HEARTS fans will, well, heartedly disagree. But, 40 years on it remains for Hibs and their supporters the greatest game in history, the 7-0 demolition of their Capital rivals, and at their own ground Tynecastle at that, on New Year’s Day 1973.
Memories of that day will, no doubt, feature large as Pat Fenlon takes his players across the Capital tomorrow for the latest derby day clash between Edinburgh’s big two, a match packed with passion whenever it is played but particularly so at this time of year. Few, of course, will arrive in Gorgie expecting anywhere near a repeat of that scoreline, fans of both clubs no doubt happy enough at the prospect of even a single-goal victory.
Jim Herriot, Hibs’ goalkeeper in those days of Turnbull’s Tornadoes, revealed today, though, that’s exactly the result he and his team-mates would gladly have settled for as they made that self-same journey all those years ago.
“No,” he said, “I don’t think any of us even in our wildest dreams could have envisaged such a result. Derbies are usually quite tight, they can go either way and you are happy if you win whatever the final score.”
Hibs, though, would have gone into the game, the 100th league derby between the clubs since the advent of automatic promotion and relegation, brimming with confidence, Eddie Turnbull’s side having defeated Celtic to lift the League Cup only a few weeks beforehand while they’d reached the quarter-finals of the European Cup Winners’ Cup.
They were also challenging for the league title, just two points behind Celtic and scoring a lot of goals while Hearts, for their part, were also having a good season and were third in the table until just a couple of games previously although Turnbull was taking no chances, ordering his players in for training on the morning of the match – taking pride in telling them they were the only side in the country to be doing so.
Herriot said: “It was something the manager would do, he’d have us in to train early on the afternoon of big European ties. I don’t know if he did so that day thinking some of the boys might have been imbibing the night before – but none of us were like that.”
Given the respective positions of the clubs, it was all set up for another highly competitive clash and so it turned out – at least for the first few minutes. Then the roof fell in on the Jambos, Jimmy O’Rourke hammered home a long throw from Erich Schaedler, Alan Gordon hooked a second past goalkeeper Kenny Garland and Alex Cropley laid in Arthur Duncan for a third.
By that stage late-arriving Hibs fans, among them Duncan’s father and John Brownlie’s wife Jean, were meeting Hearts supporters already on their way home before Cropley himself ensured bigger gaps in the home terraces by adding a fourth with just 35 minutes played. Duncan added a fifth before half-time and it could have been more, Alex Edwards in particular knocking one wide from four yards while O’Rourke also hooked a volley just past.
While Hibs were in such command BBC Scotland radio commentator Alistair Alexander was prompted to predict they could run up a cricket score if they continued at such a rate while Herriot, who had returned from playing with Durban in South Africa in answer to Turnbull’s call, was reduced to little more than a spectator.
He recalled: “It really was a fantastic game as far as we were concerned, we seemed capable of scoring at will. I didn’t have a great deal to do as you can imagine but I had plenty of time to admire the way we were playing. Did I feel any sympathy for Kenny Garland? As a fellow goalkeeper I don’t think you like to see your opposite number lose so many, I know myself how I felt every time I conceded a goal.
“But, to be honest, I don’t think Kenny made a mistake all afternoon, we simply tore Hearts apart. But we were capable of doing that and we had been scoring a lot of goals.”
In fact, Hibs’ scoring rate was nothing short of phenomenal in the months preceding that day. They’d rattled five past Celtic in the final of the now-defunct Drybrough Cup; five more against Dundee United at Tannadice in the League Cup; six against Airdrie in the same competition and another five against the Diamonds in the league three days later.
Two weeks earlier Ayr United had suffered an 8-1 hammering at Easter Road while Turnbull’s players had scored three or more on no fewer than 14 other occasions.
In the Cup Winners’ Cup they were no less prolific, taking six off Sporting Lisbon and hitting seven against Besa although the Albanian side did manage a consolation goal of their own – something Hearts couldn’t manage as Hibs returned for the second half at Tynecastle determined to add to their rivals’ misery.
Herriot, who was capped eight times for Scotland during a career which had taken in Dunfermline and Birmingham City before he signed for Hibs, said: “In the dressing-room at half-time Jimmy O’Rourke, Pat Stanton and big Alan Gordon were all saying ‘let’s keep it going, no complacency’.
“They were wanting to rub it in and to my mind I could never understand teams taking their foot off the pedal when they were winning by four, five or six goals. If I found the players in front of me messing about or trying to take the mickey I would give them a fair bit of stick. I’d tell them to get the ball up the pitch or give it to me to get it up there.
“I never wanted to lose a single goal and, as a goalkeeper you got out there every time determined to return with a zero against your name and as much as we enjoyed the final result I was just as happy to come in at the end with a shut-out.”
By then O’Rourke – although Pat Stanton to this day insists his shot was going in – and Gordon had added further goals to complete Hearts’ misery and to ensure the names of Herriot, Brownlie, Schaelder, Stanton, Black, Blackley, Edwards, O’Rourke, Gordon, Cropley and Duncan will be revered in Hibs folklore although there are some who, to this day, believe the winning margin should have been even wider.
Herriot, who never lost an Edinburgh derby, said: “In truth, we’d have been happy to come away with a 1-0 win, a result which I’m sure would satisfy Pat Fenlon, his players and the Hibs fans tomorrow night. But New Year’s Day, 1973, was special, it will be in the history books forever.”