When pre-season training began in July 2009, there were a few “new faces” although 2 of them were not unfamiliar to the club. Keiran McGuire signed up for the second time having previously played for us when Willie Syme was the manager. It was obvious right away though that this was not the same “Magoo” that had been with us before. The new version was a far hungrier one with an altogether better attitude and it was clear that he had benefited greatly from his time at GPR U21, Cupar Hearts and Eastvale. Also from Eastvale we signed their player of the year, Thomas McAllister, who could count Thornton Hibs U21’s amongst his former clubs. Gary Thomson had been released by Raith and he showed the benefit of full-time training at Stark’s Park by breezing the beep test although it has to be said that Chrissie Mill was easily the best in the other group and it would’ve been interesting to see these two go head to head. Jamie Barr put pen to paper too after being sidelined from the game for two years with a cruciate injury. Goodness knows how many mirrors he had smashed because he only managed 4 appearances for us, including a man of the match performance at St Andrews, before being out injured again and then going under the surgeon’s knife. With Alan McAllister opting to sign for his home-town team, Kennoway Amateurs, a new club captain was required and Craig Gilbert and Scott Drylie announced on the first day of pre-season that Ian Hepburn would be the skipper to lead us into our 75th year in the junior ranks.
Two wins, a draw and a defeat in our ACA League Cup section wasn’t enough to allow us to progress into the semi-finals but we weren’t unduly concerned because it was the league which was the main focus of our attention. In the previous two seasons, the champions, Ballingry Rovers & St Andrews United had gone through their entire campaign without losing a game but it always looked as if 2009/10 would be much closer because virtually half of the league were capable of winning it - and so it proved to be. Also in the previous two seasons, we’d fancied our chances but defeats on day one meant we’d been playing catch-up right from the start so it was imperative to get off to a flyer this time round. The association could’ve been kinder to us though as our first league game was away to Kirkcaldy who most definitely were one of the teams that fell into the category of title contenders. There’s never a bad time to score a goal but if ever there’s a good time to find the net then Adam Drummond’s headed equaliser right on the stroke of half-time at Denfield ticked all the boxes. Was that the goal that won the league or was it Ross Morgan’s five minutes into the second-half? This victory allowed us to go top equal with Oakley, Dundonald, Jeanfield, Rosyth & Newburgh although we were in sixth spot due to an inferior goal difference. On day two we jumped up to 3rd after our 4-1 defeat of Newburgh with Ross Morgan claiming a hat-trick. And so after two games, only Oakley, Rosyth & ourselves had played two, won two with Kirkcaldy surprisingly finding themselves in fourth bottom spot after two defeats. Our game at Luncarty was called off because of a bereavement in the home camp and Oakley (with Coco Mullen scoring a hat-trick against Newburgh) and Rosyth took full advantage to open up a three point gap. Dundonald lost 1-0 at home to Lochgelly though, so it wasn’t all bad.
Oakley were league leaders with a 100% record having scored 12 and conceded 1 when we made the trip to Blairwood Park. They led 1-0 at half-time thanks to Coco Mullen who was outstanding but the introduction of Stuart McDonald at the interval changed the game for us and it was fitting that it was his pass that set-up his mate Ian Hepburn to score our equaliser. With Scott Russell unavailable, Jamie Connolly played as a trialist for us and it was thanks to a brilliant save from him that we remained unbeaten. This result left us 5 points behind Rosyth although we did have a game in hand. In the East of Scotland Cup we moved into the second round after Adam Drummond’s header earned us victory at Newburgh. Oakley were on Scottish Cup duty the following Saturday. Ourselves and Rosyth weren’t and we both recorded victories. Adam Drummond, Ross Morgan & Stuart McDonald got our goals in a 3-1 home win over Lochgelly and Rosyth defeated Dundonald.
Given the way the season panned out, our 5-1 victory at Jeanfield, where John Halley scored a hat-trick, was a terrific result. Meanwhile, Kirkcaldy had recovered from losing their first two games to win three on the bounce and their latest victory over Rosyth, meant that Rosyth still led the league by 2 points although they’d played a game more than ourselves and Oakley. We got our backsides well and truly booted the following Saturday at home to Dundonald who were the first (and last) team to go nap against us. A good number of their supporters enjoyed a jar in the Royal Tavern (The Corner Shop) afterwards before catching the train back to Cardenden. Given the way things had gone that afternoon you couldn’t have blamed them for their boasts about their team being red hot favourites to claim the league title but it’s he who laughs last that laughs loudest. Because other teams had been on Fife & Lothians Cup duty we held on to 3rd spot though and the following Saturday we travelled to take on Rosyth who were in pole position. With Gregor Simpson making his debut against his former club, Gary Thomson’s header was the difference between the sides. Was this the goal that won us the league?
On the last day of October, Forres Thistle made the long trip down from the North and it must’ve seemed like an even longer trip back following our 5-1 win with Thomas McAllister scoring two goals. Three points were thrown away the following Saturday at home to Jeanfield. If you were a neutral or a Jeanies’ fan then this would have been a terrific game. If you were a Hibs fan though, it was one to instantly forget because after going 2-0 down, the Perth team came roaring back to record a 4-3 victory. Edinburgh United defeated us 2-1 at home in the East of Scotland Cup and the following week we lost at Kirkintilloch to make our exit from The Scottish and this despite Scotty Russell having one of his finest games for us. A 2-2 draw at home to Crossgates on the 5th of December meant that for the fourth game on the trot we failed to win after taking the lead. Matty Gay and John Paul Burns were making their home debuts for us and it was from the latter’s pass that Ross Morgan gave us the lead. Gary Thomson replaced Matty in the 63rd minute and within 60 seconds he’d scored our second. The sound of gunshot could be heard in Kirkcaldy though as we twice shot ourselves in the foot with Crossgates’ equaliser coming just five minutes before the end. This result left us in third spot, nine points behind Oakley although we had two games in hand.
Because of the severe winter, it was to be 7 weeks before we could wash that result out of our hair. Scott Russell had picked up an injury at training so a trialist called James Walker was in goals and despite him looking pretty nervous, we thumped Lochore 4-1. We followed this up with a 3-0 trouncing of Steelend and then because of postponements we dropped to fifth position. Saturday 13th March at Bankfoot - and was this the day the league was won? In the 39th minute we were reduced to nine men after Ross Morgan and Ian Hepburn were sent-off following a fracas that saw the Bankies’ Mike Lindsay red-carded too. In addition, Stuart McDonald received his second yellow before half-time. What happened next was unforgettable. Picture the scene; Eight men against ten away from home and more than forty five minutes remaining on the clock. Many thought we might “park the bus” but the players were having none of that rubbish. Incredibly it was John Dickson, who should surely have been in his own-half, who was brought down in the area to earn us a 51st minute penalty kick. Adam Drummond made his usual immaculate job from the spot but within three minutes they’d drawn level through Barry Ward. Bankies’ keeper, Michael Whyte, made a blinding save to prevent John Halley from putting us in front again but from the resultant corner-kick, taken by Kevin Connolly, Adam Drummond headed the ball back for John Dickson to squeeze the ball home from one yard, a range he is absolutely deadly from. There were a lot of gutsy performances from the men in green and white that day but there has to be a special word of praise for the performance of John Halley. He ran himself into the ground that day and in a season when there were so many memorable performances, surely this one was the best. We were short-staffed at Whitburn and lost 4-0 in the Fife and Lothians Cup. The following week we witnessed another performance that you could consider to be a league winning one. The leaders, Oakley, visited the San Siro and playing into a very strong wind they took the lead in the 15th minute. When we were reduced to ten men five minutes before half-time, it didn’t look promising. The players and management had other ideas though and one of the best moves of the season ended with Adam Doig grabbing our equaliser. John Paul Burns got our winner to give us what turned out to be a very, very crucial three points. As a result, Jeanfield leapfrogged Oakley into top spot but we were nicely placed in fourth with games in hand. Another good result for us that day was Kirkcaldy’s 1-1 draw at Bankfoot. Mike McAinsh was making his “third debut” when we made the short trip to play Dundonald and he played a big part as we salvaged a point after going two down. The Bluebell went two up in the 52nd minute before we upped the ante. Adam Drummond pulled one back in the 74th minute and then everything but the kitchen sink was thrown at Ian Raan’s goal. A throw-in was won and Chris Mill launched it onto the head of McAinsh. He back-headed it into the path of John Paul Burns and his overhead kick was superbly saved by Raan but the former Cupar Hearts’ man was powerless to prevent Drummond from finding the net with a brilliant right foot volley from the edge of the big box. Right at the death, Chrissie Mill hit a reeker from distance that took the paint off the top of the crossbar and had that gone in it would’ve been the perfect comeback but given what had happened earlier it almost felt like a victory. Murray Carstairs, who had been brought up in the village, came on as a second-half substitute that afternoon and the Auchmuty High School pupil didn’t look out of place in the striker role. Steelend had a right backlog of fixtures and could consider themselves to be in with a shout of winning the league if they went on a wee run. On the same day that RossCounty shocked Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-final, Stuart McDonald & Adam Drummond had us two ahead at half-time and it looked all over bar the shouting. Steelend pulled one back though but when Ross Morgan put us 3-1 up in the 70th minute we all felt that this would surely kill them off. When they equalised in the 90th minute, it felt like two dropped points could cost us dearly however four minutes into stoppage time Mike McAinsh blasted home to give us an odd goal in seven win. And was this the goal that won the league?
Rosyth, with our former boss Willie Syme in charge, visited the San Siro for our first end of season midweek game. They hadn’t enjoyed the best of results in some of their recent games but that evening they were every bit as good as we were bad. 4-1 was the final score with Coco Mullen getting our goal against his former club and although it didn’t feel like it at the time, maybe this was the boot up the backside we needed to ensure we didn’t slip up again. Along the road at Cardenden, Kirkcaldy had apparently played Dundonald off the park as they won to go top equal with Jeanfield. We were sitting in fifth position although we were only three points behind Kirkcaldy with a game in hand to give an indication of how tight it had become. It was crucial to get back to winning ways and we did so with only eleven registered players at improving Luncarty who had a new manager. The lucky mascot John Paul Burns who had still to play in a losing Hibs’ team put us ahead in the 8th minute after being cleverly set up by Stuart McDonald. In the 40th minute, Luncarty had a goal-kick. With their ‘keeper yelling “Who wants it?, Ross Morgan must’ve shouted loudest cos the goalie kicked it straight to him. Ross’ great first touch allowed him to run on and stroke it home. They had a chance to pull one back from the spot but Scotty Russell saved a penalty for the second game on the trot and this was crucial as a goal then would’ve given them a real boost. Andy Adam was one of our trialists and he came off the bench to send in the cross from which Coco Mullen headed our third.
Dundonald were beginning to show real signs of cracking after Jeanfield defeated them 4-2 but were still just three points behind with a game in hand. Crossgates had had an up and down season and for the midweek game at Humbug Park they experienced both ups and downs. They had an up when they were awarded a spot kick then a down as Scotty Russell saved his third penalty in as many games. Another down followed as Keiran McGuire put us one up. Adam Drummond brilliantly volleyed our second in the 52nd minute and then Joe Clark, who never gave our defence a minute’s peace, reduced the leeway. Ross Morgan came desperately close to scoring but his brilliant 20 yard volley came back off the crossbar straight to Gary Thomson who just failed to direct his header on goal. In the 75th minute we scored our third with a strike that wasn’t bettered at the 2010 World Cup-Finals. A clearance found Keiran McGuire fully 35 yards from goal and his strike on the volley was absolutely made to measure as it entered the net just below the crossbar. And was that the goal that won us the league, because in stoppage time they were awarded a penalty. This time Scotty Russell could be forgiven for failing to make it four in a row.
