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Raymond Allan
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Raymond Allan – Player 1972-75 and 1979-89

 

This is the story of a real Cowden hero - goalkeeper Raymond Allan who played a record 491 games for his home town club.

 

‘I was born and bred in Cowdenbeath and as a boy I lived in Moss-side Road and then Foulford Street.  We were all football daft in those days and I remember playing on fields all over Cowdenbeath – Meadowfield, Rosehill, North End Park, the pitch near Lumphinnans, and the Sheepfields.  I was always a goalkeeper – I don’t know why but I never wanted to play in any other position.

 

My dad had played in the Juveniles but as an inside forward – a hardy pup they say.  He later helped run the Coal Board team in Cowdenbeath.  As most people will know my grandad George Kyle was a goalkeeper with East Stirling and Cowdenbeath so who knows maybe it was in the blood. 

 

I started out playing for Broad Street School and then played for Beath High in each age group until I left school.  My dad was a Dunfermline fan and he used to take me to see the Pars.  I saw all Dunfermline’s games when they won the Scottish Cup in 1968 apart from the game v Celtic at Parkhead.  My dad would never take me to Parkhead or Ibrox because the crowds were too big.

 

When Dunfermline were away though I would get him to take me to watch Cowden.  Like many others I also used to sneak in to see the games or watch through the holes in the old corrugated iron fence that used to surround Central Park.  That Cowdenbeath side had players such as Andy Rolland, John Ritchie, Bobby Wilson, Andy Kinnell and big Tam Clark.

 

When I was still at school I joined Townhill under-14’s which were run by Willie Lessels.  I then graduated to Townhill under-16’s and they had a fantastic team.  I was the keeper with Rab Russell who played alongside me with Cowden at right-back.  Billy Maxwell was left back.  Ian Dair who also played with me at Cowdenbeath and Glenrothes was right-half.   Big Jim Leishman was the centre-half with the Campbell twins up front as the star strikers.  Ritchie and Ian scored loads of goals and we won every trophy that season.  Ian and Ritchie I think went down for trials at Liverpool then.  Also in the team were Billy Hutton, George Stein, Brian Poole, and Charlie Brine.

 

In the Scottish Cup semi-final we drew 1-1 with Tynecastle Boys Club and then beat them in the replay.  I missed out on the final though when we won the Lord Weir Cup as it was Rab Pennycook’s turn to play in goals!  Townhill had two keepers and we operated on a strict week about basis – one week I was in the next week Rab would play.

 

That really was an excellent side and we had a fantastic team spirit.  We all ran about together.  Most of the team would travel  through on the service bus to Dunfermline and then up to Townhill.  Many of the players came from Cowdenbeath, Hill of Beath, Kelty and Lochgelly.  Townhill played on a pitch near the cricket ground at the far end of Townhill. 

 

Unfortunately, after winning the Scottish Cup most of the team was too old to play further at under 16 level.  I was a year younger so I was one of the exceptions.  Townhill though decided to disband their under-16 side as they had lost most of the team.  I then moved on to play for Woodmill under-16s at Pitreavie.  Among the people who ran Woodmill were Ian Dair’s brother Tam who at one time had played for Hibs and Kenny Thomson’s dad Jock Thomson who was a well-known sprinter. 

 

Pupils who were at the old Beath High in the late 1960s and  early 1970s will remember John Goldie who was a PE teacher at the school.  He also played up front for Glenrothes Juniors.  They lost to Johnstone Burgh in the 1968 Scottish Junior Cup final.  John knew where the goals were and every week you’d see his name in the paper alongside the likes of Tommy Quinn scoring lots of goals for Glens who were the big guns of Fife Junior football then.

 

It was John Goldie who was the instigator of me joining Glenrothes.  I signed for them provisionally when I was just about aged 16.  I actually played 3 games as a provisional signing for Glenrothes at the end of season 1970/71 and was awarded a Fife Junior League champions medal. 

 

One of those games was against Jubilee Athletic at North End Park, Cowdenbeath.  I went up to watch the game and the Glenrothes ‘keeper was late.  Jock Forsyth asked me to go and get my boots and I went down to my gran’s to get them.  My dad was there and asked me where I was going.  I said just for a kick-about but he knew something was up! 

 

Glenrothes was run by a committee.  They selected the team and then Jock Forsyth who was the player/coach would tell us how we would play.  Other players at Glenrothes then included Jimmy Nairn, Denis McInnes (ex-Forfar), Davie Walker (ex-Cowden) and wee Davie Ross’s brother Jimmy.  For 1971/72, I was Glenrothes goalie just as they moved home from Dovecot Park to Warout. 

 

That was a successful season for Glens although we were runners up to Oakley United in the League.  Jimmy Seath was in that Oakley side.  Glenrothes though did win the Fife Cup, the Cowdenbeath Cup, and the East Fife Cup.  In the Fife and Lothians Cup final we beat Armadale 4-1 at Linlithgow.  At the tail end of season 1971/72, I had a couple of senior trials.  I had a try out with my grandad’s old side East Stirling and then played a Second Division match for Alloa (aged still just 16).  It was the last game of the season v Montrose.  Playing for Alloa were Andy Campbell, Jimmy Thomson and centre half Brian ‘Buck’ McGarry – he was as hard as nails. 

 

Cowdenbeath around this time had just missed out on promotion after being relegated from the top flight a year earlier and they were a good team then.  Early in season 1972/73, Cowden were due to play a game at Brechin and their goalkeeper Jimmy McArthur was taken ill.  Andy Matthew arranged for me to be Jim’s stand-in for this midweek game.

 

It was quite a daunting prospect as that Cowden side were top of the League and had won every match so far that season.  We won 2-0 though with Jim Taylor and Billy Laing scoring.  That was one of John Dickson’s last matches for Cowdenbeath. 

 

A few weeks later Jim McArthur was sold to Hibs and I was fixed up by Cowden at the same time as his replacement.  My dad never gave me advice on what I should do and let me make my own decisions.  In those days teams like Townhill and Woodmill wouldn’t have put up with the interference you get from parents nowadays.  We deal with you not your mum and dad was their way of operating.  Anyway, my dad did tell me when I was offered terms by Cowdenbeath that being a local boy could work for or against you.  You could be the local hero but if things went badly you’d never get away from it up Cowdenbeath High Street and at work.  I signed for Cowden and I think things worked out well enough!  

 

The Cowden side I joined in 1972 had lots of fine players – some I had watched playing for Cowden as a fan like Jim Taylor and Billy Bostock.  There was also Jim Moore, Davie Cairns, Dick Campbell, Robin Thomson, Davie Ross and Billy Laing.  Boys like Taylor and Bostock were experienced pros who could be a bit crabbit in the dressing room.  Much like myself – I think you need that bit of edge if you are going to be a winner.  I met Jim Moore a few years ago on the golf course at Pitreavie.  This grey-haired guy called me over but I didn’t recognise him.  He said ‘Cowdenbeath!’ and then told me to ‘look closer’.  ‘Jim Moore’ I said?  ‘Aye, remember me shouting at you all those years ago’ said Jim. 

 

Off the field Andy Matthew was a real quiet man as manager.  He was a gentleman.  I recall him once asking me about Tom Brown as a prospect for Cowdenbeath as I had played alongside Tom for Glenrothes.  When I told him Tom was 24 though Cowden lost interest. 

 

Mind you Billy Bostock wasn’t a youngster when he joined Cowden and he did pretty well.  As for training, there wasn’t any specialist training for ‘keepers back then – you just trained in the same way as the rest of the squad.  At the end of training all the players would do some shooting in but it was more about shooting practice than goalkeeping practice to be honest.  Before going to Cowden though the first real coaching I ever had was from Cowden goalie John Fyfe and his dad who took goalkeeper training sessions.  At Cowden the emphasis was on fitness work.  Andy Matthew brought in Davie McKinnon who had been a Powderhall sprinter or trainer.  With Davie all you got was run, run, run.  Pre-season we got a pummeling from Davie day in day out.  He said to us ‘I know nothing about football, all I know about is fitness’.  We were kept running for weeks on end – even into the winter when we were training on heavy parks.  My legs would often be in agony when we were playing a match on the Saturday! 

 

The Cowdenbeath directors then I knew mainly because most of them were local shopkeepers.  They kept themselves to themselves but I never had any bother with them.  There was Charlie Gronbach, Davie Fowlis, George Dick, Oreste Demarco and  Alex McKellar the chemist.  Tommy Russell was also a director and he ended up losing both his legs.  He had once been a player with Cowdenbeath.  Jock Gilliard by then was no longer a director but what a character.  He was always appearing in the dressing room and in a rage with the referee.  I can also remember Nellie from the tobacconists (P D Andersons) opposite the entrance to Central Park who made the teas at half time. 

 

The game I recall best from my first year with Cowden was the New Year derby v the Pars at Central Park.  There was a big crowd and we won 1-0 against a Pars side that featured a certain Jim Leishman.  Big Jimmy Taylor scored the winner with a header.  We fell away in the second half of that season after challenging at the top for a time.  In 1973/74, we brought in some new players like Ian Dair, Andy Harrow and big Ian Blackadder.  I recollect that year getting a hammering in a Scottish Cup tie in one of the first-ever Sunday matches.  It was Ayr United that beat us and they had George McLean and Alex Ferguson up front – players I had watched years before when they were at East End Park with Dunfermline.  Johnny Graham was another Ayr star.  Kilmarnock were in the Second Division that season and I remember we got a real roasting from a youngster named Gordon Smith.  Killie were a massive side then with great big half backs like Derek McDicken and Jimmy Stewart as their goalie. 

 

1974/75 was a poor season with a lot of change at  Central Park.  Andy Harrow was showing up well now and I can also recall big ‘Zeb’ Stewart and Jimmy Pryde playing for us then.  Zeb and Jimmy were pally with each other.  Jimmy Pryde was a really great footballer.  He came to us from Newtongrange and you couldn’t get the ball off him.  I remember later playing for Glenrothes in a Fife and Lothians Cup tie v Newtongrange and there was still nobody could touch Jimmy when he was on form – he ran us ragged. 

 

Early in the season Andy Matthew resigned and Bert Paton came in as manager.  He brought Bill McTavish with him as trainer.  Bert and Bill had done well at Lochgelly Albert.  Bert was really good while McTavish was the taskmaster. 

 

As regards training his view was if you weren’t being sick you weren’t doing it right.  Bill though also introduced ball work as part of the goalkeeper training.  Bert signed several new players including Tam Breen and Jimmy Seath from the juniors.  Joe Hughes who I had played against when he was with East Fife also joined us.  Under Bert we went five  games undefeated then he surprised us all by abruptly moving to Stark’s Park to become Raith manager.

 

Bert’s replacement was big Dan McLindon who had been manager at Alloa.  He brought Frank Connor with him from Alloa as our new trainer.  I knew Andy Campbell at Alloa and he told me he had got on fine with both Dan and Frank.  Dan McLindon was a comedian – there was never a dull moment with him around. 

 

Frank Connor was similar – he was also a good coach.  Frank had been a goalkeeper himself and he worked with me.  It was the start of me really working at my game as a goalkeeper.  Frank was a good guy as far as I was concerned and he was a great motivator.  The problem was I was competing for my place with veteran ex-Hibs goalkeeper Willie Wilson and Dan tended to favour the experienced campaigner. 

 

Willie was a good keeper but by then he had put on a lot of weight.  I only got a chance in the side then when Willie was injured.  I was a young laddie and although I really enjoyed the training it was one of my unhappiest times as a player because I wasn’t playing on Saturdays.  Later when I was more experienced I would have knocked on the manager’s door to ask why I wasn’t getting a game but I was too afraid to do that as a teenager.  I didn’t dislike Dan but wasn’t happy with how I was treated. 

