Down Memory Lane with this former Cowden site

Roger Sugden
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Roger Sugden - Player 1963-71 

 

 

Between 1963 and 1971, outside right Roger Sugden was a Cowden stalwart making 229 appearances and scoring 43 goals for the club.  Today he still lives in Musselburgh just as he did when he turned out for Cowden – we tracked him down at the Conan Doyle hostelry in Edinburgh.

 

‘I was born in Stanningley near Leeds but I’ve lived in Musselburgh now since the late 1940’s.  My family went there when I was aged just about three or four.  My mother was originally from Perth while my father was a cricket professional playing in the Yorkshire Second  XI.  We moved when he took up a post at Loretto’s School in Musselburgh as cricket coach.  My own football career really began with the well known secondary juvenile side Musselburgh Windsor. 

 

 I played at Under 13 to Under 17 level for the Windsor and was chosen for a number of Juvenile Selects.  Musselburgh Windsor produced lots of players who went senior.  Jimmy Gilpin went to Motherwell (later Raith Rovers), Tommy Donaldson played with Aberdeen and Montrose and Jake Smith joined Dundee United. 

 

I eventually went junior with Haddington Athletic.  I’d only been there about threemonths when Cowden played a friendly at Haddington.  They had previously signed Stan Vincent from Haddington and had a close relationship with them.  Cowden beat us 5-2 but I scored both Haddington goals (Vincent scored twice for Cowden). 

 

One of the goals I scored was a classic from just inside the opposition half.  I’d already had a trial with Hearts but Cowden invited me for a trial after this game.  I had that one trial outing with Cowdenbeath and ended up signing for the club.  Not long after that, I had a phone call from Tommy Walker, the manager of Hearts the club I supported.  He wanted me to sign for Hearts but I had to tell him I’d already joined Cowdenbeath. 

 

Ex-Raith centre half Harry Colville was the Cowdenbeath manager then.  He later ran an Ice Rink over in Fife.  He was fairly strict but I got on OK with him.  In fact, my father already knew Harry.  I remember once I was worried about being able to get to through to play in a Scottish Cup tie and Harry arranged for me to stay with him at his house so he could be certain I would be there in time for the game. 

 

I wasn’t at Cowdenbeath all that long before I was invited down for trials with Aston Villa.  Harry Hood who later joined Celtic was also at Villa on trial at the same time as me. 

 

As for the Directors at Cowdenbeath, well, as is usual, the players didn’t have too much contact with the Board.  I remember Bob Taylor and Bill Terris both being chairman briefly before Charlie Gronbach who had a local butcher’s shop took over.  I can also recall the chap who had the Sports Shop in the High Street Dave Fowlis and of course Jock Gilliard.  He was a real character and certainly enjoyed a drink! 

 

Jimmy Whyte and Watty Glancy were the trainers and I also can remember the woman who used to work in the chemists opposite the entrance to Central Park on the High Street.  She used to make the tea for the players.  I travelled over to Cowdenbeath and went around in Edinburgh with Stan Vincent and half back Jackie Sinclair.  They like me were from over on the Edinburgh side.  Stan of course was transferred to Hibs just before the end of my first year with Cowden. 

 

Harry Colville though quit as manager round about that time and Archie Robertson took over as boss.  He worked for the NCB in Dunfermline.  I believe Archie was the best manager I ever played for.  Discipline wise he kept firm control but he really was ahead of his time.  I always thought he would have made a good Scotland manager as he had a great understanding of the game.  He of course wasn’t all that old when he died after going on to manage Clyde after being at Cowdenbeath. 

 

Archie was a great believer in coaching and tactics.  He was into 4-2-4 and 4-3-3, introduced overlapping full backs like Bobby Wilson and Andy Rolland, tried out a sweeper system, and drilled us on throw in, free-kick and corner routines.  I think the wages then were something like 8 a week plus 4 for a win and 2 for a draw. 

 

We trained on Tuesday and Thursday nights.  In fact, Archie used to lose all track of time at training and he wasn’t bothered even when it became pitch dark and you could hardly see a thing at Central Park. 

 

He would also take us for training runs all around the streets of Cowdenbeath.  Once training was so late in finishing, Archie had to run me down to North Queenferry so I could catch the last ferry over the Forth.  This was before the Forth Road Bridge opened.  Then I needed two buses to get home to Musselburgh. 

