Hibee History: Hibs are first ‘World Champions’

The Hibernians squad of 1887. Pic: Hibs Historical Trust
The Hibernians squad of 1887. Pic: Hibs Historical Trust
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THE Scottish Cup holders Hibs and the English professionals Preston North End played each other for the “Association Football Championship of the World”, with little doubt that the winners would be considered to have been the first world club champions.

The match was the first of its kind, and had been eagerly looked forward to for some time. It was Hibs’ first home game of the season, whereas the English side’s early start had given Hibs, in any case the underdogs, scant hopes for success. A little more patience was called for, because the late arrival of Hibs’ left winger Clark delayed the kick-off for ten minutes.

When it did get under way, the crowd was treated to a match that was the hardest fought and, we might say, the roughest that will be witnessed at Easter Road this season.

It started early on; within five minutes it was clear that the North Enders had a stiff afternoon’s work cut out for them, and almost as soon, a great deal of feeling was introduced into the game by the rough play of either side. Hibs were determined to give it their all and McGhee beat Trainor to give them the lead amid scenes of the wildest enthusiasm.

This put Preston on their mettle, and although Clark and Dunbar combined to miss the half’s easiest chance, it was Tobin who had all the difficult saves to keep Hibs ahead to the interval.

Early in the second half, Hibs possessed and won a throw-in near the visitors’ posts. A scrimmage ensued, and when it was cleared, it was only as far as McLaren who sent it flying past Trainor for the second goal; the celebrations this time delayed the restart.

As the game progressed the superior training of the professional side appeared to give them the edge, and Hibs, defending defiantly, were pressed back. Gordon hit the post and Dewhurst hit the bar. Clark missed firing Hibs’ break-out, and Preston at once returned to Tobin’s end and Goodall scored with his head.

Play now became very exciting, with the teams equally matched in rough challenges, when suddenly Groves and Smith made a break, the latter centred and McGhee beat Trainor again. A long argument ensued, and much displeasure was displayed when the claim for off-side was upheld, but time was not on Hibs’ side. Preston pressed to the call of time, but Hibs held out to be received in tumultuous fashion by their supporters.

Tobin, McLaren, Gallagher, Smith and Groves were singled out for special praise, but all the combatants enjoyed the apres-football at the Albert Hotel; Mr Fred Dewhurst warned his hosts that he would demand a day of reckoning for the defeat, and the prospect was warmly relished.

Hibs: Tobin, McLaughlin, Lundy, McLaren, McGinn, Gallagher, Smith, Groves, McGhee, Dunbar, Clark.