Eric Stevenson went AWOL to be at the final

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Nothing was going to stand in the way of Eric Stevenson going to the League Cup final between his beloved Hibs and Celtic – not even the fact he himself was due to play for Ayr United.

He swapped Somerset Park for Hampden and was rewarded by seeing the Easter Road outfit lift the trophy thanks to goals from Pat Stanton and Jimmy O’Rourke, strikes which ended Hibs’ 70 years of cup final disasters since their Scottish Cup win of 1902.

There was, of course, a price to be paid, Stevenson summoned to the office of Ayr boss Ally MacLeod to be fined two week’s wages for having gone missing at the weekend.

While tomorrow marks the 40th anniversary of that day, Stevenson, who spent 11 years in a green and white shirt, playing almost 400 matches for Hibs, still chuckles at the memory. The former winger said: “I’ve been a Hibs fan all my life, my uncle was the chairman of the supporters’ club and he took me along as a boy.

“In the days before the League Cup final I asked him if he fancied going and when he pointed out I was due to play for Ayr as in those days the final wasn’t given a day all to itself, the other games went on as usual, I replied: ‘Not this Saturday’.

“I had been friends with Eddie Turnbull since I was 17 and got a couple of complimentary tickets from him.

“We went through early and were sitting on the stand as the Hibs players were warming up. I’d left Hibs in 1971 and, of course, knew most of them and they were waving up to us.

“Jock Stein came onto the park and clocked me as well. He was very pally with Ally MacLeod and when I went down to Ayr for training on the Tuesday I was told right away that the boss wanted to see me. I was friends with Ally for years, we’d played together for Hibs, and he asked me if I knew why I was in his office.

“He asked where I’d been on the Saturday, but I told him he knew fine well where I’d been.