Davie Hunter –
Player 1980 – 1982
The story of midfielder and ex-Cowden skipper Davie Hunter –
a member of the side which so narrowly missed out on promotion in 1981.
I hail from Kirkcaldy
and was brought up in the Templehall area. My brother Ian was 10 years older
than me and a really good footballer so he was a role model for me. Jock
Stein signed him for Dunfermline and he played centre-forward for the Pars. I can remember players like the Callaghan brothers, Jim Fraser, Alex Edwards and Bent Martin visiting our
house with Ian.
He played in the team that beat Celtic in the 1967/68 Scottish Cup but missed out on playing in the final
when Dunfermline beat Hearts. Of
course in those days you were only allowed one player on the bench.
Ian later played
with Falkirk and then was player/manager at Brora Rangers. Cowden fans will recall Davie Fair who left Cowden for Brora and died in a car accident. Well about that same time Ian was player/manager and had been feeling chest pains for a wee while. Tragically he collapsed and died at the age of only 34.
As a boy I followed
Rangers as they were my dad’s team and I still can be found at Ibrox now and again.
My gran though stayed near Stark’s Park so I also grew up following the Rovers as well. I was watching them in the old First Division when they had players like Willie Polland, Alex Gray, Paddy
Wilson, Mike Judge, Ian Porterfield, Jim Gillespie, and Gordon Wallace who was the first non Old Firm player to become Scotland’s Player of the Year.
My own career really
took off when I was playing with Kirkcaldy YMCA’s under-18 side. They had
a good ground near the Victoria Hospital with a built up terracing. It used to be the
home ground of Nairn Star but later it was ruined by vandalism. We
were the top side in the East of Fife and played Dunfermline’s
youth team who were the champions of the West of Fife in a play-off game for the Fife title. Jim Leishman was in that Dunfermline side. We went on to win that match at Dundonald.
Ken McNaught, the son of Willie McNaught, I suppose was the star of our team.
He signed for Everton after that game and later won the European Cup at Aston Villa.
Another player Ian Fernie joined Dunfermline.
I signed pro forms
and joined Lochgelly Albert. Tom Brown was there and he later played at Raith
Rovers with me. Big Rab Russell was centre half and he and I played together
again years after at Central Park. That was
a good Lochgelly side – we could get crowds of 2,000 or 3,000 for Scottish Cup ties.
As I recollect, we were runners up in the League to Oakley United who ended years of domination by Glenrothes. By then Glens had an ageing side.
I enjoyed it up at Lochgelly but missed playing in Kirkcaldy and I asked for my release from the Albert. They agreed and I joined the local junior side Kirkcaldy YM – they were an amateur outfit. We shared our home ground with Frances Colliery at Coaltown of Wemyss.
Two of the YM’s players
were invited for a trial by Raith Rovers and one called off and I was then
asked to accompany the other lad. I had a decent game and Bert Paton who had
played alongside my brother and was managing the Rovers duly signed me for Raith. I
was soon in the first team when he controversially dropped skipper Brian Cooper and gave me my debut.
after Bert got the sack and to this day tells a story when I meet him that it was picking me that got him the sack. In reality though Bert had fallen out with the Board after they had sacked his coach Bill McTavish. Cost cutting I think. I had known Bill
at Lochgelly Albert where he used to give us ‘commando style’ training.
That was in season
1974/75 and Bert’s replacement was the ex-Cowden manager Andy Matthew. He
was a nice man, a gentleman. He had good senior experience and I never had any
problems with him. Andy liked football to be played off the cuff and used an
attacking 4-2-4 formation with the
speedy Ronnie Duncan on one wing and the talents of Malky Robertson on the other.
Malky was temperamental but a fabulous tanner ba’ player just like Billy Steele when I was at Cowden. I wore the number 10 jersey and played in a traditional inside forward role. We had a solid defence including Jimmy Brown and Willie Brown who is now assistant
to Jim Jeffries at Kilmarnock. Davie Cairns
was also with us and centre-half was ex-Cowden man Jim Taylor. He was a colossus
of a guy. I saw him recently. He’s
in his 60’s but he still looks fit enough to play.
Gordon Wallace (the younger version) played up front although by then the great Joe Baker had retired. Joe was like lightning and what a goalscorer – however, Rovers
refused to pay him a bonus per goal and he hung up his boots. Other players were
Tom Hislop, Bert Graham, Donald Urquhart and of course Murray McDermott in goal who sadly died not so long ago.
Season 1975/76 was the first when
the three league system was introduced with the Premier, First and Second Divisions.
We went out to win games and were unbeaten in our first 20 league matches. We
really were an excellent outfit the way Andy Matthew had us set up.