 

As the end of season approached I was told that I was going to be released.  Glenrothes had qualified for the Scottish Junior Cup final and I agreed to go to the final with my dad.  It was on the last day of the senior season.  However, on the Thursday night before the final game Dan McLindon had so many players injured or already released that he asked me to be on the bench on the Saturday.  I agreed and missed the final which Glens won while I sat on the bench as Cowden substitute v Stenhousemuir.  I wasn’t a goalkeeper sub I was the only substitute on the bench although I wasn’t called on to make my debut as an outfield player. 

 

When I was released by Cowdenbeath in 1975 I played for the joiners’ team in the league at Rosyth Dockyard and ended up with a broken jaw.  Despite this injury, Glenrothes wanted me to return to play in the juniors with them. 

 

I told Jock Forsyth I wasn’t sure I would be able to play but he signed me anyway even with my jaw all wired up and said “We’ll see how you get on”.  Socially and football wise my return to the Glens was to be one of the best times in my career.  I was living in Glenrothes then and most of the players were local.  We all went around together and had a great social scene with the wives and families all involved.  It really was an enjoyable spell back at Warout – everyone pulled together.  Indeed, even when I was just 16 in my first spell with Glenrothes it was the same.  The older players looked out for me.  Nobody was allowed to kick me or there would be several players right down their throat. 

 

I did play another one game for Cowdenbeath in 1976 when Frank Connor needed a goalie at short notice.  I helped out in a League match v Albion Rovers.  I was back at Glenrothes though for 4 years between 1975 and 1979.   We won lots of honours – all the Fife trophies plus the Fife & Lothians Cup.  Our main rivals then were Newburgh, Thornton and Oakley. 

 

At that time Halbeath also became juniors with Jimmy Seath in their side.  They reached the Scottish Junior Cup quarter final where they lost to Pollok.  We had a few hard games with Lochgelly Albert then as well – Billy Bostock was playing for them at that time.  The Glenrothes team had a lot of ex-Cowden players during my time there including Ian Dair, Ian Blackadder, Davie Walker, Duncan Reid and Joe Whyte.  There was also Sandy Whyte, Doug Dailley, Denis McInnes, Andy Campbell and Stewart McKenzie. 

 

Stewart was our centre half  and he never played senior though he was capped many times by Scotland at junior level.  In 1978, I was Player of the Year at Glenrothes and was proud to be capped by Scotland at junior level.  We played Wales at Dam Park in Ayr where we lost 3-2.  Ian Dair was in the side as well while our old physio Willie Hunter at Glenrothes was selected as Scotland’s trainer for that match.  Old Willie’s dead now  - he was at Raith Rovers when Jim Baxter was there.  I think Neville Southall was the reserve goalkeeper for Wales that day. 

 

Near the close of season 1978/79, Cowdenbeath’s goalkeeper Davie Cooper picked up an injury.  Paddy Wilson was Cowden’s manager then and I knew him as he had trained with Glenrothes at one time.  Paddy asked me to help Cowden out and Jock Forsyth at Glenrothes agreed.  Cowden had lots of fixtures still to play and it was agreed I would play for Glenrothes on Saturdays and help Cowden out midweek.  I played  three games for Cowden under this arrangement. 

 

The first game was against Berwick Rangers at Central Park when they won the League that day.  Dave Smith and John Jobson were in the Berwick side.  I also played against East Stirling and then we met Falkirk who were challenging for second place and  promotion.  What a game I had that day.  If I had gone for a  pie the ball would have went with me.  We beat them 3-0 – big Jimmy Liddle and Jimmy Marshall both scored.  The Falkirk players couldn’t believe it as we had been playing so many games in such a short time to catch up on postponements – they said “We thought we’d give you a hammering and you would struggle playing a junior in goal.

 

When I came of the pitch at Brockville there was Paddy Wilson wanting me to sign for Cowdenbeath.  I said I couldn’t sign now with lots of Glenrothes games still left to play plus I  was to play for the Fife Select.  Jock Forsyth was with me that  night and he asked me what Paddy had said.  He advised me not to sign yet as a Rangers  scout had been inquiring about me.  Anyway I finished the junior season, heard nothing from Rangers,  and signed on for Paddy back at Cowdenbeath. 

 

The Cowden team then included Marshall and Liddle, Alan Carpenter, Alan Dyce, Jim ‘the Bear’ Davies, Rab Russell, Jimmy Markey, Ian ‘Charlie Farley’ Harley, Billy Steele and his brother Tommy.  I can recall a couple of games from that season.  We drew 2-2 against East Fife when Quinton Young kept running across me to block my kick outs – he managed to block one and score but then the ref penalised him the next time when he did it again.

 

Andy Rolland came back to Cowdenbeath that year from Dunfermline and I also can well recall a match v East Stirling at Central Park.  The Shire were going for promotion and I think we were getting a bit of a doing by 4-2.  There was really heavy fog that day though and eventually I couldn’t even see to the half way line.  The punters couldn’t see either and started to come down onto the track and stand at the touchline so they could see.  Eventually  the linesman called the referee over but the fans refused to move.  The referee then  decided to abandon the game due to fog. Next thing Andy Rolland and I saw Billy Lamont (the Shire manager) appear out of the mist heading on his way to get the referee.   We grabbed Billy and got him away from the ref and off the field. 

 

Just before the start of the next season Paddy Wilson suddenly resigned as boss.  Ex-Hibs player Pat Stanton took over from him.  Pat had been assistant manager at Aberdeen to Alex Ferguson before coming to us.  He brought in big George Stewart (ex-Hibs/Dundee) to play centre half.  A couple of other ex-Hibs players Alex McGhee and Willie Murray also had brief spells at Cowden.  Pat was a pretty quiet man and very likeable.  I got on really well with him personally. 

 

One player he signed was a youngster named Norrie McCathie.  He was a good lad, I had a lot of time for him and got to know him better later as an opponent.  He wasn’t always getting a game then and started to do a bit of disappearing and not turning up for a time.  It was Pat of course who later took Norrie to Dunfermline when he took the Pars job after just 6 months at Cowdenbeath. 

 

One game I’m not allowed to forget from Pat Stanton’s time as manager is the Fife Cup tie when we drew 4-4 with Raith Rovers at Central Park in a midweek match.  It was a windy and wet night and as Cowden fans will remember I was really able to kick a ball a long way. 

 

Several times in my career I almost scored especially with the wind behind me at Central Park.   Oddly in my first spell with Cowden I had trouble with my kicking and couldn’t take bye-kicks very well.  Of course over the years I got stronger while the balls we used got lighter and were better made as well.  That doesn’t mean I started out when they were still using the old lace-up balls – I’m not that old! 

 

Anyway that night v Raith I just about caught Tommy Walker out in the Rovers goal with a long kick.  However, in the second half he launched a long kick towards our penalty area.  I went towards it but it bounced higher than I was expecting.  I thought it was going to hit the pitch and skid towards me – it never entered my head it would bounce away up and over me.  I couldn’t get back and there it was in the net.  Now and again I run into Tommy Walker and he never fails to remind me and rub it in!’ 

 

In 1980/81, we were very unlucky not to be promoted.  It was a bad wet winter and we ended up having to play a lot of midweek matches on heavy parks to catch up with the leading teams.  With a week to go, we set up things up nicely by drawing 1-1 at Hampden – that gave them the title but we just needed a draw the next Saturday when Queen’s Park visited Cowdenbeath to accompany them up.  They were the better side at Hampden but we roasted them at Central Park.

 

Queen’s Park scored in the first minute at Central Park. We equalised though and Jimmy Liddle hit the post but we went down to 10 men in the first half when Gordon Forrest stupidly was sent off.  It was out of character for Gordon but he backheeled a Queens’ player in the face.  Andy Rolland missed a penalty and they got a late winner.  We could have still got a draw at the death when Davie Hunter had a chance from a corner kick but he knocked it wide.  We lost 2-1 and Queen of the South went up instead.  We had played really well and were all as sick as dogs.  That was the most sickening day ever in my career. 

 

That was a good team.  Jimmy Liddle was a great player and there were others like Jimmy Marshall and Steeley.  Keith Ferguson was another Cowdenbeath boy and he was one of the fittest players you would ever see and very quick.  I knew he had the ability and attitude to do well.  He was also a good lad on a night out - a real entertainer.  Keith of course suffered a bad leg break when he was at Whitburn a few years ago.  Davie Hunter is still a good friend in Glenrothes and I remember playing in a 5-a-side match for his fiftieth  birthday along with guys like Andy Rolland and Andy Harrow.  Some of us could hardly walk never mind run. 

 

Andy Rolland as the manager was great for us and he was supported by his assistant Tommy Traynor  who was fantastic in the dressing room. With Andy playing as well as managing, it was Tommy who did all the team talks.  However, something happened with his work and Tommy had to give up his post with Cowden.  Andy then brought in Jim Leishman as assistant manager.  Things went wrong the next season and Andy Rolland made up his mind to jack it in more or less on the bus home after we lost 3-0 at Arbroath – he was a great character and a real comedian. 

 

His successor was Hugh Wilson who had been Alloa manager.  He came from Lochore and like Andy Matthew he was a real gentleman.  Hugh never had a  bad word to say for anybody.  By now we had players like the young Craig Levein and veterans like Willie McCulloch and Bertie Miller in the side. 

 

Willie Gibson who had scored lots of goals for Hearts did the same for us until he gave up the game early to take over a Post Office.  He still runs the Post Office in Coaltown of Balgonie.   Hugh wasn’t manager for too long before Willie McCulloch took over.  Willie was keen on physical fitness but didn’t enjoy much success and he too wasn’t manager for very long.

 

I always had a good record for penalty saves but around that time I think I had a real hot streak for a couple of years.  In the second leg of a League Cup tie v Kilmarnock I saved two penalties during the match but we lost  on a penalty shoot-out after extra time.

 

I remember Jimmy Marshall missing one of our penalties, he just about hit the ‘toon clock’.  A year or two later, I saved two penalties from John Colquhoun in a match in the same competition v Stirling Albion.  Beating Albion took us through to play Hearts.  We drew 0-0 at Central Park and then 1-1 at Tynecastle.  Brian Christie scored our goal and I saved a penalty from Bud Johnston.  Again we went to a shoot-out.  Wee Willie took another penalty then and I just about stopped it as well.  You should have seen the look on Bud’s face, he thought he had missed again but it just crept in.  It was after that game that Hearts signed Craig Levein. 

 

Willie McCulloch’s replacement as boss was ex-Lisbon Lion John Clark.  John was a brilliant manager.  He was a disciplinarian but good with it.  John got us up and running again.  He was very organised and took things in 3 key steps – stop conceding goals, get fit, and then play to a pattern.  He set us all individual tasks and targets and had looked at other teams to see what made them successful.  For example I was maybe to achieve 17 shut outs or Kenny Ward or Colin McGlashan were to each score 12 goals.  However, once you got near the target, he might increase it.  

 

In summer 1984, I went to Blackpool with the family for a fortnight’s holiday.  John Clark said to me, given I had already done three weeks pre-season work, I shouldn’t waste that on holiday.  He arranged with Sam Ellis the Blackpool manager for me to drop in for a couple of training sessions each week.  I said to my wife I’d go to Bloomfield Road on Monday and Wednesday mornings.  On the Monday morning, I saw Sam Ellis and he was happy for me to come along anytime I felt like it.  I joined in the Monday morning session and enjoyed it so much I went back in the afternoon.  In fact, I then did morning and afternoon sessions on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in both the weeks we were in Blackpool while the wife and kids were on the beach! 

 

I did the same the following year.  Sam Ellis was impressed and he told me he had thought I would just show up for a couple of sessions.  He watched me play for Cowden in pre-season games versus Chorley and Fleetwood and was interested in signing me.  Between the ages of say 22 to 28 I was desperate to play in the Premier League as a full timer but by the mid-1980’s it was too late and I was happy to stay part-time after so many years down at the Dockyard.  Sam got me to play in a match at Blackpool involving a team of Celebrity All Stars.  It was a great laugh with guys like Les Dawson and Lenny Henry.

