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Davie Cairns
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Davie Cairns - Player 1970-75

 

 

We tell the story of ex-Cowden hero, left back Davie Cairns who played for Cowden in the old First Division and made over 300 senior appearances.   

 

My mother was from West Wemyss and my dad from Buckhaven but I was actually born in St Andrews.  We stayed at Wellsgreen for a short time but when I was two we came to Kennoway and I’ve lived there ever since. 

 

I played football as a boy for the school teams at Kennoway Primary and Buckhaven High School.  When I was 14 I was playing for Greig Park Rangers,  based in Windygates.  Bobby Wilson the Cowdenbeath and Dundee full back had helped establish the club and used to come round to see them.

 

Billy McLaughlan and John Nicoll were also full backs at Greig Park Rangers and they both joined Cowdenbeath.  I played three games for Methil Star Colts but they were an under-21 side and I was still just 14 and a bit too young.  I therefore signed for an under-18 side Bowhill Youth Club who were run by Willie Angus. 

 

When I was with Bowhill YC, I went for a week’s trial with Leeds United and two-week trial with Spurs.  Rangers though were interested and I ended up signing for them just two weeks after they lost in the Scottish Cup to Berwick. 

 

My parents and I went along to Ibrox and we met Bowhill’s manager Pete Young at the ground.  My father said to me there ‘by the way I know Scot Symon’, but I just said ‘Aye right!’.  My mother and father and Pete Young and I then sat down in Scot Symon’s office and Symon said ‘Hello Davie’ to my dad.  He knew him from when he had managed East Fife. 

 

My dad was an East Fife fan and took me along to my first game at Bayview.  My Uncle Joe though took me to watch Raith Rovers and after I saw them beat Kilmarnock 4-0 I became a Raith Rovers fan as a boy. 

 

Scot Symon reminded me a bit of a retired army general.  He was a strict disciplinarian.  As a player you had to wear a collar and tie to Ibrox and all hell was let loose if you didn’t.  Both Billy Laing (who was at Rangers with me) and I learned that football was job, a profession at Ibrox. 

 

There’s really a huge gulf as a pro footballer in terms of mentality and character as compared to what many people might think.  Billy Laing and Billy McPhee were among the Fife contingent there and when we were playing in the reserves Murray McDermott was in goal for the third team. We all went on to have good careers. 

 

Of course the best-known Fifer at the club was Jim Baxter who came back for his second spell at the club when I was with Rangers.  We had heard all the stories but he really was a nice guy.  I played alongside him in the reserves and he was carrying a real belly but he was a hell of a player.  He must have been truly great at his peak five years earlier. 

 

Willie Johnston and Colin Stein were also good guys while Alex Ferguson was great with the young boys.  We all knew he’d be a manager but of course we didn’t know just quite how good he would turn out to be. 

 

Playing for Rangers reserves in those days was a real high standard.  Veterans Jimmy Millar and Davie Wilson were still around and helped the youngsters with their experience.  People forget there were two great teams in Scotland then.  Rangers lost in the European Cup Winners Cup final to Bayern Munich in my first season. 

 

Billy Laing and I were playing in the Rangers reserves versus a Celtic side who had the likes of Bertie Auld, Danny McGrain and Kenny Dalglish.  Jock Stein’s Celtic though overshadowed Rangers then and so Jock wasn’t afraid to give the youngsters their chance.  Scot Symon and his successor Davie White though felt they had to buy big in the transfer market to keep up with Celtic. 

 

I was at Ibrox from February 1967 till November 1969 when I was basically released at my own request because I was wanting to play first team football.  I went very briefly to St Johnstone and played v Raith reserves in a Friday night game.  We drew 2-2 and I scored.  Willie Ormond told me I’d be playing the next day at Stark Park for the first team.  However, I then blotted my copybook with Willie and was left out. 

 

Next I went to Shrewsbury United.  The manager there was Harry Gregg the big Irish goalkeeper who had survived the Munich disaster when he was with Manchester United.  He was a real hard man.  I didn’t set the heather on fire although I wasn’t homesick and I knew I was good enough to make the grade.  I didn’t really know what was wrong. 