Next up was a visit to Lochgelly. After a goal-less first-half, Ian Hepburn headed us in front within sixty seconds of the re-start. And then Keiran McGuire came up tops again with a 30 yard screamer to double our tally. And was that the goal that won the league for us after Stevie Brown pulled one back in added time? To be quite honest, ourselves and Tayport could’ve done without the Monday night Fife & Tayside cup-tie as we both had bigger fish to fry. We were short-staffed again and with Stuart McDonald putting in a man of the match performance at left back, we gave a decent account of ourselves although Tayport deserved their victory. Two nights later we travelled to Lochore, who by now couldn’t win the league but were well capable of spoiling it for those who could. Ian Hepburn gave us an early lead and then if truth be told they went on to dominate things until Ross Morgan got our second just before half-time against the run of play but only after Scotty Russell had made some great saves. In the second-half we played much better although it was very late on before Morgan got the third. Dundonald did us a favour that night as well by winning at Jeanfield and now we were top equal with Kirkcaldy and only an inferior goal difference separated us from Kevin Smart’s team. Maybe showing some signs of nerves, it was the 75th minute before John Paul Burns scored the only goal of the game we dominated at home to Scone. And was that the goal that won the league? Kirkcaldy defeated Steelend 4-2 that afternoon to retain top spot on goal difference and set up what many considered to be a league decider the following Wednesday. A much larger than normal crowd turned up at the San Siro that night to witness what from a Thornton point of view was a great game when no quarter was asked or given. The first-half ended goal-less although there’s no doubt that Kirkcaldy had the best of the goal-scoring opportunities. There’s nae pictures on a scorecard though and John Paul Burns headed us in front three minutes after the break. Coco Mullen extended our lead with a magnificent 20 yard strike and although Chris Ireland pulled one back from the penalty spot ten minutes from time we held on to go top with just four games to go.
So now it was in our own hands as we travelled to Newburgh. Newburgh had nothing to play for except for the fact that every team wants to throw a spanner in the works of one going for the league. They took the lead thanks to a terrific 20 yard strike from Greg Allan in the 27th minute and by half-time, Craig Gilbert had been ordered out of the technical area for having the temerity to question a refereeing decision whilst standing just outside the technical area. With Scott Drylie at Glasgow Airport ready to go on holiday it was left to the chairman, Mike McCool, to direct traffic from the dug out. In what wasn’t a dirty game, no fewer than eleven yellow cards and three red were shown as players from both teams showed their frustration at some of the decisions. Stuart McDonald was brought down in the penalty area and dusted himself down to lash the ball high into the net for our equaliser. Deep in stoppage time, Mike McAinsh almost repeated what he’d done at Steelend but the ball seemed to take an age to come down and allowed a Burgh defender to put in a great block. We still retained top spot though with second placed Oakley effectively killing off Dundonald’s challenge with a 3-0 win.
It was crucial to get back to winning ways the following Wednesday night and Luncarty were far better than the 5-2 victory for us suggests. Coco Mullen entered the Guinness Book of records by arriving at the San Siro from his work in Nairn in land speed record breaking time and he made it worth his while by bagging a brace in our victory. Ross Morgan hit a couple as well with Adam Doig finding the net too. The wheels were well and truly off Dundonald’s challenge as Bankfoot held them to a 3-3 draw at Moorside the same night but Oakley and Kirkcaldy were still breathing down our necks and looking for an upset when Bankfoot came to town. On the same day as Dundee United played Ross County in the Scottish Cup-Final, staunch Arab, Mike McAinsh, gave up the chance to watch his team lift the cup for the second time and played his part in our win. Ross Morgan got his 20th and final goal of the season; the first Hibs’ man to do this since Graeme Dursley in 2000/01 - but despite this he was disappointed with this return. Although we enjoyed the bulk of possession it wasn’t until ten minutes to go when John Halley got our second and the dressing room was absolutely jumping as we knew that these three vital points meant that it was in our own hands going into the last game of the season. After the stoor had settled the other results began to filter through. Dundonald drew 0-0 at Crossgates. Kirkcaldy and Oakley drew 3-3 at Denfield. Jeanfield drew 4-4 at Lochore. These results meant that we only needed one point from our last game at Scone where we had until then enjoyed a 100% record.
With a number of supporters expressing an interest in attending the game, a coach was hired and you wondered if this might spur on our opponents cause they might’ve correctly assumed that there would be champagne on board and would’ve loved for it still to be there come quarter past four. On one of the hottest days of the year we were actually one up before the official kick-off time. The ref got things underway at 2.26 and before 2.30, Gary Thomson had given us the lead. Gary made it two in the 25th minute and then Coco Mullen got our third two minutes before half-time. (Before the game began, some of the players had complained about the intensity of the sun but Coco revealed his professionalism by advising he’d been on the sun beds preparing diligently for such an occasion!) Keiran McGuire had to come off injured just at the back of that before Gary completed his hat-trick right on the stroke of half-time. A memorable achievement on a memorable day! The big talking point during the interval wasn’t “How many more goals can the Hibs get in the second-half?” but “Is Keiran really injured or does he just fancy a wee scoop in the sun with his mates who brought along cool bags with ice for their Magners?” The second-half was one of the most enjoyable from a Hibs’ supporters’ point of view as Coco Mullen and Adam Drummond got our 5th and 6th and these six goals were the ones that won the league for us!! In 1969 we clinched the league with a 9-2 hammering of Clackmannan and while the margin of victory wasn’t quite as great this time, it was surely every bit as satisfying!
John Reilly, the secretary of the association, presented a very proud captain, Ian Hepburn, with the cup immediately after the game. Hepi had previously got his hands on this piece of silverware when he was part of the team that won the old Fife League in 2004 when the late, great, Darren Francis had skippered the side. Franny collapsed and died whilst playing football in Australia in August 2009. Looking down from above he must’ve been made up at his old team doing so well.
Before the presentation of trophies (Ross Morgan - top scorer; Jimmy Shields - Committee POY; Chris Mill – Supporters’ POY; Adam Drummond – Players’ POY) could be made in the Station Hotel a few weeks later, work had begun on levelling the famous San Siro. Some questioned if this would mean the Hibs would lose their “12th man” but without doubt the players would surely play on a flat pitch. It had served the Hibs well over the previous 75 years (plus the 22 years in the juvenile ranks) and there were so memorable games played on it but this was the perfect time for it to be “fixed” as we prepared to compete in the Premier League for the first ever time.
One of the spectators who made it to the RDM Ground in Scone was Margaret Crawford. This must surely be one of the few times she’d seen the Hibs play since the 1970’s when her late husband, Doug Jamieson, was the chairman. Margaret was on holiday in Perthshire with her husband, Willie Crawford (a regular at Memorial Park), and her daughter, Susan, and it was superb to see them make the effort to share this special day with the current group of players, management, committee and supporters.
Before pre-season training began in the summer of 2007, the worst kept secret in junior football was that Craig Gilbert, who had previously enjoyed eight seasons at The San Siro (surely in that length of time Craig & Kevin Smart were the best players not to collect a Player of the Year award), would be returning to the club in a coaching capacity from Kirkcaldy YMCA. Stuart Elder stayed loyal to Neil Macgregor and Scott Drylie, and on the first day of training there was another addition to the coaching staff. Initially, John Ritchie, who had coaching certificates coming out of his ears, had been approached to take one session but it was akin to winning a gold watch for the club when he went ‘full-time’ with us. His previous experience of junior football had been a very brief spell at St Andrews United as a player but ‘upstairs’ he’d turned out for Cowdenbeath, Brechin City, Bradford City and Dundee United amassing exactly 450 appearances overall. As a manager, he won Scottish Division Two withBrechinCity in 89/90 ahead ofKilmarnock, who at that time had the likes of Ian Porteus (ex-Aberdeen), Bobby Williamson (ex-Clydebank and Rangers), Tommy Burns (Celtic) and George McCluskey (ex-Celtic, Leeds & Hibernian). In his introduction to the squad on the first day in the playing fields next toKirkcaldyHigh School he mentioned this but he wasn’t blowing his trumpet. It was to emphasise the fact that were no big time Charlies in his team atGlebePark but that team spirit with everybody working their backsides off for each other got them their reward. As our season panned out, it became apparent that this message had got through to the players. And how! This wasn’t the first time he’d taken a Hibs’ training session though. In the mid 90’s when he was Hibernian’s SFA Community coach he took the outfield players (The session was still going at twenty past nine with Lee McPherson bemoaning, “Does he no’ have a hoose to go tae!”) On another occasion he took the ‘keepers and Neil Macgregor (who’d got John along because he knew him personally) picked up quite a few tips that he put into practice on the training field.
The Dundee Evening Telegraph reported that the new players were the former Hibbies, Ian Hepburn, Graeme Dursley, Mike McAinsh, Chris Mill and Mikey Cunningham (all from Kirkcaldy YMCA) plus Ken Renwick who the previous season had scored 50 goals from midfield with Dysart AFC. The guys who were joining up for the first time were Gary Anderson, Russell Taylor and Scott Russell. On the transfer list were Gary Gilfillan, Grant Fraser, Paul Forsyth, Michael Quigley and Craig Duncan as Stuart Elder began his rebuilding job in earnest.
By the time the first game of the season came round, another two players, Stuart McDonald and John Wright, arrived from Kirkcaldy and they played in the 4-0 victory at Newburghin the ACA Sports League Cup. McDonald scored two of them and looked poised to claim a hat-trick when we were awarded a penalty, however Neil Sellars had 100 goals in a Hibs’ jersey in his sights so he took it and claimed his 94th.
We lost by the same score at Glenrothes and in the final group game we drew 2-2 atSt Andrewswhere Kieran Marsh and Ian Hepburn got our goals. This meant we finished third in the group but the league was the main priority so we were anxious to get off to a good start. So were Stevie Kirk’s Lochgelly though and they won 2-1. It didn’t get any better at Lochore. With Stuart Elder and Craig Gilbert being two of our four named subs, Lochore got the three points following their 3-1 victory. We hadn’t played badly in these two games though and you felt sure that somebody was going to suffer if we could push all the proper buttons in the correct order.
And this is what we did in the third game at home to Luncarty. Graeme Dursley got the match ball after hitting three in the 6-0 win with Mikey Cunningham (2) and Russell Taylor getting the others. Dursley had got the hang of it now and in our next game he scored twice in the 4-0 defeat of Jeanfield but the main tormentor of the Jeanies was Mikey Cunningham who was in absolutely irresistible form that afternoon. He scored too with our other goal coming from Chris Mill and there was a great picture of Chrissie celebrating this goal in the Evening Telegraph. This was a great result but even better news for the club was that (Sir) John Dickson came on as a trialist (He was on Glenrothes’ list of retained players) after undergoing a hip operation the previous season when he was still at Warout. We were short-staffed that day and although John was named as a sub he was only coming on in an emergency. Jimmy Shields got injured so it was great to see John back in a Hibs’ jersey. We made it three victories out of three against Perthshire clubs with a hard-earned 2-1 victory at Bankfoot. Gordon Bryce equalised with a brilliant overhead kick and then Graeme Dursley got our winner from the penalty spot to make it six goals in three games. We followed this up with a 2-2 draw at home to Crossgates and then defeated Newburgh 2-0 atEastShoreParkto allow us to ease into second spot.
The following day the draw was made for ‘The Scottish’; Petershill at home. They played in the West Superleague so obviously the draw could’ve been a whole lot kinder. Och well, ‘the bigger they are the harder they fall’, had to be the attitude. John Ritchie went to watch them and when asked how he thought we would fare, he answered “We’ve got a wee chance.”
Broxburn visited Memorial Park in the first round of the Fifeand Lothians Cup and just as if it looked as if the tie was heading for penalty kicks, where you’d have bet your house on Stuart Hall being the hero, they scored the winner in the last minute. By now, Gary Braid had resumed training, initially just to try and regain some fitness but he’d made such good progress that he’d re-signed. Garymade the bench for our 3-0 home win over Sconebefore we welcomed The Peasies to town. They have a great tradition in the Scottish Junior Cup but we took the lead thanks to a brilliant free-kick from Stuart McDonald – and this after Mikey Cunningham watched in despair as Neil Parry saved his penalty-kick. Robert McPhee equalised meaning we’d to travel to play our first ever competitive game on an artificial surface. Following a goal-less first-half, the teams were preparing to come out for the second-half and a few of the Petershill players were giving the referee ‘some advice’ but he was experienced enough to deal with it. So experienced that within 60 seconds of the game re-starting they’d been reduced to ten men when the former Raith & Motherwell man, Alex ‘Toastie’ Burns, was sent-off for a second yellow after talking out of turn. Following an ‘After you Claude moment’ between their ‘keeper and central defender, Graeme Dursley prodded the ball home (what a time and place to score your 80th goal in a Hibs’ jersey!) to put us in front in the 55th minute. ‘TheAlamo’ best sums up large chunks of the remainder of the game with the Peasies’ goalie coming up for corner-kicks and free-kicks but miraculously the Hibs’ defence held firm. Even more miraculous was the condition of some of the Hibs’ committee men following the outstanding hospitality offered by their Petershill counterparts. There was a picture of Dursley’s goal in the Glasgow Evening Times and the headline on the back page of The Glenrothes Gazette was “GREEN DREAM FOR HIBS IN ‘SCOTTISH’. Happy days. The draw was made the next day and we’d been given an away tie at Lochee Harp. JR went to watch them and when asked how he thought we’d do, he answered “We’ve got a wee chance”.
