Fifty years since famous friendly
17 October ~ Last weekend Hibernian drew 0-0 at home with part-time Dumbarton in Scotland's second division. Fifty years ago, in October 1964, life was much better for Hibs fans. Jock Stein was their manager, they had some of the most exciting young players in the country and they beat Real Madrid. Stein was in charge at Easter Road for just a year, squeezed between his first managerial post – when he'd transformed Dunfermline from provincial also-rans to European overachievers – and his famous reign at Celtic.
His impact at Hibs was immediate, with his trademark combination of ruthlessness, professionalism and attention to detail. "He didn't walk in; he blew in," Pat Stanton later said. Stanton was just 19 when Stein arrived but would soon be renowned as a classy, elegant defender, and would play 400 games for Hibs.
Many players' reputations bloomed under Stein, but none more than Willie Hamilton, who has since been largely forgotten, but who Stein later said was the best Scottish player he'd ever seen. Hamilton played on instinct and was hugely talented, but lacked discipline off the pitch and only Stein managed to draw on his full potential; potential that was clearest in front of the 32,000 fans at the Real Madrid match.
Securing a glamour friendly against Real Madrid summed up Stein's ambition. Real had beaten Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 at Hampden in perhaps the greatest ever European Cup final four years earlier. They'd won the last four La Liga titles, with Ferenc Puskas the top scorer in three of them. It cost £12,000 to get them to come to Edinburgh but that investment was repaid in prestige, as the home side dominated the match and won 2-0. The Glasgow Herald said: "Had the margin of victory been greater the home team would not have been flattered. Playing fast, open football, the Scots were superior in every phase of the game and man for man outshone the Spaniards."
Eighteen-year-old Peter Cormack – who was later an integral part of Liverpool's first dominant 1970s side – opened the scoring after 20 minutes. According to the Herald "the ease with which Hibernian found gaps in the Real defence was almost unbelievable". Jim Scott hit the crossbar and José Araquistáin in the Real Madrid goal made outstanding saves from Neil Martin and Cormack, before Ignacio Zoco deflected a Pat Quinn free-kick into his own goal. The fans had come to see Puskas and Francisco Gento, but although Willie Wilson in the Hibs goal had to make two saves from the latter, it was Hamilton's night. As the Herald concluded: "For skill, artistry and generalship, Puskas did not compare with Hamilton."
That night convinced Hibs fans they could recapture their glory years from the 1950s, but on January 31, 1965 Stein announced he'd be leaving for Celtic. In Archie Macpherson's Stein autobiography, Cormack said: "We were devastated. We had a great team and I think we could have won the double. But him leaving destroyed us." At least they had that remarkable October evening to remember him by. Mark Poole