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Hearts mourn Alfie Conn, last of the Terrible Trio
There was far more to Conn, of course, than just a thunderbolt shot. He knew how to link the play between midfield and attack, was a powerful runner and scored no fewer than 221 goals in 408 appearances for the Tynecastle club – most of them from outside the penalty box. Hard working as well as perceptive, Conn was a vital component of the most revered trio in the history of Hearts. Indeed, in the annals of Scottish club football, perhaps the Terrible Trio's only serious rivals are Hibernian's Famous Five.
Born on 2 October, 1926, in East Lothian, Conn began his football career at Bathgate Academy. A juvenile player with Inveresk Thistle, he worked in the pits as a Bevin Boy and signed for Hearts in 1944, making his debut that autumn as a replacement for Tommy Walker, who would go on to become his manager in the Fifties.
When Conn set foot in Gorgie, Heart of Midlothian had not won a trophy since 1906 and the club's hunger for success was palpable. The signings of Bauld and Wardhaugh, like the recruitment of Conn, which would help to transform Hearts' fortunes, were made by Davie McLean, the former East Fife manager who laid the groundwork for Walker's golden era.
The first time the Terrible Trio played together on 9 October, 1948, was ironically against East Fife when Conn scored twice and Bauld contributed a hat-trick in a 6-1 victory. It could hardly have been a more auspicious start for the men who earned the moniker of 'terrible' because of the havoc they caused in opposition defences. Between them, these three extraordinary footballers would score almost 1,000 goals for Hearts and eviscerate opponents throughout the Fifties.
The successful pursuit of silverware, however, remained elusive until 1954 when the trio helped defeat Motherwell 4-2 in the final of the League Cup at Hampden.
There was something seamless about the work of the Trio, a feature which was clear to all who saw them play.
According to Walker: "They always appeared to play as one. Their individual expertise, positional sense and scoring ability were simply dovetailed into one unit."
John Cumming, the Iron Man of the Hearts' side who also died, at the age of 78, last month, never had any doubts that Conn, Bauld and Wardhaugh held the key to so much of the success Hearts enjoyed during a fertile period between 1954 and 1962 when the club won four League Cups, two League championships and a Scottish Cup.
"Nobody compared with Conn, Bauld and Wardhaugh in attack," observed the wing-half. "They were a great threesome and the biggest influence on the team."
Alex Young, one of Conn's former strike partners at Hearts, said last night: "Alfie was a smashing player and a really nice guy. I played my first match for Hearts aged 18 when Willie Bauld was injured and to play alongside someone like Alfie was very special. Although I was a young laddie, he was always helping and encouraging me. To me he was a real star player and being a member of the Terrible Trio says everything. It's sad, sad news."
On the other side of the city, Eddie Turnbull, the Hibs winger who was a celebrated member of the Famous Five, never underestimated the combined talents of the Trio. "Alfie was a good, strong and hard working player who scored a lot of goals," he remembered. "Jimmy was a contrast, a ball-playing type who also had a high scoring rate. Then there was Willie. In my book, he was supreme."
In spite of their intuitive understanding, Conn, Bauld and Wardhaugh never played together for their country. Conn and Wardhaugh combined in a representative game as did Bauld and Wardhaugh. But the men were never selected as a unit.
According to Jack Harkness, the former Wembley Wizard, there was no finer Scottish inside-right than Conn. Yet he was selected only once, against Austria, though he marked that appearance with Scotland's goal in a 1-1 draw in May 1956. He did not receive a cap, because of the rule that saw caps awarded for games against England, Ireland and Wales only, and he was one of the players who became entitled to a retrospective cap when the SFA decided in 2006 to belatedly honour the 90 Scotland internationalists who had worn the dark blue but not received a cap.
He played three times for the Scottish League, against the Irish League in 1948, and twice in 1955 against the English League and a Danish Football Combination, scoring twice in a 4-0 win against the Danes.
