Continuing with the quest to compare the great Turnbull’s Tornadoes team with an XI selected from players gracing the green and white of Hibernian FC since those halcyon days. Today I look at the midfield contenders with some classic match-ups and confrontations derived from the last four decades.
Right midfield: Alex Edwards (9) v Des Bremner (9
Another complete contrast in styles but operating in the same area of the field. Alex Edwards was all about creativity and displayed a near-genius for spraying the ball around to his teammates all over the field. Sometimes accentuated and occasionally hindered by his naturally abrasive character, opponents would often key on this strength/weakness in Alex’s game. With a man like Alex around though something was always happening – usually another penetrating attack set off by one of his sublime passes.
I’ve gone back almost to Tornadoes days to delve and find a worthy competitor in this area of the team and it’s the superb Des Bremer who has been pulled out of the hat. Perhaps Des’ greatest moments were with Aston Villa in winning the League and the European Cup but he was a great and consistent performer at Easter Road. Des’ trademarks were his surging, driving runs down the right wing and his tireless tracking back and work ethic on behalf of the team. Perhaps one of those types of players who tends to be a little overlooked by more showy performers, it’s no surprise to me that Aston Villa manager, Ron Saunders saw him as the man to tend his great Villa team’s right flank through their successful years. You knew what you got with Des Bremner. What’s more you’d get it every week too.
Centre midfield: Pat Stanton (10) v Scott Brown (8)
I’m not going to shilly-shally with mere words here because I’ll say here and now that Pat Stanton was the classiest player I ever saw don the green and white. Superlatives are not enough to do the man justice, let’s just leave it at ‘sublime’. I shudder to think what Pat would be worth on the open transfer market these days. I don’t think he’d be playing for his beloved Hibs though – nor do I think he’d be playing on these shores at all indeed. Everyone knows of Patrick Gordon Stanton’s great skills and ability, I’d just like to add those of terrific consistency and a great engine that would power him up and down the pitch all afternoon, dominating the game.
Scott Brown has a huge figure to match in Stanton and nobody could do that effectively. He is a fine talent in his own distinctive way however and showed this from game one when he first operated at Easter Road as a forward. Perhaps his goal output has been disappointing since that time, often due to the roles he’s been asked to fill, but he more than makes up for this with his great heart, tenacity and no little skill in the middle of the park.
Centre midfield: Alex Cropley (9) v John Collins (9)
Again it’s a difficult job in parting these two marvellous left-sided midfielders. Alex was a great favourite of mine I have to admit and what was a source of wonder to me was not just his excellent and insightful cross-field passing but he way he could ‘dig’ – perhaps to his own detriment at times not being the most robustly-built midfielder. A Cropley tackle should never be underestimated in its ferocity and fire but of course it was ‘Sodjer’s’ lovely and subtle skills on the ball that were so enchanting. Alex Cropley’s left foot was indeed akin to a slide-rule in its accuracy and it’s for that that I shall chiefly remember his play for Hibs.
There was a time when John Collins was approaching world-class in his effectiveness. Not the biggest man, he certainly made the most of what physical prowess he did possess in a superb career playing for some top clubs. Collins had a calculating and shrewd air about what was best for his career and also best for him and his team on the pitch at any given moment. Fluent, ultra-confident and stylish was the John Collins way.
Left midfield: Arthur Duncan (8) v Derek Riordan (8)
I’ve placed these two here though only one was strictly a winger in the true sense. Arthur was in fact the stereotypical outside-left, huge pace and ability to get past his man and swing a cross over. Like many wingers his final ball was occasionally found wanting but he always posed a threat at any stage of the game. Duncan had a big heart, was a very entertaining player and was quite rightly well loved for it at Easter Road.
Derek Riordan – the enigma! Recently Derek has been in the news again for the all the wrong reasons but let’s draw a veil over that for the purpose of this exercise. What Derek does possess is pure and natural ability – in spades. I’ve rarely seen a player strike a ball so cleanly and so well. He’s something of a rarity in modern Scottish football in that he has a very soft touch on the ball and barely relies on getting himself all over the pitch all afternoon to make his mark on the game. Defensive duties are sometimes lacking but in return we have a 22-carat match-winner who can come up with something to swing a game in the blink of an eye.
Part three of the series will feature the strikers and the managers themselves. I’ll see you there at the final whistle!