BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
HIBERNIAN legend Pat Stanton has revealed he almost joined Hearts based on his dazzling displays for Bonnyrigg Rose.
Stanton, 72, is well established as the Easter Road icon who made more than 400 appearances for the club, before going on to claim a league and cup double with Celtic and and turn out for Scotland on 16 occasions.
Lesser known, however, is his brief loan spell with Bonnyrigg as a fresh-faced 17-year-old.
He was farmed out to the Junior ranks by Hibs boss Walter Galbraith and, after initially railing against the switch, quickly excelled in the rough-and-tumble world of the amateurs. So much so, that he caught the eye of Hearts manager Tommy Walker.
Reflecting on his chat with mother, Bridget, and father, Michael, it is incredible to consider how differently Stanton’s career could have panned out.
He recalled: “I remember going home after a game against Arniston and my dad was asking about the game.
“My family are all big Hibs supporters, but I told him a man had spoken to me after the game about signing. He asked who it was and I told him it was Tommy Walker of the Hearts – and there was a big silence.
“My dad just looked at me and said all stuff that a supporter would say. ‘But the Hibs have a nicer strip than the Hearts!’
“Eventually, my mother said we had forgotten about something. Bus fares. She had worked out it was cheaper on the bus from Niddrie to Easter Road than it was from Niddrie to Tynecastle.
“My dad looked at me and said: ‘Well, are you not going to listen to common sense?’ I signed for the Hibs and never regretted it.”
While Hibs made Stanton a legend, he credits Bonnyrigg Rose for making him a man.
Ahead of the fairytale Scottish Cup clash between his former clubs, he continued: “The Hibs manager reckoned it wouldn’t be a bad idea to go to Bonnyrigg to me toughen up a wee bit. I didn’t want to do it – but it turned out to be some of the best advice I ever received.
“There were some wild men. There were terrific players as well, but it was a hard league. I can remember the trainer at Bonnyrigg, a chap called Billy Durie saying to me ‘if people knock you about, it’s your own fault. You’ve got to look after yourself’.
“The first game I played was against Dalkeith Thistle and they had a guy called Duncan Henderson. He would have given Mike Tyson a hard time! After a really tough game, he tapped me on the shoulder and said: ‘Welcome to junior football’.
“Ormiston Primrose were the hardest. There was a guy that played for Hibs called Gordon Hague and he had a brother at Ormiston – he was frightening!
“We had one or two guys who could handle themselves too, right enough. We had a guy called John Cattanach who was about 6ft 4ins and came from the West of Scotland. He was a big intelligent man – but on the park he was a psychopath.
“It did me the world of good. I was at Bonnyrigg playing every week, going to places like Ormiston and Linlithgow, and fighting for my life. When I came back into Easter Road at the end of the season I had passed a lot of boys by, simply because I had been playing every week.”
So it will be a poignant moment for Stanton – who watched Hibs lift the Scottish Cup alongside his grandson, Quinn, at Hampden last May – when he takes his place in the crowd at Tynecastle. Ironically, as a guest of Bonnyrigg.
And, if Hibs ending their 114-year quest for the old trophy has taught him nothing else, it is that the Easter Road men must guard against the seemingly impossible.
He smiled: “These Bonnyrigg boys will be up for this and you need to give your opponents respect. It doesn’t matter who it is. You’ll create problems for yourself if you go out thinking ‘we’ll win without trying too hard’.”
Pat Stanton was speaking at a William Hill media event. William Hill is the proud sponsor of the Scottish Cup.