A Good Win by Depleted St. Mirren (1961)

(first published in the match programme for St. Mirren v Motherwell, 19th August 2023)

St. Mirren started off their 1961/62 season with a 1-0 home victory against Kilmarnock and a 3-0 win in Kirkcaldy over Raith Rovers, both in League Cup Section Four ties. Their third League Cup match, on August 19th 1961 at home to Hearts, would see Saints’ goalkeeper and skipper Jimmy Brown face his first professional side, hoping that he could keep yet another clean sheet.

St. Mirren v Hearts 1961

St. Mirren v Hearts 1961

Issue 238 of the Official Programme was in the well-known format of St. Mirren issues of the late ‘fifties and early ‘sixties, featuring the photo of Cairter’s Corner on the front cover above the match details and advert for the following week’s fixture, a Reserve League Cup match against Kilmarnock on the following Saturday.

Strangely, the copy of the 12-page programme being reviewed consisted of a folded and uncut eight-page sheet and an additional four-page insert. It would be interesting to know if this was typical of this issue, or if this copy is unique.

The “Club Notes”, starting on page three, discussed the previous week’s fixture against the men from Ayrshire and noted how both defences had been on top form with Saints’ goalkeeper Brown proving to be invincible against another of his former clubs. The opposition ‘keeper McLaughlan was also praised, but some felt that he was at fault in not stopping Tommy Bryceland’s winning effort.

A warm welcome was extended to the visitors from the capital and a thrilling match was anticipated. In other home news, it was reported that Mr. W. J. Walker had recently been appointed Club Chairman with Mr A. F. C. Waters as vice-chairman.

Willie Reid’s “From the Manager’s Desk” reflected on the first two matches of the season and reiterated his desire for a scoring forward line, which had not yet materialised to his satisfaction in these games. He reported that the Reserve side had narrowly lost their first two matches, but that the new boys were showing considerable promise, which should be encouraged.

The centre pages accurately displayed the team line ups in the contemporary 2-3-5 formation, surrounded by adverts for Paisley traders, whilst page eight provided a complete list of fixtures for the season.

“Today’s Personality” on page nine featured Tommy Bryceland, the “Mighty Atom” and highlighted some of his achievements to date. Ironically, this match would be remembered by Tommy for all of the wrong reasons.

The final piece of reading matter appeared on page eleven where the remaining League Cup matches of the day were featured in the Half Time Score Board.

Tommy Bryceland

Tommy Bryceland

This programme, originally priced threepence, can still be obtained nowadays but is one of the harder ones to find from that season.

A crowd of 18,255 saw the home side take the initiative from the start. A move involving Jim Rodger and Don Kerrigan caused the Tynecastle defence some concern, but the ball ran harmlessly past. Hearts then replied with a series of neat, but harmless raids on Brown’s goal.

St. Mirren suffered a severe blow in the sixteenth minute when Tommy Bryceland fell to the ground in agony following a collision with Hearts’ Davie Holt. The inside forward was stretchered off and immediately taken to the Royal Alexandra Infirmary where it was later determined he had suffered a double break to his right leg. He would be out of action for the next seven months.

In these days before substitutions, ten-man Saints had to regroup, but their morale received an immediate boost. Just four minutes after Bryceland’s departure, Don Kerrigan completely deceived visiting number one Gordon Marshall with a right-foot shot low and hard from the edge of the penalty area to open the scoring for the home side.

St. Mirren almost doubled their lead when first Rodger was denied by a point-blank Marshall save and later Kerrigan fell foul of the linesman’s offside flag.

Hearts came back into the game as an attacking force but were thwarted time and again by a Jim Clunie-inspired Paisley defence. It was a measure of Hearts’ desperation that they changed their front formation no less than three times during the match in an effort to turn the tide.

Clunie, who had been limping with a knee injury for some time, was injured again during the second half and was moved out to the outside-left position for nuisance value, rendering Saints with only nine fit players.

Hearts had a chance to equalise with seventeen minutes remaining when they were awarded a penalty for a foul on Willie Wallace. However, Johnny Hamilton’s spot kick was saved by the foot of Brown and St. Mirren held out for their third win, and third clean sheet, in a row.