 

Then Rangers sacked Davie White and I realised I was missing being at a huge club like Rangers.  It hit me hard.  I later met Billy Laing and he said to me if I’d  waited I’d have got on fine with Willie Waddell and Jock Wallace. 

 

Anyway Forfar came along and asked me to sign.  I had turned them down twice before.  They had asked me to sign before I went to Ibrox and then again when I initially was released by Rangers.  This time I was glad to sign.  Ian Campbell was the manager who signed me for Forfar and on the playing staff were Archie Knox and big Harry Kinnear.  Forfar was a great wee club although I was only there from February to December 1970. 

 

I played against Cowdenbeath in their promotion year and they hammered Forfar 5-1 at Central Park.  Billy Mullen was playing centre-forward for Cowden that day and I remember shaking hands and asking how he was getting on.  Billy and were good pals as I had played against him for Rangers when he was centre-forward for Glasgow Transport.

 

In December 1970, Cowdenbeath approached Forfar as they wanted to sign me.  I had known Andy Matthew when I was at school and assistant manager Walter Robertson knew my mum and dad well.  Andy Matthew told me he had been impressed with me in that match when Cowden had beaten Forfar, ‘Roger Sugden was flying past full backs all season and you were the only one who could match him for speed’.  I then joined Cowden after they paid Forfar a fee of 5,000. 

 

I arrived at Central Park and was introduced to the other players.  My old mate Billy Laing was already with Cowden and I soon discovered there was a great bunch of lads at Central Park.  I made my debut in 1-0 defeat from Hearts at Tynecastle. 

 

Soon after came the New Year derby at Central Park v Dunfermline.  There was crowd of about 15,000 that day.  I can still recall big Davie Marshall chesting the ball down and looping a shot into the Dunfermline net as we won 2-1.  The next day we were 2-0 ahead at Easter Road against Hibs.  I gave away a penalty though and the match ended up drawn. 

 

We were given a 5 bonus for taking three points out of four  that New Year.  I then remember going up to Inverness in the train where we beat Clachnacuddin in the Scottish Cup.  Airdrie though hammered us in the next round when Drew Jarvie scored four times. 

 

Another of my early Cowdenbeath games was at Kilmarnock.  We equalised to make it 1-1 and then in the last minute Killie scored a winner when they had an injured player lying in an offside position.  We were going bananas.  The luck never seemed to go for us though and one-goal defeats were our undoing.  We really were never outplayed and we all knew we could play and compete at the top level despite being part time. 

 

Against Celtic we were 1-0 up when Billy Bostock scored but then Andy Kinnell was injured and Celtic equalised when we were down to 10 men.  It really broke my heart when we were relegated.  The team was largely made up of local boys made good.  Every week when I ran out onto the park I would wave to a boy I knew called Norrie who stood near the corner flag.  Who knows maybe Norrie’s still watching Cowden to this day? 

 

It was a real working class team backed by a working class town and supporters. Andy Matthew as a manager really wasn’t a tactician but he certainly knew a player.  The whole team were good footballers and it was a well-balanced side.  You had Andy Kinnell as captain - a great, great centre-half - with Jim Moore alongside him who was an excellent reader of the game. 

 

Billy McLaughlan and I were the full-backs.  We were both just 19 and we supplied the pace at the back.  Jim Taylor and Billy Bostock in midfield were real hard workers.  They could both play football and score goals as well.  John Dickson up front was a hell of player although mind you he could be a bit cantankerous and wasn’t one to mince his words! 

 

One game I recall in that First Division season was at Brockville when we were playing Falkirk.  I was playing at centre-half because Andy Kinnell had been injured the week before in the Celtic match.  They were pummelling us and were a goal ahead.  However, we did manage to equalise.  Next thing John Dickson got the ball and pretended to shoot.  He virtually dummied the entire stadium before hammering it home for the winner – it was Ronaldinho style stuff – sheer brilliance. 

 

At the end of the season when we were relegated we had to play Dunfermline in the two-legged Fife Cup final.  We had already beaten the Pars in both First Division matches.  To reach the final we had to overcome East Fife in the semi-final. 