 

My second season with Cowden started with me in pretty good form but my season was more or less ended when I suffered a broken leg in September 1964.   We were away at Douglas Park playing Hamilton Accies.  Hamilton had pushed forward and a long ball was then punted through into their half by the Cowden defence.  The pass caught the entire Hamilton side in our half apart from their ‘keeper.  My main asset was my speed.  I wasn’t so much one of those tricky wingers but I knew I could hit it past a defender and sprint by him.  Anyway I was heading towards goal when Billy Lamont the Hamilton goalie came charging out towards me.  I knocked the ball past him but he just clattered into me.  The result was a broken tibia and fibia and I was off in the ambulance to Law Hospital.  I was kept in over the weekend and got home on the Monday. 

 

I was therefore out of the side for most of the rest of the season.  I used to get the train over to Cowdenbeath then to watch the games and ex-Ranger Tommy Dawson who was playing for Cowden used to pick me up at the station and take me to the game with my leg in plaster’.

 

‘The team in my earliest days with Cowden included experienced guys like Willie Munn and Willie Ormond’s brother Gibby.  Bobby Wilson was at right back and it was a big loss when he went to Dundee.  Denis Jack was a quiet lad and he played left back all the time I was with Cowdenbeath while Jim Burns was a quality player - dogged and hard working.  Andy Matthew was outside left – he was a veteran by then and had been with Rangers for a few years.  He liked you to give him the ball and took most of the free-kicks and corners. Once I had recovered from my broken leg I was soon back playing regularly at outside right

 

Archie Robertson brought in a number of new players.  Big John Ritchie was in goal – Archie also tried him out at centre forward in a couple of games but he was a bit cumbersome.  I last ran into John when he was doing youth development work at Hibs.  Andy Rolland had also been introduced to the side along with ‘Big Tam’ Clark.  Tam came from Glasgow and he scored plenty goals but he missed a barrowload as well.  There was also Jimmy Menzies, Alex Guthrie and Mike Clinton who was an old pal of Archie’s from his Clyde days.

 

We had an exciting Cup run in 1966 and beat Arbroath before a 6,000 crowd at Tannadice after a marathon series of games.  We lost eventually at Muirton to St Johnstone on a very heavy pitch.  It was always a heavy pitch there but now of course it’s an ASDA.  My favourite ground was actually Links Park at Montrose, the turf there was well cut and looked after.  I hated playing at Hampden though.  It was always freezing and the wind would cut right through you.  Once I was taken off at Hampden with virtual hypothermia.  I was absolutely frozen to the spot.

 

Archie Robertson eventually left to become manager of his old club Clyde and Andy Matthew who had not long retired was brought in as the new Cowdenbeath manager.  Andy of course had a successful coal merchants business in Kirkcaldy and he drove a big 4.5 litre Jag.  I had gotten on fine with Andy as a player but truth be told as a manager I found him to be a wee bit of a bully.  He would never swear though but was a disciplinarian.  I think to be honest I was never one of Andy’s favourites because he felt I didn’t score as many goals as really I should have from the chances I got.  He wasn’t a great tactician like Archie Robertson but Andy did put together a good side.  We had strong team spirit. 

 

In fact, all the time I was with Cowdenbeath there were never any cliques and the players all got on well.  We used to have lunch at the Commercial Hotel and go for a few pints at Wee Jimmies.  I recall at one time I used to regularly play snooker with Ronnie Sharp, Davy Ross, and young Dick Campbell who I seem to remember was nicknamed ‘Spook’ back then. 

 

We had two friendlies v Celtic at Central Park not long after they had won the European Cup and drew 1-1 in both games.  One of them was the match to celebrate the floodlights being installed at Central Park.  I scored Cowden’s goal in that game tapping home a cross from Ronnie Sharp.  I still have the photo of the 2 teams taken together before the match.  I think I’m pictured sitting between Bertie Auld and Lou Macari.  Kenny Dalglish, Davie Hay and John Clark are also in the photo.  George Connelly might be in that photo as well – his brother Joe was playing up front for us then.  Joe was great when he had the ball at his feet but he was dead slow.  You can also see in the background of the photo Jock Stein and Bob Shankly taking their seats in the stand. 

 

Another good photo I have shows the Cowdenbeath team that won the Hawick ‘5’s’ in 1967.  Jim Burns is holding the trophy and is pictured along with me, Andy Rolland, Andy Kinnell, and Dusty Miller who played as our goalie. 

