Pat Stanton epitomises the Hibernian way for a group of fans who indulge themselves as being a club of cavaliers, the underdogs, the Leith team outwith the stuffiness of the Edinburgh establishment, writes Simon Pia

Why should Pat Stanton matter for Hibs fans today? The thought rolled around in my head for a minute or two until it struck me ‘what a stupid question’. How can he not matter? He is Hibs. Pat is Hibs. No one embodies the club more than Pat Stanton and I would challenge anyone to come up with a player who stands out so significantly as a club’s icon, above all others.

He was born Hibs, played for Hibs, even managed the club and today he still walks among us on match day, a living deity. Every club has its heroes, every era its icons but few if any really encapsulate for the fans who we really are.

While football is full of false sentiment, the chant he’s ‘one of our own’ is a yearning from the terraces in the age of global football capitalism for a real connection between fans and their heroes. Tottenham fans did it with ‘Arry Kane (who, BTW, was Arsenal as a boy) but now he’s bolted to Munich.

But Pat Stanton really is ‘one our own’. He always has been. He’s in the DNA of the club, literally. Michael Whelehan, Hibs first captain in 1875 is a direct relative on his father’s side while his mother Bridgit’s uncle Jimmy Hendren also played for the club. With a little bit of serendipity Pat perpetuated the family legacy as captain in 1975, the centenary year.

As a schoolboy at Holy Cross (which had a special affinity with Hibs), he teamed up with rising star Jimmy O’Rourke to win the Evening News Cup. A decade later the two schoolboy teammates would repeat the feat on another level, producing a unique piece of Edinburgh and football trivia history as the goalscorers  in 1972 victory over Celtic in the League Cup final at  Hampden.


But apart from the deep Hibs and Edinburgh connection as a “Niddrie boy”, it was how he played the game that sealed the deal. He epitomised for us the Hibernian way.

Every club has its identity which somehow doesn’t change over the decades. For Hibs fans - call it conceit, even at times delusion – it is for attacking flair, a legacy established by the Famous Five and the Baker Boy. Maybe it’s the romance of our Irish roots, but we indulge ourselves as being a club of cavaliers, the underdogs, the Leith team outwith the stuffiness of the Edinburgh establishment.

And Pat simply was Hibs in the 60s and 70s. As the princes of the city Hibs dominated the derby, split the Old Firm in the league and put on European epics against Barcelona, Real Madrid, Leeds United, Liverpool, Juventus, Sporting Lisbon to name but some.

Turnbull’s Tornadoes were the best all-round Hibs team, edging out the Famous Five, and Pat was its kingpin. He was acknowledged across Scottish football, by fans and media, as a Special One. He had such elegance, grace, skill and dignity on the park. He strolled through matches his head up, gliding across the grass stroking passes here and there, never ruffled or hurried and with an uncanny instinct for the late run into the box to connect and score.

But there was also a touch of steel, honed in the argy-bargy of junior football with Bonnyrigg Rose. And he was mighty in the air. His spectacular headers against Dino Zoff in the famous rout of Napoli and his late, late one in the ‘when the pubs were open” derby which  broke Tynecastle hearts are part of Hibernian legend.

Pat also more than looked the part. Way before Gordon Strachan described him as ‘gorgeous’ at his 75th birthday celebration at the Usher Hall, Pat had caught gossip columnist Jean Rook’s eye. The first lady of Fleet Street in the early 70s selected Pat in her all-time pin-up XI, picking him out as “as a cross between Clint Eastwood and the Kennedys” and more a real woman’s cup of tea than George Best.

He was also part of a special triumvirate of ‘captain fantastics” in the golden age of Scottish football when Celtic and Rangers were winning European trophies led by Billy “Cesar’ McNeill and John ‘the greatest ever Ranger’ Greig. The three had immense respect for each other but even Billy and John wouldnt argue that not only was Pat the best looking of the legendary trio, he was also the most complete player with everything in his game.

When asked to give a tribute at his 75th birthday celebration at the Usher Hall in 2019, it was enough to refer to no better judges than the godfathers of Scottish football – Jock Stein and Sir Alex Ferguson. Both held him in such esteem, rating him as a top, top player while Tommy Docherty as Scotland manager believed Pat  was “better than Bobby Moore”. It was no surprise that Fergie made it up the road in person that night to the Usher Hall for Pat’s 75th as he’d told Hugh McIlvanney in his biography: “See Pat Stanton. I love him.”

And so do we, the Hibs support. It is up to the elders to keep the flame burning and educate the young ‘uns about Pat and what he meant to the club when we were kings and why he counts today as what we should or can be.  In 1995 at the ‘Glory to Hibees’ concert celebrating Hibs recovery at after the failed attempted take over by Hearts five years prevously, Pat shared the stage with club legends Lawrie Reilly, Gordon Smith, Joe Baker and so many other players from over the decade at the Usher Hall. The roof almost came off at the night’s finale when Pat was hailed in a poll as Hibs’ GOAT. Back stage, Pat was almost embarrassed and speechless on receiving the award ahead of greats like Lawrie, Gordon and Joe.

And that’s another reason The Quiet Man is loved by the Hibs support, he’s always been a humble, modest, classy guy.