Tomorrow - April 27 - marks the 50th anniversary of Dunfermline's 1968 Scottish Cup win. In this article - exclusive to Pars Review - are the memories of the Cup Final from a fan who was at Hampden that day and who was a regular at East End Park throughout the 1960s and beyond. I would like to thank Sammer for writing this article for Pars Review. You can read more of his Pars memories in the "Throwback" archive section on this page.
Winning the Scottish Cup in 1968 was a far less dramatic occasion than the previous two finals the Pars had contested. Our 1961 victory over Celtic was not only one of the greatest shocks in the history of the competition, but it established DAFC as a force in Scottish football, as well as launching the career of manager Jock Stein. Our defeat in 1965 was a gripping five goal final which concluded with a late winner and is generally viewed by Celtic supporters as the genesis of the Lisbon Lions. Both these matches threw up iconic photos: the flapping white raincoat of an overjoyed Stein on that murky April night in 1961 as Connachan is chaired from the field; the towering header by McNeill in 1965 as Herriott paws thin air.
The problem in 1968 was that both Dunfermline and Hearts had slain the Old Firm giants in earlier rounds, rendering the march to the final something of an anti-climax. Our 2-0 victory at Parkhead, thoroughly deserved on the day, still stands as one of the greatest performances in the history of the club. Likewise Hearts fans, even 50 years later, still fondly recall Donald Ford’s late replay winner at a packed Tynecastle, a goal which inflicted Rangers’ first defeat under manager Davie White. So, with no Old Firm team in the final, media interest was muted. There were even sneering comments about the paltry crowd which the teams would attract, although the near 57,000 who turned out would now be considered the norm for a Scottish final. That was no thanks to the marketing skills of the SFA who quite merrily arranged the Cup Final for the same day as the last round of league games, which included Rangers playing before 45,000 at Ibrox and still in with a chance of taking the title from Celtic.
Neither Dunfermline nor Hearts had shown much form in the competition outside of their two famous victories over the Old Firm. Hearts had been 4-2 down on a frosty pitch at Tannadice before rallying to win a bizarre match 6-5. Dunfermline had needed late goals to see off Aberdeen and Partick Thistle while only a terrible goalkeeping blunder had allowed us to survive the first semi-final at Tynecastle against St. Johnstone. We were being outplayed in the replay too until a late Bert Paton shot, which every Pars fan thought was going wide, salvaged extra time. Hearts were equally unconvincing in their semi-final, beating a moderate Morton side at the second time of asking in front of a measly Hampden crowd. The first half of the 1968 Scottish Cup Final continued in the same vein. Played under a lowering Glasgow sky, it is hard to remember anything from the opening 45 minutes, for play was hurried and nervous.
The second half told a different story however. Manager Farm abandoned his default 4-3-3 formation and his wingers now hugged the touchline to telling effect. Lister, switched to the left, was a revelation, his sharp, darting runs stretching the Hearts defence. Edwards started to pull the Hearts rearguard out of shape with his intelligent distribution and cross field passes. A trademark Tommy Callaghan run from inside his own half allowed Paton to test Cruickshank and with Hearts now on the backfoot a goal was clearly coming. When it did come the finish was spectacular, a left foot volley from Gardner smashed over the goalkeeper high into the net. A second goal followed soon after when a crafty Robertson lob sent Paton through one-on-one with Cruickshank. Paton’s style was always unhurried so he walked, rather than ran, round the keeper before being hauled down. Lister dispatched a textbook penalty and the Scottish Cup was really won there and then.
A drunk fan nearby, his beer bottle clanking against a crush barrier, was serenading Roy Barry to the tune of The Mighty Quinn. Slurred and unmelodic as it was, his song captured the inspiration which a captain like Barry could spread onto the terraces. Not even Lunn’s own goal, spectacular in its own way, really convinced the Hearts supporters in the vicinity that they could turn the game around. Half this Dunfermline side had played in a Hampden final before, as well as in the later stages of European competitions, so in the words of Hearts captain and ex-Par George Miller they were ‘seasoned campaigners.’
Gardner produced a final flourish. His ‘dummy and peel’ routine with Paton had borne little fruit over the season but here it set up a raging right foot shot which simply exploded into the roof of the net. The ball had clipped Cruickshank’s shoulder and was captured on camera as it hit the netting, bulging above the level of the crossbar. It is unlikely that any player has ever hit two more powerful scoring shots in the history of Scottish Cup Finals, yet due to the low profile of this game Gardner’s rockets are scarcely remembered. Alfie Conn’s volley in 1956 is still part of football folklore, as is Archie Robertson’s goal direct from a corner the year before, along with Kai Johanson’s shot in 1966 and a few others since. However, context is all. It’s not enough to score winning goals in a Scottish Cup Final, you have to do it against either Celtic or Rangers. Even amongst Pars fans, Charlie Dickson’s two yard tapin following a Frank Haffey fumble probably holds a more secure place in our memory vaults.
Come full time we waited for the cup to be paraded, vaguely aware of the shoving match involving Bent Martin, Roy Barry and a senior member of the Glasgow constabulary. There was anger as we realized there was to be no lap of honour, an SFA directive in response to Old Firm trouble a few years earlier. None of the departing Hearts fans I saw grudged us our victory, disappointed though they were. As an exercise in how to make a special occasion downbeat, the SFA were in a class of their own. You had the feeling that if they could have found a wet blanket big enough they would have enveloped the whole stadium with it.
There was a greater sense of theatre four days later when Celtic supporters flooded Dunfermline town to honour their team as League champions for the third year in succession, Rangers having faltered on the Saturday. Which was just as well, for had that Wednesday game been a league decider then the crowd would have been even bigger and the mood different from the carnival atmosphere which prevailed on the night. Manager Farm had cannily printed replay tickets for our earlier Cup clash at Parkhead, and although they were not needed his move was hailed for its foresight. Maybe he should have held on to them. This game, played on 30th April was pay at the gate, or not as the case turned out, when a turnstile was broken down by sheer weight of numbers. Officially East End Park held 25,000. This evening nearer 30,000 gained entry, with the game having to be stopped twice and at least one crush barrier ripped out of its concrete moorings. One supporter died, falling from the roof of the Town End enclosure which was eventually cleared by police, themselves standing vigil there for the rest of the match.
So, within the space of four days I had seen my home team win the Scottish Cup at Hampden Park and been part of the biggest crowd ever to wedge inside East End Park. These were great days and with the arrogance of youth I assumed that Cup Finals, European nights and victories over the Old Firm would be a fairly regular feature of life as a supporter of DAFC. All that was half a century ago this week. The past is a different country. They do things differently there.