 

Season 1969/70 was of course the year when we won promotion more or less out of the blue.  John Dickson was incredible that season and ended up leading scorer in Scotland.  He was a real tanner ba’ player and there was nothing of him.  He took some terrible kickings but no-one could get the ball off him.  He would dribble past 3 or 4 players in the box and you’d be waiting for the pass but it wouldn’t come.  He was greedy but lots of times he pulled it off to score a great goal.  John of course died young a few years back as did so many of my teammates from that side.  Billy Bostock died about the same time as John. 

 

Billy McLaughlan, at right back, was a good young lad, tall, strong and fast.  He looked like going further in the game but as you know was tragically electrocuted in an accident when he was just 21 (in 1972).  I was at his funeral.  I was also at Alan Wylie’s funeral not long after that.  He was a really nice lad big Alan.  Tall, thin, and dressed in black, he was a veteran but a good goalie.  He had moved to Strathmiglo and wasn’t long married when he died.  He was a rep for Crane Fruehauf and was killed in a car crash on the motorway.  Tommy Millar of course died just a couple of years ago and I don’t think he had had a very happy time in his later years.  Tommy was another veteran that Andy Matthew brought in to bolster the side and really his motto was ‘they shall not pass’!  Andy used to like to have a few old heads in the side to bring the youngsters along.  For example, I can also remember Tommy Neilson (ex-Dundee United) who came from Gorebridge and Dougie Moran who had scored when Falkirk won the Cup (and played for Ipswich when they won the Football League Championship) playing for us. 

 

Tommy went to South Africa while Dougie still lives in Musselburgh and I see him going around from time to time.  Another similar player in the twilight of his career was Alan Kennedy who came from Arbroath - he was always promising to bring the other players some smokies but we’re still waiting!  Tommy Millar’s brother of course is ex-Ranger Jimmy Millar who still runs the Dukes Head down in Leith.  I didn’t know though until you told me that Ronnie Sharp had also died.  It’s sad that so many of that 1970 promotion team have died so young as indeed did Andy Matthew. 

 

Another player in the promotion side was Billy Mullen at centre forward.  He was a long distance lorry driver and often came straight to the ground without time for any lunch due to his work.  He would have 40 winks on the physio’s bench and then be ready for the game.  He was a hard player though, nobody took liberities with Billy and he knew how to handle himself on the pitch.   We won promotion along with Falkirk.  They just pipped us for the title after a couple of games between us in front of huge crowds.  They were a full time outfit which spent quite a bit of money though with players like George Miller, Alex Ferguson and Andy Roxburgh’.

 

We ended the promotion season in 1969/70 with the Fife Cup final v Dunfermline at Central Park but little did I know this was to be my last ever first team game for Cowden.  The late John Lunn crashed into me with a tackle.  I don’t know actually whether it was the tackle that broke my leg or when my leg came down to earth and landed on his forehead.  We were both carted off to Dunfermline Hospital in the same ambulance - me with my leg broken for a second time and John Lunn with concussion. 

 

I was the players’ union rep at the club then but when I went to claim compensation via the union I was told I wasn’t covered.

 

I tore up and threw away my union card after that.  Cowdenbeath rewarded the promotion winning side with a holiday in Majorca and I spent the whole trip in a wheelchair.  It was a great trip though and we had a wonderful time – enjoying the sun and a few drinks!  Big Alan Wylie wasn’t long married and he was in tears phoning home because he was missing his wife.  Ronnie Sharp though always had an eye for the ladies and he ended up being flown home with a broken jaw after a bit of an altercation with a Spaniard.  When the rest of us flew home I acted as a kind of Trojan horse.  There I was going through customs in my wheelchair covered in a big blanket.  The blanket though was mainly to cover the fags and booze the lads were smuggling through customs.

 

I went along to Easter Road and had treatment from the Hibs physio Tom McNiven to help me recover from the leg break.  While the rest of the lads were playing top flight football and playing at Hampden v Rangers in the League Cup semi final I was on the sidelines trying to regain my fitness.  Eventually, I made a comeback in the reserves.  The reserve side then was quite useful and had won the East of Scotland League in the same year the 1st team won promotion.  I had played a few games in the East of Scotland League in 1969/70 as Ronnie Sharp and I shared the first team right wing berth.  I recall playing at places like Eyemouth and Gala. 

