On this day in 1964 St Johnstone officially opened their new floodlighting system with West Ham United, the 1964 FA Cup Winners, providing the opposition for this friendly encounter.
To set the background, after their promotion to the First Division in 1960 Saints were the only higher level team that did not have floodlights. Accordingly, during the winter months kick off times were brought forward to 2.15pm and even then there was no guarantee that the match would finish in daylight. Money remained tight with Manager Bobby Brown needing funds to strengthen and improve the team. A floodlight system was installed during 1962 but the SFA adjudged that these lights were not suitable for competitive games and therefore could only be used for training purposes. The St Johnstone Aid Fund and Supporters Club embarked on various fund raising initiatives. However successful these were there was a limit to what they could achieve and, what really made the lights come on, was the transfer of Jim Townsend to Middlesbrough for a then record fee of £20,000 in February 1964. Townsend was a youth internationalist who had been spotted in 1962 by the Manager and quickly signed from Port Glasgow Juniors.
In July 1964 local Electrical Contractors James Scott & Co were awarded the contract and the lights were first used in a League match against Hearts on 28 November 1964 and again for the match with Dunfermline Ath on 12 December 1964. For the record Saints lost both games 0 – 3 and 1 – 3 respectively.
West Ham United were an established First Division team famous for the way they played the game and under Manager Ron Greenwood had developed a conveyor belt of high quality young players including Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters.
Saints team that evening was: – Mike McVittie, Charlie McFadyen, Willie Coburn, Bill McCarry, Ron McKinven, Willie Renton, John Flanagan, Neil Duffy, Jackie Coburn, Jim Kerray, Felix McGrogan. Subs: – Jim Richmond, Gordon Whitelaw.
Unfortunately, Bobby Moore was injured and had to watch the game from the stand. So West Ham United lined up: – Standen, Bond, Burkett, Bovington, Brown, Peters, Brabrook, Boyce, Byrne, Hurst, Sissons.
Despite rain, sleet and snow making playing conditions extremely difficult some 4,900 fans still turned up to watch what turned out to be a highly entertaining match.
Saints players wore a new all-white tracksuit for the pre-match ceremonies with the Chairman Mr. A.M.Lamond officially opening the floodlighting system.
The match got underway in torrential rain and it was the visitors who created the first couple of chances. Brabrook shooting over the bar before Byrne fired straight at McVittie.
Saints hit back and the “Hammers” keeper made a great finger tip save from a McGrogan 20 yarder, turning his fierce shot over the bar. Renton and McFadyen in turn had attempts saved by the custodian.
Then in 22 minutes England Internationalist, Johnny Byrne, put the visitors ahead. Receiving a pass from Sissons, he dribbled around a couple of Saints defenders before firing a low shot into the net from 10 yards range. 0 – 1.
Saints tried hard to get back on level terms and Kerray saw his shot saved by Standen. Then Saints best chance when Duffy saw his close range effort beat the goalie only for John Bond to clear the ball off the goal line.
Stung by this West Ham immediately went down the other end and Byrne put them 2 – 0 ahead when he had the simple task of side footing a Hurst pass into the net with 27 minutes on the clock.
Ten minutes later and it was that man Byrne again. Sissons was again the provider racing down the wing before supplying the perfect ball for the striker to register his hat trick. 0 – 3.
As the game flowed from end to end there were chances created but not taken before the referee blew his whistle for half time.
After the break Richmond and Whitelaw replaced McKinven and J.Coburn with McCarry moving to centre half and Richmond filling the right half position.
In the early stages of the second half Saints piled on the pressure but despite some close calls the visitors defence stood firm. Saints defenders had to be alert to the Hammers fast breaks.
Then in 63 minutes Saints pulled one back when Richmond fired a cannonball of a shot into the top corner of the net from 20 yards. 1 – 3.
This merely spurred the Londoners into scoring a fourth on 78 minutes. A really fine passing move involving Peters and Byrne ended with Hurst slotting the ball home to make it 1 – 4.
Many a team would have given up at this stage but not Saints who showed tremendous character and virtually straight from the restart Willie Renton scored with a shot from a tight angle which went in off the post. 2 – 4.
Two minutes from full time Jim Kerray scored to cap an excellent comeback. 3 – 4.
There is no question that West Ham were the better side on the night but every Saints player can be proud of their performance in dreadful conditions.
The Perthshire Advertiser report states “ West Ham turned on some beautiful exhibition football which gained the whole-hearted appreciation of the crowd. Their display will be a talking point around Perth for a while to come.”
For me as a young Saints fan ( and a lover of good football ) it was a treat to watch such an exhibition of fine passing play from a quality team.
At the end of that 1964/65 season West Ham United won the European Cup Winners Cup, defeating TSV 1860 Munich 2 – 0 in the Final at Wembley.
In 1966 Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst ( alongwith Bobby Moore ) would make highly influential contributions as England won the World Cup ( with the assistance of a Russian linesman!). This however should not detract from the undoubted talents that these players displayed at Muirton Park 49 years ago today.