Prior to that, though, we had two home league games that both ended all square, Ballingry Rovers then Lochore Welfare providing the opposition. On the 1st December we stopped at a boozer in Lochee for some pre-match scran and the players relaxed at the dartboard. One local overheard some of our supporters say they were going to visit the local bookies to put money on the Hibs. He produced a wad and asked politely if they’d put a bet on for him too. He followed up this request by stating that he’d remember their faces if they didn’t return with his winnings! We took the lead in the 9th minute. Mikey Cunningham’s free-kick was flicked on by Graeme Dursley to Mike McAinsh who came close to bursting the net with his six-yard volley. Cunningham doubled the Hibs’ tally in the 20th minute with the visiting support debating upon how many goals their favourites would score. Harp were having none of that talk though and by the 38th minute they’d levelled the tie. Mikey was playing a big part in this thrilling cup-tie because it was he who was felled in the area to allow John Dickson to put us back in front from the penalty spot. Graeme Dailly was outstanding for Harp that afternoon and he hit a 30 yard screamer that not even Stuart Hall could keep out to make it all-square again. In the 77th minute, Graeme Dursley moved onto Ken Renwick’s great pass and clinically shot below the Harp ‘keeper. When the supporters went back to the Bookies to claim their winnings, it was closed but they made sure the guy in the pub got his betting slip before returning to the celebrations.
Gary Braid came on at half-time the following Saturday for our home league game against St Andrewsafter Stuart McDonald threw up in the toilet. At that stage we were one down but Garybagged a second-half brace (the first an absolute peach on a gluepot of a pitch) to earn us the three points. Whitburn knocked us out of the East of Scotland Cup before we made the trip to Perthto take on Jeanfield Swifts in the second round of the Redwood Leisure Cup. By the hour mark, the Jeanies were two up and Neil Macgregor admitted that the ref would be as well calling a halt to proceedings there and then. Oh Ye of Little Faith!! Andy Kirk replaced Neal Fraser as we pushed more men forward in an effort to salvage the tie and it was Andy who reduced the leeway with 73 minutes played. AlanMcAllister headed our equaliser six minutes at the back of that and then John Dickson’s brilliantly executed volley two minutes into injury time was the perfect way for him to net his 80th goal in a Hibs’ jersey.
On the 19th January, Maud made the long trip down from Aberdeenshire in the fourth round of ‘The Scottish’. John Ritchie had gone to spy on them and reckoned “We’ve got a wee chance”. Because they were travelling over 100 miles, the pitch had to be inspected before 7.30am. Hibs’ committee members carried out the inspection under torchlight and it was a relief (after our games had been postponed the previous two weeks) to advise our friends from the North that it was Game On! They took the lead in the 26th minute, three minutes after John Dickson saw his penalty-kick brilliantly saved. The Lucky Talisman, Graeme Dursley, claimed a 54th minute equaliser and then in the 67th minute we were reduced to ten men when Stuart McDonald was ordered-off. Wee Stuart had a reputation for receiving red cards but on this occasion the decision seemed a bit harsh and even the minister, Rev Anne Job, claimed it was only worthy of a yellow, max. This only seemed to spur the Hibs on though and when John Dickson back-headedAlan McAllister’s cross into the net that was the signal for the beers to be set up in The Corner Shop. Oh how we laughed when the Maud website reported that our first goal had been scored by DUDsley!! When the stoor settled we realised that this was only the fourth time in our history that we’d reached the fifth round.
After a league defeat at St Andrewswe were on our travels to Ayrshire to take on Maybole against whom John Ritchie reckoned we’d a wee chance. To be quite honest we were stinking in the first-half and found ourselves a goal down. Dursley had failed a pre-match fitness test so who was going to find the net for us?! That responsibilty fell to another of Fife Constabulary’s finest, Russell Taylor, who did just that in the 79th minute. At the end of the day, a draw was probably a fair result although Neil Sellars might’ve nicked it with a late header that just missed the target. The replay on 23rd February was spoiled to a large extent by the almost gale-force wind that blew down the pitch from the Main Street to the School End. Dursley failed another fitness test before the Hibs began with the wind behind their backs. Ian Hepburn gave us a 2nd minute lead and Neil Sellars made it two half an hour later. In the second-half, we hardly got over the half-way line but the Hibs’ defence (Chris Mill in particular had an absolutely sensational game) soaked up everything Maybole could throw at them to send us into the last eight for only the second time ever.
Because of inclement weather our next game wasn’t until 15th March when Glenafton Athletic visited The San Siro in the quarters. Needless to say, John Ritchie opined that we had a wee chance! Glenafton travelled through on the Friday night and stayed at the Gilvenbank Hotel. A couple of their committee members who’d travelled through from Ayrshire on the morning of the game arrived first and requested that Audrey McDonald have a cup of tea ready for their manager, Gordon Dalziel, because “He can drink tea for Scotland”. This request was met in time for the Raith great who arrived with his squad a short while later. The Hibs had booked the Pensioners Hut as their ‘Club Deck’ hospitality suite. This was done maybe once or twice a season with only a few people coming along however on this occasion it was standing room only with one supporter observing that it was like Kitty’s without the women! As the teams went through their warm-up, Dalziel relaxed with a drink or two and happily mingled with the supporters. He then made his way up to the Pavilion where he clocked John Ritchie preparing the tactics board in the home dressing room. “Hullo John” exclaimed Dalziel before he laid eyes on the tactics board. “By the way you’ve got it spot on and see if it’s not happening, this is what I’ll do” as he moved the markers about.
In front of a crowd of almost 1000, AlanMcAllister gave the Hibs the lead from the penalty spot in the 26th minute after Ian Hepburn had been downed in the area. Meanwhile, Dalziel had made his way round from the away technical area on the far side from the pavilion to watch the game from the dressing room door. He then went into the Hibs’ technical area to ‘direct traffic’ from there. Not surprisingly, Stuart Elder asked politely if he’d ‘go away’. The linesman spotted this and attracted the referee’s attention. The ref told Dalziel that unless he returned to his own technical area he’d send him up to the pavilion. Dalziel’s reply was something along the lines of “I’ll just go up there cos I can get a better view”! When Glenafton equalised in the 32nd minute, he never saw it because he was in the Pensioners Hut. A Hibs’ supporter asked him why he was there to which he replied that he was in to use the toilet. “You’ve just missed your team equalising then” advised the Hibs’ supporter. The second-half was in its infancy when Stuart Hall pulled off a miraculous treble save. The closest comparison one can give is Jim Montgomery’s for Sunderland against Leeds in the 1973 FA Cup-Final. Ask ANYONE who was there that day what their outstanding memory is of this game and they’ll tell you about Stuart’s saves that were absolutely unbelievable. There was even a photo of one Glenafton player turning away to salute a goal. He was looking back over his shoulder in disbelief as ‘The Cat’ denied him. What made it even sweeter for Stuart was the fact that Gordon Dalziel was the Raith manager who freed him from Stark’s Park. In the 55th minute, the Glenafton ‘keeper comfortably took a header from John Dickson who had been picked out by Mikey Cunningham’s corner-kick. Dickson was obviously just setting his sights because in the 61st minute he headed Mikey’s corner into the net for the winner. The Corner Shop was jumpin’ that night as the locals (plus a good few from neighbouring towns and villages) gave it big licks. In the following week’s Fife Free Press they picked up on the fact that Dalziel had been responsible for releasing Stuart Hall for being too small. “Bet Daz is the one feeling small now” was their view.
We were brought crashing back to earth the following Saturday as Jeanfield Swifts defeated us 1-0 in Memorial Park. It was generally held then that we could beat the best in Scotland but at the same time we could get beat by anybody and this isn’t being disrespectful to Jeanfield who at that time were fifth (we were sixth) in the Central League. In the semi-final draw we avoided Bathgate and Pollok and drew Cumnock who were managed by the former St Mirren goalie, Campbell Money. He made the journey up the A9 the following Saturday to watch us take on Luncarty in the Maloco & Associates Cup. In an attempt to fool him, Stuart Elder put out a side with a number of players in unfamiliar positions. Despite this Ken Renwick, Neil Sellars & Mikey Cunningham found the net as we coasted to a 3-0 win. Money’s number two came to watch us the following Saturday and he must’ve felt like doing cartwheels as he left Memorial Park after Lochgelly Albert cuffed us 3-0. Further proof of how we could ‘lift it’ one week and plumb the depths the next.
It was all roads to Broadwood for the semi then. The Glenrothes Gazette carried a centre spread. One half had a huge photo of ‘the Toon Clock’ with the words ‘Cometh the hour’ alongside it. The other half included an interview with Ian Scott who played for 15 years with the club and was a member of the side that reached the semi of The Scottish in 1960. The Hibs had been the first name out of the hat so we were surprised when we were shown to the away dressing room. Not that there was anything wrong with it – it just seemed not right. Not only that, but the Hibs’ supporters were given the stand opposite the Main Stand where the Cumnock supporters were accommodated. Even the policeman who took up position at the end of the tunnel had queried this at the pre-match briefing for the game as it meant the supporters of each club having to go to the stand that was at the opposite side to where they came from and this, potentially, could have been a flashpoint. Thankfully this didn’t prove to be a problem although there was one sectarian shout from the main stand that did not impress the Police although they were unable to pinpoint the culprit as he didn’t blot his copybook again. A number of Cumnock supporters were either flung out or refused admission because they watched the game from a hill behind one of the goals. The pre-match team-talk by John Ritchie is legendary. Using a flipover chart, John used the word TEAMWORK as an acronym with each letter standing for something. The speech he gave will remain in the memories of those present forever but there’s no need to expand on it here! There’s always a fear that players might freeze on such a big occasion but this was most certainly not the case as the Hibs’ players proved again that they could compete against the best inScotland. The 90 minutes ended goal-less with Jimmy Shields & Mikey Cunningham coming closest to breaking the deadlock with shots that came back off the post. Cumnock missed a penalty too with 89 minutes played. The penalty was controversially awarded after Stuart Hall was alleged to have denied a Cumnock player a goal-scoring opportunity. (a) It was never a foul; (b) this was confirmed by the fact that there were no claims for a pen from our opponents; (c)AlanMcAllister was right behind Stuart and was in a position to clear the lines had the Cumnock player got past Stuart. In any case, Stuart was red-carded so Russell Taylor came off the subs’ bench to take over in goals (the only other ‘keeper on the books was Scott Russell but he was the odd man out because, in all fairness, how many times do you have to bring on a subbie goalie?) Russell’s normal position was either in defence or midfield so it looked like game over when he faced Ritchie Barr’s penalty-kick. A year or so later, Russell revealed that he was awaiting an operation to rectify a hand problem that he’d had before he brilliantly saved Barr’s penalty-kick. It wasn’t quite up there with Bert Trautmann playing forManchesterCityin the 1956 FA Cup-Final with a broken neck but, hey, it’s not a bad claim to make. In extra-time, Cumnock scored three times although, not to be critical of Russell who showed a lot of balls to don the number one jersey, ‘The Cat’ would’ve saved all three goals with ease.
So how would the Hibs react to such a disappointment? Amazingly, they bounced back the following Wednesday with a 10-1 win over Steelend with Ross Morgan, who hadn’t played at Broadwood, finding the net four times. In the second round of the Redwood Leisure Cup on the last day of April, Mike McAinsh scored the only goal late on as we recorded a victory at Tayport.