 

East Fife and Dunfermline to be honest were two sides I just loved to beat.  I didn’t mind Raith Rovers who we had some good tussles with and who played good football but I and my Cowden team-mates hated losing to East Fife or the Pars (which certainly didn’t happen very often anyway).

 

My feelings towards East Fife I guess really stemmed from when I was at Rangers.  I was a local boy and my dad was an East Fife fan.  At the age of 16 I appeared for Rangers at Bayview.  The Daily Express had interviewed me when I had signed for Rangers not long before and the article said I had always wanted to play for Rangers even though I had said nothing of the kind! 

 

The first time I got the ball the home fans booed me – I was just a young laddie and I was livid.  That memory always spurred me on when I played against East Fife.  Anyway East Fife were on their way to promotion as we were heading down thus there was a bit of keen rivalry between the sides shall we say.  Some of us used to watch East Fife when they played midweek games thus I knew Bertie Miller on the right wing was a real flyer. 

 

It was the first time I had ever lined up against Bertie that night and I thought to myself I’ll show him who’s boss.  However, when he came first came running towards me I went flying in and he left me standing.  He fired in a cross and Billy McPhee put the ball in our net.  Next time he did it again and went on to score himself. 

 

Andy Matthew was glaring at me and I had learned a real lesson.  However, after being 2-0 down we came charging back to win 3-2 in what was a fantastic game.  A kick on my ankle though left me injured. When we played Dunfermline in the final we won the first leg 1-0 at Central Park.  Andy Matthew wanted me to play in the second leg despite my injury.  As I wasn’t able to tackle at all he gave me the outside right jersey!  Early on in the game at East End I scored the only goal of the match and we won the Cup 2-0 on aggregate.

 

Back in Division 2, we were up for it from the off and went straight to the top of the table.  One of earliest games saw us beat Forfar 7-0 with Ronnie Sharp scoring three.  When Ronnie wanted to play, he had magic feet.  On other days though he produced absolutely nothing – no story about what Ronnie did would ever surprise me. 

 

We really were beating teams easily and went about 10 games unbeaten from the start of the League season.  We eventually lost 1-0 at home to Stranraer who scored a last-minute winner.  It was a bit odd afterwards as Andy Matthew said ‘I’ve been expecting this’.  Andy Kinnell and I just looked at each other. 

 

We carried on in good form and I remember beating St Mirren before a good few thousand that December at Central Park.  They had star wingers with Bobby McKean on the right and Ian Munro on the left.  They thought they would beat us.  Billy McLaughlan and I though kicked the two of them all over Central Park and they didn’t get a sniff of the ball.  Davie Ross and Billy Laing scored a couple of beauties and we won 2-0. 

 

The week after we were at Arbroath and were ahead 2-0 at one point.  Arbroath though got a draw.  Jim McArthur in our goal had the ball in his hands near the end.  I was marking Eric Sellars that day and had kept him quiet.  Next thing though Jim was rolling the ball along the ground and Sellars nipped in to take it off him and stuck it in the net. 

 

You should have heard the bollocking Andy Kinnell gave Jim, I thought Andy was going to kill him! That really was an excellent Cowdenbeath team but in the New Year, the club had some financial difficulties.  Andy Kinnell went in to see the directors on our behalf to talk about bonuses for winning promotion but he was told there wouldn’t be any bonus. 

 

This knock-back led to a bit of bad feeling.  It certainly didn’t help morale.  We were still up top of the table in April but went to St Mirren and lost 3-1.  Our next game was at home v Arbroath who were also going for promotion – basically it ended up that whoever won that game would get promotion. 

 

I recall hitting a cross into the middle for big Billy Mullen quite early on.  Billy got to it but ballooned the ball over the bar.  It was so unlike him and I wondered if it wasn’t going to be our day.  In fact, Arbroath beat us 2-0 and went up instead of us.  Both their goals, were highly controversial – one of them was scored when the offside flag was raised.  We were gutted. 

 

That team I believe deserved to go back up to Division 1 and if we had made it, I am certain we would have given a better account of ourselves than a year earlier. Just after the end of that season, my full-back partner Billy McLaughlan was tragically killed in an accident in his home.  He and I had holidayed together in Malta just a year earlier.  His funeral was the biggest I have ever attended.  The whole team was there and it was very sad.