 

In 1984/85, we again came very close to promotion.  The team included Davie Armour who had been with Rangers and it was really sad that he died so young a year or two back.  A Rangers supporter at work told me Davie had died from cancer.  Not long before that I had played against him in a charity game.  I was in goals for a Cupar Hearts team against a team that featured guys like Davie and Jimmy Bone.  We had a good blether that day.  I saved a penalty in that game and Davie had said to the guy taking the penalty, ‘I bet you’ll miss, the big man in goal will save it’.   

 

Big Grant Tierney was still our centre half then.  He was pretty raw at first always flying into tackles but matured over time.  Grant was always covered in cuts and elastoplasts and he was a big honest player.  Up front we had Kenny Ward, Ian Paterson and Colin McGlashan to score the goals.  Paul Hackett also came in and contributed some useful goals.  Patsy was another big honest player and McGlashan was brought in to play off him.  Patsy never moaned about the kicks he got from centre halfs and just went back for more.  He was underrated.   Wardie loved to beat players and leave them sitting on the ground.  Wee Wardie and Dibble McGlashan got on great but on a night out you’d see them arguing like wee bairns.  Like any good team that side had a great team spirit and we enjoyed lots of good nights out and memorable Highland tours. 

 

That season of course we had a great run in the League Cup.  We won away at Stranraer, then beat Partick Thistle 3-0.  Next we won 2-0 at Central Park against St Mirren and I saved a Frank MacAvennie penalty.  This gave us a home quarter final tie v Rangers in front of a five-figure crowd.  Jock Wallace’s Rangers team included McCoist, Ally Dawson and John McClelland.  We deserved better than the eventual 3-1 defeat we suffered.  We had played about an hour with no scoring when Ian Ferguson picked up the ball.  He didn’t seem to know what to do so tried a long range effort.  I had it covered going to my left but it hit Danny Wilson on the back and ended up flying into the right-hand side of the net.  Bobby Russell scored another quick one after that and Ian Redford got a third.  Patsy hit the post that night and it was Grant Tierney who scored for us past Nicky Walker in the Rangers goal.

 

After that disappointment we hit a bit of a slump but then got up and running again to miss out on promotion by just a couple of points.  There was a great win at East End Park but a key defeat came at Stirling Albion in the run in when they got their goal from a penalty.  A minute later we had a penalty as well but Wardie missed and we lost 1-0 – a bit like 1981.  Wee things like that end up making all the difference. 

 

1985/86 was the season I broke my leg in a match v Albion Rovers at Cowdenbeath.  Sammy Conn took a penalty and I saved it.  Two Albion players rushed in for the rebound and I forced one of them to hit the ball over the bar.  Sammy Conn  though booted me on the back of the leg.  I got up again and was limping around.  The other players were instructed not to pass the ball back to me for the next few minutes.  However, next thing Grant Tierney passed back to me and as I went to pick it up my leg gave way completely.  It was Joe Craig who was John Clark’s assistant who went to the treatment room with me that day after I had come off. 

 

I had a lot of time for Joe.  He had bad knees but could still play a bit in training.  Before John Clark and Joe were at Central Park I would just turn up for matches but with Joe I was able to arrive at 1pm to work with him in a warm-up and do goalkeeping work before the game.  He was always willing as well to stay back with me to do extra goalkeeping training.  When John Clark was there Joe acted as the go between the players and John.  He was able to act as a peacemaker and settle down arguments.  He would sometimes help John appreciate the players’ views.  The manager wouldn’t go on players’ nights out but Joe would come along and have a couple of drinks. 

 

One day though we were surprised when John Clark resigned.  He said he felt he couldn’t take the team any further.  Joe Craig then took over as manager with wee Bobby Ford stepping up to be his assistant.  Joe then told me he was intending to make a lot of changes and bring in young lads.  He said to me we might struggle at first but wanted me as a senior player to be part of it.  He asked if I was up for it and I said yes. 

 

Joe ended up doing really well with a team of young laddies.  There was a bit of experience in the team as well with me and big Drew Rutherford.  Sad to say I was at Drew’s funeral in Dunfermline just last year.  I met up with Keith McCulloch there as well as Gordon McDougall who said I should come along to Central Park and that fans there still talk about me.  Keith was in Joe’s team of course along with wee Dick Baillie who was hard as nails.  Then there was Billy Paxton – a real hard player and a wild man.  Later he took over his father’s scaffolding business.

 

Stewart Williamson who is at Tayport now was another regular and we had Paul Cherry too.  We sold Paul to St Johnstone and he was a really fit guy who could run all day.  Up front we had Billy Blackie who was a flying machine alongside Roddy Grant.  Roddy was a bit raw at first and he certainly wasn’t quick.  He had good feet though and held the ball up well. 

 

Around this time I was awarded a testimonial by Cowdenbeath due to my long service to the club.  Joe Craig organised everything for me.  Rangers provided the opposition and guys like McCoist and McPherson played that night.  Graeme Souness was originally going to play for 45 minutes but it ended up with Walter Smith bringing the Rangers team through.  The Cowdenbeath team was strengthened by the addition of my old team mates Kenny Ward and Norrie McCathie.  In addition, John Blackley and Danny McGrain also turned out for us.  Craig Levein was going to play as well but in the end couldn’t make it.  There was a crowd of about 3,500 and the match ended 1-1.  Jim Renton was the referee and the linesmen too were local lads. 

 

I remember during the game Colin McGlashan knocked the ball back to me.  Danny McGrain ran back for me to throw him the ball but I threw it out on the other side.  Danny said, ‘If you think I’m running back here and you’re going to throw it to someone else you’re up a  pole!’. 

 

Under Joe we had some exciting games.  We beat a strong going St Johnstone side 4-3 at Central Park after being 4-0 up at one time.  It was ding dong all night and even at 4-0 Joe said this game’s not finished.  Alex Totten and Bert Paton couldn’t believe they were 4-0 down.  Billy Blackie was like lightning and we played the ball over defenders who couldn’t handle his pace.  Mind you Billy could go right through and miss them as well. 

 

There also was a controversial game when we ended up with nine men v Raith Rovers.  Gordon Dalziell punched the ball out of my hands for John Wright to equalise for the Rovers. 

 

There were some difficult times for the club then though as the stand had been damaged by fire.  The quote they got for rebuilding work got more and more expensive and they had difficulty in meeting the bill.  It seemed the players’ wages weren’t going to be paid either but chairman Tom Currie paid them out of his own pocket.  Currie had a company involved with oilrigs up in the north east. 

 

Once when I won the Cowdenbeath Player of The Year award he paid for a weekend away with my wife at the Coylumbridge Hotel.  All expenses were paid and we got 100 spending money as well. 

 

Joe Craig by then was working full time as both manager and the club’s commercial manager.  All of a sudden Joe was sacked.  I still don’t know why he was dismissed and whether it was to do with money or football.  I’ve met Joe since then but I’ve never asked him.  I think he took the club to a tribunal but matters were settled out of court. 

 

Just before Joe’s departure I was selected to represent Scotland in a Four Nations Cup tournament.  It was a great experience as well as a laugh and the squad was away for a week at Dunblane Hydro.  The team included Rowan Alexander, Norrie McCathie, Craig Robertson, John Watson, Paul Flexney, John Sludden, John McVeigh and Ian McPhee.  Ray Charles played in goal when we lost to England.  I played in the other two matches at Stark’s Park and East End.  We beat Holland and lost to Italy.  Italy was like an under 21 team while the Dutch side was made up of part time players who were reserves or with lower league clubs. 

 

Back at Central Park, a lot of players were upset and bemused by Joe’s departure.  The youngsters were a bit down in the mouth.  Guys like Roddy Grant wondered had Joe been sacked because of them.  Joe was replaced by my ‘auld neebor’ Dick Campbell.  The Campbell twins and Big Leish are great guys and I’ve been friends with them all for 40 years. 

 

Dick played alongside me when I made my Cowden debut.  He always says ‘I mind your debut – you put your gloves in the back of the goal turned round and next thing you were picking the ball out of the net!’

 

Under Dick we had a good pre-season and won the Fife Cup.  Once the season started though we lost game after game and Dick was sacked after just a few months.  He had left Brechin City to come to Cowden and then went back to his old job as coach at Brechin.  John Ritchie said he hadn’t bothered replacing him as he knew he’d soon be back!

 

The next man to take over as Cowden boss was John Blackley.  He told us that first thing we were going to shut up shop, stop losing goals, and then take it from there.  I remember then we went up to Perth and beat St Johnstone 1-0.  Graham Hutt scored with a 25-yarder that bounced around eight times before going in.  They gave us a hammering but we took the points.  Bert Paton and Alex Totten went off their heads – ‘That’s an awfy way to play football’, they said. 

 

Alan McKenzie who had played for us as a youngster came back to Cowden from Finland and scored a good few  goals.  He brought Scott Burnside with him from Finland.  Gus Malone who had played for Brechin came to us from the Tayside juniors – he’s still playing for Tayport nowadays. 

 

We also got Davie Taylor from Hearts because he wanted a regular game.  He was a really good player and looked like being sold on for big money.  Sadly he did his cruciate ligaments and never played again. 

 

Eventually though John Blackley accepted a job as assistant manager at Dundee and his assistant John Brownlie was promoted to manager.  We then had a long unbeaten run under John Brownlie and weren’t far off the top of the league.

 

Before the start of the next campaign 1989/90, we had a tour of the north of England which didn’t go well.  Then we lost most of our opening competitive games before we travelled to play Stranraer. 

 

Now no doubt lots of fans want me to spill the beans and confirm I hit manager John Brownlie.  I can say though that’s not really true at all.  What actually happened was we lost 3-1 at Stranraer.  One of the goals came about when Shug Douglas at centre half went to pass back to me.  I came out for the ball but he fell over and mishit the pass with his studs just rolling over the top of the ball.  I was then left stranded and a Stranraer forward nipped in, dribbled round me, and hit it into the empty net.  In the dressing room at time up, John started having a right go at Hugh Douglas saying he should have knocked the ball out of play.

 

I didn’t agree and suggested that I thought Shug had tried to the right thing – he had had time but it went wrong.  If he had knocked it out for a corner and they had scored from it John would have criticised him for doing the wrong thing then as well.  Well we certainly didn’t see eye to eye at that moment.  In fact, John and I were rapidly toe to toe, nose to nose shouting at each other.  There was no punch-up but assistant manager Gordon Millar and 2 or 3 of the players did end up holding us back. 

 

We came back on the bus and I went into Partners bar when we got back to Cowdenbeath.  Glen Kerr went to get a round in at the bar and the fans there all said we heard ‘you banged John Brownlie’.  As I said, truth was there was a big argument, nobody was hit, and the other players stepped in to separate us. 

 

John Brownlie then told me I’d never play for Cowdenbeath again.   I was punished by being made to train by myself.  It seemed I was a bad influence!   Jimmy Reekie had to come down to the park to switch on the lights for me to train alone on Mondays and Wednesdays.  It was hard to take after all the years I spent with Cowden.  I had played in a record number of games and just missed out on making my 500 appearance – it still annoys me a bit.

 

John Brownlie and I didn’t talk for a few years after that and we would just walk by each other.  I came across him a couple of times when he was at Clyde and then later we met at some functions.  Eventually we just started speaking to each other again.  We get on fine now and talk when we meet although we never mention my exit from Cowden.   

 

After a fortnight though Forfar keeper Stewart Kennedy damaged his back at McDairmid Park.  Their back up goalie was fellow Cowdenbeath boy Jim Moffat.  Jim though had flu and Ian Fleming who was Forfar’s caretaker manager contacted Cowdenbeath and got me on a month’s loan.  It actually meant a step up to the First Division for me.  They were second  bottom of the League when I went there and after I had been there just a short time Forfar signed me permanently. 