The Scottish Cup exploits had obviously caught the attention of some sections of the media and the Daily Record contacted Joanne Dursley to quiz her about her husband. Joanne revealed, in her opinion, that he was ‘freakishly tall’, had an incredible talent for ironing and his ideal woman was anyone who had a pulse and can talk about football! Durs responded this to by scoring arguably his best goal for the Hibs in a 5-0 win at Crossgates. It was from exactly 28 yards ‘cause his Dad, Norrie, paced it out!
Crossgates were again on the end of a heavy defeat when the Hibs defeated them 6-2 at The San Siro on a Monday night. This sent us into the semi-final where we took on Rosyth on Monday 19th May 2008. Neil Sellars scored both goals – 100 & 101 in a Hibs’ jersey – to book our place in the final. We lost 3-0 at home to Forfar West End to end our interest in the Redwood Leisure Cup meaning our only hope of landing silverware would be in the Maloco. The Final was atKeirsPark, Hill o’ Beath against Kelty and somehow we were given the home dressing room – what are the chances, eh? Normally players are buzzing before a cup-final but after getting to the semi of ‘The Scottish’ this was small potato and you could sense that the players weren’t really up for it. Kelty won 2-0 to bring the curtain down on one of the most memorable seasons in the history of the club. Stuart Elder and his coaches had performed miracles in the fourteen or so months they’d been in charge along with the players who were amongst the poorest paid in Scottish Junior Fitba. They simply played for the jersey – what a marvellous attitude to have in the days where loads of players were only motivated by hard cash.
Willie Syme was placing the emphasis very much on youth as he set about rebuilding the squad for 2006/07. Amongst the new guys were Jimmy Shields (Dundonald Bluebell), Scott Jamieson, Iain Speirs & Kevin Wallace (all Thornton Hibs U21), Stuart Hall (Raith Rovers), Paul Gourlay & Keiran Marsh (both Glenrothes Strollers U21), Ben Marshall (Rosyth U21) and Neale Young (Bowhill Rovers). In addition, Willie also appointed Scott Drylie to the coaching staff after previously working alongside him with Thornton Hibs U21. Leaving the club were Allan Ferguson, Neil McLeod, Keiran McGuire, Adam Drummond, Graeme Deans, Craig Danks, Keith Calder, Gary Braid, Garry Paterson plus the captain, Graeme Dursley.
As a consequence of Dursley’s exit to Kirkcaldy YMCA, Alan McAllister became the latest recipient of the armband. The season began well enough with a 2-0 home victory over Newburgh in the ACA Sports League Cup and both goals were contenders for goal of the season. Jimmy Shields broke the deadlock in the 68th minute with a shot from fully 40 yards. Before the game could re-start, Willie Syme brought on Brendan Napier for Iain Speirs. Brendan was a bit miffed at not getting a start that day and was eager to show the manager what he could do. Straight from kick-off he won the ball near the half-way line before racing forward unchallenged to the edge of the Newburgh penalty box. His shot on the run was struck with ferocious power and was perfectly placed in the postage stamp. The next game, a midweek one at St Andrews, finished a good bit short of the statutory 90 minutes but as we were losing 6-1 at the time there were no complaints from us. The appointed referee, David McGeachie, had informed the association secretary, Bill McDonald, that he couldn’t do the game because he was working but McDonald failed to inform the clubs. Nor had he sorted out another ref. To be fair it’s the home club’s responsibility to phone referees to ensure that everything’s okay. The Saints secretary advised that he couldn’t do this because he didn’t have an up to date list of refs numbers! When it became apparent that the ref wasn’t going to appear (attempted phone calls to the ref and Bill McDonald failed), both clubs took the decision to try and get a local ref. Dave McLaren from Cupar answered the mercy call and dashed along to Recreation Park and the game eventually got underway over half an hour late at 7.35. The game finished early because of lack of light. Had the scoreline been a bit closer we probably would’ve considered lodging a protest but we were well beaten and held our hands up to that fact. That wasn’t the only balls-up that night. The Dundee Courier reported the following day that Violet and Tayport were left furious when the referee failed to appear for their DJ Laing Cup-tie at Glenesk Park. "This is just the latest debacle in the junior football ranks after Jock Myles retired as East Region secretary 15 months ago."
We shipped six goals again, this time to Glenrothes, and finished the game with nine men after Paul Forsyth & Gary Gilfillan received their marching orders. The man that did most of the damage that night was their trialist striker, Ian 'McQueen' who scored a hat-trick. He was absolutely sticking out and looked far too good for someone to come out of youth or amateur football. We made a phone call to the SFA registrations but they had no record of an Ian McQueen. By the time we found out from one of his relatives (former Hibs’ committee member, Donnie Macdonald) that his name was, in fact, Ian McSween, it was too late for us to lodge a protest on the grounds that, because his previous club was Falkirk, he should’ve been reinstated from senior to junior status. Our defending was pretty suspect in our next outing too as Kirkcaldy thrashed us 5-0 at Denfield with the former Hibs’ men, Graeme Dursley & Andy Harrow getting on the scoresheet. We returned to winning ways at Newburgh with Grant Fraser, who had just returned to the club, netting twice in the 4-0 win. In the return game with St Andrews we fared much better and another new signing, Andy Kirk, put us ahead before Saints hit back to win 2-1. Before we could complete our ACA Sports League cup section, we began our league campaign with a 4-1 victory at Steelend where another new face, Scott Meikle, was one of our scorers.
Armadale had played 3, won 3 in the new Premier League when they visited Thornton in the first round of the Fife and Lothians Cup. The game ended 0-0 to send the tie to penalty kicks. Jimmy Shields, Grant Fraser and Ryan Kennedy all tucked and there was no need for anyone else to take one as Stuart Hall brilliantly saved from David Murphy, Jamie Gallagher and John Black. In a season of so many lows this performance from Hall was probably the greatest memory Hibs supporters will look back on. If that could be counted as a victory as opposed to a draw then we made it three in a row when Kirkcaldy were defeated 3-1 in the ACA Cup after Graeme Dursley had given them the lead. Another ex-Thornton man, John Dickson, got the winner for Glenrothes in our final ACA Cup game to end our wee run. We returned to winning ways with our third victory over Newburgh, this time in the league. Grant Fraser claimed a hat-trick in our 6-1 victory that saw us move up to second spot, four points behind leaders, Dundonald, with two games in hand. In the next game, at home to Luncarty, Andy Kirk had netted twice by the time 20 minutes were on the clock. It looked at that stage that we might go on to score 5 or 6 but, disappointingly, (for us!) the Perthshire men came back to win 3-2.
We were drawn to play Dundonald at home in the Scottish Cup. Normally in this competition, players are “pumped up” ‘cause it’s something special. The Bluebell ones certainly were but the majority of the ones in green and white fell well short of what is expected of those who pull on a Hibs’ jersey. The final score was (whisper it) 7-1 and it could’ve been a whole lot worse but for some good saves from Stuart Hall. We lost 2-0 at home to Penicuik in the 2nd round of the Fife and Lothians Cup. Their midfielder, Ryan Gay, won’t forget his visit to the San Siro. He struck a perfect volley on the turn from the edge of the area that looked a certain brilliant goal. Stuart Hall, however, made one of the best saves EVER seen at Memorial Park. Equally, Gay must’ve thought he’d scored the goal of his life and how 'The Cat' kept the ball out beggars belief.
When we lost 3-1 to Lochgelly in the league, Craig Duncan joined the elite group of sons & fathers to play for the club. His dad, Bobby, had played for us in the 70’s. Craig was actually the third player to join this group that season, the others being Iain Speirs (father Alan played in the 70’s) and Scott Meikle (father Gordon had two spells at the club in the 80’s & 90’s). Lochore knocked us out of the Kingdom Kegs Cup at the first hurdle. On the Saturday before Christmas, we travelled by coach to Scone for a first round Maloco & Associates cup-tie. Despite it being the day after 'Office Party Friday', we played some great stuff and took a first-half 4-0 lead against a team who at that time were in the Premier League. It finished 4-2 and we celebrated this early Christmas present back at the pub. The Hibs’ secretary, Audrey McDonald, was looking decidedly “green about the gills” after over doing it the night before. However, after such a great win, she soon got the colour back into her cheeks assisted by some vodka & diet cokes! Three league defeats (Dundonald 2-1; Kirkcaldy 1-0; and Lochgelly 1-0) followed before we won again, 3-1 at Bankfoot. Luncarty knocked us out of the Maloco & Associates Cup and we suffered another defeat in the league in Perth where Jeanfield won 3-1.
When Tranent visited Memorial Park on 10th March in the East of Scotland Cup, this was our first home game since 16th December. Hibs’ supporters (and the owner of The Corner Shop where we were afforded after match hospitality) were asking how much thought the fixture secretary put into his job and certainly you couldn’t blame them. It was a happy homecoming as we came from behind, the winner coming from Andy Kirk who scored direct from a corner-kick. Following the next game (a 2-1 home defeat from Kirkcaldy) a committee meeting was held. The main item on the agenda was the position of the manager. The decision was taken to relieve Willie Syme of his duties and rather than advertise the post it was agreed that we should approach a former player, Stuart Elder, to ascertain if he would be interested. Following a brief discussion two days later, he agreed to come on board. He allowed Neil Macgregor and Scott Drylie to take charge for the next game as he watched on from the side. We lost 4-0 to Lochore and the next Saturday he took charge for the first time and saw us lose by the same scoreline to Ballingry. “Church” enjoyed better fortune in his second game when we won 2-1 at Luncarty. Kevin Wallace gave us the lead with a brilliant 20 yard shot on the turn. The Bleachers equalised and then with five minutes remaining, Stuart Hall was sent-off. Ryan Kennedy took over in goals and we thought we’d do well to hang on and take a point from the game. However, a brilliant Alan McAllister volley on the angle gave Ryan his first victory as a Hibs’ ‘keeper! Oh aye, and it was Stuart Elder’s first as a manager too!! Defeats from Dundonald, Lochore and Ballingry followed before another three points were picked up after a 2-1 home win over Jeanfield. Making his debut at centre-half that day was a man who went on to become a cult figure at The San Siro, Gordon Bryce. He soon earned himself the moniker, Bobo, a reference to his no nonsense approach in a similar way that Balde had shown at Celtic. What a stroke of luck it was to get his name on a form although it didn’t seem like it just before he did so. Following up on a complaint about an act of vandalism at the ground, Fife Constabulary sent PC Bryce to take a statement. He had been on the club’s radar a good number of years previous but hadn’t been playing in the juniors for a few years. When asked, he stated that he was playing for Bogarts in the Sunday league and when a half joking, half serious offer was put to him about signing for the Hibs he answered that he’d quite like to come along to training and see how things worked out. Things worked out extremely well although I’m not sure yet if he managed to nail the culprit(s)! Gary Gilfillan got both goals as Steelend were defeated 2-1 and the following week we made the journey up the East Coast for a Redwood Leisure cup-tie. Montrose Roselea, one of the few other junior teams to play in green and white, were our opponents for the first time ever. They were sitting half way up the Premier League but we gave as good as we got and only exited the tournament on penalties following a 1-1 draw.
We’d better luck in our next outing when we were on our travels again, this time to Dalkeith where we won 2-1 with goals from Gary Gilfillan and Ben Marshall. Our reward for this victory was a home game against Superleague outfit, Bo’ness United. If the size of a club is measured by the numbers of supporters they take to away games then, given it was a midweek game and it was a third round - not a quarter or semi - the BU’s are right up there. Two double deckers were parked in Strathore Road and when was the last time that happened for a midweek game in Thornton! After going two behind, Grant Fraser pulled one back and you could consider this to be almost a moral victory after some of the poor fare witnessed earlier in the season. That was our last cup-tie and so it was just a case of getting the season over in our three remaining league games. It would be great to report that we just played them out without anything worthy of a mention but tragically, this wasn’t the case. After we’d defeated Newburgh 1-0 then lost to Crossgates 3-2 (Gary Gilfillan scored all our goals) we played Bankfoot at home in our last game. The 2-0 victory came at a heavy, heavy price though. Ben Marshall went down in the box in the 4th minute after a strong tackle and the immediate reaction was to claim for a penalty. All was not well though and a 999 call had to be made for an ambulance. Thanks to the quick response from the paramedics the game was only held up for 20 minutes before Ben was cairted away to The Vic. In the home dressing room after the game, 'thanks' to new technology, those who wanted to, could see on Michael Quigley’s phone, an x-ray of Ben’s leg that showed no fewer than FIVE breaks. Not surprisingly, this was the midfielder’s last appearance for the Hibs although he did make a cameo appearance when we were short-staffed for a pre-season game against Thornton AFC in July 2009 for the Robin Kinnear Memorial Shield.