 

Andy Kinnell then was transferred to St Johnstone and he really was irreplaceable.  After the first game I ever played for Cowden my dad said to me that that Kinnell’s a good centre half.  Andy was a hero to us – he still is even today.  He was the best player we had by a mile.  He was hard and strong but in terms of football ability he was second to none.  He was a real captain.

 

We started off the 1972/73 League campaign though pretty well including a win over Dunfermline at East End and were back at the top of table.  I remember missing a penalty then against East Stirling and Billy Bostock and I had a big argument about it.  Billy said to me, ‘a professional footballer should never miss a penalty’.  Billy took over the penalty duties for the next match and he stepped up to take a spot kick in that game and promptly missed!  All he said to me then was, ‘Back to you!’

 

We lost Jim McArthur and John Dickson in quick succession when they were both transferred for sizeable fees but we still kept challenging for a time.  While Andy Kinnell was a huge loss, Duncan Reid and Rab Russell were both good centre halfs. 

 

Allan Kinnell did more than a fair job at right back and Raymond Allan was a good replacement for Jim McArthur in goal.  I played with some good goalkeepers but I would rate Raymond up alongside Murray McDermott and Jim McArthur as one of the best. 

 

Cowden were mainly playing 4-2-4 then with Billy Bostock and Jimmy Taylor in midfield.  Billy could get you 15 goals a season from midfield and was doing blindside runs 35 years ago.  Big Jim was a talented player.  I met up with him at Stark’s Park not so long ago and at the age of 62 he still looked fit enough to turn out. 

 

I was a bit upset for him down at Stark’s Park when they introduced Jim to the crowd as a tough-tackling defender.  Fair enough he played at centre-half in his latter days with Raith Rovers but he was a good footballer as well.  He also got Cowden a fair few goals. 

 

One memorable goal Jim scored was on New Year’s Day 1973 at Central Park v Dunfermline.  I actually was given a copy of an article in a Cowdenbeath fanzine a few years ago which had an interview with Jim Leishman in it.  He spoke about that game.  Jim was quoted as saying he was walking along to Central Park to play for Dunfermline that day when he met Dick Campbell and I in the street on the way.  Jim recalled that Dick and I were a bit worse the wear for drink so he had fancied Dunfermline’s chances. 

 

It was also mentioned that Jim somehow had sped past a green faced Davie Cairns in the first minute.  Not long after I ran into Jim at a Sportsman’s dinner and suggested to him that it was a good story but there never was any game where I turned up the worse for wear in my career. 

 

In fact I asked Jim if he could remind me of the score that day and of course he eventually reluctantly confirmed Cowden won 1-0 thanks to Jim Taylor’s header.  Leish also acknowledged that in those days Dunfermline could never beat Cowden. 

 

Dunfermline looked down their noses at us and every game we went out to show them.  I was never on a losing Cowden side versus the Pars.In the New Year our challenge fell away.  We still had a good side but we had lost some really top class players who were impossible to replace. 

 

My first two and a half years though with Cowden were fantastic and we truly had an exceptional team.  There was a great team spirit.  Billy Laing and I have been friends for years and I still see him regularly to this day.  It was a privilege to play behind a great left winger like Davie Ross. 

 

I also recall having my 21st birthday party in the Cowdenbeath Supporters Club in the High Street.  Jock Gilliard was there and he ended up conducting the band.  The other Cowden director I recall apart from Charlie Gronbach was Davie Fowlis who in his playing days had been a left back as well.

 

In 1973/74, Andy Matthew brought in veteran left back Willie Coburn as a coach.  Soon after, I had a disagreement with Willie in a practice match when I didn’t agree with how he was handling the youngsters.  Just after that Andy Matthew dropped me and played Willie Coburn at left back and it hurt our relationship a bit. 

 

About six weeks later though Andy took me aside when we were scheduled to play a league match at Kilmarnock.  He told me I’d be playing and that I was now appointed club captain. 

 

I think he felt a wee bit bad about things and I knew that Andy had always rated me as a player.  In fact he once said if players like Cairns and Laing were with a more fashionable club they would have been capped by Scotland.

