By: Hibernian Media on 03 Mar, 2017 12:40
Although only 9 stones dripping wet, the tenacious Alex Cropley feared no one and was often far too brave for his own good.
His crunching tackles against opponents twice his size would often cost him dearly regarding injuries, but there was no way that he could change his forceful style.
He made his debut in a game against St Mirren in March 1969 and it was obvious from the very start that he was destined for the top. Allied to his aggressive style of play, Cropley was a gifted player with a great football brain and a fantastic touch, particularly with his educated left foot.
Born in Aldershot he made history when he became one of the first players born outside the country to represent Scotland when manager Tommy Docherty took advantage of the recent rule change to select him for a game against Portugal at Hampden in 1971. Unfortunately, injury would limit his appearances for the full national side, and although he did make several appearances for the Under-23’s, it represented scant reward for his undeniable talents.
An integral member of the great Turnbull’s Tornadoes side that won the League Cup in 1972 he was also a regular goal scorer against Hearts, and who will ever forget his tremendous 25 yard drive in the 7-0 victory at Tynecastle on New Year’s Day.
In December 1974 he joined Arsenal in a £150,000 deal, but unfortunately failed to fulfil his potential at Highbury after breaking his leg in a game against Middlesbrough.
Transferred to Aston Villa in 1976 where he would line up alongside the eccentric future Hibs goalkeeper John ‘Budgie’ Burridge, at Villa Park he would add a League Cup medal to the one won at Hibs.
At Villa his career was again put on hold after yet another broken leg, this time in a game against local rivals West Bromwich Albion and he would be out of the game for almost a year. On his recovery he struggled to hold down a regular first team place at Villa Park and spent an enjoyable season in the North American League with Toronto Blizzard. After returning to Britain he had a spell with Portsmouth only to find that his injuries prevented him from playing at his very best and he decided to retire from the game. Portsmouth granted Alex a testimonial match and so highly was he regarded that Aston Villa supplied their entire European Cup winning side as the opponents.
Later he would attempt a comeback at Hibs but it wasn’t to be and instead he was reinstated to play for the Lothian Amateur side Liberton Cropley.
After a spell running a pub in Easter Road he is now a taxi driver in the city.
It is tragic that injury probably prevented us from seeing him at his very best as he matured in later years, but even now Alex Cropley remains a great favourite with anyone fortunate enough to have seen him in full flow.