A trip down memory lane: Greenock Morton v Rangers

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My gradual introduction to football in the early/mid sixties was in part fuelled by Morton. You couldn't avoid the happy hoopsters from Greenock because journalists were hand fed their daily sustenance at the doors of Cappielow. The purveyor was a charismatic Dundonian with little interest in football, Hal Stewart. There is an obvious comparison with Tom Parker, both showground Barkers baiting and hooking the passing public to their attractions. Both awarded themselves sobriquet titles, Parker was Colonel to Elvis and Hal became Morton's Director Manager. Both saw and exploited opportunities, the Colonel knew a white man with a black sounding voice would blow apart the moribund fifties music scene, and Hal realised the bottom club in the old second division was ripe for his particular brand of magic dust.

Yep, Greenock was the 'tail o' the bank' and Morton was at the tail of Scottish football in 61/62. Within two short years, Morton were crowned second division champions and reached the League Cup final, against Rangers. These achievements were underpinned by Stewart's demands that Morton play fast attacking, attractive football. Hal was a bit of a Janus, the future was near and filled with excitement; however, the past faded quickly, aspects were very much worth the effort to hold on to. He was the epitome of an old fashioned manager; remember, our own Scot Symon and Jock Stein were spending their summers in Italy, watching the Milans and Juve training. Stewart had an eye for a player and was always mindful of 'the blend'. A hint of Struth?

Similar to Struth, Hal believed in reinforcing success. Once momentum was established, you fed it continually. On field achievements must be mirrored off field, Morton traveled first class, stayed in the best hotels, dressed appropriately, and consumed their High Teas in the swankiest of restaurants. The salesman's instinct won out, the masses flocked to Cappielow, an attendance of 20,000 saw second tier Morton defeat top table Motherwell in the League Cup quarter-final. Hibs were dispatched in a thrilling semi-final encounter at Ibrox, in front of a reported crowd of 50,000. A free scoring Morton(164 goals that season) faced Rangers at Hampden, 105,000 packed in to witness a see-sawing first half, finishing nil all. The second half proved family ties bind, Jim Forrest notched four and his cousin, Alex Willoughby provided the other in a 5-zip triumph for the Gers.

In the aftermath, Hal Stewart was quoted as acknowledging defeat to a better team, but noted, "we have arrived". I was considered too young to attend the final but my old man eulogised several of the 'ton players, particularly Alan McGraw. Fifty-eight goals was McGraw's contribution that season and like a number of others of Hal's Heroes, saw him move on to bigger clubs. Alan went to Hibs and his renowned tenacity in playing through the pain barrier saw him eventually surrender to amputation in later years. Collagen injections were common currency back then, and McGraw was not alone in subsequent suffering.

Players departing did not impede Stewart's determination to reinforce success. He tapped into a then unbeknown market, his presentation skills led him to refer to it as, 'the Scandinavian Invasion'. Exotic names appeared in the team sheet; Erik Sorensen, Kai Johansen, Carl Bertelson, .... etc. Acres of newsprint carried Hal's latest transfer machinations, and also informed the readership of innovations at Cappielow, such as pre and post match hospitality. Rangers fell for the showmanship and both Sorensen and Johansen duly arrived at Ibrox, we would have to wait a further twenty years and for David Holmes to experience hospitality. The first Cup Final I was deemed old enough to attend was the '66 Scottish Cup final replay, against ra Sellik. Deep into injury time of extra time, I was most grateful for Hal Stewart's foresight. Another 60,000 Bears joined me as King Kai rattled in a 25 yard screamer to secure the old trophy.

Of course, Hal's penetrative thought came up short in ground conditions. Cappielow was, and remains a cowp. I believe Morton adopted another Scandinavian tradition recently, they purchased St Mirren's Love Street stand, flat-packed it, and ........ put it into storage. Maybe, it did not come with instructions? I will not attend the game, preferring to view it live on TV. At a game in the late '70s, on a particularly rainy day in Greenock, I experienced a twenty yard move forward and down, whilst standing on the wee Dublin end terrace. Simply, it was a landslip amid a fractious 2-2 draw. Spare me the romance of that special ambiance present in traditional Scottish grounds. Rather than beg £4million from government for facial recognition, negotiate funding to help clubs such as Morton erect flat-pack stands.

I am going for an unchanged starting eleven : Foderingham, Tavenier, Wallace, Kiernan, Wilson, Holt, Law, Halliday, Miller, Waghorn, and McKay.

Fast attacking, exciting football is not new, we all know that. Let's stick with it and I predict we will prevail, 1-3.

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