LONG before the days of Twisting and Shouting in the aisles of the Ibrox away end during Premiership play-offs, Motherwell supporters were always partial to the odd sing song.

Most of the numbers from the Fir Park hymn sheet – or at least those printable in a family newspaper – revolved around past glories and famous successes that have helped sculpt this unique football institution. On Scottish Cup weekends such as this down the ages, the audible hum of “She wore a claret and amber ribbon” would drift from either Fir Park’s coo shed of an East Stand or at some far off terracing, only to be brought to a deathly silence as an Albion Rovers goal goes flying in.

This afternoon, that very song will no doubt be heard on the run up to this fourth round meeting between Rangers and Motherwell in Govan, the team from North Lanarkshire dreaming of channelling their inner Tommy McLean – now there’s a thought – as they attempt to recreate the scenes of THAT 1991 Scottish Cup triumph. Instead, the inspiration for the team on the park, and the choir in the stands, should instead be founded upon the events of March 1, 1961.

That game 56 years ago stands as the last time the boys in claret and amber won at Ibrox in the Scottish Cup, and oh how they did it. After taking the mighty Rangers to a replay following a 2-2 draw at Fir Park, Bobby Ancell’s Babes shocked an 80,000 crowd in a stunning 5-2 win, an event still sung about to this day by the merry band who will fill a small corner of the Glasgow stadium today.

“I do remember both those games as it happens. You are playing Rangers in front of a full house in that second game,” said St John, speaking exclusively to Herald Sport. “Fir Park held around 30,000 back in those days but Ibrox you are talking huge crowds. I remember it well.

“We had a good team then. We couldn’t have won the championship I don’t think, but we played the best football in the league. We had a great forward line and eventually the press nicknamed us the Ancell Babes. We were all teenagers apart from Pat Quinn who went away for a stint in the army. He was maybe a year or so older

“The rest of us were all younger. Myself, Billy Hunter, Andy Weir, little Sammy Reid, we were terrific and probably ahead of our time in terms of the football we were playing. We had great back ups in Charlie Aitken and Bert McCann. It was terrific team to play in because it was so enjoyable.”

St John’s influence at Motherwell goes far deeper than that day back in 1961, but it is a moment that still has great significance in the history of the club he supported as a boy, played for and then went on to manage. After initially taking the lead through John McPhee, Rangers hit back with goals from Ian McMillan and Davie Wilson. However, Ancell’s Babes had other ideas.

Pat Delaney levelled the score with a free-kick from the edge of the box, before Bobby Roberts prodded in a Willie Hunter pass on the hour to regain the lead for the visitors. St John and Roberts went on to grab another each to top off an historic result.

“It was a rarity for Rangers to lose by that many but we could score goals,” said St John, who would leave Fir Park just a few months later to pursue a career at English giants Liverpool. It was great times at Motherwell for me. They were my local team and I’d wanted to play for them. It was just a pity maybe that we didn’t have the finances to get a couple of more players.

“What did I know, though? I was just a kid. I went looking for a change in my career by going to England.”

The 78-year-old went on to explain that while putting so many goals beyond Rangers was seen as somewhat of a shock, it was of little surprise to a team bursting with talent and strikers.

“You could look back at some of the results we got against foreign teams. Before European football as we know it we would have friendly matches at Fir Park. It was down to Bobby Ancell. We were playing Spaniards, South Americans, Swedish teams, you name it. We had a great record and the fans loved it because it was something different. We were up for it and we could play.

“We could face anyone including Rangers, who would be champions nearly every year. They were a huge scalp to get but we showed no fear of them to go to Ibrox and score five goals.

“Although Rangers were always powerful we could beat anyone really. If you look at the record books we beat a lot of teams with big scores. I remember a South American team came over and we hammered them by nine or something. We would run up big scores.”

St John does himself a disservice. The game in question was Motherwell versus Brazilian side Flamenco on April 26 1959. Motherwell won 9-2. St John scored just the six…

“We were all pals because we were the same age. The football was wonderful. There was great invention and class and guys with brilliant individual skill. Wingers such as Billy Hunter and Andy Weir. They could, run, dribble and cross. Pat Quinn was a really clever inside forward who could pick you out with a pass so well.

“I’d watched Motherwell as a kid from the days of climbing over the wall to get in and watch them. I followed them to cup finals and saw them winning the cup. I never got to see them go one better and win the league but to watch Motherwell bring the Scottish Cup [in 1952 after beating Dundee 4-0] and League Cup [in 1950 following a 3-0 win over Hibs] back was terrific for me as a kid.”

The fame of St John was of course founded away from the humble surroundings of Fir Park in the early 1960s. Brought in by Bill Shankly for £37500 to Liverpool – on more than double the Anfield club’s previous record transfer fee – St John made an instant impact in his debut by scoring a hat-trick against Everton, albeit in a 4-3 reverse. He would also go on to represent his country 21 times, scoring nine goals.

Back to the present day, he still resides on Merseyside, watching his old team from afar. It is something he will be doing today, and the Motherwell icon reckons Mark McGhee’s team travelling to Ibrox can still take inspiration from what the class of ’61 achieved all those years ago, in what he believes were even more testing and torrid times.

“Things have changed in football from our day because of finance. In those days we were all paid the same – a pittance,” he laughs. “But nowadays you need money. It’s very difficult for the game.

“Rangers were always a class above everyone in terms of ability and finance. I remember speaking to Rangers players when I was in the Scottish team and they were like millionaires compared to us. I’m getting the bus into Hampden to play for Scotland!

“It was tougher for us to do then what we did. Our boys deserve all the credit for battling through there as a group of young boys who were poorly paid. Money is great but money never drove us on, wanting to beat Rangers was the thing. Trying to knock them off their perch.”