 

Player-manager by then was Bobby Glennie the big centre half who had played alongside Ian Fleming at Aberdeen and Dundee.  Instead of being out of the game for the season, after just 3 weeks I had been signed on a 2 year contract by Forfar.  Cowden got a small fee but I knew there had been a couple of fair sized offers for me in the past that Cowden had turned down.  Frank Connor had wanted me to join Raith at Stark’s Park.  Big Drew Rutherford told me that Alex Rennie had tried to sign me for St Johnstone but Cowden wanted at least 40,000 for me.  Alex said he wasn’t going to pay as much that to sign a goalie.

 

At Forfar, a few signings helped change things around a bit and we managed to avoid relegation ending third bottom just 2 points off the drop.  The players at Station Park then included Alex Hamill, Rab Morris, Ray Lorimer, Ally Brazil and a young Craig Brewster.  

 

In my time at Forfar I played twice in Scottish Cup ties v Celtic.  We lost one of the games 2-0 but gave Celtic a real fright in the other game in which we were eventually beaten by 2-1.  Craig Brewster scored a fantastic free-kick in that game and it was Paddy Bonnar in the Celtic goal who saved them from a beating.  Billy McNeil went on the radio and said he’d have been paid off if it hadn’t been for his goalkeeper. 

 

Bobby Glennie was sacked at the end of my first Forfar season.  I was amazed when I was told by somebody I met on holiday in Blackpool that ‘Your manager’s been sacked’.  Paul Hegarty was his replacement and he too was player manager.  Frank Kopel was the assistant manager and John Holt also joined us as a player.  Heggy was full time at Forfar and the training was good.  We had a good pre-season but just made slow progress in Heggy’s first year.  Every game was like a cup final and it was tense though we managed to stay up again.  Stewart Petrie and big Charlie Adam were now in the Forfar line up.  The opponent I most vividly remember from then was Falkirk’s Simon Stainrod – he was arrogant but what a player. 

 

 At the end of that campaign my contract was up and Paul Hegarty had signed Scott Thomson.  Forfar asked me to sign on for another year but Scott Thomson was going to be the first choice keeper.  I was not used to not playing on Saturdays and eventually agreed to sign on again on the understanding that if a club came in for me I’d be allowed to move even if it was down a division.  Within a couple of weeks John Ritchie came in the scene from Brechin and I was swapped for Ian Pryde. 

 

John Ritchie I knew quite well and of course I used to watch him play for Cowden all those years before when I used to sneak in to Central Park.  John was a hard taskmaster and although you wouldn’t want to get on his wrong side he also knew when to have a laugh.  Dick Campbell was assistant that first year before he was succeeded by John Young. 

 

In my second season at Brechin City, we won promotion to the First Division.  We fought it out at the top with Clyde and Stranraer.  We beat Clyde in the February and had a good lead at the top then as we went for the title.  However, we had a lean spell in the last third of the season and Clyde overhauled us to win the title.  On the last day Clyde were already champions 3 points ahead of ourselves and Stranraer.  We had a better goal difference than Stranraer.  We though had Clyde as our last match which was at Douglas Park – that was where Clyde played back then.  The score was 1-1 late, late in the game.  Stranraer had won at Ochilview and the story had got round there that our game had ended in a draw – the Stranraer fans and players were already celebrating promotion. 

 

However, we weren’t finished and Marc Miller scored his second goal of the afternoon at the death to give us promotion and kill off Stranraer’s celebrations. 

 

Marc was a good player, he was a bit like Billy Bostock as he wasn’t a youngster by the time he went senior.  Other players Cowden fans will recall in that Brechin side included ex-Cowden lads like Graham Hutt, that wee hard man Dick Baillie, and Sandy Ross who scored about half our goals that season.  Sandy was the Second Division Player of the Year that year.  He was a real pain in the neck for defenders, always shoving and digging in with his elbows!  He did get caught at it a few times though.  We also had a first class defence which included Harry Cairney and Alan McKillop.  That night we celebrated initially in Glasgow where we had a couple of beers with Sandy Ross and the Glasgow boys.  Then we were back on the bus to Dundee for night out while the Directors went on back to Brechin.  Eventually Graham Hutt and I got back to Fife in a taxi. 

 

At the season’s end though John Ritchie moved on to take up a coaching role with Hibs.  Ian Redford, the ex-Dundee United and Rangers player, was brought in to replace John and he was to be player/manager.  1993/94 wasn’t to be a good season for me or Brechin City.  Really I struggled all that year and missed a lot of games due to a bad injury.  I went over on my ankle during winter training in the gym and tore all my ligaments. Reddy then signed Derek Balfour from Arbroath to take my place when I was out.

 

Ian Redford was a gentleman but it didn’t really work out for him at Brechin.  He tried to build everything around himself.  He was trying to do everything whether he was playing in midfield or up front.  Sandy Ross struggled to score any goals.  Reddy concentrated on football training but we felt our fitness suffered because of that. 

 

Anyway, whether it was the fact we were in a harder league, the change of manager, new ideas that didn’t suit the team or whatever I don’t know, but we were bottom of the League and relegated.  Ian did better when he started to play up front but by then it was too late for us.

 

After Brechin were relegated, Ian Redford asked me to sign on again.  Reddy and I couldn’t agree on terms though as he said he couldn’t give me what I wanted and that I would have to prove myself again.  Seemingly Cowden were interested then in taking me back and I know another club was interested as well.  I had actually been training Cowden’s goalkeepers for a few years.  I had worked with big Buzz Lamont, Alan Combe, James Maloney and Neil Russell at Central Park. 

 

However, out of the blue I had a phone call from Andy Watson assistant manager at Motherwell who said Alex McLeish was interested in signing me.  He said John Ritchie had recommended me and straight away I thought it must be a wind-up if big Ritchie’s involved.  It was true though and I met Alex McLeish at the services at Kinross that night and signed for Motherwell.  Motherwell had lost Sieb Dykstra to QPR and Billy Thomson to Rangers.  They therefore needed a back-up keeper for Stevie Woods.  They had limited money but required to sign a keeper quickly as they were in Europe.  John Ritchie had said I was available at a decent price, would do them a turn and help them out.  I had met Andy Watson before when John had arranged for me to train for a week with Jim Leighton at Hibs. 

 

Among the players at Motherwell then were Paul McGrillen, ‘Toastie’ Burns, Chris McCart, Billy Davies, Tommy Coyne and Paul Lambert.  Innes Ritchie was one of the young laddies in the reserve team.  I used to travel through to Motherwell with Stevie Kirk.  It was Alex McLeish’s first job as a manager.  He had a lot of good ideas on the training ground and was good with players.  He knew where he wanted to go and things went pretty well for him. 

 

I was sub in our away UEFA Cup tie in the Faroes versus a club whose name I can’t even pronounce (Havnar Boltfelag).  I came on in that game and kept a clean sheet.  Later we went to Germany to play Borussia Dortmund and I remember walking into the hotel in Germany past the media.  Gordon Smith who had played against me as a youngster more than 20 years before shouted out ‘Hey big yin, you werenae expecting to be here at 39!’

 

I was a part-timer still at Motherwell as I was too old to go full-time.  I was playing for ‘Well in the reserves in Tuesday afternoon games and that was difficult as I had to keep getting half days off work at the Dockyard.  Motherwell signed Scott Howie and Alex McLeish phoned me up to say he was happy for me to stay with Motherwell as a part timer but Jimmy Nicholl at Raith Rovers wanted me.  I agreed to sign for the Rovers after I had been with Motherwell for about 3 months.  At Stark’s Park, Jimmy wanted me to be back up to Scott Thomson.

 

Exciting things were happening then at Stark’s Park.  They beat Airdrie in the League Cup semi-final on penalties when Scott Thomson was sent off and young Brian Potter was brought on in goals.  Originally it was expected I would be the sub keeper for the League Cup ties but it turned out I was ineligible because I was cuptied having sat on the bench for Motherwell earlier in the competition. 

 

Scott Thomson though was suspended after being sent off and I was brought in for my one and only Raith game – a derby versus the Pars at Stark’s Park.  That wasn’t one of my best days!  I had a good first half but then wee Kenny Ward on the right and Marc Miller on the left started to rip us apart.  I then flogged a cross for the Pars to score their third goal.  Stewart Petrie ran across me and I just knocked the ball down about the penalty spot for Hamish French to hit it back past me.  I got blamed for Raith’s 5-2 defeat by the punters and every time I meet a Raith fan they still cast that game up. 

 

Raith won the League Cup beating Celtic in the final and I was there, travelling through to watch on one of the supporters’ buses.  Again I played regularly in the reserves.  Ironically, Ian Redford was playing alongside me there and we won the East Reserve League title.  I was still training with Brechin then and taking the goalkeeping training for Cowden plus doing a bit extra as well.  Jimmy Nicholl was a really good boss and he joined in all the carry on in the dressing room.  There were a lot of good boys at the Rovers and we all socialised together – Shaun Dennis, Davie Sinclair, big Ally Graham, Daz, Davie Narey, etc.  Jason Dair was there too and I could remember him as a baby back when I played with his dad Iain.  Raith of course won the First Division championship that year. 

 

I had enjoyed my year with Motherwell and Raith but wasn’t enjoying the fact that at 3 o’clock on Saturdays I wasn’t playing.  For me Saturdays were all about playing football.  I therefore was freed by the Rovers in the summer of 1995 and ended up going back to join Brechin City.

 

Brechin and Forfar are both good clubs.  Brechin didn’t have a lot of money but they saw you all right.  There was a laid back approach and it was enjoyable.  There were great people at Glebe Park like Tom Gilmartin the physio who kept me going despite injury problems and Alan Grieve.   John Young was the manager and he had been assistant manager when I had previously been with Brechin.  He knew when to be serious but he was also a great laugh and full of tricks.   The tea ladies at Brechin too were famed for the spreads they laid on even for reserve games.  You were treated really well at Brechin (and at Forfar). 

 

1995/96 was another memorable year and Brechin won promotion by finishing runners-up to Livingston in the Third Division.  That was the year Livingston changed their name from Meadowbank, left Edinburgh for Livingston and had big Leish as manager.  Stewart Williamson and Willie Callaghan were playing for Livvy then along with Rab Douglas in goals.  Brechin had a rock solid defence – we didn’t score many goals but we had 19 shut outs.  Sandy Ross was our top scorer again but I don’t think he even got into double figures.  We had about the oldest back four in Scotland with guys like me, Harry Cairney and Bobby Brown.  We were actually featured in the press before our last game having conceded only 18 goals in 35 league games and the papers were talking about the best defence in Britain.  We were high as kites having already celebrated winning promotion but came down to earth in our last match at the Shire.  It was a scorcher of a day and the pitch was brick hard and ‘stoorie’.  We lost 3-0!

 

Injury was beginning to take its toll on me by now though.  The start of it was in a 1-0 defeat for Brechin from Cowden when Willie Syme scored a goal past me.  Later, I was playing for Brechin v Albion Rovers about 4 years before I packed in.  A Rovers player went to shoot, I got half crouched and set myself but found I couldn’t move.  I missed a couple of weeks and then started getting injections in the back which helped it to heal up a bit.  Unfortunately it was discovered that a number of joints at the base of my spine had seized up.  For the last 4 years of my career, I needed painkillers before every game although I could still manage at training OK..