 

The title winning reserve side included youngsters like Robin Thomson, big tall George Yorkston, Colin McCullie who scored lots of goals and was like greased lightning although sometimes he ran around like a headless chicken, and Jim McArthur who became a great ‘keeper ending up with Hibs before becoming one of Scotland’s top football agents. 

 

Sadly, I wasn’t given a chance again in the first team in the top flight.  I think Andy Matthew thought it was asking a lot to throw me in after coming back from serious injury against such quality opposition.  Indeed Cowden as a part time outfit didn’t find it easy going although they weren’t disgraced during this season in the big time.  Andy Matthew though did give me a surprise when he selected me for the Cowdenbeath team to take part in Quiz Ball. 

 

Quiz Ball was the forerunner of Question of Sport with different football clubs competing against each other in a Quiz.  Our team was me, Alan Wylie, Billy Laing, Tommy Millar and opera singer Ian Wallace. 

 

I’d love to see some footage of that programme.  We travelled down to film in Birmingham and took on Derby County.  We did two takes with questionmaster Stuart Hall and we lost 3-2 but we then had a right good night out in Birmingham.  The only question I remember being asked was to name 4 famous people whose name ended in stein (e.g. Einstein, Wittgenstein, etc).  All I could come up with was Jock Stein and Colin Stein. 

 

Billy Laing probably was the best of our quiz team in terms of answers.  Billy was a bit of a lad and he also had his own business.  He had his own wastepaper business at first and a few years later I remember visiting a pub he had out Leven way.  It was lined with mirrors as I recall but ended up burning down. 

 

At the end of season 1970/71, trainer Bill McTavish told me I was getting a free.  I was disappointed that it was Bill rather than the manager or the directors that broke the news to me after so many years with Cowdenbeath.  However, I later got a nice letter from club secretary Tommy Russell who was never to be seen without his pet poodle.  Tommy, on behalf of the club, sent me a cheque for 20 as a testimonial and thanked me for my service saying I was a well kent face who would always be welcome in Cowdenbeath. 

 

I was then reinstated to the juniors with Dalkeith who gave me 500 to sign on.  Thereafter, I played with Preston Athletic, Haddington, and Musselburgh.  Later, I was a coach of Musselburgh Windsor under-14’s and one year we lost in the Scottish Cup final. 

 

Looking back on my career, the best player I ever came up against was the young Tony Green.  In his last match for Albion Rovers before he joined Blackpool I was diverted from wing duties and delegated to mark him by Archie Robertson – all I managed to do was mark the back of his heels!  Alex Edwards was another talented player as were Cormack and Stanton at Hibs who were guys I played against so often when we were all youngsters in the Edinburgh juveniles.   I think Archie Robertson was the best manager I ever had. 

 

The players I rated highly at Cowdenbeath were big Jimmy Taylor, John Dickson, Bobby Wilson and Andy Kinnell.  Jimmy was a really good player and John had amazing skill.  I’ll never forget Andy generalling the team from the back with his cool play and a good deal of effing and blinding.  Bobby Wilson and I played on the right side of the park and used to switch positions.  As a winger I could appreciate a full back of Bobby’s calibre.  Toughest opponents - I can’t really remember their names.  There was a full back at Stenhousemuir who always gave me a hard time and I remember the Stirling centre half threatening to kick me off the park if I went past him again. 

 

 The best team I ever played against was Celtic – there you saw a player like Bertie Auld who didn’t even need to look up to find his man.  One of the benefits of course of being a full time player training together every day. The most memorable goal I scored was in a derby v East Fife.  I brought the ball down with my hand near the halfway line but the ref didn’t notice.  I then advanced forward and hit an absolute screamer of a long-range volley into the net.

 

It’s been good to recall my career at Cowdenbeath after all these years.  I enjoyed my time at the club and hopefully there are a few fans who can still remember me.  I was working beside Willie Callaghan a few years back when he played for Cowden.  He wouldn’t believe me when I said I used to play for Cowden alongside Andy Kinnell!  Nowadays I work in the construction industry.  I spent some time doing the concrete work at the new Scottish Parliament.  Anyway, it’s been fine talking to you and if you ever come across any of my old team-mates give them my number – I’d enjoy hearing from them again.’

 

Cowden Conversations with David A Allan