Bob Wilson’s Football Focus became aware of our unbeaten record and sent the cameras up to film us playing v Queen’s
Park. We promptly suffered our only League defeat of the season. Sorry to say that wasn’t the only time I would suffer badly at the hands of the Hampden club.
At the end of the
season we had a vital clash at Alloa who were challenging Clydebank and
ourselves for promotion. Over 30 years later I still get stopped in the street
in Kirkcaldy by people recalling that game. We won 1-0 and I scored the only
goal with a 25 yard free kick to
put us up to the First Division. We ended up as runners-up on goal
difference to Clydebank. They of
course had the amazing Davie Cooper in their line up.
Clydebank went on then to win promotion again the very next season
along with Alex Ferguson’s St Mirren.
Dundee were also a fine side while Morton had big Andy Ritchie. We didn’t do so well and our attacking style wasn’t so successful against
the better sides you found in Division 1. Andy Harrow was signed then from Cowdenbeath
and he went on to have a great career.
In 1976/77, unfortunately we had a terrible run in with our last 5 or 6 games all against the top sides in the
League. We lost 4-3 to Morton at Stark’s Park in our last game and were
Back in Division
Two, we had a poorish start and a lot of draws as I recall – I remember a couple of 2-2 games v Cowden. Our form picked up as the season wore on. However, Andy
Matthew resigned because of our bad start. We lost 6-0 in a Scottish Cup tie
at Berwick. I think we were three-nil down at half time so we decided to have
a real go in the second half but ended being hammered. That was enough for Andy
and he resigned.
Amazingly a week later we played Berwick in the League at Stark’s Park and we beat them 7-1! People suggested we had lost the previous game because we wanted the manager out but that was rubbish. Once again we ended up winning promotion and just missed out on the title on
goal difference again this time to Clyde. By then
Chris Candlish and To Houston were in the team.
Jim and Tommy McLean’s brother Willie McLean took over as boss from Andy Matthew. He was a similar character to his brothers and he and I never really hit it off. He called me in one day to say he had made a deal to swap me for Robin Thomson of Stirling Albion but I
refused to go.
I then went in to Stark’s Park the next Thursday and
learned Dunfermline had made an approach. I therefore agreed to join the Pars although I was a bit hasty as two week’s later Willie McLean
resigned as Rovers’ manager.
Early in 1979 I left
Raith Rovers and joined Dunfermline. Harry Melrose
was the Pars manager then and I made my debut in a Scottish Cup tie v Hibs. I
knew Harry from when he had played alongside my brother for Dunfermline
and I was looking forward to following in Ian’s footsteps at the outset.
However, Dunfermline wasn’t to be a happy time for me. That
was mainly because for the first time in my career I was picking up injuries. In
addition, it’s not that easy for a Raith man to move to Dunfermline. I was on a bit of a low at East End. Harry took ill and Andy Rolland ended up running the team and leading
them to promotion. It was Andy’s penalty that clinched promotion for Dunfermline
although I wish he’d swapped that penalty for the one v Queen’s Park for Cowden
a couple of years later.
The following season
Harry came back to take over the reins again and I guess Andy felt he deserved a bit more recognition for his efforts from
Dunfermline. Andy said
to me ‘I’m offski!” He met Paddy Wilson at Cowdenbeath the
same night and signed for Cowden. Then he came and picked me up and asked me
if I fancied coming to Cowdenbeath. I went along and met Paddy and decided to
follow Andy to Central Park.
The idea then was I would go into East End on the Tuesday
and ask to go on the transfer list. I therefore went in on the Tuesday after
training and told Harry I wasn’t enjoying it at Dunfermline
and requested a move. Harry said ‘You’ll no’ believe this but
I’ve just had Cowdenbeath on the phone wanting to sign you two hours ago’.
Then he started laughing and said he knew something was going on. Anyway
a deal was agreed and I was off to join Cowden.
I hadn’t had a great time at Dunfermline although
there were some good players there like Hugh Whyte, Bobby Robertson, Kenny Thomson, John Salton, Bonar Mercer, Kevin Hegarty,
and Mike Leonard.
What a good team we had at Cowdenbeath
though. Billy Steele was a tremendously gifted footballer. We had big Raymond Allan in goals and defenders like Rab Russell and Jimmy Markey.
Stanton soon replaced Paddy Wilson as manager and he brought George Stewart from Hibs.
George was a giant centre half – he could head the ball out the penalty box into the other half. Later Grant Tierney succeeded him and became a great centre half.
Then there was Keith Ferguson – I had a pint with Fergie not so long ago, big Jimmy Liddle, Geordie Hunter who’d
been there for years, and Jimmy Marshall who often stayed over at my house.
Pat Stanton was a revelation. How he couldn’t still play was a mystery to me as he was still a fine player
in training. I also remember my home debut well.