 

1996/97 saw Brechin back up in the Second Division.   I started off as the regular ‘keeper that season but then was sent off for the first time in my career after bringing a forward down outside the box as the last man.  Stuart Garden was the reserve keeper and he got in.  I couldn’t then get back in the side.  However, in the second last League match of the season Stuart was ironically sent off.  Thus I returned to play in what was to be my last ever game on the final day of season 1996/97 just after my 42 birthday.  Brechin manager John Young then wanted me to sign on for another year but really I’d had enough and with the pain from my damaged back just couldn’t take it anymore.  I told John that I was packing in with 6 or 7 weeks of the season to go.  After all those years in the game I was starting to lose a bit of interest.  I was coming in from work and couldn’t be bothered with training – that wasn’t like me at all.  I would usually have trained 7 days week if I could have.  They would be turning the lights off at Brechin and I’d still be out there working hard.

 

John asked me to stay, he said I could take the other keepers for training and play in the first team or the reserves.  I told John again I was quitting and he said he would try Cowdenbeath or East Fife if I wanted to find me a team nearer home.  He said ‘I’ll give you six months and then you’ll be desperate to get back playing again’.  Jim Moffat also contacted me and asked me to coach the goalkeepers at East Fife but I turned him down.  I decide I wanted to play golf instead although I had always thought I would end up coaching.  Really though I find it too hard to watch and not play. 

 

I miss the banter from the football but I get that now on the golf course.  Mainly, I miss being young enough to play football.  I rarely go and watch games.  You’ll be lucky if I’ve seen a dozen games in the 9 years since I packed it in.  Usually if I go to a game it is more about meeting up with old mates from my Brechin or Cowdenbeath days.  There’s a good social scene with Glenrothes Juniors though and whenever there’s a Scottish Cup tie I meet up with many of my old playing colleagues from my Warout days.  I went along to see Cowden v Brechin in the last game of season 2000/01 when Toorie Winter scored the late winner to take Cowden up.  I knew Toorie’s family back from when my mother had a shop in Randolph Street years and years ago.  I was speaking to Harry Cairney of Brechin after that game and he told me he was going to pack it in.  He couldn’t take losing out like that on the last kick of the season. 

 

I said to him not to do it if he wasn’t sure he was ready and to play on a couple of years if he could.  He did that and ended up with a championship medal.  Harry of course resigned as Arbroath manager after some poor results not that long ago.  That’s the sort of guy Harry is, he would look at his own self first if there was a problem.  He’s a good lad, a schoolteacher and I’ve got a lot of time for him.  You always normally have a lot of time of course for the boys you played alongside when you enjoyed success.

 

I remember talking to Tam Ogilvie at Central Park and in fact I can recall when he was our local policeman when I was a boy.  He always remembers a game when Brechin won 1-0 at Central Park.  I made a save in that game when a Cowden player hit a shot I hardly even saw from about seven yards.  I couldn’t get my hands up to it so I headed it over the bar.  After the game, Tam asked me ‘See that one you put over the bar, did you header that?’  He was right I couldn’t get to it so I just stretched my neck and headed it over – the referee gave a goal kick though! 

 

I had a good career and there was nowhere I played that I didn’t enjoy.  It was good late in my career at Brechin to have some success at last with two promotions in three seasons.  That was fantastic and they made me feel really at home up there.  There’s nobody really that I disliked after all my years in football or have any grudges with.  We could kick lumps out of each other but at the end of the game it would be forgotten.   Of course I could be a bit crabbit but that was because I like to think I was a winner.  I was a wee bit fiery sometimes but goalkeepers are often like that, for example Alan Combe.  We’re a different breed – goalkeepers and football players aren’t the same. 

 

As I said golf is my sport now.  I had first played years ago with my granddad George Kyle at Kinneswood.  I play off four nowadays and in the summer play seven days a week at Glenrothes.  In the winter there’s four of us go to Wellsgreen twice a week.  As I mentioned I could be a bit fiery and that was costing me a fortune at the golf at first.  We had an arrangement among the boys I play with that if you handed in a N/R card you would pay a fiver into the kitty.  I was ending up paying for their night out! 

 

I still come across a lot of my old playing colleagues on the golf course or locally such as Davie Hunter, Andy Rolland, Robin Thomson and Andy Harrow.  It’s getting on for 35 years now since I first played for Cowden and I’ve been working at the dockyard for even longer than that.

 

Cowden conversations

Raymond Allan – Player 1972-75 and 1979-89

 

This is the story of a real Cowden hero - goalkeeper Raymond Allan who played a record 491 games for his home town club.

 

‘I was born and bred in Cowdenbeath and as a boy I lived in Moss-side Road and then Foulford Street.  We were all football daft in those days and I remember playing on fields all over Cowdenbeath – Meadowfield, Rosehill, North End Park, the pitch near Lumphinnans, and the Sheepfields.  I was always a goalkeeper – I don’t know why but I never wanted to play in any other position.

 

My dad had played in the Juveniles but as an inside forward – a hardy pup they say.  He later helped run the Coal Board team in Cowdenbeath.  As most people will know my grandad George Kyle was a goalkeeper with East Stirling and Cowdenbeath so who knows maybe it was in the blood. 

 

I started out playing for Broad Street School and then played for Beath High in each age group until I left school.  My dad was a Dunfermline fan and he used to take me to see the Pars.  I saw all Dunfermline’s games when they won the Scottish Cup in 1968 apart from the game v Celtic at Parkhead.  My dad would never take me to Parkhead or Ibrox because the crowds were too big.

 

When Dunfermline were away though I would get him to take me to watch Cowden.  Like many others I also used to sneak in to see the games or watch through the holes in the old corrugated iron fence that used to surround Central Park.  That Cowdenbeath side had players such as Andy Rolland, John Ritchie, Bobby Wilson, Andy Kinnell and big Tam Clark.

 

When I was still at school I joined Townhill under-14’s which were run by Willie Lessels.  I then graduated to Townhill under-16’s and they had a fantastic team.  I was the keeper with Rab Russell who played alongside me with Cowden at right-back.  Billy Maxwell was left back.  Ian Dair who also played with me at Cowdenbeath and Glenrothes was right-half.   Big Jim Leishman was the centre-half with the Campbell twins up front as the star strikers.  Ritchie and Ian scored loads of goals and we won every trophy that season.  Ian and Ritchie I think went down for trials at Liverpool then.  Also in the team were Billy Hutton, George Stein, Brian Poole, and Charlie Brine.

 

In the Scottish Cup semi-final we drew 1-1 with Tynecastle Boys Club and then beat them in the replay.  I missed out on the final though when we won the Lord Weir Cup as it was Rab Pennycook’s turn to play in goals!  Townhill had two keepers and we operated on a strict week about basis – one week I was in the next week Rab would play.

 

That really was an excellent side and we had a fantastic team spirit.  We all ran about together.  Most of the team would travel  through on the service bus to Dunfermline and then up to Townhill.  Many of the players came from Cowdenbeath, Hill of Beath, Kelty and Lochgelly.  Townhill played on a pitch near the cricket ground at the far end of Townhill. 

 

Unfortunately, after winning the Scottish Cup most of the team was too old to play further at under 16 level.  I was a year younger so I was one of the exceptions.  Townhill though decided to disband their under-16 side as they had lost most of the team.  I then moved on to play for Woodmill under-16s at Pitreavie.  Among the people who ran Woodmill were Ian Dair’s brother Tam who at one time had played for Hibs and Kenny Thomson’s dad Jock Thomson who was a well-known sprinter. 

 

Pupils who were at the old Beath High in the late 1960s and  early 1970s will remember John Goldie who was a PE teacher at the school.  He also played up front for Glenrothes Juniors.  They lost to Johnstone Burgh in the 1968 Scottish Junior Cup final.  John knew where the goals were and every week you’d see his name in the paper alongside the likes of Tommy Quinn scoring lots of goals for Glens who were the big guns of Fife Junior football then.

 

It was John Goldie who was the instigator of me joining Glenrothes.  I signed for them provisionally when I was just about aged 16.  I actually played 3 games as a provisional signing for Glenrothes at the end of season 1970/71 and was awarded a Fife Junior League champions medal. 

 

One of those games was against Jubilee Athletic at North End Park, Cowdenbeath.  I went up to watch the game and the Glenrothes ‘keeper was late.  Jock Forsyth asked me to go and get my boots and I went down to my gran’s to get them.  My dad was there and asked me where I was going.  I said just for a kick-about but he knew something was up! 

 

Glenrothes was run by a committee.  They selected the team and then Jock Forsyth who was the player/coach would tell us how we would play.  Other players at Glenrothes then included Jimmy Nairn, Denis McInnes (ex-Forfar), Davie Walker (ex-Cowden) and wee Davie Ross’s brother Jimmy.  For 1971/72, I was Glenrothes goalie just as they moved home from Dovecot Park to Warout. 

 

That was a successful season for Glens although we were runners up to Oakley United in the League.  Jimmy Seath was in that Oakley side.  Glenrothes though did win the Fife Cup, the Cowdenbeath Cup, and the East Fife Cup.  In the Fife and Lothians Cup final we beat Armadale 4-1 at Linlithgow.  At the tail end of season 1971/72, I had a couple of senior trials.  I had a try out with my grandad’s old side East Stirling and then played a Second Division match for Alloa (aged still just 16).  It was the last game of the season v Montrose.  Playing for Alloa were Andy Campbell, Jimmy Thomson and centre half Brian ‘Buck’ McGarry – he was as hard as nails. 

 

Cowdenbeath around this time had just missed out on promotion after being relegated from the top flight a year earlier and they were a good team then.  Early in season 1972/73, Cowden were due to play a game at Brechin and their goalkeeper Jimmy McArthur was taken ill.  Andy Matthew arranged for me to be Jim’s stand-in for this midweek game.

 

It was quite a daunting prospect as that Cowden side were top of the League and had won every match so far that season.  We won 2-0 though with Jim Taylor and Billy Laing scoring.  That was one of John Dickson’s last matches for Cowdenbeath. 

 

A few weeks later Jim McArthur was sold to Hibs and I was fixed up by Cowden at the same time as his replacement.  My dad never gave me advice on what I should do and let me make my own decisions.  In those days teams like Townhill and Woodmill wouldn’t have put up with the interference you get from parents nowadays.  We deal with you not your mum and dad was their way of operating.  Anyway, my dad did tell me when I was offered terms by Cowdenbeath that being a local boy could work for or against you.  You could be the local hero but if things went badly you’d never get away from it up Cowdenbeath High Street and at work.  I signed for Cowden and I think things worked out well enough!  

 

The Cowden side I joined in 1972 had lots of fine players – some I had watched playing for Cowden as a fan like Jim Taylor and Billy Bostock.  There was also Jim Moore, Davie Cairns, Dick Campbell, Robin Thomson, Davie Ross and Billy Laing.  Boys like Taylor and Bostock were experienced pros who could be a bit crabbit in the dressing room.  Much like myself – I think you need that bit of edge if you are going to be a winner.  I met Jim Moore a few years ago on the golf course at Pitreavie.  This grey-haired guy called me over but I didn’t recognise him.  He said ‘Cowdenbeath!’ and then told me to ‘look closer’.  ‘Jim Moore’ I said?  ‘Aye, remember me shouting at you all those years ago’ said Jim. 

 

Off the field Andy Matthew was a real quiet man as manager.  He was a gentleman.  I recall him once asking me about Tom Brown as a prospect for Cowdenbeath as I had played alongside Tom for Glenrothes.  When I told him Tom was 24 though Cowden lost interest. 

 

Mind you Billy Bostock wasn’t a youngster when he joined Cowden and he did pretty well.  As for training, there wasn’t any specialist training for ‘keepers back then – you just trained in the same way as the rest of the squad.  At the end of training all the players would do some shooting in but it was more about shooting practice than goalkeeping practice to be honest.  Before going to Cowden though the first real coaching I ever had was from Cowden goalie John Fyfe and his dad who took goalkeeper training sessions.  At Cowden the emphasis was on fitness work.  Andy Matthew brought in Davie McKinnon who had been a Powderhall sprinter or trainer.  With Davie all you got was run, run, run.  Pre-season we got a pummeling from Davie day in day out.  He said to us ‘I know nothing about football, all I know about is fitness’.  We were kept running for weeks on end – even into the winter when we were training on heavy parks.  My legs would often be in agony when we were playing a match on the Saturday! 

