Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Ralph Callachan

There aren’t many players who play significant roles for both Hearts and Hibernian. However, one who did three decades ago is still fondly remembered by supporters of both clubs.

Ralph Callachan grew up a Hibby but it was for Hearts that he signed as a sixteen year old in September 1971 from Tynecastle Boys Club. A precocious talent, the midfield player made his Hearts first team debut less than three years later. It was in season 1974-75 that Callachan made a big impression at Tynecastle despite the club struggling in the league and cups. He was a class act in a Hearts midfield that struggled at times but his subtle skills perfectly complemented the more aggressive talents of the likes of Drew Busby.

Hearts were fighting against relegation in April 1976 and I recall a sublime performance from the Edinburgh born youngster that was instrumental in Hearts recording a fine 3-0 victory at Pittodrie on a pleasant spring evening. Hearts escaped demotion due in no small part to this result but the following season were again involved in a relegation fight. However, fans could scarcely believe it when Callachan was sold to Newcastle United for £90,000 in February 1977. It was a decision that blew away Hearts chances of survival.

Callachan’s stay on Tyneside was a brief one and eighteen months later, he returned to Edinburgh to sign for the team he followed as a boy as part of a deal that took Hibernian legend John Brownlie to St. James Park. He was to enjoy eight impressive seasons at Easter Road and in 1979 played against Rangers in the Scottish Cup Final. Sadly, like his only other Scottish Cup Final appearance - for Hearts in 1976 also against Rangers - he was to end up with a loser’s medal. After a spell with Edinburgh’s third team in 1986 - Meadowbank Thistle - Callachan became player-manager of Berwick Rangers.

Callachan later ran a pub with Hibs team-mate Jackie McNamara and in 2006 was giving his opinion to the media as an Edinburgh taxi driver on that season’s Edinburgh derby Scottish Cup semi-final. He remains a frequent visitor to Easter Road.
Photo courtesy of London Hearts website

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