 

Things were never really the same thereafter at Cowdenbeath though and maybe Andy had stayed on a bit too long at the helm.  Andy’s strength was as I said before his ability to spot and judge a player – the game though was becoming increasingly tactical and perhaps we were getting found out a bit with Andy’s off the cuff approach. 

 

We had lost some great players mind you and although we had good replacements we weren’t tough enough for the long haul.  We were top four but slowly the winning runs turned into losing streaks.  After Christmas we would fall back down the table and we became a midtable side.

 

Around that time I was selected for a Division 2 trial match to choose a Scotland side to play in Italy versus a team representing Italy’s semi-pro players.  I was in the same side as Johnny Dempster the Queen of the South right winger and we did a deal before the game.  He would try and show up my rival for the left back slot and I would keep his right wing rival quiet.  Our plan seemed to work well enough but neither of us were selected – I suspect the team had largely been picked before the trial game went ahead.

 

The next season brought a great deal of change to Central Park.  Andy Matthew resigned early in the season and he was replaced by Bert Paton who brought Bill McTavish with him as trainer/coach.  Bert produced a revolution at Central Park and it was fantastic.  Training was brilliant and we went five games without losing a match. 

 

However, Bert had only been in charge for four weeks when he asked me to come to see him in his office.  He then told me that he had been offered the manager’s job at Raith Rovers and that he and Bill McTavish were resigning to move to Kirkcaldy. 

 

He asked me as captain to come along with him when he announced his departure to the boys.  It was gut wrenching stuff, there were tears in that dressing room.  Bert told us he wished he could take us all to Stark’s Park with him. 

 

Years later, Bert still felt his worst ever decision was to leave Cowdenbeath for Raith Rovers. Dan McLindon and Frank Connor then came in as the new management team.  They had a hell of a job though as nobody could replace Bert in our esteem. 

 

They brought in some experienced players but some younger lads like Ronnie Inglis from Kennoway and Raymond Allan were frozen out.  Dan and Frank weren’t that sure of me.  I was the captain but I sensed an undercurrent. 

 

They used to say about our time under Bert that although we had been unbeaten in five games, four of them were draws so that was nothing at all to shout about.

 

I was then selected along with Billy Laing and Andy Harrow to play for the Fife Select side in a testimonial match at Bayview for East Fife’s former Scotland centre-half John Martis.  The side we faced had guest players such as Pat Stanton, Tommy Gemmell, Kenny Aird and of course Bobby Charlton.  I can therefore proudly say I played against Bobby Charlton. 

 

It was a real honour to represent Cowdenbeath in a game such as this and afterwards I felt I had gained the respect of Dan McLindon and that he rated me from then on as a player.

 

However, not that long after Bert Paton left Cowdenbeath he made an offer for me, just sweetie money really, and I was transferred to Raith Rovers.  At the time I was pleased to be reunited with Bert but with hindsight it was also the worst decision I ever made. 

 

It was the beginning of the end for me as a player and things were never to be the same afterwards.  It’s hard to explain.  Being with Cowdenbeath was like a family and I had shared so much in my years at Central Park with guys like Davie Ross, Andy Harrow and Billy Laing. 

 

Team spirit had been great again during Bert Paton’s spell there.  Cowden had a good regular support and Charlie Gronbach as chairman was a good guy who did his best for the club.  I know I should never have left Central Park and I know that Davie Ross feels the same as he found it hard when he joined St Johnstone.  We had played  five  years together and that’s a long time in football.

 

I was to get a rude awakening at Stark’s Park though.  I had been a Raith Rovers supporter as a boy but I got a bit of a shock when I ran out the tunnel for my first game.  I was excited about playing for Bert again and for the club I had supported but was greeted by one supporter shouting, ‘Hey Cairns, away you back to Cowdenbeath!’

 

I was barely in the door at Stark’s Park when Bert was on his way out again.  Bert really got the dirty done on him and there was a bit of a clique who had the knives out for him in the boardroom.  Basically Bert was called in to see the Directors who advised him that they were having to cut costs and that as a consequence they were going to sack Bert’s right-hand man Bill McTavish. 

