By: Hibernian Media on 29 Jan, 2018 11:00
When the name Combe is mentioned in relation to Hibernian Football Club, thoughts immediately race to the 1940s and 1950s when Bobby Combe was one of the standout players to be plying his trade in Scotland.
Sometimes understated and overshadowed by the more renowned players of the Famous Five, Bobby’s influence is still felt, with his tally of 467 games spanning across 17 seasons.
Current Goalkeeping Coach Alan Combe is fortunate enough to have Bobby as part of the family tree as his great uncle.
However, he never realised until he hit his mid-teens that he was such a revered figure in Hibernian’s history, with his relatives reminding Alan of the importance of his relative in the Club’s great side of the late 1940’s and 1950’s.
Alan said: “It was probably when I got to my mid-teens when I realised, I used to watch my dad and my uncle playing all the time. My granddad used to come and take me all the time when I was younger, but I don’t remember that far back.
“They always used to mention his name all the time and that he played for Hibs, and that was my ambition at the time was to try and get a contract with Hibs when I was at school leaving age. It would’ve been great at the time, but it didn’t happen and it would have been nice to follow in his footsteps, but my dad and uncle talked about him non-stop.
“It was way before my time, but they always said that he was a fantastic player in a great team. Being family, they said that the Famous Five wouldn’t have been if it wasn’t for him as well.
“To have a club legend as part of my family history is great – just to be connected with Hibs is great. Combe is not a wholesale name, there’s not many about.
“Just to have him and his standard of play and to play with such great players as he did at the time was great for the family, and with it being a close-knit place in Leith, he certainly was a bit of a legend. He had a shop in Leith and it was a good community club with good connections to the local area at the time.”
Despite knowing all about the feats of his great uncle, Alan received all of this information second-hand, not being able to have the chance to speak with him.
Close relatives of Bobby ensured that they passed on the story of one of Hibernian’s greats through talking to the goalkeeper as a youngster and Bobby’s wife ensured that she visited Easter Road from England, bringing with her items of value from his playing career.
Added to that, every time Alan steps inside the Hibernian Training Centre images of his relative adorn the wall alongside images of other club greats from through the years.
Alan admits that it is emotional for him to see Bobby’s pictures on the walls of the complex and says that it makes him proud to know that he has such a strong family connection with the Club.
“I never got the opportunity to speak to Bobby. I’ve got a couple of his medals, but I only heard the stories about him through my grandad and other family members.
“His wife used to come and watch me every time at Easter Road with my various clubs, she would travel up from the Lake District just to see me and she used to bring up some memorabilia as well just to show me.
“We’ve got a new complex to use for training and we have all of these pictures along the wall, there must be about seven or eight of Bobby and that’s a great thing for me to see when I come into work.
“It’s unbelievable because there are a lot of people that come in just to see the place and then you are showing them the pictures and the facilities and I can turn around and say ‘that’s my dad’s uncle’, so it’s quite emotional.”
Alan has played his part, one which he calls a “small part”, in the history of the Club as he was part of the coaching team that helped to bring the Scottish Cup to Leith in 2016, allowing the Combe family to have another member of the family as part of the team on a day laden with success.
Alan credits the players entirely for the victory as they stormed from behind to take the trophy, the former Kilmarnock goalkeeper says that he never gave up belief in the players after Andy Halliday had made it 2-1 for Rangers with around 25 minutes remaining that day in May.
For the coach, he says that it was just an amazing day all-round to be involved in, stating that it has added importance to himself, having grown up a supporter of Hibernian.
“It’s quite amazing. It’s well documented the 114-year wait, which is way too long and coming close so many times.
“Maybe it was just this era that it happened to, with new management coming in and I was part of that and have only been here for two years. To get a Scottish Cup win is very special and just to be a little part of that, means so much to me.
“I know what it means to Hibs fans, because I am one myself, just to be part of the backroom team was incredibly special. That’s something that will stick with for the rest of my life. To have the chance to walk up the stairs and lift the trophy was unbelievable.
“I was sitting watching the game next to former youth team coach Joe McBride and I turned round to Joe and a couple of players after that goal and said that we’ll win this game 3-2 after Andy Halliday’s strike.
“Low and behold we did. After Stokes’ header to make it 2-2 I think we were on the real crest of a wave there and I couldn’t see us being beaten.
“When David Gray’s header went in, I was just so happy for the boys and what they’d put in. I was just a small part of it, but to see the emotion on the faces of the boys, they’ll never forget that, and then you look up and see all the fans there, going wild, scenes of jubilation, it was incredible.
“To get a chance to go up and lift the trophy, me being a Hibs fan and knowing the history, what it meant, I was just happy to get my hands on that trophy.”
This interview originally featured in the special edition of the Hibernian FC Programme on 27 August 2016 against Greenock Morton.