Willie Syme had a massive task on his hand as the club prepared for 2005/06. One of his first jobs was to appoint Neil Macgregor as his number two but the pair of them had to cope with the departure of so many seasoned juniors. Through the exit door went John Dickson (Glenrothes), Shaun King (East Fife), Darren Francis (Rosyth), Gary Lamont (Whitburn), John Shields (Dundonald), Stuart Thomson, Mikey Cunningham (Glenrothes) and Mike McAinsh (Newburgh). (Dickson got off to a great start at Warout as he found the net twice in Glenrothes’ 4-1 win over Jeanfield for the Bill Brebner Trophy.) Replacing them were Ryan Kennedy (Eastvale), Adam Drummomd (Thornton Hibs U19’s), Graeme Deans (Crossgates), Keiran McGuire (Dunfermline Athletic) and Allan Ferguson (Rosyth 21’s). Following an impressive debut in a pre-season game, Michael Quigley put pen to paper before he had time to kick a ball in anger for Thornton Hibs U21.
After Darren Francis’ move to Rosyth, Willie appointed Graeme Dursley as the new team captain and he wore the armband as the new season began with a 3-1 defeat at St Andrews in the ACA League Cup. Two men on the bench that day - Ayi Etim and Neil Sellars - replaced Keiran McGuire and Alan McAllister and did enough to convince Willie to get their scratch on a form. Only four points were taken from the other five group games with the one victory coming at Newburgh where another new player, Keith Calder, was one of our scorers. We lost our first three league games and Bathgate beat us 3-0 at home in the Scottish. For this game, the pavilion’s drains were blocked so for the first and only time, the Council’s pavilion was used for a Scottish Cup-tie after we received permission from the SJFA. The following Saturday (8th October), we recorded our first victory in the league. Dursley and his understudy, Alan McAllister, were both unavailable so Chris Francis, in his second stint at Memorial Park, led the team out against Newburgh. Neil Sellars and Adam Drummond were our scorers but the real hero was Craig Danks who pulled off a number of stunning saves. Danks collected the man of the match trophy from Kevin Anderson of The Fife Trophy Centre a week later after the Fife and Lothians Cup-tie against Whitburn but unfortunately this wasn’t enough to prevent us going two nil down. Our new jersey sponsor, Thomas Mitchell Homes, brought along their photographer that day and he took some great snaps that went on to be displayed on a large screen in the reception area of their offices.
It was 21st January before we recorded another victory. Veteran striker, Darren Duffy, had put pen to paper the previous month and it was his goal at Crossgates that allowed us to leapfrog Ballingry Rovers into third bottom spot. Duffy was “on a roll” though as he found the net twice the following Saturday as we hit four goals for the only time that season as we knocked Newburgh out of the East of Scotland Cup. Four defeats followed before we got back to winning ways - albeit on penalty-kicks - as Lochore were knocked out of the Kingdom Kegs Cup after goals from Gary Gilfillan & Alan McAllister had helped us draw 2-2. When Kirkcaldy visited Memorial Park in the league on April Fools Day, a few Dundee United supporters had opted to sponsor the game in the “Club Deck”, aka the Pensioners Hut. On the same day Dundee were playing Gretna in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup. The Arabs had watched the first-half in The Corner Shop and with Gretna one up at half-time, they were in fine fettle when they arrived at the pensioners hut. They watched the second-half from Hampden unfold (Gretna defeated the Dees 3-0) and assisted by copious amounts of alcoholic refreshments they thoroughly enjoyed watching the goal feast at Memorial Park as goals from Graeme Dursley, Darren Duffy & Kevin Wallace earned us a 3-3 draw. Some of the Arabs had travelled from Forfar that day to enjoy the famous Hibs’ hospitality - why can’t more villagers do the same?
This season is best remembered as the one when the management struggled to put eleven fit men on the park, indeed Neil Macgregor’s phone bills were horrendous as he spent most Friday nights phoning amateur and youth teams to get players out on trial. Typical of this was when we prepared to welcome Lochgelly to Memorial Park on 8th April as only ten of the nineteen man squad were available. Six trialists were drafted in with three of them starting the game. One of them was Kevin Huskie and he scored the only goal of the game to give us our third league win of the season. A 3-2 defeat at Oakley in the Kingdom Kegs Cup was followed by a 1-1 draw with Ballingry at home. For the visit of Rosyth on 22nd April, nine players were unavailable so Willie Syme named himself as our only fit substitute. Prior to kick-off, one of the injured players - Garry Paterson - revealed that docs had advised that he was going to have to hang up his boots. This was bad enough news and the day got even worse as Rosyth pumped us 6-0.
It was therefore with some trepidation that we travelled to Denfield the following Saturday as Kirkcaldy had defeated league leaders Oakley in their previous outing. To comply with the rules which state that clubs must start with seven registered players, Willie Syme began the game wearing the number 11 jersey although he played as sweeper. He had made his name in the junior game as a classy midfielder but he was no stranger to the sweeper role. Years before, in the Russell Brebner testimonial match when Hill o’ Beath took on a Hearts X1, he was absolutely sticking out in this position. Despite not playing for almost two years, Syme was without doubt the man of the match as the Hibs defeated Kirkcaldy 1-0 thanks to Alan McAllister’s second-half header. A dodgy last minute penalty saw us go down 3-2 to St Andrews the following week and then the eventual league champions, Oakley, came to Memorial Park on 6th May. Given how poor a season we had, the 2-2 draw was not a bad result - even more so given the fact that four trialists began the game and our only sub was Willie Syme. In goals was Michael Samson who was a Hibernian supporter and he was well up for it. If you’re not good enough to play for the Leith Hibs then maybe the Thornton variety is the next best thing! The Hibs management were extremely grateful when Strathmiglo AFC granted permission for Samson to come in at quite literally the eleventh hour. A young ‘keeper had already been fixed up to play but a Saturday morning phone call from the player’s father who advised that his son was in the operating theatre following a Friday night stabbing just about summed up the club’s luck that season. One of the trialists, Andrew McConnell from Burntisland Shipyard U21, gave us the lead but we found ourselves 2-1 down before Allan Ferguson found the net for the second week on the trot to give us a share of the spoils. Oh, and Ayi Etim took a hefty blow right on the final whistle and had to be carried into the dressing room. After that we finished the season with a flurry as we took nine points out of nine with wins over Steelend, Lochore (Willie Syme opened the scoring against one of his former clubs with a superb diving header) and Newburgh. And so after so much bad luck a final position of eighth wasn’t so bad and we looked forward to 06/07 when we surely couldn’t have such an awful time with injuries.
As we prepared to take part in the East Super League at the beginning of season 2004/05, it would be great to report that sponsors were falling over each other to help the club but nothing could be further from the truth. An appeal in the local papers for someone to sponsor the kit led to zero inquiries so we took to the field at Camelon on day one wearing the previous season’s kit. Prior to that, Mark Buist, Grant Fraser, Craig Reid, Craig Ness and Adam Watson had parted company with the club. The new boys were Gary Lamont, who signed on for the third time, Shaun King (Dundonald), Gary Cassells (Cupar Hearts) and John Shields (Glenrothes).
The first game at Carmuirs Park was played on a day more suited for sunbathing but bizarrely the game was almost in doubt because the nearby canal was running high and the pitch was soaking in some parts. Mikey Cunningham came off the bench to equalise with an exquisite chip so at the end of day one we were above Carnoustie, Linlithgow, Tayport and Oakley. Camelon were none too pleased at this result because raised voices were heard from their committee room and not long after, their manager, Jimmy Hardie, was given his jotters. We looked forward then to the visit of junior giants, Linlithgow Rose, for our first home game. Before kick-off the association secretary, Jock Myles, presented us with our league winning flag. Pity he never gave us a flagpole too! We got our backsides well and truly felt that day as Lithgae ran out 4-1 winners but the ‘consolation words’ from Jock Myles were “You wont come up against opposition like that every week”. Linlithgow are a massive club in the juniors but many felt their manager, Jim Sinnet, let them down that day as he tossed a pie onto the pitch as the teams went through their warm-ups. When Archie Wyse asked why he did it, Sinnet replied “This place is a midden”. Nae need!
It went from bad to worse the next week as Bathgate gubbed us 5-1 at CreameryPark. Tayport were looking for their first win of the season when they came to Memorial Park on day three. They were still looking for it after the game which finished 3-3. Our fifth game of the season saw us come up against Camelon again and on this occasion we recorded our first win with John Shields and Shaun King grabbing the goals in our 2-1 win. The next Saturday, it was even better as Craig Danks enjoyed his first clean sheet of the season as we won 2-0 at Carnoustie. There was a memorable picture in the Daily Record of Gary Lamont and Mikey Cunningham celebrating the latter’s opening goal but the second fromAlanMcAllister that sealed the victory was a strike and a half. So, six games played and we were fourth equal with Lochee United behind Bathgate, Glenrothes & Bonnyrigg. Our first Superleague derby with Glenrothes took place on 25th September. The game ended 1-1 but there was almost the most sensational start to a game EVER at Memorial Park. The Hibs kicked-off and the ball was immediately played to Gary Cassells. With his first touch he controlled the ball and with his second he hit an unbelievable strike that smacked off the junction of the crossbar and the post much to the relief of Clive Guppy who could only watch in despair as the exocet flashed past him.
After seven league games, the Hibs experienced their first cup action of the season on 2nd October when Lesmahagow visited the village in The Scottish. Shocking discipline emanating from the visiting technical area should have cost The ‘Gow dear (their coach, manager and three players were sent-off) but they held on for a 3-2 win as we maintained our terrible record in the Blue Riband competition. In the Peddie, Smith Group Cup, we got back to winning ways with a 4-2 win over Lochgelly and we continued this the following week by knocking Blackburn out of the Fife and Lothians. By the time we prepared to play Arniston on the 13th of November - Hallelujah! - we had at last managed to get a new sponsor. Dave Boyack, who was brought up in the village, put his money where his mouth was so it was his company’s name, Abbotshall Homes, that was on the jerseys when we took the field in Gorebridge. The 2-2 draw earned us a valuable point as we remained one spot off the relegation zone with the bottom three places occupied by Carnoustie, Oakley & Arniston. We were knocked out of the Redwood Leisure Cup at the first hurdle away toArbroathSCon a frozen pitch. There were some who thought the preparation for the game was all wrong as there appeared to be more people interested in the outcome of the Old Firm game that day rather than focussing on the real deal. On 27th November it was more important that we win our home game against fellow relegation candidates, Oakley. And we did as John Shields (2), Mikey Cunningham and an own goal gave us the 4-3 win.
The second derby took place at Warout on 4th December. Two and a half years previous we’d staged the comebacks of all comebacks to win 5-4 but if that was as high as it gets then on this occasion, this was as low as it gets; as they say, revenge is a dish best served sweet! Mikey Cunningham on our left wing was having a field day against Glenrothes’ young full-back Stuart Milne and it was no surprise when he crossed for Gary Braid to give us an 18th minute lead. Ken Renwick made it two four minutes later to give us a 2-0 half-time lead. The topic of conversation amongst the Hibs supporters at half-time was “How many will we win by?” Mike McAinsh made it 3-0 two minutes into the second-half to put us on easy street - or so we thought! The Glenrothes manager, Pete McQuade (a man who held a similar role at Memorial Park in the 1980’s) replaced Milne, who was having a nightmare, with Stephen Grant in the 51st minute and the game went ‘Pete Tong’ as far as the Hibs were concerned. To cut a long (and painful!) story short, Glenrothes came back to win 5-3, their fourth and fifth goals coming near the end. The home dressing room was bouncing after the game. By contrast, you could’ve heard a pin drop in the visitors dressing room - but only after Archie Wyse had given them a piece of his mind. Some would argue that this was the turning point in the Hibs’ season as we lost our next six league games. In the meantime, we’d managed to knock Kelty out of the Kingdom Kegs Cup and thenSt Andrewsknocked us out of the East of Scotland Cup, which, for the first time was open to all East Region teams, not just those in the former East Region.
