3rd June 1938 Celtic 1 Hearts 0 Empire Exhibition Trophy SF
The Empire Exhibition of 1938 was staged in Glasgow’s Bellahouston Park and was a most impressive well-laid out display which covered many countries and aspects of the British Empire.
Unfortunately, Glasgow’s weather was at its worst for the summer but hopes and enthusiasms were high, with football fans in particular especially eager to witness the knock-out competition devised as a special attraction. The best Scottish and English sides had been invited to take part. From England came Sunderland, FA Cup winners in 1937, Everton, Chelsea and Brentford; while the Scottish representatives were Celtic, League Champions 1938 ; Hearts, runners –up to Celtic ; Rangers, League Champions in 1937 and Aberdeen, runners-up to Rangers. When the draw was made for the first round, Celtic were paired with Sunderland, Rangers with Everton, Hearts against Brentford and Aberdeen with Chelsea. All the matches would be played at Ibrox, just across the road from the exhibition site.
The opening match was on 25th May 1938 between Celtic and Sunderland and 50,000 turned up to see a fascinating contest which ended in a goalless draw. By the rules of the competition, the replay was held on the following evening, in heavy rain, which kept the crowd done to 20,000.
However, the Celtic contingent would have been quite happy as goals from Johnny Crum and John Divers (2) put Celtic into the semi-finals. In the other ties, Aberdeen thrashed Chelsea 4-0, Hearts beat Brentford 1-0 and Rangers lost 0-2 to Everton. The semi-final draw then paired Celtic with Hearts and Aberdeen against Everton.
And on this day, a Friday, in 1938, 48,000 were at Ibrox to see the all-Scottish tie.
Hearts gave a very good account of themselves. In fact, for about 70 minutes or so, they were the better side and the fact that Celtic’s two best players were centre-half Willie Lyon and goalkeeper Joe Kennaway was probably significant. Still, goals win games and Celtic got the crucial one. A cross by Matt Lynch was diverted into the middle by John Divers and Johnny Crum hooked the ball in from 6 yards.
Three days later, Aberdeen went down 2-3 to Everton so the stage was set for a Scotland/England clash in the final, just the pairing the organisers would have hoped for. One slight problem was the state of the Ibrox pitch. The weather had been wet for the fortnight of the tournament and the seven matches had played havoc with the surface. Would it spoil the final as a skilful contest?