Jan 7 2011 by Mike WIlson, Ayrshire Post (main ed)
JIM McSHERRY recalls the day Ayr players almost fought in the bath after being robbed by Hibs.
A narrow defeat sparked fury in the Easter Road dressing room with United venting their anger at referee Joe Timmons who they felt had a shocker.
And tempers were raised when skipper Jim Fleeting leapt to the whistler’s defence...because he was his brother-in-law.
But that only riled some of the United camp who claimed they had been short changed by the whistler’s dodgy decisions.
McSherry, who owns Ayr’s Wee Windaes pub, remembers: “A war of words erupted after the game and some harsh things were said.
“Fleets took umbrage at some of the comments. He was my best mate - but I almost fell out with him and I was the peacemaker.
“Ayr had a good team in these days. We were going well under Willie McLean and had some fantastic players who always fancied their chances no matter the opposition.”
McSherry pulled the midfield strings on Sunday, February 17, 1980 when Ayr headed to Leith for an eagerly awaited Scottish Cup tie.
It was the day George Best famously failed to show for Hibs but they still won 2-0 in a controversial tie.
McSherry claimed: “We should have had a stonewall penalty but Brian McGinlay gave a free-kick just outside the box.
“At 1-0 down, Robert Connor thundered in a shot off the underside of the bar and over the line - but we didn’t get it. It wasn’t a Geoff Hurst 1966 scenario - it was a definite goal.
“That’s my abiding memory of the tie. Connor was a gifted player who won four caps for Scotland but he should have done a lot more in the game.
“We had a good settled side and really fancied ourselves. But we were robbed and Hibs could count themselves very fortunate.”
The crowd was just one short of 15,000 and had been inflated by Hibs signing the legendary Best.
But the wayward Irishman failed to show after spending the night before drinking with French players who were staying at the capital’s North British Hotel with him.
Best’s non appearance disappointed the bumper crowd, many of whom had paid their money in the hope of seeing him. But the Ayr team were non plussed.
McSherry, 58, remembers: “We had no special plans laid out to cope with Best and didn’t work on anything. I think the feeling was that he was past his best and we were good enough in our own right.”
The Ayr team was laced with stars. Stevie Nicol went on to seal a £300,000 move to Liverpool, Ian McAllister was a dependable centre-half for years, Eric Morris could play anywhere while Gerry Christie had talent aplenty on the left flank.
McSherry, signed from arch rivals Kilmarnock, spent seven years at Somerset before joining Berwick Rangers as player-manager.
He had a brief spell in the Cyprus sun with Pezoporikos before ending his career with Stirling Albion.
McSherry was back at Easter Road in 1986 when Ayr were edged out 1-0.
He says: “I remember walking to the ground with Craig Brown who was the then Scotland manager.
“Some police officers approached and ordered us to walk with the throng of Ayr fans who were swarming down the road.
“When we said we were fine they told us they would put us in the back of a police van if we didn’t do as they said. It was heavy handed and totally unnecessary.
“The cup always brings out the best and I really hope Ayr do well on Saturday.”
GEORGE BEST: No show.