Kilmarnock in History: Nibloe’s tough exit

Welcome to the 15th installment of our Kilmarnock In History series, by club historian John Livingston.

You can find the previous 14 parts through the Club History tab in the News section

PART FIFTEEN                                                                                                 

During the summer of 1932, a major disagreement between the directors and full back Joe Nibloe saw him refuse to sign new terms. He felt he was due a Benefit, but the directors did not, thus there was a stalemate.

It led to the player training with Third Lanark whilst not playing, and the row carried on through August and into September before news broke that he had re-signed. However, he never played again, and was sold to Aston Villa for a fee of £1,875.

Kilmarnock enjoyed a good 4-0 win over Ayr United in the Kilmarnock Charity Cup in between the opening couple of League fixtures against Motherwell (A 3-3) and Third Lanark (H 6-0), in which “Bud” Maxwell scored a hat-trick in each one. However, the form and results soon began to fluctuate after heavy losses at Aberdeen (7-1) and Cowdenbeath (4-1) in the next couple of games.

As the season progressed, they also suffered further disappointing losses to Ayr United (H 5-3), St. Johnstone (A 6-1), Rangers (H 6-2) and Morton (A 5-2).

But they also had some decent results as well, such as completing the League “double” over Partick Thistle for the first time in 24 years (H 3-0, A 3-1), beating St. Johnstone (H 5-4) after a real ding-dong battle, avenging the heavy loss at Cowdenbeath with a 4-1 win at home.

Killie also memorably held on with 10 players for well over 35 minutes to beat then league leaders Aberdeen (H 4-3) in early November, after Willie Connell had been carried off with a nasty leg injury after scoring his own second goal to put Killie 4-1 ahead.

The inconsistent League form meant Kilmarnock ended in 14th place with 35 points from 38 games, and the 86 goals lost was the most ever conceded by them in a Division 1 campaign.

James ‘Bud’ Maxwell

James “Bud” Maxwell was again the top scorer in the League, with 32 goals in 33 appearances, falling just two goals short of equalling Harry “Peerie” Cunningham’s club record of 34 goals in 1927-28. However, his five goals in the Scottish Cup took his total to 37 goals in League and Cup competition for the season – a new club record – beating “Peerie” Cunningham’s 36 goals total for both competitions in 1927-28.

The Scottish Cup brought the best out in the Kilmarnock team, and they again enjoyed a decent run, that unfortunately ended badly at the Quarter-Final stage. Originally drawn away to Lochgelly United in the 1st Round, the game was switched to Rugby Park after a financial agreement with the Fife club was arranged with SFA approval, and Killie ended up winners by 3-1.

A fine 1-0 away win over St. Mirren – a team they had lost twice against in the League, was followed by a terrific 1-0 home win over the holders Rangers at Rugby Park. This great win was achieved in front a new record crowd of 32,745, and it took them into the Quarter-Finals at home to the reigning League Champions Motherwell, who had beaten them in the League 3-1 at Rugby Park on Christmas Eve.

In a pulsating encounter, the visitors led three times, but Killie equalised on each occasion, the game ending 3-3 before a crowd of 20,658. However, the replay four days later turned out to be a disaster for Kilmarnock.

Centre half Tom Smith picked up an injury in the opening minutes, but painfully continued, and just after Motherwell went ahead, “Bud” Maxwell picked up a dead leg after a hefty challenge. Early in the second half, and trailing by 4-0, Killie managed to get a couple of goals back, but after Smith was carried off and then Maxwell became a passenger on the wing, Motherwell took full advantage, and it eventually ended in a humiliating 8-3 defeat.

The 1933-34 campaign saw a number of new faces, and also a returning old one, to the ranks at Rugby Park. The new ones included former Brechin City keeper James “Jem” Miller, who arrived after a short spell with Liverpool; inside forward Willie Kennedy from Arthurlie and a stocky-built left winger John Keane from Yoker Athletic.

The old face making a welcome return was Internationalist Hugh Morton, who had spells with both Galston and Morton the previous season, after surprisingly leaving in the summer of 1932 after 10 years of fine service.

