Dunfermline Athletic started 1965 on fire with two excellent victories within 24 hours. The one-sided New Year’s Day ‘derby’ with Falkirk at Brockville ended in a 4-0 win for the Pars and they followed that up with a 3-2 defeat of second-placed Hearts at East End Park in front of 20,000 spectators, a second loss in two days for the Gorgie outfit after Jock Stein’s Hibernian had won by the only goal at Tynecastle.
The Fifers’ fine run of six straight wins ended seven days later though, as an early Sam Hastings strike was enough to earn the two points for Clyde at Shawfield. Celtic’s 3-1 defeat at Tannadice the same afternoon meant they had taken just one point from a possible six, effectively ending any hopes of a first League title since 1954.
The next week would be a momentous one for Scottish football, although that would not be immediately apparent. Bertie Auld rejoined Celtic after a four-year spell with Birmingham City, the Maryhill Bhoy making his second Hoops debut in a 2-1 home defeat to Hearts. That would be enough to take the Tynecastle men top of the table after a late Bert Paton goal saw Dunfermline get back to winning ways against previous League leaders Kilmarnock at East End Park.
Tommy Callaghan was involved in a clash within the opening 10 seconds which saw Killie striker Ronnie Hamilton stretchered off. Fortunately, Hamilton was able to resume within 12 minutes. Hibernian also lost, a 4-3 home defeat to Dundee United allowing both Dunfermline and Rangers to close the gap on the leading pack. It was any one from five to win it now.
The winter weather kicked in with a vengeance ahead of the programme on Saturday, 23 January, only Hearts and Dunfermline of the top five in action. Both won, the Edinburgh men beating Partick Thistle 1-0 at Tynecastle to move three points clear whilst Willie Cunningham’s Pars enjoyed a 3-1 victory over Motherwell at Fir Park to stay in contention. The manager’s thoughts then turned back to European football, and the midweek trip to face Athletic Bilbao at the San Mames. The Fifers defied convention by attacking the Basque outfit from the kick-off, only an outstanding performance from legendary Spanish goalkeeper Jose Iribar keeping the Scots at bay. With just four minutes left, Athletic won the first leg, winger Yosu netting from close range after Jim Herriot had blocked a free-kick.
The final Saturday of the month saw Dunfermline’s title chances receive a boost, without the Pars kicking a ball! Their home clash with Morton was the latest victim of the weather whilst both Hearts and Kilmarnock lost, at Love Street and Firhill and respectively. Jock Stein’s Hibernian moved into second spot with a 1-0 victory over Rangers at Easter Road, but the performance of the day was at Celtic Park, where John Hughes scored five goals in the Hoops’ 8-0 demolition of Aberdeen whilst wearing a pair of sandshoes borrowed from Billy McNeill!
And as if that wasn’t enough for the long-suffering Celtic supporters, just 24 hours later they received the sensational news that Jock Stein would soon be leaving his post at Hibernian to take over as the fourth manager of Celtic. If Carlsberg did weekends!
Significantly as it would transpire, the Scottish Cup would be the next thing on the radar for all concerned. There was some speculation that Stein might be in charge for Celtic’s visit to Love Street, assuming Hibernian moved quickly to appoint his successor.
Ironically, one of the favourites for that role was Willie Cunningham, who had replaced Stein so successfully at Dunfermline, Dundee’s 1962 title-winning manager Bob Shankly, Queen’s Park coach Eddie Turnbull – one of the Leith club’s Famous Five forward line – and Clyde’s John Prentice the others thought to be in the frame.
As it turned out, Jock was still in charge at Easter Road to see his title-chasing side held to a 1-1 draw at home by Second Division East Stirlingshire Clydebank in the upset of the day. Dunfermline travelled to Dumfries and came up against a rather famous old boy, Charlie Dickson, a hero of their Scottish Cup final triumph over Celtic four years earlier. He could not prevent the Pars netting a goal in each half to progress to the next round, whilst Stein’s next club Celtic beat St Mirren – who had ended their Scottish Cup hopes in the semi-finals of both 1959 and 1962 – 3-0 at Love Street to join them in the draw.
Before the next round of matches there was League business to be addressed, Morton on the receiving end of a 6-0 thrashing at East End Park which saw Dunfermline move to within four points of leaders Hearts with two games in hand. In the Scottish Cup replays played the same night, the visit of Jock Stein’s Hibernian to Kilbowie drew a record attendance of 11,500 to see the Leith men win 2-0, whilst Aberdeen were knocked out by Second Division East Fife, a result that cost manager Tommy Pearson his job. As an aside, there were reports the following day that Motherwell were interested in Neilston Juniors’ prolific striker, John ‘Dixie’ Deans.
Three days later, the Pars’ title challenge received another boost, a 3-1 win over Airdrieonians at East End Park combined with Hearts dropping a point at Ibrox and Kilmarnock losing 4-1 at home to Dundee saw them move into third spot in the table, the Pars and Hibernian now relatively best-placed to win the League, should they win their two games in hand.
