STOP THE GAME- I WANT TO GO HOME
Two of the weirdest games I have ever seen took place in 1957 and in 1962. In one, Falkirk were 9-1 ahead at the break, in the other they were losing 9-0 at half-time. Such an interval score seems impossible to comprehend, but I can assure you that they both took place, and in the immortal words of the veteran Welsh comedian Max Boyce, – “I know, because I was there.”
First up was a game at Brockville Park under the lights on Monday October 7th, 1957. The opposition were an Israeli side, Maccabi Petah Tikva who were on a short tour of Britain. They had lost 5-2 at Roker Park Sunderland on the previous Wednesday and were due to play Bury the night after they faced Falkirk- the only Scottish opponents on the tour. The team were the second oldest side in Israel and had been founded in 1912 by a group of Jewish students. Falkirk had toured Malta and Israel in 1953 and were delighted to have the opportunity to return the hospitality they had been shown on their tour. The programme for the game refers to the visiting team as F.C. Maccabi, but their full name was Maccabi Avshalom Ironi Petah Tikva F.C. Falkirk’s assistant trainer Willie McFarlane, who had been in Palestine during his war service, wrote a piece for the programme about the 1953 visit and praised the many instances of Israeli hospitality shown to the Falkirk party, including visits to cinemas, embassy functions- and even an Israeli wedding. By all accounts, it had been a memorable visit and the standard of football was “very high indeed”. Football was becoming the biggest sport in the country, and clubs from England, Brazil, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, and Scotland had visited in recent times. Falkirk had played Hibs at Brockville on the previous Saturday and had lost 3-1. It was going to be a real test for Falkirk- or so we thought.
Monday 8TH October 1957 At Brockville Park
FALKIRK 10 MACCABI PETAH TIKVA
Murray (4) O’Hara (3) McCole (2) Moran Robinson
Falkirk made six changes from the team that had lost to Hibs, with cup-winners Ian Rae, Bert Slater, Alex Wright, and George Merchant all missing, along with Davie Nicol. The Israelis fielded five full Internationalists, but the game soon became a complete mismatch. It was the first floodlight match of the season and the visitors were simply blown away by the speed and forward play of Falkirk. TOMMY MURRAY, selected as an inside right, was completely unplayable and had scored four goals by the break. His hat-trick came inside the opening 20 minutes and he added another in 26 minutes. He injured his toe in scoring the goal and was replaced at the break. JOHN McCOLE gave a great display of centre-forward play and he scored in the tenth and 20th minutes. Falkirk were running all over the Israelis and keeper Bobby Brown hardly had a shot to save. EDDIE O’HARA scored a hat-trick, with two goals in the first half, and a third with under a quarter of an hour to go. DOUGIE MORAN scored the other goal in a game that was becoming an embarrassment for players and spectators alike.
The only highlight of the evening for Maccabi Petakh Tikva was a consolation goal by inside right ROBINSON in the 34th minute, which drew ironic cheers from the home support. Unusually, Falkirk were allowed to make substitutions and Bobby Brown, who had been injured trying to stop the Maccabi goal, was replaced by Jim Dorman of Annbank United and Eddie White came on for Tommy Murray. Falkirk were a class above the away side and if they hadn’t taken their foot off the pedal in the second half, there could well have been a record score – even for a Friendly match. Falkirk even had the luxury of missing a penalty in the game.
There was some sympathy for the Israelis and Falkirk supporters felt sorry for them. It could not have been easy to come out for a second half if you had already conceded nine goals in the first. Little did the Falkirk fans realise that five years later, they would know EXACTLY how that felt.
FALKIRK: Brown (s. Dorman), Parker, McIntosh, Prentice, Irvine, Lachlan, Anderson, Murray (s. E. White), McCole, Moran, O’Hara.
MACCABI PETAH TIKVA: Buch, Maler, Aronov, Burstien, Ben-Dror, Turkenitz, Carmeli, Robinson, Bernard, Gleit, Kruvka.
Referee: G. Mitchell
Five years later, saw another game where one team had scored nine goals in the first half, but this time The Bairns were on the receiving end. It was a day to remember for Motherwell fans with the opening of their new main stand- and a day to forget for the visiting Bairns supporters who witnessed a real horror show.
