St. Mirren in the Summer Cup 1964 and 1965
(first published in the match programme for St. Mirren v Rangers, 27th May 2023)
The Summer Cup
A Summer Cup competition was introduced during the war years as an encouragement by the Government as part of their Holidays at Home campaign to prevent widespread travel by the public. The tournament was contested by Central Scotland clubs on a knockout basis at the end of each season from 1941 to 1945 inclusive and produced five different winners. Significantly, St. Mirren were one of those winners when they defeated Rangers 1-0 in the 1943 final. Unfortunately, there is no programme to mark this triumph.
In 1964, amidst several propositions to revitalise and reorganise the Scottish game, the Summer Cup was reintroduced for all Scottish League Division One clubs in an attempt to counter their increasing running costs. Unfortunately, the tournament was immediately devalued when both Rangers and Celtic refused to participate.
The format of the competition was similar to that used by the Scottish League Cup at the time. Four sections of four clubs faced each other on a home and away basis on successive Saturdays and midweeks. The winners of each section would compete in a two-legged Semi Final and the Final itself would also be a home and away tie.
St. Mirren participated in Section 2 and made a slow start but finished top with Partick Thistle and Morton on seven points. However, Thistle’s superior goal average saw them progress to the semi-finals, mainly due to a 7-2 thrashing of fourth side Third Lanark.
St. Mirren v Third Lanark - Summer Cup 1964
The June final between Aberdeen and Hibernian was delayed due to an outbreak of typhoid in the Granite City and was rescheduled for the beginning of August, but required SFA permission for the ties to be played before the official start of the new season. Following a 4-4 aggregate score, a play-off at Pittodrie was won 3-1 by Hibernian.
The 1965 competition followed a similar format to the previous season and St. Mirren were again drawn in Section 2 alongside Partick Thistle, Morton and Clyde. Partick Thistle again took the Section with a game to spare, whilst St. Mirren sadly managed only two draws. Motherwell won the trophy after a 3-2 aggregate win over Dundee United in the final. The tournament was then discontinued.
Like the Spring Cup of 1976, the number of games played in the two Summer Cup competitions make it an ideal subject for a relatively compact programme collection. Currently, there are known to be twenty programmes for the 1964 competition, and fourteen for the 1965 competition.
Only half of the participating teams chose to produce a programme and with few exceptions these were similar in format to their league issues. Hibs were, by far, the most prolific of the clubs, issuing for all of their seven home games in 1964 and all four in 1965. The short time interval between games was an obstacle, particularly in the latter stages, such that no issues were produced for three of the seven semi-final and final matches in 1964. Only one of the 1965 semi-final ties was marked by a programme and nothing was produced for either of the final matches.
John Wilson nets St. Mirren's goal against Third Lanark
St. Mirren produced just one programme during the running of the competition. This was for the match against Third Lanark on 9th May 1964 and was a twelve-page programme similar in format to the rest of that season’s issues. There was a distinct end-of-season feel to the programme, with larger text used to fill some pages and two pages being almost blank.
The Club Notes welcomed old friends Third Lanark. In a dynamic response to a recent plan to reconstruct Scottish football which would have seen Thirds relegated to the Second Division, the Cathkin men had opened their Summer Cup campaign with a win and a draw, leaving them top of the Section. Saints, on the other hand, had not scored a goal but had only conceded one, and so the efforts to find an experienced goal scorer continued.
In the centre-pages, the home side made one change from the published line-up, replacing Willie Allan with Gerry Queen, whilst Third Lanark took the field as listed.
Page seven listed Saints’ fixtures for season 1963/64 and the penultimate page displayed the Half-Time Scoreboard for the seven other Summer Cup ties to be played that day. The remainder of the programme consisted of adverts.
A crowd of 3,418 witnessed St. Mirren’s first goal and first win of the competition. John “Cockles” Wilson, left-back turned centre-forward and longest-serving player at the Club, capped a fine display by scoring the only goal of the match with sixteen minutes remaining when he pounced on a rebound from a Tommy Robertson shot to stab the ball home from eight yards.