Championship decider

(first published in the match programme for St. Mirren v Hearts, 28th September 2019)

St. Mirren v Hearts 1960

St. Mirren v Hearts 1960

From 1945 until St. Mirren moved to Greenhill Road in 2009, Love Street played host to four Championship deciding matches. Unfortunately, Saints themselves weren’t in the running for the honours, but at least the Scottish Football League spotlight was cast on Paisley for each of those important matches.

One of these took place on 16th April 1960, when Hearts came to Paisley looking for the single point that would put them out of reach of second-placed Kilmarnock in the title race. Meanwhile, St. Mirren were safely in the lower half of the table but looking to achieve a double over their Edinburgh rivals, having taken both points in a 2-0 win at Tynecastle in the previous December.

A highly entertaining and explosive match saw Saints take the lead through Bryceland in the 4th minute, only for Jim McFadzean to equalise for Hearts four minutes later. Tommy Gemmell’s 17th minute goal was controversially equalised on the half hour when Dave Walker had the ball kicked out of his hands for Ian Crawford to eventually net after two blocked attempts. A minute before half time, Saints’ outside left Jim Rodger was sent off for kicking out at George Thomson.

10 man St. Mirren dispelled any notion that they were going to defend and after 53 minutes scored the goal of the match. Gerry Baker picked up a pass from Gemmell in midfield and ran at the Hearts defence, Kirk and Milne converging on him. At the right moment, Baker swerved to outwit both defenders and struck a wonderful shot past the outrushing Marshall. Despite Saints superiority, Alex Young equalised with a scrambled goal in 67 minutes. Twelve minutes later, Tommy Gemmell’s penalty made it 4-3 and the scoring was completed by Willie Bauld, who made it 4-4 in the 89th minute with Hearts 100th League goal of the season.

Jim McFadzean and Davie Walker

Hearts' Jim McFadzean in a duel with Saints' goalkeeper Davie Walker

The match programme was a 12 page issue of black print on white paper, priced at 3d. The front cover showed a picture of the main Love Street stand, with “Cairter’s Corner” to the left hand side of the photo. The full match details were displayed above a larger box detailing the next home game against Partick Thistle the following week. The match details were repeated on page 3, together with Club Notes, which extended onto the following page. Page 5 was entitled “From the Manager’s Desk” and gave Willie Reid’s impressions of the current events. In the issue against Hearts, he bemoaned the “power play” methods of some Clubs, preferring players who could use the ball and depend on their skill. He felt that the game was more entertaining when faced by opposing Clubs who adopted the same approach. The centre pages of the programme gave the team lines, surrounded by adverts. Page 8 listed the fixtures for 1959/60, without scores, and strangely only starting from November. This was followed by a page devoted to “This Week’s Personality”, being Bobby Flavell, then in his third season at the Club. The only other feature of note was the Half Time Score Board on page 11. The remainder of the issue was taken up by adverts.

The programme was a fairly non-descript issue, and wouldn’t stand out from any other St. Mirren issues from 1953 until 1965. However, given the importance of the game, especially to Hearts collectors, it can now fetch prices in excess of £40 - £50.