 

Bert told them that if Bill went he would go as well and they promptly replied, ‘OK then!’.I couldn’t believe it when I learned Bert had resigned only weeks after I had gone to Raith.  Next thing Andy Matthew took over as manager.  It wasn’t long before I was left out the team by Andy and I rarely got an opportunity to try and reclaim my place. 

 

Not surprisingly that led to a falling out between myself and the club and I was then in dispute with Raith Rovers for six months and out of the game.  I reckon that time out of the game cost me a yard and I was never the same player after that lay-off. 

 

Eventually, I went to see Rankin Grimshaw, the Raith chairman, and he sorted matters out so that I was able to leave Raith Rovers. I then went and joined Berwick Rangers and soon my old Rangers team-mate Dave Smith became manager at Shielfield Park.  My old pal Billy Laing who had also been with us at Rangers was also at Berwick. 

 

However, at the end of that season, I went in to see Dave who wanted me to re-sign and told him that I had been promised a signing-on fee when I had first arrived if I agreed subsequently to sign on for another season. 

 

Dave spoke to the board but they refused to pay me what I was due and therefore Dave arranged for me to get a free instead. After I left Berwick I stopped playing again for a month of two.  Ian Stewart though who I had played with at Forfar was manager of Brechin City and he got me to join him.

 

I was a couple of seasons with Brechin and had some good times there.  John Ritchie was the goalie, the Campbell twins were there and so was Billy Laing once again.  It was very similar to when I was at Cowdenbeath.  I remember once we drew East Fife in the Scottish Cup.  I was right up for a game against my old foes.  We lost 1-0 though and guess who scored for them – John Dickson – I knew it would be him who’d score! 

 

I also remember one evening going to the paper shop to buy a Sporting Post and the write up said the outstanding player on the park was veteran Davie Cairns.  I wasn’t best pleased as I was only 28 at the time.

 

After leaving Brechin City I assisted Billy McPhee at Leven Juniors.  I didn’t want to play although I did once turn out for Leven.  My problem was as always I was strongwilled and opinionated – things had to be my way or no way.  I packed it in anyway. 

 

I thought that was the end of football for me but lo and behold one day I was walking down Leven High Street when I bumped into Mike Marshall of East Fife.  ‘Davie Cairns, the very man!’ he said.  He asked me to ’Come to Bayview’ but I said ‘No, no!'

 

I went on holiday then but when I came back was persuaded to go along to train at Bayview.  It was OK and I played in a practice match.  I was just strolling through using my experience as an old pro.  Davie Clarke though wanted me to join East Fife before the practice match was finished. 

 

I tried to say ‘no I’m finished as a player’ but Davie was having none of it.  He got my ego going saying things like ‘I’ve never seen you ever play a bad game’ and that he wanted me to play v Brechin on the Saturday. 

 

Like an idiot I signed.  I played one season for East Fife as a bit of a stop gap.  I added experience to their squad and some versatility playing at sweeper in a few games for example.  That season 1981/82 was my last as a player.  I had been 15 years a player and had stopped enjoying the training – when that happens it’s time to go.

 

Looking back now on my career I had a lot of good times.  A highlight was the big games I played for Cowden in the top flight.  I remember some fine games too versus Stirling Albion with big crowds watching.  Stirling always played good football when they were managed by Bob Shankly or Alex Smith. 

 

There were lots of good tussles versus Raith Rovers, we beat a confident St Mirren side 2-0 once in a top of the table clash, and there was an amazing game at Central Park when we were losing 3-0 to Montrose but went on to win 4-3. 

 

Obviously all the times Cowdenbeath beat Dunfermline were a thrill – I’m quite proud that they could never beat us when I played. I also remember once Cowden played a friendly v Celtic at Central Park.  I was up against Jimmy Johnstone.  Lou Macari was another guy I recall was playing.  Jinky wasn’t getting a kick against me and we went 2-1 ahead.  Colin McCullie scoring what proved to be our winner. 

