Born: January 22, 1935 Died: August 8, 2013.
JOHNNY Hamilton, who has died aged 78, was a Hearts stalwart during their golden years from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s.
A fast, goal-scoring winger, he had to work hard to establish himself in the Tynecastle team. Team mates such as John Cumming, Dave Mackay, Alex Young, the Conn-Bauld-Wardhaugh Terrible Trio and Gordon Smith were better players, but few gave as much in maroon as Wee Johnny.
He was a Larkhall boy, going from Larkhall Academy, via Larkhall Rangers (there just had to be a team with that name in that town), Kirkmuirhill Juveniles and Burtonshore Welfare to Lesmahagow Juniors, combining his weekend football with Monday to Friday work down the pit. His form with the 'Gow attracted the attention of Hearts and, at the start of the 1955-56 season, the 20-year-old Hamilton became a footballer, after Hearts paid £100 for his signature.
His debut came in a 4-1 league win over Airdrie at the old Broomfield, on 1 October, 1955; the first of 12 first team appearances that season, which ended with the men in maroon winning the Scottish Cup for the first time in 50 years, beating Celtic 3-1 in a classic Hampden final.
Hamilton didn't play in that game, although he had been a stand-out in the semi-final win over Raith Rovers. Competition for the two wing places in the Hearts attack was intense, with Ian Crawford displacing veteran Johnny Urquhart down the left and Hamilton and the even-younger Alex Young jousting for the number seven shirt, which Young wore at Hampden.
Hamilton's promise had been rewarded in February of 1956, when he won the first of his two Scotland Under-23 caps, forming an all-Hearts right wing with Young and scoring Scotland's goal in a 3-1 Hillsborough loss to England.
He was again chosen for the Under-23s against England the following year, at Ibrox, when Hearts provided four players, Hamilton, Mackay, Young and goal-scorer Crawford to a Scotland team which drew 1-1.
Although still not an automatic choice as Hearts won the league, scoring a record 132 goals, in the following 1957-58 season, Hamilton produced a storming game against Scotland, when Hearts provided the opposition in one of the series of World Cup warm-up games played that season. He was being spoken of as a possible for the final tournament in Sweden, but he didn't make the cut.
Indeed, he never did win a full cap, although, in October 1958 he played in the Scottish League XI, which drew 1-1 with England at Ibrox. The Herald's reporter at the game didn't rate Hamilton's performance highly, but, he was brought down for the penalty from which Sammy Baird scored the League XI's goal. Only Hamilton of that team never became a full cap.
Hearts' league win in 1958 was followed by a second in 1960, Hamilton contributing 12 goals in 27 games. With Crawford moving to West Ham, Hamilton had made the number 11 jersey his own and he added three League Cup-winner's medals to his League Championship one, in 1958-59, 1959-60 and 1962-63 as Hearts, having wrestled bragging rights in the capital from Hibs, emerged as Rangers' biggest rivals of the time.
There might have been a second League Championship medal in 1965, but, Hamilton was in the Hearts side which suffered a heart-breaking 2-0 Tynecastle loss to Kilmarnock in what was effectively a title decider on April 24, 1965. Any other result that day would have given Hearts the title.
Now in his thirties, Hamilton's Hearts career was winding down. New boys were emerging, his appearances became sporadic and, after a last hurrah in a 2-0 loss to Dundee United, at Tannadice, on 8 April, 1967, after 502 games and 156 goals, Hamilton left to join Watford. He spent three years at Vicarage Road, before returning to Scottish football with Berwick Rangers. He played for them for three years, still living in Edinburgh, where he opened a successful newsagent's shop in Slateford Road, close to Tynecastle.
He spent some time back at the club as a youth coach, before leaving to concentrate on his business, but continuing to support Hearts. He was an active member of Hearts' Former Players Association, a fanatical keep-fit enthusiast at a Corstorphine gym and a keen golfer at Kingsknowe, although, his final months were hard, following a stroke.
Hamilton was a football enthusiast. Like most ex-miners who played professionally, he realised his good fortune. He was one of those terrier-like players, a wee, crabbit Scottish so-and-so who, when he wasn't winding up his opponents with his skill, was winding up the opposition fans.
He particularly loved annoying the Old Firm supporters and, given the rivalry between the clubs at the time, also the Kilmarnock fans. His goal celebrations were legendary and there could hardly be a greater contrast between the two Hearts wingers of the 1960 league-winning team; on the right, the great Gordon Smith, polished and urbane, wearing his aura of class and greatness with ease on the right and the gap-tooth, snarling aggression of Hamilton on the left.
That was on the park; off it, he was a gentleman, always ready to talk football with the customers in his shop.
Johnny Hamilton's later life was touched by tragedy. His younger son, Ross, died tragically young, while he was pre-deceased by his wife Elizabeth. He is survived by daughter Karen and elder son Gary.
We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis. If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules, which are available here.
Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.