Killie Clinch Championship On The Final Day!
Hearts 0 Kilmarnock 2
(Scottish Division I, Match 34, Tynecastle, Apr 24th, 1965)
There are places I remember all my life," sang John Lennon in 1965, and for Davie Sneddon that same spring, one was to be Tynecastle Park, where he and his Kilmarnock team-mates clinched the league title for the first and so far only time in the club's history.
A tussle between the top two sides, few league matches have ever been so enthrallingly set up as that game in front of more than 36,000. With a two-point lead in the championship, Hearts only required a draw to claim the title. And with an inferior goal average, a one-goal win would not be enough for Kilmarnock. In their first meeting Killie had prevailed 3-1 at Rugby Park in Dec of 1964.
The visitors had not only to score twice to triumph but not concede anything. In the end it was a feat they achieved to clinch their biggest prize by just 0.042 of a goal.
His glorious moment, Davie Sneddon remembers, came in the 26th minute. "The ball went out to Tommy McLean on the wing. Tommy saw me at the far post and he put the cross over perfectly on to my head. To be honest, I thought I'd miss - I never scored many with my head. Big Jim Cruikshank came right back across the goal and threw himself at the ball. By the time it hit the net, he had dived beyond the post, so that shows how close he came to stopping it."
Within a couple of minutes Hearts were two down. Brian McIlroy took a pass from Bertie Black on the edge of the box and despite Hearts appeals for offside, he smashed a magnificent left-foot drive into the far corner (below),
Hearts ended the first half with an intense siege on Ferguson's goal, but at the half Killie still led 2-0.
There were flashing attacks from both sides at the start of the second half, Kilmarnock intelligently appreciating that concentration on defence could cost them the title and Hearts eager to score that one one vital single goal, that would give them the title.
Roy Barry of Hearts and Frank Beattie of Killie both fell heavily after a heading duel and Barry had to be assisted to his feet. A minute later he was up heading the ball over the bar in another Hearts attack. It was that kind of match.
Then Killie almost settled matters after a brilliant run by Brian McIlroy, young 17 year old McLean hesitated in front of goal and Cruickshank came diving out to thwart the danger. (right).
This was a game of unspeakable tension, as Hearts continued to look for that single goal which would give them the title. When their "final" chance fame, it fell to Alan Gordon whose miss is still talked about in Edinburgh.
But Sneddon remembers how unlucky the centre-forward was not to score.
"Gordon has taken some stick for that, but the truth is Bobby Ferguson made a great save. I thought he did ever so well, he took the ball on the up really skillfully and was able to keep his shot down. He smashed it into the ground and it was going high into the net, but Bobby got to it."
That was just six minutes from the end of the game, but the critical moment (you can see Willie & Walter smoking it up as they wait for the final whistle at the top of this page) for Hearts really occurred within seconds of the kick-off, according to the former Kilmarnock player, when Ronald Jenson hit the ball beyond Ferguson, but off a post. An early goal against them would have been fatal for Kilmarnock's hopes.
When the full-time whistle came it found despondent Hearts players shaking hands in sporting fashion with their rivals, and amidst scenes of great emotion Willie Waddell raced onto the pitch to leap and dance with his jublant players.
The Killie fans, hardened to a diet of "runners up" taunts, simply went wild. They made so much noise that 5 minutes after it was all over Willie Waddell and his players acknowledged their cheers by coming back down the tunnel to make a special lap of honour!
Kilmarnock: Ferguson, King, Watson, Murray, McGrory, Beattie, McLean, McInally, Black, Sneddon, & McIlroy.