In theFifeand Lothians we lost 2-1 aet against Sauchie who were player/managed by the former Alloa and Hibernian striker, Willie Irvine. We threw ourselves a lifeline by defeating Bathgate 3-2 at home on 12th March despite the no-show from Ken Renwick. Archie Wyse didn’t miss the player and hit the wall when he spoke to the Daily Record after the game - “With the position we are in we can’t afford to have players not turning up. We even went to the boy’s door but one thing is for sure, Renwick won’t play for this club again.” This, sadly, was to be our last win in the top league but the last three games probably summed up the bad luck we experienced at times. At Bo’ness, we were glad to get the game underway. On the previous occasion that we turned up, the match referee (who’d come all the way fromNorth Berwick) put the game off because the pitch was rock solid where the sun couldn’t get to the playing surface because it was blocked by the stand. At the morning inspection, the local ref had gambled and thought the pitch might be playable by kick-off time. It clearly wasn’t and despite a letter from the club asking the association to pay for the hire of the bus, this was knocked back. “If the [local] referee wants to gamble, let him use his own money at Ladbrokes” was one of the lines in the letter. Both teams had training sessions on the park where the sun did get to before going back to Bo’ness club. The horse racing was on TV and a great afternoon was spent as we had sweeps on who the winners would be. No surprise to hear that Archie Wyse (if he fell in a river, his pockets would be full of fish when he came out!) cleaned up. Anyway, when the game did go ahead on 19th March, we went one down in the 18th minute after a highly contentious penalty was awarded. Neil McLeod put in a brilliant tackle on Jamie Winning as he was poised to get a shot in. To rub salt in the wounds, McLeod was booked before Scott Murphy netted from the spot. Craig Danks made a couple of outstanding saves and three minutes before half-time, John Shields grabbed an equaliser. Bo’ness went ahead again with another penalty eight minutes after half-time. McLeod was adjudged to have brought down Kevin Donnelly and rather harshly got his second yellow before Murphy tucked. George O’Boyle extended United’s lead but within sixty seconds, Gary Cassells pulled one back. In the 75th minute, Bo’ness were reduced to ten men too when Gary Smith was given a second yellow for bringing Shaun King down in the box. John Dickson converted it for his 75th goal for the Hibs. In 81 minutes, Bo’ness were reduced to nine men when Donnelly received his second yellow but despite this John Martin clipped the ball over Craig Danks for the winner. At Linlithgow on 2nd April, we were short-staffed so a couple of trialists - Neil Sellars and Barry Rankin - made the starting line-up. Rankin played left-back and was arguably the man of the match. Sellars was well up for it as he got the chance to play at junior level again as he was now playing in the Kingdom Caley league with Eastvale. (When he first went there, Neil found it strange playing in a maroon shirt after years of playing in green and white!) At half-time, Lithgae led 1-0 after Lee Dair’s cross was inadvertently knocked into his own net by Gary Lamont. We were by no means out of things and looked as if we could take something from the game. The red mist came down though and Gary Cassells was sent-off around about the hour mark and Lithgae went on to run out 4-0 winners. Without a doubt, Cassells was one of the most gifted footballers EVER to play for the Hibs but you just never knew when the volcano was going to erupt!
The whole of our season was summed up in the last two minutes of our last game of the season, but more on that later. Three weeks previous it had been the end of an era when Archie Wyse and John McAndrew tendered their resignations following the 2-1 defeat from Kirkcaldy in the Peddie, Smith, Maloco Cup on 16th April. The visitors had no fewer than EIGHT men in their starting line-up (Roy Ness, Chris Mill, Daren Baillie, Craig Gilbert, Craig Ness, Ian Hepburn, Kevin Smart, Robert Sellar) who had pulled a Hibs’ jersey over their head plus Liam Baillie was on the bench. Sellar and Ross Morgan were Kirkcaldy’s scorers after John Dickson had given us the lead. Our other coach, Ian Morrison, remained to take charge of team affairs for the visit of Lochee. The Bluebell Girls were there to see their favourites turn in a league winning performance. Mathematically, the league wasn’t won that night but the two goals in stoppage time earned them the three points that went a long, long way to them landing the Superleague trophy for the first time. Even Lochee supporters thought it was a harsh decision when they were awarded a penalty kick that Jonathon Thompson blasted beyond Alec Webster to make it 0-1. Mike McAinsh scored what is probably his best ever goal in a Hibs’ jersey to make it 1-1 and that was the end of the first-half scoring.AlanMcAllister hit an absolute beauty to put us in front but the longer the game went, the more the Hibs’ players tired as Lochee threw everything except the kitchen sink at them. The Hibs were already relegated by this time but they were determined to go down fighting, however the game had a cruel finish as Lochee scored twice in added time.
Although this was the Hibs’ last “real” game of the season, there was still the John Dickson testimonial match to look forward to. When “Sir John” was asked who he would like to provide the opposition, he replied that he’d like to play against a team made up of guys he’d played alongside at ‘The San Siro’. Before that, interviews were held for the vacant managerial post in the Pensioners Hut. Willie Syme was the man who impressed most so he was in charge of the current team that included Ricky Patrick who had just been released by Albion Rovers (following spells with Rangers & Hibernian). The opposition was made up of former Hibs’ players (at Sir John’s request) and they were lead out by Craig Gilbert, who along with the rest of the team, took to the field smoking cigars, signifying how easy they thought it would be. The final score was 8-5 for the current team and the biggest cheer of the day came right at the death. Prior to that, Craig Gilbert (who had replaced Ryan Houston in goal) had assumed the role of party pooper. Honestly, when a player enjoys a testimonial match, you’ve got to dive the other way when the customary penalty kick is awarded! Gibby performed his best Jerzy Dudek impersonation and after dancing along the goal-line he saved John’s pen. With just a minute or so remaining, Gary Lamont sent in a cross that John headed past Gilbert and this was the perfect end to the perfect weekend (a fundraiser for the Hibs’ legend had been held the previous night in The Corner Shop). The Chairman, Stevie MacDonald, presented John with the match ball autographed by all who took part in the Corner Shop. Relegation meant that a number of players fancied their chances elsewhere, so Willie Syme had to bring in a lot of new faces with 05/06 on the horizon.
There was the usual shuffle of the pack in the summer of 2003 as Archie Wyse revamped his playing squad. No fewer than four players - Craig Danks, Ian Hepburn, Ross Duncan and Stuart Thomson - were signed from Glenrothes Strollers U21, whilst there was a swap deal arranged with Ken Renwick going to Glenrothes in exchange for Mark Buist and Graham Watson. Daren Baillie and Chris Mill signed for Kirkcaldy and Martin Parkyn, Stevie Brown and Mark Reilly fancied a go in the Superleague with Kelty. Gary Lamont was on his travels again, this time Eastvale in the Kingdom Caley League being his destination.
To get in line with the leagues to the North and South of the Kingdom, a Fife League Cup competition was introduced although the Superleague clubs didn’t take part. It was split into two sections (East and West) and the Hibs’ section was made up of ourselves plus Dundonald, Kirkcaldy, St Andrews & Newburgh. Teams played home and away meaning that if you got to the final you played NINE games in the competition. To win the Scottish you could in theory play just seven games so there were a number of clubs not in favour of its make-up. The Hibs’ players didn’t seem to bother about this though as going into their final game in the section (on 13th December!) they required just one point to make it to the final. Gary Braid put pen to paper (from Crossgates) in time for him to score on his debut in the one all draw.
After just two games played in the league we led the table by two points. An opening day 2-1 win atNewburghwas followed up by a 2-0 victory at Dundonald with Graeme Dursley claiming his sixtieth goal in a Hibs’ jersey. On 30th August 2003, exactly 90 years to the day that the club had played it’s first ever competitive game, (A 5-0 defeat of Denbeath Star A in the juvenile ranks) we celebrated our birthday with a 3-0 win at Rosyth, the scorers being John Dickson, Adam Watson and Graeme Dursley. The first points were dropped in our fifth outing on 13th September asSt Andrewscame from two down to take a point away from Memorial Park. Nonetheless we still led the league by five points from the two teams that lay joint second, Kirkcaldy & Rosyth.
Incredibly it was the 22nd November until we played another league game - a 2-1 win at home to Lochore. Between times it was all cup football with four games in the League Cup, a 3-0 home defeat from Broxburn in theFifeand Lothians, a 1-0 home defeat from North End in the Redwood Leisure and a 2-1 defeat from Rutherglen Glencairn in the Scottish. Dundonald were defeated in the Peddie, Smith, Maloco albeit on penalties after the sides had drawn 1-1 aet. On 29th November, Dundonald gave us our first defeat in the league and this allowed them to leapfrog Kirkcaldy into second spot, three points behind us. A 1-0 defeat of Steelend the next Saturday was followed by another four cup matches. The aforementioned 1-1 draw withSt Andrewsin the League Cup was next and the Saturday after that, we faced Saints again, this time in the Interbrew Cup. Grant Fraser & Adam Watson got the goals in a 2-1 win to take us into the quarters.
By the time we playedNewburghon the 10th of January we had a new sponsor on board. The Rev Anne Job ofThorntonParishChurchoffered to pay for the match balls and sportingly agreed to be photographed wearing a Hibs jersey alongside our coach,AlanHunter, who donned a dog collar. Anne made a suggestion for a fundraiser for the club - a swearbox! When it was suggested that it might have to be a big box, she immediately replied “A VERY big box!”. The Newburgh game was the quarter-final of the Peddie, Smith, Maloco Cup and the 4-0 win is best remembered for Mark Buist’s only goal in a green and white jersey, a “shot” from his own-half that went over the head of the former Hibs’ ‘keeper, Roger Warrender and into the net.
In the first round of the Kingdom Kegs we lost 7-6 on penalties after Graeme Dursley scored four minutes into added time to send the tie into extra-time. Four league games on the trot saw us take eight points from a possible twelve and this was enough to keep us seven points ahead of Kirkcaldy. The League Cup Final was to be played on Sunday 29th February at Hill o’ Beath with Rosyth providing the opposition. The Daily Record had noticed that both ourselves and Hibernian had made it into their respective League Cup-Finals so they arranged for us to “go training” with them one morning. At first their reporter, Gordon Parks claimed it would be at Easter Road so quite a number of our players arranged for shift changes and days off work. Parks phoned back after this was arranged to say that the training session would now take part atDalgetyBay. When the players arrived, Hibernian were being put through their paces by Bobby Williamson. He gave us the nod when to go and get changed however as our guys took to the field, the seniors were walking off. When Williamson was asked about the training session he claimed he knew nothing about it. His understanding was that it would just be a photoshoot. When he was told that our guys were hardly going to take a day off their work just to get their pictures taken with SPL players, the Hibernian gaffer was immediately on the phone to Jim Traynor to vent his anger. A photo was taken with some of the Hibernian players, the better known ones being Kevin Thomson, Scott Brown, Gary O’Connor, Gary Caldwell and Steven Whittaker and then a ball had to be blagged off staff at Dalgety Bay for a knock about as Hibernian made their way back to the capital. Blobby Williamson “promised” to come across toThorntonto take a training session but needless to say he never showed his face.
As it turned out, both Hibs lost their finals (Livingston won at Hampden) and there was a doubt about whether or not our final would go ahead asKeirsParkwas rock solid with frost. Darren Francis had been appointed captain when Ken Renwick had gone to Warout and had been playing out of his skin. This didn’t go unnoticed by Rosyth who picked him out as our top man. Eventually, after some ‘robust’ challenges, Francis limped off to be replaced byCraig Reid. Graeme Dursley had earlier headed our equaliser but Stuart Thomson inadvertently knocked Andy Lawson’s cross into his own goal for what turned out to be Rosyth’s winner. On ‘Links Market’ weekend, we won 3-0 at Lochore with Mark Gallagher bagging a brace and Gary Braid hitting a single. Afterwards, the Lochore secretary Tam Graham revealed that he’d heard that Lochgelly (managed by the former Hibs’ player, Pete Hutton) had won 3-1 at Rosyth meaning that we couldn’t be caught and the championship was ours for the first time in 35 years. All roads led to The Corner Shop that night for a great night of celebrations - Archie Wyse’s rendition of ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ never sounded so good! By coincidence our next game was at home to Rosyth who sportingly formed a guard of honour and applauded the Hibs’ players onto the park before the game. Watching our 3-0 win were two men who played a big part in our championship success in 1969. Alec Carswell who scored an incredible 46 goals that season was joined by that team’s captain, Willie Wyles. After the game, Darren Francis was presented with the trophy and a famous picture of Darren & Willie holding the cup between them appeared in the papers. Although we were knocked out of the Interbrew and PSM Cups by Oakley and Glenrothes respectively, nobody at the club was giving a monkeys ‘cause the league was in the bag and we looked forward to taking on the “big boys” in the 04/05 season.
