the 70s, as part of Turnbull’s Tornadoes where he became even more of a menace. The 1972-1973 team were resplendent, the best in the country certainly for the first half of the campaign, scoring 100 goals. O’Rourke hit six hat-tricks. But it was a brace he may be most remembered for. Two of the seven Hibs put past Hearts. And, of course, there was the small matter of a League Cup winning goal against Celtic.

“I only ever wanted to play for the Hibs and thankfully I got to live the dream,” he said

Alan Gordon

Three words which should be ingrained in every Hibs fan growing up: “Gordon! Number seven!”. Erich Schaedler had motored down the left, the ball finding its way to Arthur Duncan. The winger’s cross was clipped to the middle of the area where, rising majestically like the most appetising of cakes in the oven, was Alan Gordon to do what he did best and thump a header into the net. Hearts 0, Hibs 7. It was the cherry on top of the icing on top of the tastiest of cakes.

Gordon was more than just this towering target man who was as comfortable in the air as a bird. He allied it with wonderful movement and intelligence inside and outside the box, both selflessly and selfishly, creating space for team-mates and himself. Take his first against Hearts in that famous win. Drifting off the shoulder of the defender to collect a measured Alex Edwards clipped pass on his chest before turning home. The 1972/1973 season was an incredibly profitable one in front of goal, scoring 42 times in 56 outings. There was a typical headed effort in a 6-1 thumping of Sporting Club, a hat-trick in an 8-1 win over Ayr United and all four goals against Airdrieonians.

Hibs fans won’t need reminding. Alan Gordon was never capped for Scotland despite banging in goals for rivals Hearts across two spells, Dundee United or at Easter Road where he teamed up with Jimmy O'Rourke to create one of the most fearful partnerships Scottish football has ever seen. One of the best not to be capped.

Leigh Griffiths

Season 2012/2013 was the latest in a string of underachievement in the league. The seventh place finish could have been a whole lot worse if it wasn’t for one man. Leigh Griffiths was a sensation, hitting 28 goals in all competitions. Watching the striker that campaign you knew you were witnessing something special. It seemed to be Griffiths plus ten others. Give the ball to him and let him work.

With the left foot of his, Griffiths conjured magic. He had shown that special talent in flashes during the 2011/2012 campaign but it wasn’t until the following campaign where he evolved from being a rascal with football talent to a football talent with a bit of rascality. There are so many moments from that season which showcased that match-winning quality he possessed in spades. An absolutely stunning free-kick into the top bin at Tynecastle. The winning goal from a tight angle against Celtic. The fizzing semi-final strike to down Falkirk in the Scottish Cup.

Griffiths’ time at Easter Road may have been dotted with indiscretions but on field he produced time and time again to become the first Hibs players to win the SFWA Footballer of the Year since Pat Stanton in 2017.

Anthony Stokes

Have other strikers contributed more over a sustained period of time for Hibs than Anthony Stokes? Probably. Has any other player provided a performance of such significance, such importance for Hibs as Anthony Stokes did on 21 May? Unlikely.

What the Irishman did was inscribe his name into Easter Road history with one of the greatest Scottish Cup final displays of all time, netting twice to help Hibs win the trophy which had hung like a hex around the neck of the club having not won it since 1902. As curses go, this was one of the most notable and lengthy ones in world sport. Stokes, on loan from Celtic, had not offered a great deal prior to that afternoon at Hampden Park. He awoke that day ready to become a hero. And that’s what it was, a heroic performance. He tormented Rangers, from opening the scoring with a cool finish to equalising with a header, the forward constantly pulled wide, confident and forceful drives at Rangers. It is amazing James Tavernier didn’t retire afterwards.

It was the second of three spells and it is easy to forget just how totemic he was during his first stint. Playing under John Hughes, Hibs fans got to see plenty of similar performances that were reaching towards what he produced in the Scottish Cup final, scoring 23 times in 43 appearances. But with Stokes and Hibs, all roads lead back to the 21st of May, 2016.