 

It was a terrible rainy night, the pitch was a mud heap but suddenly Jinky started going past me like I wasn’t there.  I realised then he hadn’t been trying up till then.  However, when he was tackled he fell into the mud and was absolutely covered with sand and mud and God knows what else from head to toe.  ‘Get me aff now’ he demanded and was subbed.

 

I enjoyed playing at Rugby Park as it had great playing surface and Tynecastle was another ground I liked.  Coatbridge though was not a place I enjoyed visiting.  As for the best players I faced, I think I did not too bad and gave many of them a difficult time. 

 

Davie Cooper though gave me a hell of time as I remember.  I always tried to respect my opponents as cockiness is dangerous thing sometimes in football.  Joe Watson was a real difficult opponent and a fantastic player.  He was a local lad who played for Forfar and then went to play in Australia. 

 

As for players at Cowdenbeath I guess I could single out Andy Kinnell but it was a quality side.  We had great team spirit and a real togetherness.  Everyone went to nights out en bloc and we all got on really well.  The team in my first couple of seasons at Central Park was an excellent side. 

 

It was a pleasure as a 19-year-old to play for Cowdenbeath and my mum and dad used to come to the games and follow Cowden.  Whenever I meet up with my old playing colleagues from Cowdenbeath even after all these years we are all always delighted to meet one another. 

 

Davie Ross was just a joy to watch, while Andy Harrow’s ability stuck out at age 16.  Billy Laing I had known since I was 10 years old.  I’ll give Andy Matthew credit as he knew how to build a well balanced side.  Two young fast full backs and a great centre half with Jim Moore sweeping up.  Andy Kinnell would be on the right and Jim on the left in central defence with Billy McLaughlan and I using our pace to cover them.

 

There were grafters like Bostock and Taylor in midfield with Laing or Mullen up front as centre.  Then you could add in Dixie’s delicate skills while there were other good players like Dick Campbell, Robin Thomson and Ronnie Sharp as well. 

 

I really couldn’t single out any of my Cowden colleagues as the best but I would like to specially mention Billy McLaughlan who died so young and tragically.

 

Basically when I quit football I sort of cut myself off from the game.  With hindsight I probably wish I had gone to Largs and done the coaching qualifications.  However, I doubt if I’d have lasted too long there, they would have thrown me out.  A certificate anyway doesn’t tell you what to do when you’re one down with 20 minutes to go. 

 

I served a good apprenticeship and learned a lot in my time in the game.  You should always look to pass on what you’ve learned to the next generation.  I think Mixu Paatelainen is a real credit to the game.  In his first manager’s job he took a wee club and got them to play the right way. 

 

I can’t praise him high enough as a credit to his profession and for passing on what he learned to young boys coming through. I was asked many times to go along to football related events over the years but always said no.  Davie Ross would sometimes ask me but I wasn’t interested. 

 

Eventually I was contacted by Ally Gourlay who runs the Raith Rovers Former Players Club and he asked me to go along to Stark’s Park.  I turned him down twice.  He though persisted and when he asked for a third time I gave in and went to see Raith play Stirling Albion.  The game itself was dire and Brian Cooper said to me ‘this is one of the better games’! 

 

Later I met Davie Gorman in the street and he said ‘it’s a hundred times worse at Bayview’.  However, on that visit to Stark’s Park I had a wonderful day meeting up with old friends such as Jim Taylor who at the age of 62 still looked fit enough to play.  Andy Harrow was there as well but sad to say he told me that he felt he wasn’t very welcome at Central Park after his time as manager. 

 

That’s really sad as he was a great talent and a fine Cowden player.  I realised then I’d been stupid and have greatly enjoyed since then going along to things like Sportsmen’s dinners and meeting up with old playing colleagues. 

 

A Cowdenbeath reunion would be a great idea. A wee while ago people I know locally were in a pub in Norway.  Their son was looking at a picture on the pub wall and said ‘that’s Jack Cairns’ dad!’  He was amazed – it was an old photo from Shoot magazine from the time I was Cowden captain. 

 

I had a 15 year football career and as you know I spent some time at Ibrox but you know what I say if anyone asks me about my career?  I always say ‘I played for Cowdenbeath, I was captain of Cowdenbeath’  That’s what I am most proud of from my football days. 

Cowden Conversations with David A Allan