Hibernian legend John Fraser shares his memories of the Famous Five ahead of TV premiere



Easter Road legend John Fraser reckons older Hibernian supporters pity fellow fans who were not lucky enough to watch ‘The Famous Five’ in action. So he is delighted a new generation of fans will be able to immerse themselves in the history of Hibs’ greatest ever front-line.

Sixty-one years on from their final match together, the feats of Gordon Smith, Lawrie Reilly, Eddie Turnbull, Willie Ormond and Bobby Johnstone will be celebrated tonight with the broadcast of an hour-long documentary.

The Famous Five will air at 9pm on BBC Alba and, reflecting on his esteemed former teammates, Fraser is thrilled that they will finally become TV stars.

20/01/16.. EASTER ROAD - EDINBURGH. launch of purpleTV's new documentary, The Famous Five, which will be broadcast on BBC ALBA. former players Peter Cormack and John Fraser FOR SUNDAY PAPERS
Former players Peter Cormack and John Fraser promote this evening’s broadcast

“It’s just a pity there was no television back then,” smiles Fraser, the former Hibs and member of their Hall of Fame, who turned out against the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid.

“It would have been fantastic for Hibs supporters any everyone else to have seen them play. The ones who saw them feel sorry for the young supporters!

“The first thing I can say is it was such an unbelievable pleasure to play with them. Gordon Smith was like a film star as well as being a footballer. He had class written all over him. He’d guarantee you 20 goals – as a winger.

“Bobby Johnstone was an old fashioned dribbler, running at defences like some of them do these days, but he could really do it.

“Lawrie Reilly looked so fast on the pitch because he was such a quick thinker. But we would do 50-yard runs in training and Lawrie would be last! On the park he was sharp, though. He would move before anyone else.

“Eddie Turnbull was the workhorse, the man with his sleeves rolled up when he was running out, he was quite happy to do all the donkey work. If anyone was giving Gordon Smith a hard time Eddie would go over and sort them out!

“And Willie Ormond, like Gordon was a class act. He had a wonderful left foot. He could score goals from the byline, that was his trick. They were wonderful.”

In a golden era for the club, Hibs claimed league championships in 1948, 1951 and 1952 – which remains the last time they won the top-flight crown.

And with Hibs fans, and lovers of Scottish football in general, expected to immerse themselves in the lore of the fearsome five – only one of whom cost the Easter Road club any money, Ormond being a £1200 signing from Stenhousemuir – it will be a familiar feeling for Fraser.

“The papers every week used to be: the Famous Five did this and that,” laughed Fraser. “Big Jock Govan, the full back, would ask: ‘is the game only about the Famous Five?!’
On a Monday morning at training it would be ‘The Famous Five did it again!’

“But it was all in good spirit. A lot of the games the score would be 4-2 and 5-3, but that was because they were an attacking team from the word go. Everything was based on attack.”

Famous Five Stand
The North Stand at Easter Road was named in the Famous Five’s honour in 1995

With differing personalities and attributes, perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Famous Five is the way they perfectly complimented each other to create one potent attacking unit.

Fraser, seeking to sum up the men, explains: “They were different characters. Lawrie was the torn faced one. He was a nippy sweetie. If we lost a goal Lawrie was giving the defenders pelters.

“Eddie had his sleeves rolled up, Gordon was quiet, he never said much at all, he just went out and entertained. Bobby and Willie were the jokers.”

Despite their success in the league and representing Scotland in the inaugural European Cup, Scottish Cup glory eluded the club, as it has eluded many fine Hibs sides since 1902.

And, whisper it, but Fraser believes this season – which will see Hibs travel to Hearts in the fifth round – could be the year.

He added: “They never won the cup, I don’t know why. We played Motherwell the week before the Scottish Cup semi-final and we beat them 4-0, then we played them the next again week in the semi-final and got beat! I don’t know what that was about the Cup.

“But it will end sometime, and it could be this season. I think the club is on the up and the manager has a good pool of players now.”

The Famous Five, produced by purpleTV, will be broadcast tonight at 9pm on BBC Alba