Motherwell had a great side in those days and were known as the Ancell Babes. They produced several Scotland caps, notably Ian St. John, Pat Quinn, Willie Hunter, Andy Weir, Bert McCann and John Martis.
These players soon attracted the attention of the scouts, and Motherwell finally accepted a bid of £37,500 for Ian St John from Bill Shankly’s Liverpool. St. John had been keen to move to England for some time. The money received was used to help complete the building of the new Main Stand.
At the start of 1962/63 season the magnificent newly extended Main Stand was opened. It had a capacity of 3,500 seats,1,500 fewer than intended, because a resident of Fir Park Street complained about the lack of light they would have if the stand ran its full course to the southern end of the ground. He also thought the structure would reduce the value of house prices. This meant that a proportion of the stand was never built, and the steel frame was left exposed. When the troublesome neighbour finally agreed to the completion of the construction, the club didn’t have the necessary finances to complete the work.
The first competitive game in front of the new stand seemed to inspire the players as they took on Falkirk in the League Cup qualifying section in the season opener. All was set for a gala day of football. Falkirk wore a new navy blue and white quartered shirt and the Fir Park pitch looked immaculate. There was a good crowd present to celebrate the occasion.
Saturday August 11th. 1962 At Fir Park
MOTHERWELL 9 FALKIRK 1
Russell 5, Quinn 4 Fulton
‘Well made a whirlwind start and were unbelievably 9-0 up by half time. The scoring started in the fifth minute when BOBBY RUSSELL scored after being set up by Willie Hunter. Three minutes later, PAT QUINN made it 2-0 when he lobbed the ball over Willie Whigham who was way off his line. Hunter and Quinn were in devastating form and showed why they had played at International level. Buck McCarry had to go off with a facial injury but was able to return just in time to see BOBBY RUSSELL score again with a great left foot shot. Russell had been signed from Darvel Juniors and was making quite an impact. With just 23 minutes on the clock, PAT QUINN danced his way through a shell-shocked Falkirk defence to make it 4-0 and the away fans feared an almighty thrashing. There was no let-up in the punishment and everything the home side tried came off.
In a rare Falkirk attack, Billy Fulton was unlucky to see a shot comer back off the post, but before much longer BOBBY RUSSELL scored again to make it 5-0.The sky was falling in on Falkirk and Quinn was having the game of his life. PAT QUINN scored twice in the space of seven minutes to make it 7-0, and there had only been 34 minutes of the 90 played.
Not to be outdone, BOBBY RUSSELL added goals in the 35th and 37th minutes to send Motherwell off to a standing ovation- 9-0 ahead. Some Falkirk supporters were trying to get out at half-time but were not allowed to do so and they must have wondered what lay ahead in the second half.
Falkirk fought a brave rear -guard action in the second 45 minutes and conceded no further goals. They had chances to score through Alex Duchart and Kenny Cunningham before BILLY FULTON scored with six minutes remaining following a corner by Cunningham to make the final score 9-1 to Motherwell. It remains Falkirk’s heaviest defeat in the competition.
MOTHERWELL: Wylie, Delaney, McCallum, Aitken, Martis, McCann, Lindsay, Quinn, Russell, Hunter, Roberts.
FALKIRK: Whigham, Thomson, Hunter, Peacock, Lowry, McCarry, Cunningham, Hamilton, Fulton, Duchart, Adam.
Referee: W. Fyfe Attendance:16,000
The Ancell Babes gradually broke up with key players transferring to England and America. Despite the talented youngsters in the side, there were no major trophies in the Fir Park trophy cabinet. Bobby Ancell was given credit for producing an exciting side, but he was never the key member of the coaching set-up. Instead, it seems Motherwell had immensely talented youngsters who had an intuitive sense of knowing each other’s game and played totally off the cuff. They had six or seven really great players, but not enough to challenge for major honours.
That 9-1 thrashing has been the subject of much debate over the years. Falkirk players claim they “won” the second half, while talking with the late Willie Hunter gave a different perspective on the game. “Mr. Ancell tore into us at half time and said we were humiliating the Falkirk lads. He ordered us to take it easy in the second half and not to score any more goals. It was one of those days when everything seemed to click into place. Bobby Russell never had another game like that one.”