Hibernian History


Hibernian Football Club through the years

Hibernian Football Club was founded in 1875 in Edinburgh by Canon Edward Hannan and was mainly composed of Irish immigrants and played as a church team from St Patrick's in Edinburgh's 'Little Ireland', hence the distictive name.

The Irish community were not popular at the time because they had arrived in large numbers escaping from the Great Potato Famine in their homeland.

They were blamed for bringing the terrible disease Asiatic Cholera to the city and were competing for jobs on the railways, in the pits, shipyards and docks and there was extensive bigotry towards them because of their strong Roman Catholic beliefs.

When the Edinburgh Football Association was founded in 1875 Hibs applied for membership but were refused and told they would have to become members of the Scottish Football Association first.

The SFA declined to allow them membership on the grounds that the Association catered for Scotsmen not Irishmen.

The Edinburgh FA were taken aback by this but not entirely surprised as the club was exclusively catholic and mainly Irishmen.

The local FA wanted to further the game however and decided to ignore the SFA and admitted the club in to it's fold and shortly afterward the national association capitulated and allowed the club membership but did not grant them eligibility to the Scottish cup that year.

Four years later they moved to Easter Road, still their home today. Hibs first won the Scottish Cup in 1887, beating Dumbarton 2-1. This was followed later in the year by a match against Preston North End, English Cup holders, for the 'Championship of the World'. Hibs won 2-1 and were on top of the football world, but their success had inspired the formation of Celtic FC and their poaching of players quickly weakened Hibs.

By 1891 Hibs had dropped out of the SFA. Two years later though Hibs were reborn, this time as an avowedly non-sectarian team and one of the founders of the Scottish Second Division. Despite Hibs immediately winning the division, Clyde were promoted and, uniquely, Hibs had to win it again next season before getting into the First.

In 1902 Hibs won the Cup against Celtic and the next year the Championship for the first time. In the last Cup Final before the First World War Hibs lost to Celtic in a replay after missing a sitter in the final moments of the first game.

After the war things were bleak for Hibs until 1923 when they again played Celtic in the final, and lost by the only goal they conceded in the cup that year. The next year the same eleven took on Airdrie at Hampden and lost again. The team lacked strength in depth and broke up, leaving Hibs in the wilderness until after another world war.

The League restarted in 1946 and Hibs were backup at the top again, runners-up to Rangers and beaten again in the Cup Final, this time by Aberdeen. The Famous Five - Smith, Johnstone, Reilly, Turnbull and Ormond -were the best forward line in football, first playing together in 1948 and with them Hibs took three titles and three runner-up spots in the seven years after the war. Despite the disapproval of the SFA, Hibs became the first British team in the first European tournament - the Champions Cup. Although not champions, Hibs reputation had earned them an invitation and they reached the semis before losing to Rheims.

Hibs were also the first Scottish team in the Fairs Cup (the predecessor of the UEFA Cup) and beat a very strong Barcelona team 7-6 over two legs, ending with the Barcelona players battering on the referee's door. Another incredible European game of the Sixties was against Naples. Four-one down from the away leg Hibs looked out, but five goals against Dino Zoff to no reply put Hibs through to lose to the odd goal to Leeds United.

Eddie Turnbull became Hibs manager in 1971 and domestic honours started coming in again. After being beaten by Celtic in the 1972 Scottish Cup Final, Hibs beat them 5-3 in the Dryborough Cup Final. A few months later came the League Cup final, again against Celtic and a 2-1 win with the near legendary team of that era: Heriot, Brownlie, Schaedler, Stanton, Black, Blackley, Edwards, O'Rourke, Gordon, Cropley, Duncan.

New Year's Day 1973 brought the most famous game in Hibs history. Needing to win by six goals away from home against Hearts to go top of the league, Hibs made it 7-0 in a scoreline celebrated still. The league slipped away however and Hibs next major trophy came after the biggest crisis for a century.

Extinction threatened in 1990 in the shape of Hearts chairman, Wallace Mercer, who proposed to 'merge' the two clubs at a new out-of-town stadium. A huge 'Hands Off Hibs' campaign was launched and was eventually successful, although Hibs thereafter went into receivership, being saved by KwikFit owner, Tom Farmer buying the club out.

1992 saw Hibs in the Skol Cup Final, after beating Rangers in the semis. Dunfermline were beaten two-nil, a huge boost after the Hibees had twice almost disappeared.

Season 1997-8 brought bitter disappointment as new manager, Alex McLeish, failed to save Hibs from only their third ever relegation. At the time of writing though, Hibs have equalled a fifty-year record of nine wins in a row, albeit in a lower division. They stand 14 points clear and bookmakers have stopped taking odds on them bouncing straight back up. The question will then be can Hibernian again be a force in Scottish football ?

Hibs have had ups and downs through the years, but have always been one of the big names of Scottish football, determined to hit the highs despite the lows.