'The Game on New Year's Day' remembered by Ted Brack.
Visits to Tynecastle to play Hearts in derby matches are rarely relished by Hibs fans. Our record there is less than impressive and it is, without doubt, an intimidating venue. However, as I set out for Gorgie on the first day of 1973, I found the prospect of my trip there much less daunting than usual.
There was good reason for my optimism. Hibs, under Eddie Turnbull, were in the form of their lives. Season 1972-73 was only at the half way point but already Turnbull's Tornadoes had won the Drybrough Cup and the League Cup, beating Celtic in the final of both competitions and qualified impressively and comfortably for the quarter finals of the European Cup Winners' Cup. In addition, these goal machines in green had notched up more than a hundred competitive goals before Christmas.
The Turnbull's Tornadoes team of 1973
Eddie Turnbull's great team had class running all the way through it. Goalkeeper Jim Herriot was coolness and reliability personified. In front of him the brilliant back four of John Brownlie, Jim Black, John Blackley and Erich Schaedler combined force with finesse. The marvellous midfield trio of Alex Edwards, Pat Stanton and Alex Cropley provided guile and goals and the fantastic front three of Jimmy O'Rourke, Alan Gordon and Arthur Duncan were a handful for every defence in the land.
I wasn't the only one of a Hibs persuasion heading for Tynecastle in a positive frame of mind. My confidence was shared by the players who would wear the famous green and white on what turned out to be a historic Hibernian occasion.
They had started New Year's Day with a training session at Easter Road. As Hibs went through their paces on the pitch at Easter Road, their manager told them with pride 'You're the only team in Britain which is training today.' He also reminded them that one of the Hearts players had recently described Hibs as "a bunch of cowboys". Turnbull told his men to go out and prove that they were, in fact, footballers of the highest class.
Alex Cropley considers the fact that Hibs trained on New Year's morning to be yet more evidence of Eddie Turnbull's perfectionism. He says, "I wasn't at all surprised when the manager told us we were training on New Year's Day. In fact, his standards were so high that I would have been more surprised if he hadn't brought us in."
Alex Cropley was on the scoresheet in the 1973 New Year's derby
When Jimmy O'Rourke had picked up Alan Gordon that morning to drive to Easter Road, both strikers had agreed that there was every chance that Hibs might score a few goals that afternoon. Alex Edwards recalls now, "We expected to win because we were playing really well and we had a great team full of outstanding players. We knew that man for man we were better players than them."
Hibs were confident but not complacent and their confidence proved to be well founded. By half time, they were 5-0 up. In the dressing room at the interval, their manager told them, "Have no sympathy for them. They'd have none for us. Go out and grind them into the dust. That's what they would do to you."
The players heeded Eddie Turnbull's advice and added two second half goals to achieve a record competitive victory in an Edinburgh derby match. Some of the team didn't initially grasp the significance of their win. Those who had grown up as dyed in the wool Hibees most certainly did.
John Blackley says now, "I don't think all of us realised at that time just how momentous the 7-0 game was going to prove. Looking back, it was some score and on their patch as well. It meant even more to the Edinburgh boys like Pat and Jimmy. They realised how special it was right away. When Jimmy said to me "Sloop, we've made history today." He could see that as a lifelong Hibee and he was right as well."
Jimmy O'Rourke recalls, "I don't remember Eddie Turnbull giving us any special praise after the game. He wouldn't have done though because that wasn't his way." Alex Edwards remembers the manager telling the team "Never mind 7-0, it should have been 12-0." Alex Cropley doesn't quite go that far but he does state "It could easily have been 10." Jim Herriot says simply "Everything just came off brilliantly."
Pat Stanton looked around the dressing room after the game and thought "There's a lot of good players sitting in here." He wasn't wrong. Pat's combination with Alex Edwards and John Brownlie had been particularly effective during this classic game. He reflects "It was a real pleasure to play with John and Alex. They were such top notch players that they made it easy for me."
In truth, every member of Hibs multi-talented team had touched the heights in this special match. As Jimmy O'Rourke says, "For us to beat Hearts by seven clear goals on their own ground required every one of us to play at the peak of our game at the same time and that is exactly what happened. It was a joy to be part of it and it must have been a joy to watch. Hearts fans say now that they could have been two up before we scored but I just tell them "Well the final score would have been 7-2 then."
I remember walking out of Tynecastle after that momentous occasion on the proverbial cloud nine. Perhaps I should make that cloud seven. I was 25 years old and I had just witnessed history being made. I could not have been happier and I knew that I would never forget what I had just watched. I didn't realise, though, that forty years later I would write a book about this fabulous football match. That is exactly what I have done. The book is entitled The Game on New Year's Day. In truth, what else could it have been called? All the quotes from the previous paragraphs come from the book.
I can scarcely believe that four decades have raced past since the greatest of green and white Gorgie days but raced past they most certainly have. We now approach the 40th anniversary of the most momentous of matches and fate has decreed that we travel once more to Tynecastle for the first derby game of the New Year. Your guess is as good as mine as to what the outcome will be. I don't think any of us Hibees thinks that our team will come close to winning by seven clear goals once more. In all honesty, we would be delighted with any winning margin, however slender.
Arthur Duncan slots the ball past Kenny Garland for Hibernian's third goal in the 1973 New Year's derby
That is for the future and this piece is about the past. I have no doubt that when the bells ring in 2013, I will have a glass of whisky in my hand and my mind will be travelling back to Turnbull's Tornadoes taking Tynecastle by storm in 1973.
As well as welcoming in the new year, I will be toasting Eddie Turnbull and his great team and my message to all of these magnificent Hibees will be "Thanks for the memories."
The Hibernian Historical Trust wish to thank Ted Brack for writing this piece for the website. It is a fantastic read and a must have for all Hibs fans.
'The Game on New Year's Day' is available in the club store as well as all good book stores and other online outlets.