Kilmarnock's solitary top flight title triumph - 50 years on

By Russell StoddartBBC Sport
Tommy McLean was with Kilmarnock from 1964 to 1971
Tommy McLean was with Kilmarnock from 1964 to 1971

Fifty years ago, Scottish football had its most dramatic finish to a league campaign in what became known as the "decimal decider".

Kilmarnock, managed by former Rangers stalwart Willie Waddell, won the title for the only time in their history by the slimmest margin of 0.04 of a goal from runners-up Hearts.

The two sides met in a title showdown on the last day of the season at Tynecastle Park.

Hearts were on 50 points from 33 matches, two points better off than their visitors in the days of two points for a win.

The Edinburgh side also had a slightly better goal average - the preferred means, in those days, of settling league positions for teams on the same points.

Killie knew a 2-0 winning scoreline would be enough to give them the title and they achieved it with first-half goals from Davie Sneddon and Brian McIlroy.

Here we take a walk down memory lane in the company of some of the players who took part in a nail-biting encounter - and former Scotland manager Craig Brown, who played for Dundee and Falkirk that season.

No longer the bridesmaids

Killie were known as the bridesmaids of Scottish football having finished runners-up in four of the previous five seasons.

Tommy McLean, Kilmarnock winger: "You could not have had such a low-key approach to a big game.

Tommy McLean (left) in action for Kilmarnock
Tommy McLean (left) won six Scotland caps and went on to make over 300 appearances for Rangers

"I lived closer to Edinburgh than Kilmarnock and was told to report to Tynecastle at 2pm - just an hour before kick-off.

"Looking back, I don't know what would have happened if I'd broken down. There were no mobile phones in those days. I had just passed my test and drove my uncle to the game."

Roy Barry, Hearts defender: "We had 30,000 of our own fans who expected to turn up and watch us being presented with the league trophy. That was a lot of pressure."

Davie Sneddon, Kilmarnock midfielder: "Hearts came out strongly and hit the post in the first 10 minutes, but we held firm and, when Tommy McLean's inch-perfect cross came over, I thought to myself, 'I can't miss this' and thankfully the header ended up in the net.

"We got a second just a couple of minutes later and now had something to hold on to. They came back at us in the second-half and our keeper, Bobby Ferguson, pulled off a great save in the last minute to deny Hearts the title."

Roy Barry: "That second goal came about after a mislaid pass from me inside my own half. I've never been allowed to forget it.

"I was the subject of a 'This is Your Life', laid on by the supporters club, and, apart from a lovely video message from Sir Alex Ferguson, there was also a clip shown of that pass."

Flapping coats and Champagne in coffee mugs

Willie Waddell
The 1965 league title was the only one Willie Waddell won in 17 years as a football manager

Davie Sneddon: "At the final whistle, our manager Willie Waddell's long coat was flapping as he ran to captain Frank Beattie with his arms in the air.

"It's my most abiding memory. He had the broadest grin I ever saw on him. He could be quite a stern man, but this was his day."

Tommy McLean: "The odds were heavily stacked against us, but someone had at least put a couple of bottles of champagne in the kit hamper just in case.

"But there weren't any glasses, so we were sipping out of coffee mugs."

Roy Barry: "There was utter silence in the dressing-room. The players sat there looking at the ground and our boss, Tommy Walker, was speechless.

"We could hear Killie celebrating, which didn't help the mood."

Rocking buses and Puskas's shirt

Davie Sneddon
Davie Sneddon rarely scored with his head and feared he would miss his crucial chance

Tommy McLean: "We were told to make our way back to Rugby Park for a private celebration for staff and their families.

"I was supposed to be taking my fiancé - now my wife - to the pictures that night but made a detour to Lanark to bring her to the party instead.

"We were back behind the bus on the way into the town centre and fans lining the route were rocking my little car from side to side."

Davie Sneddon: "I lived close to the ground so jumped off the bus to get my wife, but she'd already left.

"I struggled to get in the gates at Rugby Park and found myself shouting to a burly policeman, 'Do you not know who I am?' He could just about see me through a crowd of bodies and said: 'Oh, it's you Davie, come in'."

Tommy McLean: "I was lucky to win a European Cup Winners' Cup and a domestic Treble with Rangers, but there was something special about that league title.

"The medal is a precious momento - along with my childhood hero Puskas's No.10 jersey, which he kindly gave me after we played Real Madrid in the European Cup the following season at the Bernabeu, even though he was injured and did not play."

Fergie's double near-miss

Alex Ferguson in action for Dunfermline
Kilmarnock saw off the challenge of Sir Alex Ferguson's Dunfermline in 1964-65

Sir Alex Ferguson never won a major honour as a player but could have had a remarkable double this season with Dunfermline Athletic.

His goals helped the Pars to third place in the league - just a point behind the eventual winners but with a better goal average.

Ferguson was dropped for the Scottish Cup final that took place against Celtic on the same day as events unfolded at Hearts.

Roy Barry: "The near misses Alex had as a player motivated him to be a successful manager and I can imagine how much it must have hurt him.

"Alex became my team-mate the following season when I joined Dunfermline and we were both highly competitive - even in the six-a-sides.

"I had been there only two weeks when we were sent off by our no-nonsense Irish manager, Willie Cunningham, for fighting during training.

"We were in the gym when big Willie burst in. He had hands like mittens and spat on both of them before saying, 'You two like fighting? Well then, who's first?'. I never saw Alex so quiet."

Craig Brown, Dundee defender: "Alex had that hunger to be a success and wanted to win at all costs. He was every bit as bad a loser as a player than he was as a manager.

"As a player, he was difficult to play against because he made the most of his head and elbows on a pitch - and had a real eye for goal.

"He was a street fighter but also an intelligent man on and off the pitch and was a very effective union rep when we were together at Falkirk."

Where were the Old Firm?

Jock Stein in his early days as Celtic manager
Jock Stein's Celtic finished a distant seventh in 1964-65

It is the only time in Scottish League history that Celtic or Rangers did not finished in the top four.

Reigning champions Rangers finished fifth, while Celtic were a distant seventh, just two seasons before becoming the first British side to win the European Cup.

Jock Stein replaced Jimmy McGrory as Celtic manager in March and he won his first silverware for the Parkhead club - on the same day as Kilmarnock won the league title - with a 3-2 victory over Dunfermline in the Scottish Cup at Hampden.

Tommy McLean: "In those days, there wasn't any money in football. It was a sport, not a business.

"The only income came from gate receipts, but that is not the case now.

"Traditionally, Celtic and Rangers have dominated because they have had far more resources. Three points for a win and playing each other four times a season doesn't help either."

Craig Brown: "That season was Roy of the Rovers stuff. My team, Dundee, had won the title three seasons earlier and there was a sense you could get close to the Old Firm then.

"Rangers were the powerhouse of Scottish football at the time and I can still rattle off their team. They had won the treble the season before, so for them to finish out the picture was a big shock.

"Celtic were not as big players in the early Sixties, but when Jock Stein took over that season, he began to turn things around very quickly."