Coronation Cup 1953
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Coronation Cup 1953

The Coronation Cup was a football tournament between four English league Clubs and four Scottish league clubs to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. This article looks at the history of the tournament, the clubs involved and the scorelines, results and winners and the huge crowds that turned up to watch the Coronation Cup.

To commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 the English and Scottish football authorities decided to create a one-off tournament called the Coronation Cup. First of all they had to work out what format the Coronation Cup would take and they made the decision to use the same format as the Empire Exhibition Trophy 15 years previous, with four clubs from England and four clubs from Scotland being invited to take part in a straight knock-out tournament. And just like the Empire Exhibition Trophy, the Coronation Cup would be hosted solely in Glasgow (a decision taken because London would be too busy with the coronation itself). 

The first major decision to be taken for the Coronation Cup would be which teams to invite. First up from England came Arsenal who were the League champions, however, FA Cup winners Blackpool declined and Preston North End and Wolves (who came second and third in the league respectively) also declined. Instead, Newcastle United, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur made up the contingent from England - all promising to be big crowd pullers. From Scotland came Rangers (League and Cup winners that year), Hibs, Aberdeen and Celtic. The latter choice, Celtic, had had a poor season by their standards, finishing 8th in the Scottish League, but with such a large following and the games to be played in Glasgow the decision was taken to invite them as they would be a great crowd puller.

With the matches being played at two grounds, Hampden and Ibrox, the chance was taken to play some of the games on the same day and the Coronation Cup got underway on the 11th of May 1953 when Celtic took on Arsenal at Hampden Park and Hibs took on Tottenham Hotspur at Ibrox. Crowds were good for both games, with 59,538 watching Celtic beat Arsenal 1-0, and over 43,000 watching Hibs and Tottenham play out a 1-1 draw. The following day saw the replay of the Hibs V Tottenham match with a smaller crowd of 13,000 seeing Hibs win 2-1.

The 13th of May saw the final two games of the first round of matches of the Coronation Cup and with both games kicking off at the same time, by looking at the crowds for the two games, it is easy to see what was the bigger game. At Ibrox just over 10,000 turned up to see Aberdeen lose by 4-0 to Newcastle United, while over at Hampden a crowd of over 75,000 saw Manchester United defeat Rangers by 2-1.

There was only a three day break until the Semi Finals of the Coronation Cup were played, and the organisers could be well pleased with their decision to include Celtic as a crowd puller as their match against Manchester United saw a crowd of 73,466 witness the Glasgow side win 2-1. At the same time, over at Ibrox Hibs dismantled Newcastle United by 4-0 in front of a crowd of over 35,000.

The final of the Coronation Cup was to be played on the 20th of May at Hampden Park and was going to be an all Scottish affair as Celtic squared up to Hibs. In the normal run of things, even today, such a fixture would see Celtic installed as firm favourites but in 1953 Hibs were in form. As already mentioned Celtic had finished the domestic season in 8th position in the league, on the other hand Hibs had been league winners in 1948, 1951 and 1952 and were only pipped to the League title in 1953 to Rangers on goal average. Added to that Hibs had the 'Famous Five' of Gordon Smith, Bobby Johnstone, Lawrie Reilly, Willie Ormond and Eddie Turnbull - a strikeforce second to none! Yes Celtic had made it to the final of the Coronation Cup but Hibs had done it emphatically, beating a team, Newcastle, by 4 goals to 0 who had just beaten Aberdeen by the same scoreline. Hibs were massive favourites.

But we all know that sometimes favourties lose! So it was on the 20th of May 1953 when Celtic ran out 2-0 winners against Hibs to win the Coronation Cup at Hampden Park in front of a massive crowd of 117,060. The decision to include Celtic had been well and truly justified on both counts.

As an aside, Celtic had not won the Scottish League since season 1937/38 but won it the season after claiming the Coronation Cup, 1953/54, and wouldn't win it again until 1965/66 when they began on their 9 in a row journey!

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