It turned out to be a decent season, as they won 17 times in the League for the first time since 1925-26, and lost only a dozen games, their lowest number of defeats since 1917-18, when they were beaten 10 times in 34 games. Indeed, the seventh-place finishing position, with 43 points from 38 games, was their highest final placing since the club record 3rd place achieved in 1917-18.

There was disappointment though for James “Bud” Maxwell, despite finishing as top League scorer at the club for the fourth successive season. He hit a double in the last game, a 2-2 draw at Falkirk, but could not get the winner to allow him the hat-trick required, and he ended up with 33 goals in 35 games – one goal short of equalling “Peerie” Cunningham’s 1927-28 record of 34 goals.

Maxwell had scored a five-minute hat trick earlier in the season in a 7-1 home win over Airdrieonians, and hit all the goals in a 3-0 win away to St. Johnstone. On the representative honours front, “Bud” Maxwell was in the Scottish League team that lost 3-0 to the Irish League in Belfast, whilst centre half Tom Smith was in the Scotland team beaten 3-0 by England at Wembley.

The Scottish Cup proved a disappointment, as after beating Airdrieonians 3-2 in a replay at Rugby Park (after a 1-1 draw), they were beaten 2-1 at Coatbridge in the 2nd Round by Division 2 club Albion Rovers, with “Bud” Maxwell missing a penalty when Killie were down 2-0.

At the end of the season, just to maintain their inconsistency, Kilmarnock lost 3-1 to Ayr United in the Final of the South-West Counties Cup at Somerset Park on a Monday evening after the last League game at Falkirk. Yet five days later, with a weaker team, they met the same Ayr United again at the same venue in the Ayr Charity Cup and beat them 3-0!

The 1934-35 season opened with Kilmarnock spending £1,000 of the “undisclosed fee” they received for “Bud” Maxwell from Preston North End in July, on his replacement from Birmingham City, Jimmy Robertson.

They lost their opening four fixtures, but a 6-3 win over Ayr United, in which Robertson scored twice, lifted the spirits, and they went on to have a reasonable campaign, finishing in 9th place with 38 points from 38 games, with Jimmy Robertson top scorer with 23 goals in 34 appearances.

The centre forward hit a hat-trick against Falkirk (H 4-1) and was ably assisted in the scoring stakes by teenage inside forward Bobby Beattie, who having only made four League appearances in the previous couple of seasons, managed 32 appearances and chipped in with 16 goals, including a superb hat-trick in a 5-0 home win over Queen’s Park. The best result of the season though was the club’s first-ever league win over Rangers at Ibrox by 3-2 on 15th December 1934.

The Scottish Cup proved disappointing again, with Killie going out in the 2nd Round, 2-0 away to Hearts after having got through a sticky 1st Round tie at Galston by just 1-0 before a crowd of 4,211.

The club also played a couple of friendly games over the 1935 Easter weekend in the Highlands, beating an Inverness Select XI by 7-0 on the Saturday, in a game to raise funds for the struggling Inverness Citadel club, and on Easter Monday beat Elgin City 6-1.

On Monday 29th April, they entertained Preston North End at Rugby Park before a crowd of 8,000. It ended in a 3-3 draw, but Killie had been 3-0 ahead, missed a penalty to go 4-0 in front, before Preston roared back to score three goals in the last 10 minutes to get the draw! It was Bobby Beattie who missed the penalty, indeed, he actually missed two penalties!

The keeper saved his first, but he scored with the rebound to make it 3-0, then failed to make it 4-0 with the other, which was saved, then cleared. The following evening, Kilmarnock played away to Morton in the 1st leg of the South-West Counties Cup Final but lost 3-2. The 2nd leg was held-over until early the following season.

At the start of the campaign, Kilmarnock had fielded a weakened team at home against Ayr United in the 1934 Kilmarnock Charity Cup, and lost 3-2, but they fielded a much stronger one in the 1935 Kilmarnock Charity Cup against them at the end of the season, hammering them 7-2, with Jimmy Robertson scoring four goals before going off injured after 50 minutes.