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#redinburgh | League Cup History | 1946

January 27, 2014 3:29 pm Author: Aberdeen FC

The Dons ‘first’ League Cup campaign

1946 League Cup

by Kevin Stirling

Many official records will tell you that the first winners of the Scottish League Cup were Rangers in 1947 after they defeated Aberdeen in the final at Hampden. The year before the very first competition was called the Southern League Cup and was declared at a later date as the forerunner to the competition we know today. Looking back through the records in season 1945.46 it was certainly an unofficial season in the league but the new cup competition was certainly far from unofficial.

Aberdeen had been playing the various regional leagues and cups that emerged during the war and had a very successful time despite the political unrest in the country. That confidence was apparent when they played their opening matches of the 1945.46 season when they would be back in action against all of the Scottish sides. Their first ever game in the League Cup came against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park on 23rd February 1946. In a controversial tie Aberdeen went ahead through Stan Williams but the home side levelled through a Turnbull strike after a free kick was retaken. In the first home tie it was an all changed Aberdeen side that swept Hibernian aside in an impressive 4-1 win. A brace from Archie Baird and goals from Williams and Kiddie put Aberdeen at the top of their qualifying section.

Partick were next up for the Dons and they were given a huge boost with the inclusion of Peter McKennen, their international forward. Aberdeen looked to be well in control as two Hamilton goals had given Aberdeen a 2-1 lead. There was drama in the closing minutes when Partick were awarded a penalty, which incredibly was missed by McKennen. Kilmarnock were then beaten 1-0 at Pittodrie to set up an opportunity for Aberdeen to qualify if victory could be achieved against Hibernian at Easter Road. In what proved to be a tough tie for the Dons the loss of injured Andy Cowie made the task all the more difficult and a 3-2 defeat meant that it was all down to the final game at Firhill. An Aberdeen win would see them qualify while Hibernian were hoping that the Dons would drop at least a point and if they defeated Kilmarnock, it would be Hibernian who would top the section. Aberdeen went in to the tie without Cowie who was still injured and George Hamilton was away playing for the British Army in France. It took a strong defensive performance to come away with a 0-0 draw and with Hibernian unable to take advantage, it was Aberdeen that scraped through to the latter stages. In the quarter final, which was played at neutral Dens Park, Aberdeen edged out Ayr Utd to make it through to the semi final with only Airdrie standing in their way of the Hampden final. The Dons came up against the Diamonds at Ibrox in what was a well-matched tie and despite Aberdeen taking a 2-1 lead they were pegged back with a late penalty. Extra time did not bring any further scoring so the semi final went to a replay. Three days later it was another pulsating tie that ended in 2-2 deadlock. In the first minute of extra time Airdrie took the lead but Aberdeen hit back through Stan Williams to make it 3-3. A late penalty gave Aberdeen victory after Archie Baird’s header was cleared off the line by an Airdrie defender.

There was great excitement in the city prior to the final against Rangers as the country was still revelling in a post war wave of optimism. Aberdeen prepared for the final by staying at Largs where they relaxed before the game. The club arranged a visit to the shipyards to see MMS Vanguard and the Queen Elizabeth at Greenock docks. It all added to the occasion and as the Dons party made their way to Hampden they were greeted by thousands of Aberdeen supporters who had made the trip down from the north. The weather was baking hot and to the surprise of the estimated 125,000 inside the ground both teams emerged from the tunnel together. Aberdeen Lord provost Mitchell was presented to the Rangers team while his Glasgow counterpart Provost McNeill welcomed the Aberdeen team. Club chairmen James Bowie and William Mitchell accompanied the dignitaries in what was a first ‘civic’ ceremony before a Scottish final. Tickets for the final were thought be at a premium but with a lot of the Aberdeen supporters buying more than was required there was no place for the ticket touts who were effectively priced out of any deals. Rangers captain Shaw won the toss and elected to play with the sun in their eyes but favouring a light breeze.

