It’s the eternal football argument – comparing the best of yesterday with the best of today. Along with the glittering and famed ‘Famous Five’ side, Eddie Turnbull’s famed ‘Tornadoes’ were arguably Hibs’ greatest XI. Can more recent players compare? In the first of three articles I examine and compare players since that time, man for man, with Eddie Turnbull’s exceptional side
Many of us long-time Hibs supporters enjoy a nice stroll down memory lane, recounting tales and waxing lyrical about Hibs’ superb, fluently talented team of the 1970s’, ‘Turnbull’s Tornadoes’. I often wonder how the younger generation feel about this, and consider how their own heroes would stand up to scrutiny and comparison with that much-lauded team. In fairness it can be a little galling hearing time and again about a ‘great’ team from a previous generation – especially when one considers how much football has changed over the decades. It’s perhaps important in the case of this debate to remember the argument that, in spite of seemingly limitless talent, the Tornadoes achieved relatively little by way of silverware in that very entertaining era. A contributory reason for that is the fact that they operated at a time coincidental with one of the great sides in Scottish football of all time, Jock Stein’s Celtic.
So how do the Hibees of more modern generations compare? It’s tempting to say ‘not too well’. I must of course firstly admit to my personal bias towards Eddie Turnbull’s magnificent team. I was ‘that age’ in their heyday – an age when footballers seemed like gods. I hope to however select a team here that would provide a stiff challenge to those talented men in green. It’s an eleven selected from every team since those halcyon days of the 1970s’ and I happen to think would provide one heck of a football match.
The teams are formed into a 4-4-2 formation and whilst I’ve attempted to match individual for individual, that’s of course not always a fair or apt comparison. Bear with me though as we take an enjoyable and fun tour through the skills of some of the greatest modern-day Hibs players. Undoubtedly Hibs fans out there will have their own opinions on this one – I welcome your views!
Let’s begin then with that lurid decade of the seventies – when Pat Stanton’s men were weaving their pretty and effective patterns around Scotland and further beyond in many a famous European tie. Here are the two teams:
Manager: Eddie Turnbull
Manager: Tony Mowbray
Okay, you’ve read and digested the selections. Maybe a personal favourite or two isn’t there (mine included!) Let’s see how the players stack up side-by-side with marks given out of a possible ten. Featured today are the defensive lynchpins of the two teams, the men charged with keeping the ball out of the net.
The Tornadoes v The Challengers
Goalkeepers: Jim Herriot (6) v Andy Goram (10)
The Challengers are off to a fine start here with arguably Hibs’ finest every ‘keeper. It’s an unenviable job that Herriot has in matching Goram who was truly a magnificent goalie. Herriot himself was one of Hibs’ safer custodians over the years though perhaps not really up to the level of some of the stellar talent within the Tornadoes. He was however the best kind of keeper in my view – a dependable one without too many frills who usually stopped the shots and headers that he was supposed to.
Goram however was a completely different kettle of fish. He was a goalie with very few weaknesses who, perhaps unfairly, is now seemingly only known for his many successful years with Rangers. It was ever thus. Don’t let the fact that Goram’s off-field activities and words have left him a somewhat sullied figure in Hibs’ history, this man was the real deal – a goalkeeper with greatness about him.
Right-Back: John Brownlie (10) v Stephen Whittaker (7)
The Tornadoes fight back strongly with one of their legitimately world-class players, John Brownlie. How long is it since we have been able to boast of such a player in the Hibs team? Brownlie was phenomenal and don’t let anyone assure you otherwise. His game was revolutionary as he provided a hugely potent offensive force from his position at right-back whilst being no mean defender either.
I had to come to a fairly recent era to find a man to compare with him in some way and that man is Stephen Whittaker, a defender whose strongest suite is perhaps also going forward. Sometimes criticised for slight defensive frailties during his time at Easter Road, Stephen was nevertheless a great runner with the ball at his feet. He had an uncanny ability to enter into a tangle of players and emerge from the other side with the ball on the end of his toe. An extremely good attacking full-back.
Centre-back: Jim Black (6) v Rob Jones (7)
I’ve organised the centre-back pairings that would ensure a handy comparison in styles. Rob Jones wins this time with some consistent performances over his period with the Hibees. The former school teacher is not everyone’s cup of tea but when scouring the past years to find a more effective ‘stopper’ type centre back one realises what a difficult job this is. Finesse was not Jones’ strong point, nor was distribution or positional play, he did however provide a hugely commanding presence in the centre of defence and a useful attacking option at set-pieces too. Hibs always missed him greatly when he was unable to play.
Jim Black was a somewhat enigmatic figure in Hibs’ past. He is often looked over when considering the great team assembled around him. Jim was a journeyman footballer and a generally solid one at that (apart from a torrid occasion or two against Celtic’s Dixie Deans!) Like Herriot he attracts a rating of 6/10 – as close to ‘average’ as we are going to see within this article.
Centre-back: John Blackley (9) v Franck Sauzee (10)
Now here’s a truly memorable match-up between two wonderful players! Dissimilar in style, of that there’s no doubt, but equally effective in their own ways. ‘Sloop’ is one of the legion of non-Auld Firm players that would surely have gained much more international recognition had he strutted his stuff in Glasgow on a regular basis. Hard as nails, good in the air and a great tackler and reader of the game, in many ways he was the complete central defender. As a straight-ahead central defensive player he’s the best in my time watching the Hibs.
Sauzee as most of us still vividly remember was an extremely classy performer on the pitch. I’ve picked him here in a defensive position as it’s here I felt he was most effective for Hibs. Very much a ‘quarter-back’ type of defender, it was a pleasure to watch Franck launch attack after attack from deep positions with his pin-point long range passing of great vision and flair. When Sauzee strode up from his defensive position to join the forward play is often when the fireworks would occur as many a goalie will testify from his long-range bombs on goal. Franck Sauzee exhibited that time on the ball and presence on the pitch that all great players have. More of which later…
Left-back: Eric Schaedler (8) v David Murphy (8)
Even my admitted bias can’t split these two excellent defenders! Eric was a great favourite at Easter Road. With his robust, fully-committed and athletic style of play, that was always going to be the case. Eric loved to join the attack and although his attacking prowess was perhaps overshadowed by the sublime skills and dynamism of Brownlie on the opposite flank, could overlap and use his great strength, speed and directness of approach to mean effect.
David Murphy was a contrasting player to ‘Shades’. Classy and unhurried, his defensive play was characterised by neatness and effectiveness. The overlapping service he gave to Hibs’ left flank was purposeful and directed well. Murphy reminded me a lot of former Arsenal left-back Kenny Sansom in his tidy play. Not too many thrills and spills but everything achieved with a modicum of ease and with class. A very difficult defender to play against.
Next time in Part Two: read about the men in the middle of the park – the players who make the team tick, The Midfield Maestros.