After coming so close to promotion the previous season, maybe the team only required a wee bit of fine tuning to enable it to win the league………eh - naw! Stuart Elder, Ross Duncan and Chris Francis left for Kirkcaldy,St Andrewsand Glenrothes respectively. Through the in door came Stevie Brown & Mikey Cunningham (both on loan from East Fife), Jordan Laird & Adam Watson (both from The Yard U21), Grant Fraser (Lochgelly Albert),AlanMcAllister (Guardbridge Utd U21) and Gary Lamont returned from his two year sabbatical atSt Andrews. Goalkeeper, Martin Parkyn, was added to the squad just after the season began and by September, Mike McAinsh had been signed from Kelty in a deal that saw Scott Reid move in the opposite direction.
McAinsh’s first goal came in extra-time at Harthill in the 1st round of the Heineken Cup and he made it two in two games when we drew 2-2 away to Edinburgh United in The Scottish. On an appalling day weatherwise, the capital side won the replay 4-2. In the first round of the Redwood Leisure Cup we came from behind to win 2-1 at Forfar West End after extra-time with our goals coming from John Dickson & Neil Sellars. The shine was taken off this superb result when the former aggravated an injury that forced him to pull out of a trial game for the Scottish Juniors the following day. In the second round of the Heineken, we recorded another great result against a top team as Bonnyrigg were thumped 4-0 at Memorial Park. As he had done the previous season against Tayport, the captain, Ken Renwick, led by example as he shook off an early knock before heading home two of the Hibs’ goals. Grant Fraser and Adam Watson were the other scorers in this outstanding performance. If there was an award for the man with the highest pain threshold to play for the Hibs in the noughties then surely Renwick would’ve been one of the top candidates.
Meanwhile, performances in the league, whilst not being spectacular, had been efficient. It was a more than efficient performance though when we visited Recreation Park, St Andrews in November. 6-2 was the scoreline as the team demolished Saints with some clinical finishing. Gary Lamont was on the scoresheet for the third week on the bounce and our other marksmen were AlanMcAllister, John Dickson, Chris Mill and Grant Fraser (2). At this stage we were second, five points behind Kelty who had a game in hand. Another two wins - against Crossgates and Tulliallan - followed before we made the trip to Kelty on 14th December. By then we were sitting at the top of the table on 32 points. Kelty were one behind but had three games in hand so this was a game we really had to win to keep alive our championship hopes. After the game finished 0-0, both camps agreed that the Hibs should’ve won but as someone once said “There’s nae picters on a scorecaird”.
Archie Wyse threw down the gauntlet to his players after this one and duly challenged them to win their remaining seven league games to heap the pressure on the Central Park side. The players responded magnificently and did exactly that. By early March we had been knocked out of the Heineken (2-6 v Hill o’ Beath) and Redwood Leisure (1-0 St Andrews) but we had stretched our lead at the top of the league to seven points although Kelty’s involvement in the Scottish meant that they had five games in hand. On 8th March, we won 2-0 at Rosyth in the first round of the Interbrew Cup and our day got even better when we heard that Kelty had lost one of their games in hand as second-bottom Lochgelly administered a 2-1 home defeat, their first of the season in the league. The following week we were on cup duty again and this time two goals from substitute Grant Fraser earned us a 2-1 victory at Newburgh in the Kingdom Kegs although we finished with nine men when the former Hibs’ player of the year, Neil Marshalsey, sent-off AlanMcAllister and Craig Reid. Going into our league game atNewburghon 12th April, we were just one point ahead of Kelty who by now had just two games in hand so it was just a case of concentrating on winning and hoping other teams could do us a favour. That day Mikey Cunningham, Gary Lamont and Graeme Dursley got the goals as we won 3-0 and St Andrews had an excellent result as they came from two down to draw at Kelty. So now we were three points ahead and had two games left compared to Kelty’s four.
We completed our league programme with two victories and two cleansheets against Dundonald and Lochgelly so it was now down to Kelty not losing their bottle. In between these two games Hill o’ Beath knocked us out of a cup (this time the Peddie, Smith, Maloco) for the second time that season. On 26th April, a 4-1 victory at St Andrews put us into the semi-finals of the Interbrew Cup. On the same day,Newburghcommittee member, Harvey Walker, admitted that he hadn’t seen his team dominate a game as much all season but it was to no avail as a nervous Kelty got a 2-1 win to draw level with us on points with a game in hand. There was a healthy Hibs contingent in the crowd at Recreation Park to witness Kelty’s last game of the season at St Andrews. Not Archie Wyse though. He claimed he was going for a walk up Falkland Hill that day! When Graeme Makein put Saints ahead in the 28minutes, Gary Lamont leapt the barrier but managed to restrain himself from celebrating with his former team-mates. The following was reported in The Dundee Courier; “To say that Kelty’s equaliser was controversial would be putting it mildly.” Home keeper Steve Clark, who made some outstanding saves, was adjudged to have fouled Craig Reynolds and the referee awarded the penalty. Saints however, felt that Reynolds had kicked the ball out of the keeper’s hands before any offence may have taken place. Indeed manager Pete Hutton branded the decision a “disgrace.” Stef Winiarski wasn’t arguing though and sunk the penalty with 25 minutes left. Kelty’s second came from a free-kick although it was a tad controversial too as the linesman had raised his flag before the kick was taken. The Hibs could only watch in horror as just like the previous season they had come so near yet so far.
We were still involved in two cups though. In the Kingdom Kegs quarter-final it was Hill o’ Beath away and they made it three out of three in cup-ties as we lost 4-1.Newburgh must’ve been getting sick of the sight of us as we won 2-1 at East Shore Parkin the semi-final of the Interbrew. On Wednesday 11 June our opponents were - yes, you’ve guessed it - Hill o’ Beath. Although the 3-0 defeat at Lochore didn’t tell the story of the game, it meant that the Hibs had finished the season with the sum total of hee-haw to show for their efforts. It wasn’t all-bad though. A few days before this game, it was revealed in the papers that the prominent Thornton businessman, Ronnie Wood, had left the club £25,000 in his will the only proviso being that it had to be spent on the pavilion which Ronnie’s company had originally built in 1939. The TV cameras found their way to Memorial Park where the treasurer, Alex Duncan, gave his reaction live on Scotland Today to Ronnie’s magnificent gesture.
Season 01/02 was to be the last season all the Fife clubs would play in the same league. Reconstruction had been voted for and the following season a Superleague was to be introduced made up of the top 5 teams from the Lothians (Whitburn finished second but preferred to say in the Lothians league - Arniston took their place after finishing sixth), four from Tayside and three from Fife.
By September we led the table and following a 1-0 defeat of Hill o’ Beath on 13th October we were eight points clear of second-placed Lochore. A 3-0 defeat away to Dundee Violet in The Scottish appeared to knock the stuffing out of the team who could only take one point from their next four league games so by the 19th of January we had slumped to fifth, six points behind leaders Lochore. Because of postponements and cup-ties, it was 16th March before we got another league game under our belts. Kirkcaldy were hit for six at Denfield to get us back to winning ways and we followed this up with defeats ofNewburghand Tulliallan. These victories allowed us to move up to fourth spot, five points behind leaders, Crossgates, but with 2 games in hand.
The first midweek game saw us play host to Glenrothes. Anyone who watched or played in this game won’t forget it in a hurry. Paul McKinlay put them ahead in the 24th minute with Graeme Walker claiming our equaliser ten minutes later. Stevie Hutcheon put Glenrothes back in front just two minutes later and just sixty seconds after that McKinlay scored again. Keith Barr made it 4-1 in the 53rd minute and Paul Ramsay missed a snip that would’ve made it five. It was at this point that Neil Macgregor had seen enough. He maintains it was because his young son was cold and wanted to go home but we know better! In the 61st minute John Dickson reduced the leeway from 16 yards and two minutes later, Ross Duncan hit one of the best goals EVER seen at Memorial Park as he lashed an unstoppable drive from fully 35 yards (no exaggeration!) into the postage stamp to reduce the deficit to just one. The visitors were rocking now and unbelievably sixty seconds later Neil Sellars made it all square. The same man, normally so deadly from the penalty spot, watched his well struck penalty saved by Kenny Whyte but in the 81st minute, the captain, Ken Renwick, rose to head home Chris Francis’ perfect cross. There was still time for Kenny Whyte to save another penalty, this time from Chris Mill, before referee, Colin Brown, called a halt to one of the greatest games in the history of the Hibs. This stunning win put us into third spot but after beating Steelend 4-0 on 13th of April we led the table again.
In the cups, Hill o’ Beath knocked us out of the Peddie, Smith, Maloco and the Stella Artois. As mentioned earlier, Violet stuffed us in the Scottish but we put together runs in the Heineken sponsored Fife and Lothians, the Redwood Leisure and the Interbrew. We began the Heineken with a visit to Dunbar United’s impressive New Countess Park. The game ended 3-3 (Billy Herd, Neil Sellars & Andy Harrow) and Ryan Houston was our hero in the penalty shoot-out as he saved two of their attempts including one from their player/coach Mike Wojtowyxz who had been introduced from the sub’s bench right at the death because he was normally deadly from the spot! Bo’ness were next up and goals from Ken Renwick and Craig Reidgave us a well deserved 2-1 win. In the quarters it was Whitburn’s turn to visit Memorial Park. John Hay couldn’t lose as he was - and still is - a legend at both clubs. There wasn’t a happier man than John in the village that night as Graeme Dursley scored the only goal of the game to put us into the semi-final for the first time since 1970.
The Redwood Leisure Cup began with a trip to Bankfoot. Colin Brown was the referee and he wasn’t 100% happy with the pitch as it was pretty hard but he agreed to start the game to see how things went. We won 2-0, our goals coming from Graeme Walker and Chris Mill. This was Walker’s first goal since returning from a serious knee injury (our sports injury therapist, Davie Muir, had worked wonders with him and had probably seen Walker more than his wife at that time!) and he celebrated by running and running and running and ………... To be perfectly honest, the game against Dundee North End, should never have gone ahead as Memorial Park resembled a swamp in some places but it did and after North End (who at that time were one of Tayside’s top teams) had taken the lead, Stuart Elder hit a free-kick from just inside the North End half that went over the bemused ‘keeper, Graeme Finnan, and into the net. Neil Sellars and John Dickson got the second-half goals to send us into the quarters where we met Tayport at home. They weren’t just one of the top teams on Tayside; they were one of the best in Scotland so this game was going to be a real test for Archie Wyse’s men. Tayport twice led only for the Hibs to equalise through Ken Renwick and John Dickson. Water bottles were being prepared in anticipation of extra-time but they weren’t required as Renwick headed the winner to spark scenes of great celebration.
In the Interbrew, we defeated Rosyth and Steelend to reach the semis so as the calendar read 7th May, we were sitting top equal in the league with Hill o’ Beath (the Haws had played four fewer games) and in three semis. First up then was the Interbrew Cup on 11th May and it was Glenrothes at Warout. We lost 2-1 following extra-time after Andy Harrow had given us a first-half lead. The next Saturday we visited Keirs Parkto take on Hill o’ Beath in the Heineken. Despite Stevie Sharp hitting two terrific goals we lost 4-2. On Tuesday 21st May we were back at Warout in the Interbrew. We had a pool of 19 players but for a variety of reasons only eleven were available and three of them were carrying injuries. Indeed, Neil Sellars cut a fresh stookie off his wrist to allow him to play. Goodness knows what he told the hospital staff when he went back! Pete Patrick and Mark Reilly were signed from the amateur ranks to allow us the luxury of two substitutes and although we put in a very, very gutsy performance, Colin Sinclair headed Glenrothes’ winner in the 107th minute. On this night, Clive Guppy (as he always did!) broke the Hibs’ hearts with a string of top drawer saves and in the last minute of extra-time John Dickson’s effort came back off the post.