Aberdeen got off to the perfect start by scoring in the first minute. From the kick off the Dons got a throw in on the right. In a trademark Aberdeen move, Andy Cowie took a long throw in which was flicked on by George Hamilton. Archie Baird ghosted in between the static Rangers defence to head the Dons into a sensational lead. That goal prompted the huge Aberdeen following into scenes of joy. It was the ideal start for Aberdeen who were facing a side that was competing in their sixth cup final in succession. Rangers got over the shock to set up a chance for Caskie but he was crowded out by the Dons defence. Aberdeen were looking dangerous on the flanks and threatened with every attack. Kiddie was getting the better of Shaw while Williams looked to be enjoying the wide-open spaces of Hampden Park. It was no real surprise when Aberdeen went further ahead after some clever play. George Young made a mess of clearing his lines and Alec Kiddie flicked the ball over Shaw to set up Williams to hammer the ball past Shaw to put Aberdeen 2-0 ahead after only 19 minutes.

The expected response from Rangers was slow in coming but when it finally gathered momentum it was Rangers turn to pile the pressure on the Dons. By half time it was still 2-0 to Aberdeen and it was a clash in styles with Aberdeen skill prevailing over Rangers power. It was that power that was apparent as the Ibrox side came out for the second half and threw everything at Aberdeen before a scrappy Duncanson goal got them back into the final. That raised Rangers hopes and they continued to peg the Dons back at every turn. However Alec Kiddie broke down the right before sending in a fierce shot that came back off the bar with Shaw well beaten. Just when Aberdeen looked to have weathered the storm and began to create more chances for themselves it was Rangers who levelled with 16 minutes left. Thornton got in between Cooper and McKenna to squeeze the ball past Johnstone to set up a thrilling finale to a sensational final.

As extra time beckoned it was Aberdeen that mustered one final attack in the last minute. The Dons swarmed around the Rangers defence. Taylor sent the ball out McCall. The Dons winger then cut through on the right before passing back to Taylor who let fly with a shot that seemed to go through several players before finding the net. It was a marvellous end to a great final. Rangers barely had time to kick off as the referee blew for full time to spark celebrations amongst the Aberdeen players and the crowd. When all of the excitement had calmed down it was captain Frank Dunlop that was presented with the trophy on the Hampden pitch by David Gray the SFA President.

Dunlop was chaired by his team mates as the players went on a celebration to the joy of the Aberdeen support. Aberdeen returned to the Marine Hotel in Largs on the Saturday evening where the Southern League Cup took place of honour at the dinner. It was not until Monday evening before the Dons returned to Aberdeen to be greeted by thousands who had waited to greet their heroes. As was the tradition back then the trophy was available to see in a local shop in Union Street for a week before being taken to the Pittodrie boardroom.

There was controversy though as the trophy did not stay in the Pittodrie boardroom for long after they beat Rangers on 11th May 1946. The hurriedly arranged ‘Victory Cup’ was also played that season from March through to the end of May. Aberdeen were knocked out by Clyde in the Qualifying Group while Rangers went on to win it. The trouble was due to the shortage of metals and raw materials after the war, there was NO TROPHY to present as the Victory Cup. The authorities asked Aberdeen to return the Southern LC sharpish so that the trophy could be presented to Rangers.


Aberdeen; Johnstone, Cooper, McKenna, Cowie, Dunlop, Taylor, Kiddie, Hamilton, Williams, Baird, McCall.

Rangers; John Shaw, Gray, Jock Shaw, Watkins, Young, Symon, Waddell, Thornton, Arnison, Duncanson, Caskie.

Referee’ W Webb, Glasgow

Attendance; 130,000

RedImages archive |

the crowd in 1946

action from the final in 1946

1946 Taylors Winning Goal

1946 Dunlop with the trophy

1946 homecoming

The homecoming

Civic Dinner at the Town Council

The League Cup in EE shop window in 21 May 1946

1946 Southern League Cup Winners

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