 

The Cowdenbeath directors then I knew mainly because most of them were local shopkeepers.  They kept themselves to themselves but I never had any bother with them.  There was Charlie Gronbach, Davie Fowlis, George Dick, Oreste Demarco and  Alex McKellar the chemist.  Tommy Russell was also a director and he ended up losing both his legs.  He had once been a player with Cowdenbeath.  Jock Gilliard by then was no longer a director but what a character.  He was always appearing in the dressing room and in a rage with the referee.  I can also remember Nellie from the tobacconists (P D Andersons) opposite the entrance to Central Park who made the teas at half time. 

 

The game I recall best from my first year with Cowden was the New Year derby v the Pars at Central Park.  There was a big crowd and we won 1-0 against a Pars side that featured a certain Jim Leishman.  Big Jimmy Taylor scored the winner with a header.  We fell away in the second half of that season after challenging at the top for a time.  In 1973/74, we brought in some new players like Ian Dair, Andy Harrow and big Ian Blackadder.  I recollect that year getting a hammering in a Scottish Cup tie in one of the first-ever Sunday matches.  It was Ayr United that beat us and they had George McLean and Alex Ferguson up front – players I had watched years before when they were at East End Park with Dunfermline.  Johnny Graham was another Ayr star.  Kilmarnock were in the Second Division that season and I remember we got a real roasting from a youngster named Gordon Smith.  Killie were a massive side then with great big half backs like Derek McDicken and Jimmy Stewart as their goalie. 

 

1974/75 was a poor season with a lot of change at  Central Park.  Andy Harrow was showing up well now and I can also recall big ‘Zeb’ Stewart and Jimmy Pryde playing for us then.  Zeb and Jimmy were pally with each other.  Jimmy Pryde was a really great footballer.  He came to us from Newtongrange and you couldn’t get the ball off him.  I remember later playing for Glenrothes in a Fife and Lothians Cup tie v Newtongrange and there was still nobody could touch Jimmy when he was on form – he ran us ragged. 

 

Early in the season Andy Matthew resigned and Bert Paton came in as manager.  He brought Bill McTavish with him as trainer.  Bert and Bill had done well at Lochgelly Albert.  Bert was really good while McTavish was the taskmaster. 

 

As regards training his view was if you weren’t being sick you weren’t doing it right.  Bill though also introduced ball work as part of the goalkeeper training.  Bert signed several new players including Tam Breen and Jimmy Seath from the juniors.  Joe Hughes who I had played against when he was with East Fife also joined us.  Under Bert we went five  games undefeated then he surprised us all by abruptly moving to Stark’s Park to become Raith manager.

 

Bert’s replacement was big Dan McLindon who had been manager at Alloa.  He brought Frank Connor with him from Alloa as our new trainer.  I knew Andy Campbell at Alloa and he told me he had got on fine with both Dan and Frank.  Dan McLindon was a comedian – there was never a dull moment with him around. 

 

Frank Connor was similar – he was also a good coach.  Frank had been a goalkeeper himself and he worked with me.  It was the start of me really working at my game as a goalkeeper.  Frank was a good guy as far as I was concerned and he was a great motivator.  The problem was I was competing for my place with veteran ex-Hibs goalkeeper Willie Wilson and Dan tended to favour the experienced campaigner. 

 

Willie was a good keeper but by then he had put on a lot of weight.  I only got a chance in the side then when Willie was injured.  I was a young laddie and although I really enjoyed the training it was one of my unhappiest times as a player because I wasn’t playing on Saturdays.  Later when I was more experienced I would have knocked on the manager’s door to ask why I wasn’t getting a game but I was too afraid to do that as a teenager.  I didn’t dislike Dan but wasn’t happy with how I was treated. 

 

As the end of season approached I was told that I was going to be released.  Glenrothes had qualified for the Scottish Junior Cup final and I agreed to go to the final with my dad.  It was on the last day of the senior season.  However, on the Thursday night before the final game Dan McLindon had so many players injured or already released that he asked me to be on the bench on the Saturday.  I agreed and missed the final which Glens won while I sat on the bench as Cowden substitute v Stenhousemuir.  I wasn’t a goalkeeper sub I was the only substitute on the bench although I wasn’t called on to make my debut as an outfield player. 

 

When I was released by Cowdenbeath in 1975 I played for the joiners’ team in the league at Rosyth Dockyard and ended up with a broken jaw.  Despite this injury, Glenrothes wanted me to return to play in the juniors with them. 

 

I told Jock Forsyth I wasn’t sure I would be able to play but he signed me anyway even with my jaw all wired up and said “We’ll see how you get on”.  Socially and football wise my return to the Glens was to be one of the best times in my career.  I was living in Glenrothes then and most of the players were local.  We all went around together and had a great social scene with the wives and families all involved.  It really was an enjoyable spell back at Warout – everyone pulled together.  Indeed, even when I was just 16 in my first spell with Glenrothes it was the same.  The older players looked out for me.  Nobody was allowed to kick me or there would be several players right down their throat. 

 

I did play another one game for Cowdenbeath in 1976 when Frank Connor needed a goalie at short notice.  I helped out in a League match v Albion Rovers.  I was back at Glenrothes though for 4 years between 1975 and 1979.   We won lots of honours – all the Fife trophies plus the Fife & Lothians Cup.  Our main rivals then were Newburgh, Thornton and Oakley. 

 

At that time Halbeath also became juniors with Jimmy Seath in their side.  They reached the Scottish Junior Cup quarter final where they lost to Pollok.  We had a few hard games with Lochgelly Albert then as well – Billy Bostock was playing for them at that time.  The Glenrothes team had a lot of ex-Cowden players during my time there including Ian Dair, Ian Blackadder, Davie Walker, Duncan Reid and Joe Whyte.  There was also Sandy Whyte, Doug Dailley, Denis McInnes, Andy Campbell and Stewart McKenzie. 

 

Stewart was our centre half  and he never played senior though he was capped many times by Scotland at junior level.  In 1978, I was Player of the Year at Glenrothes and was proud to be capped by Scotland at junior level.  We played Wales at Dam Park in Ayr where we lost 3-2.  Ian Dair was in the side as well while our old physio Willie Hunter at Glenrothes was selected as Scotland’s trainer for that match.  Old Willie’s dead now  - he was at Raith Rovers when Jim Baxter was there.  I think Neville Southall was the reserve goalkeeper for Wales that day. 

 

Near the close of season 1978/79, Cowdenbeath’s goalkeeper Davie Cooper picked up an injury.  Paddy Wilson was Cowden’s manager then and I knew him as he had trained with Glenrothes at one time.  Paddy asked me to help Cowden out and Jock Forsyth at Glenrothes agreed.  Cowden had lots of fixtures still to play and it was agreed I would play for Glenrothes on Saturdays and help Cowden out midweek.  I played  three games for Cowden under this arrangement. 

 

The first game was against Berwick Rangers at Central Park when they won the League that day.  Dave Smith and John Jobson were in the Berwick side.  I also played against East Stirling and then we met Falkirk who were challenging for second place and  promotion.  What a game I had that day.  If I had gone for a  pie the ball would have went with me.  We beat them 3-0 – big Jimmy Liddle and Jimmy Marshall both scored.  The Falkirk players couldn’t believe it as we had been playing so many games in such a short time to catch up on postponements – they said “We thought we’d give you a hammering and you would struggle playing a junior in goal.

 

When I came of the pitch at Brockville there was Paddy Wilson wanting me to sign for Cowdenbeath.  I said I couldn’t sign now with lots of Glenrothes games still left to play plus I  was to play for the Fife Select.  Jock Forsyth was with me that  night and he asked me what Paddy had said.  He advised me not to sign yet as a Rangers  scout had been inquiring about me.  Anyway I finished the junior season, heard nothing from Rangers,  and signed on for Paddy back at Cowdenbeath. 

 

The Cowden team then included Marshall and Liddle, Alan Carpenter, Alan Dyce, Jim ‘the Bear’ Davies, Rab Russell, Jimmy Markey, Ian ‘Charlie Farley’ Harley, Billy Steele and his brother Tommy.  I can recall a couple of games from that season.  We drew 2-2 against East Fife when Quinton Young kept running across me to block my kick outs – he managed to block one and score but then the ref penalised him the next time when he did it again.

 

Andy Rolland came back to Cowdenbeath that year from Dunfermline and I also can well recall a match v East Stirling at Central Park.  The Shire were going for promotion and I think we were getting a bit of a doing by 4-2.  There was really heavy fog that day though and eventually I couldn’t even see to the half way line.  The punters couldn’t see either and started to come down onto the track and stand at the touchline so they could see.  Eventually  the linesman called the referee over but the fans refused to move.  The referee then  decided to abandon the game due to fog. Next thing Andy Rolland and I saw Billy Lamont (the Shire manager) appear out of the mist heading on his way to get the referee.   We grabbed Billy and got him away from the ref and off the field. 

 

Just before the start of the next season Paddy Wilson suddenly resigned as boss.  Ex-Hibs player Pat Stanton took over from him.  Pat had been assistant manager at Aberdeen to Alex Ferguson before coming to us.  He brought in big George Stewart (ex-Hibs/Dundee) to play centre half.  A couple of other ex-Hibs players Alex McGhee and Willie Murray also had brief spells at Cowden.  Pat was a pretty quiet man and very likeable.  I got on really well with him personally. 

 

One player he signed was a youngster named Norrie McCathie.  He was a good lad, I had a lot of time for him and got to know him better later as an opponent.  He wasn’t always getting a game then and started to do a bit of disappearing and not turning up for a time.  It was Pat of course who later took Norrie to Dunfermline when he took the Pars job after just 6 months at Cowdenbeath. 

 

One game I’m not allowed to forget from Pat Stanton’s time as manager is the Fife Cup tie when we drew 4-4 with Raith Rovers at Central Park in a midweek match.  It was a windy and wet night and as Cowden fans will remember I was really able to kick a ball a long way. 

 

Several times in my career I almost scored especially with the wind behind me at Central Park.   Oddly in my first spell with Cowden I had trouble with my kicking and couldn’t take bye-kicks very well.  Of course over the years I got stronger while the balls we used got lighter and were better made as well.  That doesn’t mean I started out when they were still using the old lace-up balls – I’m not that old! 

 

Anyway that night v Raith I just about caught Tommy Walker out in the Rovers goal with a long kick.  However, in the second half he launched a long kick towards our penalty area.  I went towards it but it bounced higher than I was expecting.  I thought it was going to hit the pitch and skid towards me – it never entered my head it would bounce away up and over me.  I couldn’t get back and there it was in the net.  Now and again I run into Tommy Walker and he never fails to remind me and rub it in!’ 

 

In 1980/81, we were very unlucky not to be promoted.  It was a bad wet winter and we ended up having to play a lot of midweek matches on heavy parks to catch up with the leading teams.  With a week to go, we set up things up nicely by drawing 1-1 at Hampden – that gave them the title but we just needed a draw the next Saturday when Queen’s Park visited Cowdenbeath to accompany them up.  They were the better side at Hampden but we roasted them at Central Park.

 

Queen’s Park scored in the first minute at Central Park. We equalised though and Jimmy Liddle hit the post but we went down to 10 men in the first half when Gordon Forrest stupidly was sent off.  It was out of character for Gordon but he backheeled a Queens’ player in the face.  Andy Rolland missed a penalty and they got a late winner.  We could have still got a draw at the death when Davie Hunter had a chance from a corner kick but he knocked it wide.  We lost 2-1 and Queen of the South went up instead.  We had played really well and were all as sick as dogs.  That was the most sickening day ever in my career. 