The second round of the Scottish Cup took place on Saturday, 20 February 1965 and saw Dunfermline involved in late drama against bottom of the table Third Lanark at Cathkin Park. As in the League Cup ties earlier in the season, there was a strong Celtic connection in the home team, manager Bobby Evans bringing in an old colleague – former Parkhead skipper Dunky MacKay – in November 1964 at full-back.
Behind Dunky was a young goalkeeper also signed the previous year, Samuel Evan Williams moving from his local junior outfit Vale of Leven to Cathkin. But it was the man between the posts at the other end who grabbed the headlines. With 10 minutes to go and Dunfermline leading by an Alex Ferguson goal scored on the hour mark, Jim Herriot brought down Thirds striker Max Murray in the box, the Pars keeper ordered off before Harry Kirk beat stand-in goalie Jim Thomson to force a replay.
The midweek replay at East End Park also finished level, this time Thirds twice coming from behind to draw 2-2 after extra-time and give the Pars a fixture headache ahead of their return match with Athletic Bilbao. With the clubs unable to agree on a date or venue, the SFA stepped in to announce that the second replay would take place at Tynecastle on the following Monday, 48 hours before the Basques played in Fife.
The last Saturday of the month saw Dunfermline drop a point at Pittodrie to a last-gasp equaliser yet still gain ground on the League leaders. Shock result of the afternoon was at Tynecastle, where table-topping Hearts were hammered 7-1 by Dundee, for whom both Andy Penman and Kenny Cameron claimed hat-tricks. Indeed, the Taysiders scored all eight goals on a bizarre day, Alan Cousin netting at both ends. Second-placed Hibernian lost a five-goal thriller at Cappielow whilst Celtic beat Kilmarnock in the first of their back-to-back meetings at Parkhead, as Jimmy McGrory’s 20-year tenure as manager drew ever nearer its conclusion.
The Scottish Cup marathon with Third Lanark was finally completed at the third time of asking at a snowy Tynecastle on the first day of March. Just over 4,000 shivering spectators braved the elements as the sides shared four goals in the opening half. And with 15 minutes to play, the two sides at opposite ends of the League table were still locked together at 2-2.
Then Alex Ferguson headed past Evan Williams for his second goal of the evening, a 16th of the campaign for the Pars striker, Dunfermline’s place in the last eight secured by a late fourth from John Kilgannon. Insert photo of Fergie’s goal here.
Snow was again lying on the pitch 48 hours later, as Dunfermline faced Athletic Bilbao at East End Park. The 1-0 first-leg deficit was overturned within 20 minutes, Tommy Callaghan’s free-kick headed past a static Jose Iribar by Alex Smith. A late flurry of attacks saw Alex Ferguson score a second but the joy of 16,000 spectators was quickly quelled by an offside call. The last call of the night would also go against the Pars, skipper Jim McLean guessing the coin toss incorrectly, thus handing home advantage to the Basques for the play-off.
Three days later, the Pars were back in Scottish Cup action as their quest for the double continued with a home quarter-final tie with runaway Second Division leaders Stirling Albion. Of the eight remaining teams, incredibly five retained hopes of securing both trophies at kick-off, Celtic and Motherwell the other exceptions as the leading pack in the League battled it out.
That would all change completely over the 90 minutes which followed. Dunfermline safely emerged from their tie with a 2-0 win but three of the top five suffered defeat. Table-topping Hearts lost to an early Motherwell goal at Fir Park, whilst second-placed Hibernian left it late before knocking out fifth-placed Rangers at Easter Road, the Ibrox men thus out of two competitions in four days following their aggregate defeat by Inter Milan in the midweek European Cup tie.
With fourth-placed Kilmarnock also beaten at Celtic Park for the second time in seven days, only Hibernian and Dunfermline could now win the coveted Double, the hopes of the Easter Road men dealt a fatal blow within 24 hours with the news that Saturday’s defeat of Rangers had been Jock Stein’s last match in charge before taking over at Celtic. That same sense of history was repeated in Glasgow’s east end, the 3-2 win over Kilmarnock ending Jimmy McGrory’s spell as Celtic manager which stretched back to the end of the Second World War. As an aside, it would also be the last occasion on which Celts would wear that iconic shamrock kit, so beloved by many supporters to this day.
Monday, 9 March 1965 is a red-letter day for those same Celtic supporters, as Jock Stein took over as manager and the world changed forever, The Celtic Rising now fully underway. It was also a hugely significant date for Jock’s former club Dunfermline Athletic. They were the first name out of the hat as the Scottish Cup semi-final draw was made in Glasgow that morning, quickly followed by Jock’s next club Hibernian, meaning that the double hopes of one of the two remaining sides would end at that stage. Celtic were paired with a Motherwell side against whom they had held the upper hand in recent meetings.
It was generally felt to be a favourable draw, given the alternatives. In the evening, the Pars were in Glasgow’s west end for a rescheduled clash with Partick Thistle, where a victory would take them to the top of the table with nine games remaining. And they duly achieved that, Tommy Callaghan’s opener on the hour mark setting them on their way. Davie McParland did force an equaliser for the Jags, but the vital winner came with just eight minutes remaining, John McLaughlin heading home an Alex Edwards cross to send the Pars to the summit, level on points with Hearts but with a better goal average and a vital game in hand.
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