I scored an own goal to put us one down early on and I can still see Raymie Allan glowering at me.
1980/81 saw that
team at its peak. I recollect getting hammered over two legs in the League Cup
from Dundee United. In the League though it was a different matter. We were always challenging although in the winter we had lots of matches postponed and that meant at the
end of the season we were playing two or three times week.
We did really well but eventually the heavy programme told on us a bit.
Alloa were flying at one point but we crushed them twice at Central Park and we beat Clyde 4-2 when they were top of the League. I can also remember winning 4-1 at Meadowbank with Steeley and I scoring two goals each. Pat Stanton though left to take up the manager’s job at Dunfermline and subsequently he also came back to sign Norrie McCathie from Cowden.
You could see then Norrie had the makings of a decent player.
It was Andy Rolland who replaced Pat as player/manager and he brought his old Dundee United team-mate Tommy Traynor
in as coach. Tommy brought a fresh approach and had a good football brain. He freed up Andy to concentrate more on playing.
Andy rated Tommy highly and sad to report Tom died not so long ago.
In the Scottish Cup
that year we should have reached the quarter finals. We were beating the Shire
at home 1-0 with just 12 minutes to go but lost 2-1. They were then drawn to
play Celtic. Alex McGhee played for us then – he had a brief stint with
us as did Willie Murray – they both joined us from Hibs. As the season
rolled on we went on a long good run and moved up the table with Jimmy Liddle banging in goals. We went to Hampden and ex-Raith man Gordon Wallace had us
ahead but at the death Queens’ equalised to clinch the title.
On the last day of the season,
we were at home to Queen’s Park and were a point ahead of Queen of the South.
A draw would have clinched it for us. We were confident we would win. What can I say though. It was heartbreaking
to lose 2-1 and I felt for the supporters.
Really that result finished that
Cowden side because it was never quite the same afterwards. We had a great team
spirit and after every match you’d find us all together in the Dunvegan or Wee Jimmies or Lumphinnans Club. I think we could have done OK in the First Division.
A friend of mine Kelvin Penman
showed me the highlights of that game recently on the internet and there was Andy kicking the penalty spot and missing the
course if I ever mention the penalty to Andy he always says ‘Aye but what about that miss you had with just six
minutes to go!’ I’m afraid it just bounced wrong for me.
The following season
was almost inevitably a bit of an anti-climax. I was made captain and we had
some good spells during the season. However, the team was changing and we went
out the Scottish Cup at Gala Fairydean. That was a disgrace and Andy Rolland
called it a day soon afterwards.
Hugh Wilson was the new manager and he and I never really hit it off. The
team was breaking up and I asked to be released. If I had been smarter I might
have counted to 10 and stuck it out a bit longer. I had made lots of friends
at Cowdenbeath and had really enjoyed a new lease of life there after my low point at Dunfermline. Blue certainly was the colour for me.
Off the field I can remember the
directors included Charlie Gronbach and Davie Fowlis. Eric Mitchell was there
too with his wig. Jimmy Reekie was the physio.
After Tommy Traynor left Jim Leishman became Andy Rolland’s assistant manager.
fact I remember an incident in a hotel in Stranraer which Leish still speaks about in his after-dinner speeches. Two players were caught trying to get back into the Hotel in the middle of the night and as the captain
I ended up pleading for them not to be sent home by the management and Directors.
They stayed and we went out and gave Stranraer a torrid time.
game I remember was at Forfar when I had picked up quite a few bookings. I was
rested on the bench by Andy who wanted me to avoid suspension for some tougher games that would be coming up. At half time we were 3 or 4 down.
Andy said ‘I’ll put
you on now so you can close the midfield down’ although his actual instructions were a bit more to the point if I’m
honest! Unfortunately I was sent off after seven minutes of the second half
and I had to walk off past Andy. If looks could kill!
tore my jersey off as I reached the touchline but next thing a big policeman intervened and grabbed me. He threw me into the dressing room. Andy never spoke to me
after the game and it was later that night when were in the pub before he could even speak to me again.
The day I left Central Park
I went up to the Silver Birch and had a couple of pints with a young Craig Levein. I
said I was finished and told him ‘You’ll no’ be here long son’.
You could see the talent oozing out of him.
When I left Cowdenbeath
in 1982, Billy McPhee who was at Leven Juniors phoned and asked me to sign and I agreed.
Just after that Jim Leishman contacted me to try and get me to go to Kelty Hearts but I had to say to Jim I had already
promised to join Leven.
Andy Rolland was at Leven and so were Harry Kinnear, Ernie McGarr, and Ronnie Inglis. We were expected to clean up and do well but it didn’t really work out that way. Billy left and then I decided to call it a day. I didn’t
play after that for a while but one day I met a guy in the pub who found out I had been a player. He persuaded me to play at amateur level and I recall having to journey through to Hampden to see the Doctor
before I could be reinstated.
