Alfie Conn Snr: Last surviving member of Hearts' 'Terrible Trio'
Friday 23 January 2009
Alfie Conn was the last surviving member of the "Terrible Trio" who played for Heart of Midlothian in the postwar era and were so named for the damage they inflicted on opposition defences. Together, Conn, Willie Bauld and Jimmy Wardhaugh scored goals in record numbers to win trophies for a club that had, until their emergence, endured a barren spell of almost 50 years. They inspired success in the Scottish League Cup, in 1954, the Scottish Cup, in 1956, and then the League itself, in 1958. They were the heart and soul of the club's golden age, and Conn was the first of them to be recruited.
If his strike rate from inside-rightof more than one goal every other game was impressive – he scored 115 times in 223 league appearances between 1944 and 1958, and 165 goals in 323 competitive matches for Hearts all told – then the combined mightof the trio was devastating. Bauld,a centre forward, scored 277 goals in 414 games, and Wardhaugh, an inside-left, scored 271 goals in 415 games.The three each remain among thesix leading goal scorers that Hearts have ever fielded.
Conn, the son of a miner, James, was born in the small town of Prestonpans, just east of Edinburgh, and was the first of the three to arrive at Tynecastle, in 1944, aged 17, from the junior club Inveresk Athletic. He made his debut in a wartime Southern League game against Dumbarton, but it wasn't until the 1948-49 season that he established himself in the first team, as did Bauld and Wardhaugh.
The Trio's first game together – of 242 as a unit – was in October 1948, when Conn scored twice and Bauld three times as Hearts crushed East Fife 6-1. Conn had just turned 22 and his movement and passing was intrinsic to the Trio's success. Bauld was 20 at the time and would become "the brains of the outfit" according to Conn, while Wardhaugh, the most clinical finisher, was 19.
The goals flowed but Hearts' defensive frailties undermined their title credentials and they had to waituntil the League Cup success of 1954 – a 4-2 win over Motherwell – forsilverware. That was the club's first major trophy since 1906, when they had lifted the Scottish Cup. Theygot their hands on it again in 1956, beating Celtic 3-1 in the final. Conn scored Hearts's third goal at Hampden Park, where the official attendance was 132,840.
Conn made his only appearance for Scotland the following month, scoring in a 1-1 draw with Austria but soon afterwards sustained the serious ankle injury that marred the rest of his career. He was able to play only 15 times over the next two seasons, nine of those games in the title-winning campaign of 1957-58, when Hearts scored 132 goals, a record in British league football that still stands.
Four months later Conn was soldto Raith Rovers, and after that spellin Kirkcaldy, and stints as the player-manager of Johannesburg Ramblers in South Africa, then with GalaFairydean in Galashiels, he left the game behind, although both his sons, Alfie Jnr and Bobby, would go onto become players. After hanging up his boots, Conn worked for Joseph Mason, the paint company, first as a sales rep and later as the sales director. He lived in Fife for the remainder of his life.
Conn's football legacy stretched well beyond Tynecastle thanks to Alfie Jnr, who in a ground-breaking career became the first post-war footballer to play for both Rangers and Celtic, and also played in England, most notably with Tottenham Hotspur. Alfie Jnr was a teenage prodigy with Rangers, for whom he made his first-team debut aged 16, in 1968. He was part of the team that won the European Cup-Winners' Cup in 1972 and the Scottish Cup the following year, and later, in 1977, also won the Cup with Celtic.
In between his years with the Old Firm, he spent three years at Spurs, and although he scored only six goals, three came on his debut against Newcastle to earn him the nickname "King of White Hart Lane."
Like his father, Alfie Jnr served Scotland briefly – he was capped twice while at Spurs – and also played for Hearts, though for a fraction of the time and making a fraction of the impression of the original Alfie Conn.
Alfred Conn, footballer: born Prestonpans 2 October 1926; played for Hearts 1944-58, Raith Rovers 1958-60, Johannesburg Ramblers 1960; married (two sons); died Glenrothes 7 January 2009.
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