Sadly, when their football careers were over, neither Bauld nor Wardhaugh was blessed with longevity. Willie died in the spring of 1977 at the age of 49. Less than a year later, Jimmy also passed away at 48.
Conn's only other senior club was Raith Rovers, who he joined from Hearts in September 1958 for a fee of £2,250. He returned to Tynecastle in 1960 to pull on the maroon jersey one last time, in George Dobbie's testimonial match.
He also played for Gala Fairydean, and briefly moved abroad to take up a post as player-manager in South Africa with Johannesburg Ramblers. On his return from South Africa, he went on to settle in Fife, living latterly in Glenrothes.
Away from football he worked in the building trade and became the director of a paint company and took great pride in the career of his son, Alfie jnr, who played for both Rangers and Celtic as well as following in his father's footsteps at Hearts.
Hearts, who wore black armbands for the Premier League game against Motherwell last night, will reveal plans for a tribute to Conn shortly.
Whatever they have in mind, the club should light up the grey sky of winter in memory of a dazzling talent.
Stars of the game pay tribute after legend's passing
FORMER Hearts players paid tribute to legendary Tynecastle striker Alfie Conn.
"Alfie was actually a year above me at Stoneyburn School. His father worked in the pits beside my father but then they moved away to Prestonpans. We met up again, though, when we joined Hearts. He was one of the famous three but it was difficult to separate one from the other two. As a trio they were absolutely fantastic. There was a spell when, without being big-headed about it, we wondered as a team just how many goals we would score in the next game. Alfie was a special talent, very strong with a great shot and was also a good laugh in the dressing room. It's sad, sad news."
"It's a real shame to hear he has passed away. Alfie was a good pal of mine and used to visit me in England when he moved into sales after he gave up football. He was a brilliant player with a powerful shot who could score goals for fun. He was a member of the Terrible Trio and you couldn't ask for a better threesome."
"I had to follow in some famous footsteps, that's for sure. Alfie was a legendary figure at the club. His record speaks for itself and the names of Conn, Bauld, Wardhaugh will forever be engrained in Hearts' history. His passing is yet more sad news after the recent deaths of John Cumming and George Miller."
"Alfie was one of the standard-bearers for those who followed into the Hearts team. He helped produce such a great and glorious past for the club and without his contributions Hearts wouldn't have the rich history the club enjoys today. It was always rammed home to me about the exploits of the Terrible Trio. My sympathies go to his family."
Born: Prestonpans on 2 October, 1926.
Signed for Hearts in June 1944 and made his competitive debut in a 4-0 win over Dumbarton on 14 October of the same year.
Made 408 appearances for Hearts, scoring 221 goals.
His best season was 1955-56, with 28 goals in 41 games.
Joined Raith Rovers in September 1958 before heading to South Africa, where he was player-manager of Johannesburg Ramblers.
He joined Gala Fairydean on returning to Scotland before going back to Raith Rovers as manager in 1962.
Gained one full cap for Scotland in a 1-1 draw with Austria at Hampden in 1956.
League Cup winner with Hearts in 1954-55 and also the Scottish Cup in 1955-56.
THE Terrible Trio are the focal point of Hearts folklore and legends of Scottish football, on account of their phenomenal scoring record in maroon. Alfie Conn's partners were:
Born in Newcraighall in 1928, the centre forward was the darling of Tynecastle. Scored a hat-trick on his league debut, and won the Scottish Cup, two Scottish League championship titles and two League Cups. Capped three times for Scotland. Retired in 1962, and died in 1977 aged just 48.
Born in England in 1929, just a mile over the Scottish border, he was raised in Edinburgh and began a 13-year career with Hearts in 1946. Played a handful of games for Dunfermline before retiring. Capped twice for Scotland. Died within a year of Bauld, also aged just 48, when he collapsed on the way home from a New Year match at East Fife in 1978.
Taken from the Scotsman
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