 

That was a good team.  Jimmy Liddle was a great player and there were others like Jimmy Marshall and Steeley.  Keith Ferguson was another Cowdenbeath boy and he was one of the fittest players you would ever see and very quick.  I knew he had the ability and attitude to do well.  He was also a good lad on a night out - a real entertainer.  Keith of course suffered a bad leg break when he was at Whitburn a few years ago.  Davie Hunter is still a good friend in Glenrothes and I remember playing in a 5-a-side match for his fiftieth  birthday along with guys like Andy Rolland and Andy Harrow.  Some of us could hardly walk never mind run. 

 

Andy Rolland as the manager was great for us and he was supported by his assistant Tommy Traynor  who was fantastic in the dressing room. With Andy playing as well as managing, it was Tommy who did all the team talks.  However, something happened with his work and Tommy had to give up his post with Cowden.  Andy then brought in Jim Leishman as assistant manager.  Things went wrong the next season and Andy Rolland made up his mind to jack it in more or less on the bus home after we lost 3-0 at Arbroath – he was a great character and a real comedian. 

 

His successor was Hugh Wilson who had been Alloa manager.  He came from Lochore and like Andy Matthew he was a real gentleman.  Hugh never had a  bad word to say for anybody.  By now we had players like the young Craig Levein and veterans like Willie McCulloch and Bertie Miller in the side. 

 

Willie Gibson who had scored lots of goals for Hearts did the same for us until he gave up the game early to take over a Post Office.  He still runs the Post Office in Coaltown of Balgonie.   Hugh wasn’t manager for too long before Willie McCulloch took over.  Willie was keen on physical fitness but didn’t enjoy much success and he too wasn’t manager for very long.

 

I always had a good record for penalty saves but around that time I think I had a real hot streak for a couple of years.  In the second leg of a League Cup tie v Kilmarnock I saved two penalties during the match but we lost  on a penalty shoot-out after extra time.

 

I remember Jimmy Marshall missing one of our penalties, he just about hit the ‘toon clock’.  A year or two later, I saved two penalties from John Colquhoun in a match in the same competition v Stirling Albion.  Beating Albion took us through to play Hearts.  We drew 0-0 at Central Park and then 1-1 at Tynecastle.  Brian Christie scored our goal and I saved a penalty from Bud Johnston.  Again we went to a shoot-out.  Wee Willie took another penalty then and I just about stopped it as well.  You should have seen the look on Bud’s face, he thought he had missed again but it just crept in.  It was after that game that Hearts signed Craig Levein. 

 

Willie McCulloch’s replacement as boss was ex-Lisbon Lion John Clark.  John was a brilliant manager.  He was a disciplinarian but good with it.  John got us up and running again.  He was very organised and took things in 3 key steps – stop conceding goals, get fit, and then play to a pattern.  He set us all individual tasks and targets and had looked at other teams to see what made them successful.  For example I was maybe to achieve 17 shut outs or Kenny Ward or Colin McGlashan were to each score 12 goals.  However, once you got near the target, he might increase it.  

 

In summer 1984, I went to Blackpool with the family for a fortnight’s holiday.  John Clark said to me, given I had already done three weeks pre-season work, I shouldn’t waste that on holiday.  He arranged with Sam Ellis the Blackpool manager for me to drop in for a couple of training sessions each week.  I said to my wife I’d go to Bloomfield Road on Monday and Wednesday mornings.  On the Monday morning, I saw Sam Ellis and he was happy for me to come along anytime I felt like it.  I joined in the Monday morning session and enjoyed it so much I went back in the afternoon.  In fact, I then did morning and afternoon sessions on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in both the weeks we were in Blackpool while the wife and kids were on the beach! 

 

I did the same the following year.  Sam Ellis was impressed and he told me he had thought I would just show up for a couple of sessions.  He watched me play for Cowden in pre-season games versus Chorley and Fleetwood and was interested in signing me.  Between the ages of say 22 to 28 I was desperate to play in the Premier League as a full timer but by the mid-1980’s it was too late and I was happy to stay part-time after so many years down at the Dockyard.  Sam got me to play in a match at Blackpool involving a team of Celebrity All Stars.  It was a great laugh with guys like Les Dawson and Lenny Henry.

 

In 1984/85, we again came very close to promotion.  The team included Davie Armour who had been with Rangers and it was really sad that he died so young a year or two back.  A Rangers supporter at work told me Davie had died from cancer.  Not long before that I had played against him in a charity game.  I was in goals for a Cupar Hearts team against a team that featured guys like Davie and Jimmy Bone.  We had a good blether that day.  I saved a penalty in that game and Davie had said to the guy taking the penalty, ‘I bet you’ll miss, the big man in goal will save it’.   

 

Big Grant Tierney was still our centre half then.  He was pretty raw at first always flying into tackles but matured over time.  Grant was always covered in cuts and elastoplasts and he was a big honest player.  Up front we had Kenny Ward, Ian Paterson and Colin McGlashan to score the goals.  Paul Hackett also came in and contributed some useful goals.  Patsy was another big honest player and McGlashan was brought in to play off him.  Patsy never moaned about the kicks he got from centre halfs and just went back for more.  He was underrated.   Wardie loved to beat players and leave them sitting on the ground.  Wee Wardie and Dibble McGlashan got on great but on a night out you’d see them arguing like wee bairns.  Like any good team that side had a great team spirit and we enjoyed lots of good nights out and memorable Highland tours. 

 

That season of course we had a great run in the League Cup.  We won away at Stranraer, then beat Partick Thistle 3-0.  Next we won 2-0 at Central Park against St Mirren and I saved a Frank MacAvennie penalty.  This gave us a home quarter final tie v Rangers in front of a five-figure crowd.  Jock Wallace’s Rangers team included McCoist, Ally Dawson and John McClelland.  We deserved better than the eventual 3-1 defeat we suffered.  We had played about an hour with no scoring when Ian Ferguson picked up the ball.  He didn’t seem to know what to do so tried a long range effort.  I had it covered going to my left but it hit Danny Wilson on the back and ended up flying into the right-hand side of the net.  Bobby Russell scored another quick one after that and Ian Redford got a third.  Patsy hit the post that night and it was Grant Tierney who scored for us past Nicky Walker in the Rangers goal.

 

After that disappointment we hit a bit of a slump but then got up and running again to miss out on promotion by just a couple of points.  There was a great win at East End Park but a key defeat came at Stirling Albion in the run in when they got their goal from a penalty.  A minute later we had a penalty as well but Wardie missed and we lost 1-0 – a bit like 1981.  Wee things like that end up making all the difference. 

 

1985/86 was the season I broke my leg in a match v Albion Rovers at Cowdenbeath.  Sammy Conn took a penalty and I saved it.  Two Albion players rushed in for the rebound and I forced one of them to hit the ball over the bar.  Sammy Conn  though booted me on the back of the leg.  I got up again and was limping around.  The other players were instructed not to pass the ball back to me for the next few minutes.  However, next thing Grant Tierney passed back to me and as I went to pick it up my leg gave way completely.  It was Joe Craig who was John Clark’s assistant who went to the treatment room with me that day after I had come off. 

 

I had a lot of time for Joe.  He had bad knees but could still play a bit in training.  Before John Clark and Joe were at Central Park I would just turn up for matches but with Joe I was able to arrive at 1pm to work with him in a warm-up and do goalkeeping work before the game.  He was always willing as well to stay back with me to do extra goalkeeping training.  When John Clark was there Joe acted as the go between the players and John.  He was able to act as a peacemaker and settle down arguments.  He would sometimes help John appreciate the players’ views.  The manager wouldn’t go on players’ nights out but Joe would come along and have a couple of drinks. 

 

One day though we were surprised when John Clark resigned.  He said he felt he couldn’t take the team any further.  Joe Craig then took over as manager with wee Bobby Ford stepping up to be his assistant.  Joe then told me he was intending to make a lot of changes and bring in young lads.  He said to me we might struggle at first but wanted me as a senior player to be part of it.  He asked if I was up for it and I said yes. 

 

Joe ended up doing really well with a team of young laddies.  There was a bit of experience in the team as well with me and big Drew Rutherford.  Sad to say I was at Drew’s funeral in Dunfermline just last year.  I met up with Keith McCulloch there as well as Gordon McDougall who said I should come along to Central Park and that fans there still talk about me.  Keith was in Joe’s team of course along with wee Dick Baillie who was hard as nails.  Then there was Billy Paxton – a real hard player and a wild man.  Later he took over his father’s scaffolding business.

 

Stewart Williamson who is at Tayport now was another regular and we had Paul Cherry too.  We sold Paul to St Johnstone and he was a really fit guy who could run all day.  Up front we had Billy Blackie who was a flying machine alongside Roddy Grant.  Roddy was a bit raw at first and he certainly wasn’t quick.  He had good feet though and held the ball up well. 

 

Around this time I was awarded a testimonial by Cowdenbeath due to my long service to the club.  Joe Craig organised everything for me.  Rangers provided the opposition and guys like McCoist and McPherson played that night.  Graeme Souness was originally going to play for 45 minutes but it ended up with Walter Smith bringing the Rangers team through.  The Cowdenbeath team was strengthened by the addition of my old team mates Kenny Ward and Norrie McCathie.  In addition, John Blackley and Danny McGrain also turned out for us.  Craig Levein was going to play as well but in the end couldn’t make it.  There was a crowd of about 3,500 and the match ended 1-1.  Jim Renton was the referee and the linesmen too were local lads. 

 

I remember during the game Colin McGlashan knocked the ball back to me.  Danny McGrain ran back for me to throw him the ball but I threw it out on the other side.  Danny said, ‘If you think I’m running back here and you’re going to throw it to someone else you’re up a  pole!’. 

 

Under Joe we had some exciting games.  We beat a strong going St Johnstone side 4-3 at Central Park after being 4-0 up at one time.  It was ding dong all night and even at 4-0 Joe said this game’s not finished.  Alex Totten and Bert Paton couldn’t believe they were 4-0 down.  Billy Blackie was like lightning and we played the ball over defenders who couldn’t handle his pace.  Mind you Billy could go right through and miss them as well. 

 

There also was a controversial game when we ended up with nine men v Raith Rovers.  Gordon Dalziell punched the ball out of my hands for John Wright to equalise for the Rovers. 

 

There were some difficult times for the club then though as the stand had been damaged by fire.  The quote they got for rebuilding work got more and more expensive and they had difficulty in meeting the bill.  It seemed the players’ wages weren’t going to be paid either but chairman Tom Currie paid them out of his own pocket.  Currie had a company involved with oilrigs up in the north east. 

 

Once when I won the Cowdenbeath Player of The Year award he paid for a weekend away with my wife at the Coylumbridge Hotel.  All expenses were paid and we got 100 spending money as well. 

 

Joe Craig by then was working full time as both manager and the club’s commercial manager.  All of a sudden Joe was sacked.  I still don’t know why he was dismissed and whether it was to do with money or football.  I’ve met Joe since then but I’ve never asked him.  I think he took the club to a tribunal but matters were settled out of court. 

 

Just before Joe’s departure I was selected to represent Scotland in a Four Nations Cup tournament.  It was a great experience as well as a laugh and the squad was away for a week at Dunblane Hydro.  The team included Rowan Alexander, Norrie McCathie, Craig Robertson, John Watson, Paul Flexney, John Sludden, John McVeigh and Ian McPhee.  Ray Charles played in goal when we lost to England.  I played in the other two matches at Stark’s Park and East End.  We beat Holland and lost to Italy.  Italy was like an under 21 team while the Dutch side was made up of part time players who were reserves or with lower league clubs. 

 

Back at Central Park, a lot of players were upset and bemused by Joe’s departure.  The youngsters were a bit down in the mouth.  Guys like Roddy Grant wondered had Joe been sacked because of them.  Joe was replaced by my ‘auld neebor’ Dick Campbell.  The Campbell twins and Big Leish are great guys and I’ve been friends with them all for 40 years. 

