By: Hibernian Media on 11 Oct, 2018 11:00
In January 1979 a cold snap hit Scotland, interrupting the domestic football calendar, leading to the disruption of training schedules and the match sharpness of players.
The weather had also caused pipes to burst at Easter Road Stadium, causing damage to the dressing rooms, boardroom and administrative offices. Eddie Turnbull was still able to make it into his office, which was without any heating or lighting as a result.
No doubt cold in his darkened office, the manager worked with Tom Hart and pulled out all the stops to counteract the negative impact the weather was having on his players and a trip to Israel was scheduled – Hibernian’s first visit to the Middle East.
During the training camp the squad were exposed to a warmer climate on the Asian coast of the sun-soaked Mediterranean.
The sun may have seemed alien to the players and coaches of that time. Scotland was in a deep freeze with snow falling on a regular basis before compacting and turning into a sheet of ice, rendering training pitches out of bounds – as well as a majority of stadiums.
On the promenade in Tel Aviv the temperature was some 30 degrees Celsius higher than that in Edinburgh, sitting at an average of 20 Celsius, compared to the -10 back on the coast of the Forth that January. The team were able to swim in the Mediterranean prior to their training sessions, which took place at the stadium where the game would take place.
Talking at the time of the trip, Eddie had no complaints prior to the match, other than the fact that basketball appeared to be popular in Israel as Hibs prepared to face a Tel Aviv XI side.
He told the Edinburgh Evening News at the time: “We trained at the ground where the match will be played on Wednesday. It isn’t in the best possible shape, but we have no complaints.
“The players worked hard in the sun, but a strong wind blew up towards lunchtime making it slightly less pleasant.
“We have been well received and there is plenty of interest in our visit, though basketball appears to be tremendously popular in this country.
“It is good to leave the snow and rain behind us and I’m sure everyone will benefit from the change of climate and surroundings.”
Turnbull also managed to find some downtime for himself as he headed to Jerusalem for a sightseeing tour with Chairman Hart, where he swapped the bustling beaches and basketball courts of Tel Aviv for sights such as the Western Wall, Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Via Dolorosa.
In order to keep up their match sharpness a game was organised against a Tel Aviv XI side, which was made up of players from Maccabi Tel Aviv, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Maccabi Jaffa, Bnei Yehuda, Beitar Tel Aviv and Shimshon Tel Aviv.
The travelling squad from Leith would have anticipated a tough workout ahead of the game with the Israeli players keen to show why they should be taken seriously. After several years playing in the Asian Champion Club Tournament, teams from the nation were banned from competing and they were eventually granted dispensation to compete in the Intertoto Cup from 1976.
After a few lean years, in which Beitar Jerusalem, Hapoel Be’er Sheva, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa were all eliminated in the group stages, Maccabi Netanya went undefeated in a group containing Sloboda Tuzla of Yugoslavia, Elfsborg of Sweden and Norwegian outfit Lillestrøm, demonstrating the advancement in Israeli football in such a short space of time.
Despite knowing it would be a test, which is exactly what he was after, Turnbull was looking to give game time to players who were needing to gain match sharpness. Jim McArthur was in goal for the first time in over 150 first team games, Ally Brazil played for the first time since his cartilage operation in the summer and Duncan Lambie made his first appearance in Hibernian colours after his transfer from Greuther Fürth.
Eddie selected a starting line-up of McArthur, Brazil, Duncan, Higgins, Stewart, McNamara, Refvik, MacLeod, Hutchinson, Callachan and Lambie, with five players on the bench, however, only Mathisen was subbed into the action in front of over 6000 fans at the match which was played on Wednesday 10 January 1979.
That was a compliment to his side who had gone over a fortnight without action. Hibs linked up well on the pitch, including the newcomer Lambie who had a hand in the opening goal of the game.
His effort was parried by the goalkeeper on the half hour mark, but Norwegian forward Isak Refvik was quick as a flash onto the rebound and slammed it high into net.
Lambie would go on to be substituted for Mathisen as he suffered from cramp during the second half, with Brazil lasting the full 90 minutes on his recovery and McArthur performing well. The goalkeeper, however, was unable to keep out a late effort which denied Hibernian a win in Israel, with the game ending 1-1.
Following the match, the manager said: “Football in Israel is obviously on the up. Borussia Monchengladbach had a similar game in Tel Aviv last week with the same result, so they are willing to take on all foreign opposition to improve their knowledge and ability.
“It has been a very profitable trip for us in terms of training and we’ll all be sorry to have another postponement on Saturday.”
Indeed, Hibernian’s match against Celtic that following weekend was postponed due to the cold weather sticking around a while longer, with the team’s next competitive game coming against Aberdeen on 20 January – ten days after the Tel Aviv game.