A close to capacity crowd is expected at Hampden this weekend when Queen’s Park take on Rangers and for one former Spider, memories of the classic game between the pair from 55 years ago will come flooding back.
It is all the more poignant for a now 77-year-old Jimmy Robb as he was not even meant to be playing in the First Division encounter. He only featured because team-mate Johnny Valentine did not turn up as he did not want to face the side he was only weeks away from joining.
Robb has been invited back to his old stomping ground next weekend where he will meet other surviving members from the 1957 Easter Monday clash where Queen’s Park led a Championship chasing Rangers side 4-1 before losing 6-4.
A then 22-year-old Robb was thrust into an unusual defensive position, however the game started well for the Hampden side despite Bert Cromar missing an early penalty. George Herd gave Queen’s the lead and team-mate Hunter Devine scored the first of a hat-trick when he headed the amateurs two ahead on 19 minutes, however Rangers quickly got on the score-sheet when former Queen’s Parker Max Murray headed in.
There were 4 further goals before the break with Devine scoring twice to have Queen’s 4-1 ahead, before Jonny Hubbard grabbed a double to bring Rangers back into things.
The home-side’s plans to keep hold of their lead took a huge blow when Junior Omand was injured a minute into the second half and with no substitutes Murray, Billy Simpson and Alex Scott all scored to turn things around.
Rangers went on to win the league in their remaining two games against Queen of the South and Dunfermline Athletic with Robb still disappointed at how things turned out.
Robb said this week, “There was 30,000 to 40,000 there that day and it sounded like more. There was a huge roar at the first whistle and it ended up as a case of so near, yet so far for us. We should have won the game.”
“The goals just before half-time and then the injury to Junior changed everything. Some reports said he pulled a muscle but to me he was fouled pretty badly at the start of the second half and that took him out.”
“Also our goalkeeper Frank Crampsey, the sportswriter Bob’s brother, was in goal and he took a couple of sore dunts from Max Murray. That affected him as well.”
Robb was expecting only to be a spectator at the game, however he got the call to play when Valentine failed to show, although it was not a total surprise as Robb explained, “We knew that both Motherwell and Rangers were keen to sign Johnny at the end of the season. When he failed to arrive that day we surmised that he was going to Ibrox.”
“I was usually a wing half but I got the nod to play in defence. I did okay up against Max who also used to be a Queen’s Park player but I still reckon 11 v 11 we would have won. We were a good side then and whilst Hunter scored a hat-trick it was Andy McEwan that tormented their captain George Young that day. He dropped off the traditional centre forward position to play really deep and George did not want to follow him that far up the pitch.”
“That gave Andy a lot of space to create openings for other players.”
There was no animosity towards Valentine for not showing with Robb adding, “Johnny did sign for Rangers but he would have been better staying with us for another year and learning his trade more. He actually remained close to the Queen’s Park players. Even after he joined Rangers he would come down from Aberdeenshire where he was working and training by himself to have lunch with us at Reid’s in Gordon Street before meeting up with the Rangers players at St Enoch Train Station.”
“He was thrown into a League Cup Final with them shortly afterwards and Billy McPhail took full advantage of his inexperience and Celtic won 7-1.”
The reason that were was no animosity towards Valentine is best described by Robb who said, “We won the Second Division, of the B Division as it was then, together the season before and there was 20 of us who all pulled together to make that happen.”
“All 20 of us got medals and they were not even the normal League winning medals the club organised ones that were a bit different and even more special to us. We carried on where we left off in the First Division and we ended up finishing in thirteenth place in an eighteen team league.”
The following season was more of a struggle and Queen’s were relegated after winning just 4 games and Robb moved onto to Third Lanark that summer.
Robb joked, “I moved half a mile away and it was quite funny as I saw a lot of familiar faces as fans then would go and watch Third Lanark in their home games as opposed to attending away matches.”
A year was spent at the Valley with Charlton Athletic however Robb came home and spent two years at Stirling Albion where he won the Second Division again in 1965 where current Falkirk Technical Director Alex Smith was a team-mate.
“Sammy Baird was the manager at Stirling and he had played for Rangers in the 1957 game,” said Robb before adding, “And what a player he was.”
Robb meets up with some former Spiders at their Queen’s Parkers meetings and he remains an avid football fan albeit from his armchair mostly now and he is looking forward to attending Hampden and meeting up with former friends and foes.
“It will be good to see my former team-mates and their families on Saturday. I am also looking forward to seeing Harold Davis again and finally getting an answer to whether Junior pulled a muscle or was injured. If he was injured I will be having a stern word with Harold despite the 55 year gap.”