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Grief at the passing of Hearts great Alfie Conn

HE was last surviving member of Hearts' famous "Terrible Trio" and a true Tynecastle legend.
Players and fans from across Edinburgh's footballing divide today united to pay tribute to star striker Alfie Conn, who passed away following a short illness yesterday morning at the age of 82.

Alongside Willie Bauld and Jimmy Wardhaugh, Prestonpans-born Conn formed part of the club's legendary frontline which terrorised defences throughout the 1950s. He was a goal-scoring hero who averaged more than a goal every second game of his 408 appearances for the club, and netted the third in the famous Scottish Cup Final win over Celtic in 1956.

His death comes just a month after the passing of another of the club's legends, John Cumming, who died following a battle with Alzheimer's disease.

The current Hearts players wore black armbands during their clash with Motherwell last night to mark Alfie's passing and the club are planning a tribute at their next home game.

A spokesman for Hearts said: "Alfie Conn was a legend and one of the biggest names in the club's history."

Former Hearts captain and centre-half Freddie Glidden, 80, who played for the club for 17 years, joining in 1946, led the tributes.

"I was probably the one that played with Alfie Conn first of all as we both went to Stoneyburn Primary School and we both played in Bathgate Academy's secondary school team way back when we were 15 or 16."

The pair met up again at Tynecastle, with Freddie supplying balls to the legend from defence.

Jimmy Murray, 75, played in midfield for the club between 1950 and 1963.

He said: "It's the end of an era with the Trio now gone. Alfie was a great inside forward and very strong on the ball, and was deadly with two feet. It's very, very sad to see him gone. He was scoring goals that we could do with now! He was just a great player – he could hit them from any angle."

Conn, who latterly lived in Glenrothes, was born on October 2, 1926, and signed for Hearts in 1944 at the age of 17, making his debut for the club against Dumbarton in October 1944 – a match that Hearts won 4-0.

As part of the Terrible Trio, Conn became Hearts' fourth highest post-war league goalscorer, scoring more than 200 goals during his 14 years at Tynecastle. And footballing talent ran in the Conn family, with his son, Alfie Jr, going on to play for Rangers, Celtic, and Tottenham Hotspur and also enjoying a spell at Tynecastle.

Former club captain Dave Mackay, 74, who played from 1952-59, said: "Alfie was a great pal of mine, even as a kid. When I lived at Whitecraig he used to come and pick me up to go down to pre-season training at Gullane, and sometimes he would pick me up to go to Tynecastle in the morning for training the rest of the time.

"He was a smashing guy, he was brilliant. It was just a pleasure to play in the same team as him, particularly Hearts as they were my heroes anyway.

"I was only 17 or 18 when I met him and as a little kid I was overwhelmed just to be in the same dressing room as him. The Terrible Trio even at that time when I was growing up were brilliant."

Gary Mackay, 44, the club's record appearance holder with 737 appearances between 1980 and 1997, added: "From an ex-player and supporter perspective, Alfie Conn's name was synonymous with the successes that Hearts had in the 50s. He will always be part of the history at Heart of Midlothian Football Club."

Pilmar Smith, 77, vice-chairman of the club from 1981-1994, said: "The Terrible Trio were just a delight to watch and they linked together just as much as the Famous Five did at Hibs. When they were on their game, nobody could defend against them."

It wasn't just Hearts' players who were keen to pay respects to Alfie, with tributes coming from Leith as well.

Hibs and Scotland legend Lawrie Reilly, 80, was set to attend the funeral of another city footballing hero, Willie Clark, who prior to his death aged 90 was Hibs' oldest surviving player, at Seafield Crematorium today.

Mr Reilly said: "It never rains but it pours. Unfortunately, I never kept in touch with Alfie after his playing days, but I remember him as a fine player.

"When you hear the name Conn you automatically think Bauld and Wardhaugh. They were the Terrible Trio and they did a hell of a job up front.

"Just as I had Bobby Johnstone and Eddie Turnbull backing me up up front, Bauld had Conn and Wardhaugh.

"They were a complete contrast, which suited them from a playing point of view as you would never pick two identical players for the team.

"Wardhaugh was a great ball player, Conn was strong and forceful with a cracking shot, while Willie was in the middle feeding off them both so there was an excellent contrast there.

"Sadly that's all in the past now, and all we seem to hear about is deaths. After the death of John Cumming last month, and Willie Clark more recently, it's a sad time for us all."

Politicians were also keen to pay their respects, including MSP George Foulkes, 66, who was Hearts chairman from 2004-06.

He said: "Of all the greats, he was one of the greatest and whenever anyone thinks of Hearts as a club he is one of the names that comes instantly to people's minds. He was a real legend."

Pentlands MSP David McLetchie, a Hearts fan since childhood, added: "It's very sad news, especially coming so soon after the death of John Cumming.

"Unlike John Cumming, I never had the pleasure of seeing Alfie Conn play as I was too young.

"However, like every Hearts supporter, I lament the passing of the last of the Terrible Trio from the team's great decade in the 1950s, and I will be joining my fellow supporters in paying tribute to him at the next home game."

Alfie was also a true hero with fans such as John Ballantine, 74, a member of the Rainbow Hearts Supporters Club in Corstorphine.

He said: "He was the most whole-hearted player and he was the workhorse on the forward line. He was the man behind it all."

David Beveridge, 52, a member of the Robertson's Bar Supporters Club, was born on the day the Jambos lifted the Scottish Cup in 1956.

He said: "I still have a cartoon from the Evening News of the Terrible Trio together – and now they're all gone. We'll never see another team like it, at least not in my lifetime."

200 goals as part of prolific strike force
ALFIE CONN was born on October 2, 1926 in Prestonpans.

He started his football career with Bathgate Academy and eventually moved from Inveresk Athletic to Hearts in 1944, aged 17, making his debut for the club against Dumbarton in October 1944. He scored in a 4-0 win.

He went on to score more than 200 goals for the Tynecastle side during 408 appearances.

The most important of these was the crucial third Hearts' goal against Celtic in the 1956 Scottish Cup Final, securing the elusive trophy with a 3-1 win.

He formed part of Hearts' Terrible Trio strike force along with Willie Bauld and Jimmy Wardhaugh, which fired the club to success in the Scottish League Cup of 1955.

He was capped for the national side in 1956 and also played a part in the League Championship-winning side of 1957-58.

In September 1958 he was sold to Raith Rovers for £2250.

He played for two seasons before going into non-league management.

His son, Alfie Conn Jr – a skilful winger – played for Rangers, Celtic and Tottenham Hotspur, and also turned out for Hearts.

Following his football career, Alfie worked for painting firm, Mason's, before retiring to Glenrothes, where he is thought to have passed away. Alfie is survived by his wife Betty.

FOOTBALL fans were quick to pay tribute to Alfie Conn after news of his death broke on the Evening News website.

A special tribute page has been set up at www. to allow fans to pay their respects.

Mad Monk was the first to leave a tribute. He wrote: "This is a sad day for Hearts, Alfie was a legend . . . RIP Alfie Conn. From a Hibby."

Jonathan added: "Alfie Conn is a footballing hero. I always thought he was quality and that, too, is from a Hibee."

Theburnleyjambo described Conn as a "true gent and a true legend . . .

will sadly be missed by his family and his Hearts family".

Micjonger, from Peterborough, added: "Alfie Conn was a member of one of the best Hearts teams of the fifties."

Jammin 2 said: "Sad day for Heart of Midlothian – it was guys like him that gave Hearts their great history."

Taken from the Scotsman

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