I played on then
for a few years until a knee ligament injury forced me to give up. Thereafter
I helped Andy Harrow run an under-age team for Raith Rovers up to around 6 or 7 years ago.
It wasn’t the same though as the young lads coming through just didn’t have the attitude you need –
things had changed since my day. Andy Harrow’s a good friend still.
I remember Davie Cairns organised a night out. Harry Kinnear was
there but it mainly involved Davie reminiscing
about Cowden back in the 1970’s with Davie Ross, Billy Laing, and Andy Harrow!
Nowadays I work for
Agilent Technologies down at South
Queensferry testing measuring
equipment and before that I was 25 years with GEC. Golf’s my game now and
I meet up with many of my old football colleagues on the course. I remember Jim
Taylor showing me some photos from his time at Cowdenbeath and I recognised Ronnie Sharp.
I met Ronnie at Thornton Golf Course one day when he came strolling across the green with his snakeskin boots on. He was back in the country after splitting up with his wife in Mexico. He had a big bet on
that day at the bookies but it certainly wasn’t a winner.
When I think back
on my career I think my best memory is winning promotion with Raith Rovers in 1976.
I scored the winner at Recreation Park which took us up with a 25 yard rocket free kick. It was a midweek fixture as the game had earlier been postponed and we had a massive support conveyed through
on a fleet of buses. I recall too the return to Kirkcaldy after the game –
that was a great time for me. I still meet people who tell me about that goal. Cowden’s
5-2 hammering of the same team Alloa was another playing highlight for me.
The best teams I
played against during my career I think were Dundee who featured
Billy Williamson and a young Gordon Strachan in their side. Wee Strachan soon
had me riled and I was booked early for fouling him. Alex Ferguson’s St
Mirren were an excellent side with boys like McGarvey, Stark and Abercrombie. I
turned out against Dundee United with both Raith and Cowden and was highly impressed.
We couldn’t get near them due to their movement and passing. Narey
was hitting immaculate 60 yard passes.
Graham Payne at that
time was with United and he was one of the best players I’ve ever seen. I
know Andy Rolland agrees with me on that. He was wee and played with his socks
round his ankles but he had great talent. You could always tell class and ability
though – two of the best I played directly against were Davie Cooper and Pat Nevin is his Clyde days.
Of the various managers I played
under, I guess I was grateful to Bert Paton for signing me although he was gone from Stark’s Park soon afterwards. Andy Matthew helped me a lot and gave me a regular place in the Raith team. I’d better say Andy Rolland was the best manager I had or he’ll not be pleased!
Stanton I think though really stood out – he was great at getting things over to you.
I always like playing at Muirton – it was a big pitch and in good nick.
Cliftonhill and the public park style ground at Stranraer were less enjoyable venues.
The best players
I played with at Raith Rovers were Brian Cooper who was there for a good few years, Malcolm Robertson on the wing, and Gordon
Wallace (the second) who was another real talent. He played with me at Cowden
as well. At Dunfermline,
there was Big Salton, Mr Dunfermline Athletic – Kenny Thomson, and Bobby Robertson.
From my Cowden days I still have
lots of good friends and they were a great bunch of players. Jim Markey had the
deadly left foot. Jimmy Liddle banged in the goals. Then there was Raymie Allan in goal. There was no better goalie
than Raymie around and what an attitude. He went mental at training – he
was as committed during training as he was in matches.
was Andy Rolland and Jimmy Marshall too. Of course there was also Billy Steele
who had bags of natural ability. He really could have been a top player I think. Billy was lovely to watch playing football and had fantastic balance.
I warmly recall three
years in a row Cowdenbeath competed in the Superteam competition at the Fife Institute at Glenrothes. The 4 Fife senior sides competed and we all put out strong line ups. There was great rivalry. Cowdenbeath’s
team was me, Andy Rolland, Billy Steele, Jimmy Marshall, Keith Ferguson, and Raymie Allan.
Fergie and Marsh were the fittest laddies I’ve ever seen in my life. We
competed in Tug of War, Obstacle Course, Football Skills, Head Tennis, Dribbling and Shooting, and Basketball Dribble. Every year we entered Cowden were the winners!
I am a member of Ally Gourlay’s
ex-Raith Rovers players’ club and get invited to Stark’s Park every now and again.
In fact the two games I saw last season were the two Raith v Cowden derbies.
course Cowden won them both and I was quite impressed. Markus Paatelainen for
me was a stand out and he obviously was good enough to play at a much higher level.
The other Cowden star to take my eye was Morgaro Gomis and now he’s doing well with Craig Levein at Dundee United.