Hibs legend Pat Stanton has been hunting high and low for his old club tie to wear at Saturday’s Scottish Cup clash with Bonnyrigg Rose.
However, it’s proved to be somewhat elusive, which is probably not surprising given it’s 50-odd years since he last had cause to look it out.
He does, of course, have plenty ties marking his life-long association with the Easter Road club, but the one he’d desperately love to have hanging round his neck at Tynecastle was presented to him during his days as a player with the junior outfit.
As a raw teenager, Stanton spent a season with Bonnyrigg to “toughen” him up and this weekend he’ll be a guest of the East Super League champions for a match which captures the romance of the cup. And, he admitted, the day will bring back many happy memories, although he’ll wince as he recalls some of the “treatment” dished out in those ranks in the early Sixties.
Now 72, Stanton said: “I played with Salvesen Boys’ Club at juvenile level and signed for Hibs. But the manager at the time, Walter Galbraith, reckoned it wouldn’t be a bad idea to go to Bonnyrigg.
“There is a big gap between juvenile football and senior football and to bridge it you have to toughen up a bit. I’d have been 17 or 18 and he thought it would be a good idea to spend a season with Bonnyrigg. I didn’t want to do it, but it turned out to be some of the best advice I ever received.”
And what an eye-opener it proved to be. Stanton recalled: “There were some wild men – but there were some great players, some terrific players, as well.
“It was a hard league. The trainer at Bonnyrigg was a chap called Billy Durie, who was a real hard, hard man. He said to me: ‘Can I give you a bit of advice? If people knock you about, it’s your own fault. There’s no point complaining to the referee, you’ve got to look after yourself’.
“Again, it proved to be a real good bit of advice.
“The first game I played was against Dalkeith Thistle. They had a guy called Duncan Henderson, who would have given Mike Tyson a hard time.”
The roughest, toughest place, though, according to Stanton was Ormiston Primrose. He said: “There was a guy called Gordon Haig, who used to play for the Hibs but he had a brother who played for Ormiston and he was quite frightening. He was a terrific player, but I was out on the park on my own and I had to look after myself.
“The fact you were a signed Hibs player meant they maybe targeted me a wee bit. It wasn’t verbals, they would clatter you and I had to think about the trainer’s words and make sure if they did something to me, you had to do it back.”
Bonnyrigg, too, had players who could handle themselves. Stanton said: “We had a guy called John Cattenach, who was about 6ft 4in and came from the west of Scotland. He was a big, intelligent man, very bright – but on the park he was a psychopath.”
However, during his time with Bonnyrigg, Stanton found himself in a quandary as Capital rivals Hearts made a bid to lure him to Tynecastle given that at the time he was a signed player for the junior club.
He said: “Hibs were taking a wee bit of time making their mind up about me. After a game against Arniston, one of the committee told me there was someone to see me – it was Tommy Walker of the Hearts.
“He wanted to sign me. I remember going home and my dad [Michael] was asking me about the game. My family are all big Hibs supporters and I was wondering how to tell him.
“When I did tell him there was a big silence. He just looked at me and said stuff like ‘but the Hibs have a nicer strip than the Hearts’.”
It was the logic of Stanton’s mother Bridget, however, which held sway. “She said we had forgotten about something,” recalled Stanton. “Bus fares. She had worked it out that it was cheaper on the bus from Niddrie to Easter Road than Tynecastle.
“My dad looked at me and said ‘are you not going to listen to common sense?’. I signed for the Hibs and never regretted it.”
Stanton, a great, great nephew of Michael Whelehan, one of the club’s founders, went on to make 617 appearances in a green-and-white shirt but the immense pride his parents had in him playing for Hibs became all too evident after his father’s death.
Stanton recalled: “My first night training with Hibs, Eddie Turnbull was the trainer and he told me to go upstairs to see the manager Hugh Shaw. I was only 13 at the time. He asked how I’d enjoyed it and, of course, I had.
“He said ‘we’ll see you next week’ and he handed me a ten bob note for my bus fares back and forward.
“I took it home, gave it to my mum and she handed it to my dad. Years and years later when my dad passed away, my mother was handing out the wee bits and pieces, old programmes, photos from Hibs, newspaper cuttings and then in a wee plastic holder was a ten bob note.
“I said ‘what’s that’, and she said ‘do you not remember’? I couldn’t believe it was the same ten bob note, she kept it all those years. There must have been many nights she could have done with it because I have five brothers. But, no, that’s what it meant to her. I still have that note, it is one of my prize possessions.”
Although life in the juniors might have been tough, Stanton firmly believes it was the making of him as a player. He said: “At the end of the day, there are no real shortcuts. You learn from the level of game you are in. It was hard at the time but there were some players who signed at the same time as me who opted to stay at Easter Road.
“They only got a game every three or four weeks – you’ll not improve as a player doing that. At Bonnyrigg, I played every week, going to places like Ormiston and Linlithgow, fighting for my life. I wasn’t a better player than them but when I came back to Easter Road at the end of the season I had passed them by simply because I had been playing every week.”
To that end, Stanton believes the scrapping of reserve league football was a step backwards. He said: “You had young players, older players, guys coming back from injury all together.
“I remember coming through and playing with guys like Tommy Preston and John Grant in the reserve league. But when every player is 17 or 18, who is helping who?”
• ‘Pat Stanton was speaking at a William Hill media event. William Hill is the proud sponsor of the Scottish Cup.’