So no joy in the cups - we would just have to finish in the top three to take something from the season. We bounced back in style by defeating Kelty 4-1 at home two nights later meaning that we needed just one point out of a potential six to claim our place in the Superleague. But we couldn’t have picked more difficult opponents for our last two games. On the same evening (28th May) that Hill o’ Beath were confirmed as champions we were back at Warout again. Glenrothes needed the points too to earn a place in the new league and they got them with a 2-0 win.
It was all down to the last game then. Going into it, the top of the table read as follows:
P W D L F A GD Pts
HILL OF BEATH HAWTHORN 27 21 3 3 95 26 69 66
GLENROTHES 28 17 5 6 68 28 40 56
OAKLEY UNITED 28 16 8 4 60 25 35 56
THORNTON HIBS 27 17 5 5 61 31 30 56
LOCHORE WELFARE 28 17 1 10 85 44 41 52
KELTY HEARTS 28 15 7 6 46 28 18 52
On Monday 3rd June we faced Hill o’ Beath at Keirs Park and wondered if they would take their foot off the gas as they had already won the league. Not a bit of it! They led 3-0 until Andy Harrow could claim the ‘honour’ of scoring the last ever goal in the old Fife League in the final minute. And so in the space of four weeks, a season that promised so much delivered so little. The four games without a win in November/ December cost the team dearly as they missed out on Superleague action by a goal difference of seven. Oh well - there was always next season.
Pre-season training began in July 2000 with Stevie Sharp (Crossgates) and Donnie Evans (Star Hearts) being the new faces on parade. In addition Daren Baillie re-signed for us as part of a swap deal which saw Gary Lamont move to St Andrews.
We didn’t fare so well in the league that season finishing in sixth place behind the champions, Oakley. We had our moments though with Terry Donaldson twice netting four goals in one game (against Kirkcaldy & Steelend) and Daren Baillie managing this once on the same day Donaldson got his quartet v Steelend. We got a wee run going in the Scottish again. After receiving a bye in the first round we were drawn to play Ballieston away on 4th November. It was an away game for them too as they were homeless and using Glasgow Perthshire’s Keppoch Park for home games. They were managed by the former St Mirren, Aberdeen, Hibernian & Rangers man Dougie Bell but in midfield they had someone else even more famous - Tommy Sheridan, who at that time was an MSP. The Glasgow side took an early lead and we were looking decidedly shaky. However Chris Francis struck an absolute missile from 25 yards to level the tie in the 27th minute. Terry Donaldson put us ahead seven minutes after the break and then John Dickson made it three. A brilliant 20-yard volley from John McConville reduced the leeway on the hour mark but Francis hit another screamer from 18 yards to re-establish our two-goal advantage. If memory serves, Francis was lucky to still be on the park at this stage. Earlier in the game he had been yellow carded. He ought really to have been sent-off for a second yellow card offence but amazingly the ref chose to give it to his former Raith team-mate, Neil Sellars. There were no complaints from any Hibs players because it meant we retained our full compliment of players. This backfired on Sellars near the end when he received another yellow meaning he got first shot of the hot water. There was still time for Graeme Dursley to make the final score 5-2. In the third round we defeated Dalry Thistle 3-1 in Memorial Park (Dursley, Baillie & Donaldson) meaning we were into the fourth round. This result must have impressed Audrey McDonald sufficiently enough because shortly after she became the first ever lady to join the Hibs’ committee. It was reported in The Glenrothes Gazette that “the villagers will be hoping the local woman can turn the considerable fundraising experience she accrued with Kirkcaldy and District Sunday league side, Thornton Amateurs, before they went defunct at the end of last season, to their benefit”.
We bowed out of the Scottish on 13th January to the eventual beaten finalists, Carnoustie Panmure. It had been a long, long time since the back of the queue of the supporters waiting to get in couldn’t be seen from the pavilion and they witnessed an exciting game that looked to be heading for a replay until Darren Bonella grabbed the winner two minutes from time. In the Fife and Lothians Cup, Haddington were defeated 4-2 at home and this was the day one of the opposition’s supporters remarked that this was the first time he’d seen his team play downhill in both halves! Edinburgh United were beaten 2-1 in the next round at Paties Road but in the third round we lost 1-0 at Bonnyrigg. The margin of defeat would’ve been much greater though had it not been for the performance of Ryan Houston in goal.
It was the Tayside/Fife (Taycars were no longer the sponsor) in which we experienced better fortune again. Elmwood were defeated 5-1 at home (Terry Donaldson (3) and Graeme Dursley (2)) but it was the magical piece of skill Ralph Hunter that was described in The Glenrothes Gazette as “[one] that Robert Prosinecki would’ve been proud of” that was the topic of conversation later on in The Station Hotel in the post match analysis. Arbroath Vics were cuffed 5-0 in the next round before we travelled to Bankfoot in the quarters looking for revenge for the previous season’s result. On a glorious day, Stuart Elder’s 7th minute bullet header was the difference between the sides although, once again, we missed a plethora of chances and the margin of victory should’ve been much greater. For those in the Hibs’ party who supported Liverpool, the day got even better as they watched the end of the FA Cup-Final in the pub (Patrick’s in Perth) that was their sponsor. The Reds came from behind to beat Arsenal 2-1 thanks to two late Michael Owen goals. On the way up to Perthshire, the driver of the coach had been singing the praises of his motor. On the way back he had changed his tune as the tawtie bus struggled up the hill out of Perth. It was left to the manager, Archie Wyse, to prove that not only was he an expert as far as football was concerned, he was also on the ball with regards to bus engines following his earlier career with Alexanders. “Turn the engine off and turn it on again” was the Wyseman’s advice. This did the trick and although the driver needed to heed this advice another few times before we returned home we weren’t really caring given the outcome of that day’s game.
For the second year in succession we crashed out at the semi-final stage. Carnoustie were our opponents and we were eager to exact revenge following their win in The Scottish. Once again though it was the Gowfers who came out on top as they won 2-1 with Stuart Elder pulling one back for us five minutes before the interval. Just like The Scottish though, Carnoustie fell at the final hurdle as Martyn Thomson scored the only goal of the final at Warout for Hill o’ Beath.
Thornton Hibs strode into the new decade with a spring in their step as just 5 days previously they recorded one of their greatest ever wins by coming from two down to defeat Arthurlie 3-2 at Barrhead. To be honest, with 37 minutes played it looked like either a real hammering or a damage limitation exercise was on the cards. The home side had just gone two up but the skipper, Kevin Smart, pulled one back when he converted Ralph Hunter’s cross. In the second-half, Archie Wyse was contemplating making a substitution and instructed John Szaranek to get warmed-up. However the man he was due to replace - Darren Francis - struck a terrific volley to make it all square. Game on!! As the game entered stoppage time, Gary Lamont swung in a corner-kick and everyone except the referee saw a home defender 'do the Maradona' as he knocked the ball out. Current SPL referee, Charlie Richmond, incensed the Hibs’ players and management by awarding a goal-kick but it was eventually spotted that the ‘far away’ linesman immediately in front of the home technical area had raised his flag to attract the ref’s attention. There must’ve been about two minute’s mayhem before Richmond pointed to the spot. During that time, John Dickson was coolness personified, as he played keepie-uppie waiting for everything to get sorted out. As this was such a high-pressure spot-kick, Dickson’s mate, Lamont, offered to take the pressure off his pal by taking it. "Go away" (or words to that effect) was Dickson’s reply and he smashed the ball high into the net. There then seemed an awful lot of added time as Arthurlie kept launching the ball into “the mixer” at every opportunity. The Hibs’ defence stood firm though to set off massive celebrations. Arthurlie were one of the favourites to win that season’s competition but to their credit, everyone involved with them were absolute gentlemen and treated the Hibs’ party like Kings back at their club. The players were afforded a standing ovation as they left to board the bus back to Fife and this is an outstanding memory that they will take to their graves.
What a way to finish a century, never mind a decade, so how was the club going to fare in the noughties? Over the years, with one or two notable exceptions, the club’s record in 'The Scottish' had been pretty poor so it was not a common occurrence to make it into the fourth round. Maybe the SJFA had considered this when the refereeing appointments were made for the fourth round. The draw had taken place prior to the Arthurlie game and it was an away game at Tranent that awaited the winners. The SJFA had chosen Fife officials for the Forresters Park game but it has to be said that this had no bearing on our 1-0 win, the goal coming from the head of Graeme Dursley. Whilst they were obviously disappointed with the result, Tranent Social Club officials confessed that this was tempered with the fact that they had taken record takings at their bar as the visiting support (and John Hay in particular if memory serves!!) did their best to drink the place dry. Friend of the Hibs, David Briggs, represented GNER that day (remember them!!) and brought along a bottle of whisky to present to the Hibs’ man of the match. It was a toss-up between Graeme Dursley and Kevin Smart as to who would be the recipient. When it was revealed that Dursley was driving home to go to work and wouldn’t be on one of the two busses, the decision became a no-brainer. Kev got the nod meaning that we’d get a drink of his “winnings” on the way home!
Three busses, a minibus and a flotilla of cars made it to Lanark for the last sixteen game. It has to be said that the players didn’t perform that day and went out of the competition rather meekly. Before that game, the Hibs had signed Graeme Walker from Dysart Amateurs and his first season in junior football was an absolute revelation as he scored 22 goals between February and the end of the season to collect The Station Hotel Trophy for being top scorer. The team had got a taste for cup runs and in the Taycars Trophy (now known as the 505050 Cup) Forfar Albion were swept aside 4-1 in the second round. To get to this stage Lochee United had been defeated on penalties the previous October although this day is best remembered for the day committee member Alan Brown got lost as he tried to get back to the bus from The Whip Inn. Thankfully there was a happy ending as Broony got home before committee members, John Hay & Stewart Rutherford, who had stayed behind to look for him after the bus had made a very much delayed departure! In the Bardon Aggregates Cup, Glenrothes were defeated 2-1 at home with Graeme Walker finding the net for the fourth time. The other was an own goal from Willie Syme who was, a few years later, to become the Hibs’ gaffer although strangely this was something that had been erased from his memory bank when kidded on about it!
When the draw for the third round of the Taycars Trophy was made, we were down to play the winners of the Lochgelly Albert / Carnoustie Panmure game. Given that Carnoustie were flying at the time, the natural assumption was that it would be them we’d face after knocking out Forfar. However, The Albert upset the odds so our quarter-final tie was at Gardiners Park. On 1st April 2000, goals from Darren Francis, Gary Lamont and Graeme Walker ensured we were no fools as we made it into the semi-finals for the first time. Before that though there was the Bardon Aggregates semi-final to be addressed. John Dickson, Darren Francis and who else but Graeme Walker were our marksmen in a 3-2 home win over Lochore. And so with one final appearance in the bag surely it was going to be a breeze to make it into the final of another ‘the Taycars Trophy’ especially as the opponents were Bankfoot Athletic whose squad was decimated because of a stag outing in Blackpool. Over-confidence and missed chances cost the Hibs dear though as the Bankies veteran ‘keeper, Robert Aitken, denied us time after time and the Perthshire side deservedly made it through to the final before narrowly losing to Tayport on penalties after a 1-1 draw. There was to be no joy either in the final of the Bardon Aggregates Cup on Friday May 2000 at Dundonald. Twice we led through John Dickson and Graeme Walker but Kelty’s equalisers came from Callum Graham and Craig Reynolds, the latter’s coming just two minutes from the end. The exciting game was finally settled on penalties with Kelty coming out on top by 4 to 2. Just five days later the teams met again, this time in the league at Memorial Park. Only pride was at stake for the Hibs but for Kelty a victory was essential for them to as they attempted to pip Hill o’ Beath to championship success. This time it was our turn to come from behind as second-half goals from Robert Sellar and Graeme Walker gave us a 2-1 win. This result (plus victory at Tulliallan in our next and final game) meant we finished the league in third spot ahead of Newburgh but as Kelty ended the season three points behind the Haws (Kelty had a superior goal difference) I’m pretty sure that if it had been possible they would’ve handed us the cup in exchange for the three points!
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