 

Dick played alongside me when I made my Cowden debut.  He always says ‘I mind your debut – you put your gloves in the back of the goal turned round and next thing you were picking the ball out of the net!’

 

Under Dick we had a good pre-season and won the Fife Cup.  Once the season started though we lost game after game and Dick was sacked after just a few months.  He had left Brechin City to come to Cowden and then went back to his old job as coach at Brechin.  John Ritchie said he hadn’t bothered replacing him as he knew he’d soon be back!

 

The next man to take over as Cowden boss was John Blackley.  He told us that first thing we were going to shut up shop, stop losing goals, and then take it from there.  I remember then we went up to Perth and beat St Johnstone 1-0.  Graham Hutt scored with a 25-yarder that bounced around eight times before going in.  They gave us a hammering but we took the points.  Bert Paton and Alex Totten went off their heads – ‘That’s an awfy way to play football’, they said. 

 

Alan McKenzie who had played for us as a youngster came back to Cowden from Finland and scored a good few  goals.  He brought Scott Burnside with him from Finland.  Gus Malone who had played for Brechin came to us from the Tayside juniors – he’s still playing for Tayport nowadays. 

 

We also got Davie Taylor from Hearts because he wanted a regular game.  He was a really good player and looked like being sold on for big money.  Sadly he did his cruciate ligaments and never played again. 

 

Eventually though John Blackley accepted a job as assistant manager at Dundee and his assistant John Brownlie was promoted to manager.  We then had a long unbeaten run under John Brownlie and weren’t far off the top of the league.

 

Before the start of the next campaign 1989/90, we had a tour of the north of England which didn’t go well.  Then we lost most of our opening competitive games before we travelled to play Stranraer. 

 

Now no doubt lots of fans want me to spill the beans and confirm I hit manager John Brownlie.  I can say though that’s not really true at all.  What actually happened was we lost 3-1 at Stranraer.  One of the goals came about when Shug Douglas at centre half went to pass back to me.  I came out for the ball but he fell over and mishit the pass with his studs just rolling over the top of the ball.  I was then left stranded and a Stranraer forward nipped in, dribbled round me, and hit it into the empty net.  In the dressing room at time up, John started having a right go at Hugh Douglas saying he should have knocked the ball out of play.

 

I didn’t agree and suggested that I thought Shug had tried to the right thing – he had had time but it went wrong.  If he had knocked it out for a corner and they had scored from it John would have criticised him for doing the wrong thing then as well.  Well we certainly didn’t see eye to eye at that moment.  In fact, John and I were rapidly toe to toe, nose to nose shouting at each other.  There was no punch-up but assistant manager Gordon Millar and 2 or 3 of the players did end up holding us back. 

 

We came back on the bus and I went into Partners bar when we got back to Cowdenbeath.  Glen Kerr went to get a round in at the bar and the fans there all said we heard ‘you banged John Brownlie’.  As I said, truth was there was a big argument, nobody was hit, and the other players stepped in to separate us. 

 

John Brownlie then told me I’d never play for Cowdenbeath again.   I was punished by being made to train by myself.  It seemed I was a bad influence!   Jimmy Reekie had to come down to the park to switch on the lights for me to train alone on Mondays and Wednesdays.  It was hard to take after all the years I spent with Cowden.  I had played in a record number of games and just missed out on making my 500 appearance – it still annoys me a bit.

 

John Brownlie and I didn’t talk for a few years after that and we would just walk by each other.  I came across him a couple of times when he was at Clyde and then later we met at some functions.  Eventually we just started speaking to each other again.  We get on fine now and talk when we meet although we never mention my exit from Cowden.   

 

After a fortnight though Forfar keeper Stewart Kennedy damaged his back at McDairmid Park.  Their back up goalie was fellow Cowdenbeath boy Jim Moffat.  Jim though had flu and Ian Fleming who was Forfar’s caretaker manager contacted Cowdenbeath and got me on a month’s loan.  It actually meant a step up to the First Division for me.  They were second  bottom of the League when I went there and after I had been there just a short time Forfar signed me permanently. 

 

Player-manager by then was Bobby Glennie the big centre half who had played alongside Ian Fleming at Aberdeen and Dundee.  Instead of being out of the game for the season, after just 3 weeks I had been signed on a 2 year contract by Forfar.  Cowden got a small fee but I knew there had been a couple of fair sized offers for me in the past that Cowden had turned down.  Frank Connor had wanted me to join Raith at Stark’s Park.  Big Drew Rutherford told me that Alex Rennie had tried to sign me for St Johnstone but Cowden wanted at least 40,000 for me.  Alex said he wasn’t going to pay as much that to sign a goalie.

 

At Forfar, a few signings helped change things around a bit and we managed to avoid relegation ending third bottom just 2 points off the drop.  The players at Station Park then included Alex Hamill, Rab Morris, Ray Lorimer, Ally Brazil and a young Craig Brewster.  

 

In my time at Forfar I played twice in Scottish Cup ties v Celtic.  We lost one of the games 2-0 but gave Celtic a real fright in the other game in which we were eventually beaten by 2-1.  Craig Brewster scored a fantastic free-kick in that game and it was Paddy Bonnar in the Celtic goal who saved them from a beating.  Billy McNeil went on the radio and said he’d have been paid off if it hadn’t been for his goalkeeper. 

 

Bobby Glennie was sacked at the end of my first Forfar season.  I was amazed when I was told by somebody I met on holiday in Blackpool that ‘Your manager’s been sacked’.  Paul Hegarty was his replacement and he too was player manager.  Frank Kopel was the assistant manager and John Holt also joined us as a player.  Heggy was full time at Forfar and the training was good.  We had a good pre-season but just made slow progress in Heggy’s first year.  Every game was like a cup final and it was tense though we managed to stay up again.  Stewart Petrie and big Charlie Adam were now in the Forfar line up.  The opponent I most vividly remember from then was Falkirk’s Simon Stainrod – he was arrogant but what a player. 

 

 At the end of that campaign my contract was up and Paul Hegarty had signed Scott Thomson.  Forfar asked me to sign on for another year but Scott Thomson was going to be the first choice keeper.  I was not used to not playing on Saturdays and eventually agreed to sign on again on the understanding that if a club came in for me I’d be allowed to move even if it was down a division.  Within a couple of weeks John Ritchie came in the scene from Brechin and I was swapped for Ian Pryde. 

 

John Ritchie I knew quite well and of course I used to watch him play for Cowden all those years before when I used to sneak in to Central Park.  John was a hard taskmaster and although you wouldn’t want to get on his wrong side he also knew when to have a laugh.  Dick Campbell was assistant that first year before he was succeeded by John Young. 

 

In my second season at Brechin City, we won promotion to the First Division.  We fought it out at the top with Clyde and Stranraer.  We beat Clyde in the February and had a good lead at the top then as we went for the title.  However, we had a lean spell in the last third of the season and Clyde overhauled us to win the title.  On the last day Clyde were already champions 3 points ahead of ourselves and Stranraer.  We had a better goal difference than Stranraer.  We though had Clyde as our last match which was at Douglas Park – that was where Clyde played back then.  The score was 1-1 late, late in the game.  Stranraer had won at Ochilview and the story had got round there that our game had ended in a draw – the Stranraer fans and players were already celebrating promotion. 

 

However, we weren’t finished and Marc Miller scored his second goal of the afternoon at the death to give us promotion and kill off Stranraer’s celebrations. 

 

Marc was a good player, he was a bit like Billy Bostock as he wasn’t a youngster by the time he went senior.  Other players Cowden fans will recall in that Brechin side included ex-Cowden lads like Graham Hutt, that wee hard man Dick Baillie, and Sandy Ross who scored about half our goals that season.  Sandy was the Second Division Player of the Year that year.  He was a real pain in the neck for defenders, always shoving and digging in with his elbows!  He did get caught at it a few times though.  We also had a first class defence which included Harry Cairney and Alan McKillop.  That night we celebrated initially in Glasgow where we had a couple of beers with Sandy Ross and the Glasgow boys.  Then we were back on the bus to Dundee for night out while the Directors went on back to Brechin.  Eventually Graham Hutt and I got back to Fife in a taxi. 

 

At the season’s end though John Ritchie moved on to take up a coaching role with Hibs.  Ian Redford, the ex-Dundee United and Rangers player, was brought in to replace John and he was to be player/manager.  1993/94 wasn’t to be a good season for me or Brechin City.  Really I struggled all that year and missed a lot of games due to a bad injury.  I went over on my ankle during winter training in the gym and tore all my ligaments. Reddy then signed Derek Balfour from Arbroath to take my place when I was out.

 

Ian Redford was a gentleman but it didn’t really work out for him at Brechin.  He tried to build everything around himself.  He was trying to do everything whether he was playing in midfield or up front.  Sandy Ross struggled to score any goals.  Reddy concentrated on football training but we felt our fitness suffered because of that. 

 

Anyway, whether it was the fact we were in a harder league, the change of manager, new ideas that didn’t suit the team or whatever I don’t know, but we were bottom of the League and relegated.  Ian did better when he started to play up front but by then it was too late for us.

 

After Brechin were relegated, Ian Redford asked me to sign on again.  Reddy and I couldn’t agree on terms though as he said he couldn’t give me what I wanted and that I would have to prove myself again.  Seemingly Cowden were interested then in taking me back and I know another club was interested as well.  I had actually been training Cowden’s goalkeepers for a few years.  I had worked with big Buzz Lamont, Alan Combe, James Maloney and Neil Russell at Central Park. 

 

However, out of the blue I had a phone call from Andy Watson assistant manager at Motherwell who said Alex McLeish was interested in signing me.  He said John Ritchie had recommended me and straight away I thought it must be a wind-up if big Ritchie’s involved.  It was true though and I met Alex McLeish at the services at Kinross that night and signed for Motherwell.  Motherwell had lost Sieb Dykstra to QPR and Billy Thomson to Rangers.  They therefore needed a back-up keeper for Stevie Woods.  They had limited money but required to sign a keeper quickly as they were in Europe.  John Ritchie had said I was available at a decent price, would do them a turn and help them out.  I had met Andy Watson before when John had arranged for me to train for a week with Jim Leighton at Hibs. 

 

Among the players at Motherwell then were Paul McGrillen, ‘Toastie’ Burns, Chris McCart, Billy Davies, Tommy Coyne and Paul Lambert.  Innes Ritchie was one of the young laddies in the reserve team.  I used to travel through to Motherwell with Stevie Kirk.  It was Alex McLeish’s first job as a manager.  He had a lot of good ideas on the training ground and was good with players.  He knew where he wanted to go and things went pretty well for him. 

 

I was sub in our away UEFA Cup tie in the Faroes versus a club whose name I can’t even pronounce (Havnar Boltfelag).  I came on in that game and kept a clean sheet.  Later we went to Germany to play Borussia Dortmund and I remember walking into the hotel in Germany past the media.  Gordon Smith who had played against me as a youngster more than 20 years before shouted out ‘Hey big yin, you werenae expecting to be here at 39!’

 

I was a part-timer still at Motherwell as I was too old to go full-time.  I was playing for ‘Well in the reserves in Tuesday afternoon games and that was difficult as I had to keep getting half days off work at the Dockyard.  Motherwell signed Scott Howie and Alex McLeish phoned me up to say he was happy for me to stay with Motherwell as a part timer but Jimmy Nicholl at Raith Rovers wanted me.  I agreed to sign for the Rovers after I had been with Motherwell for about 3 months.  At Stark’s Park, Jimmy wanted me to be back up to Scott Thomson.

 

Exciting things were happening then at Stark’s Park.  They beat Airdrie in the League Cup semi-final on penalties when Scott Thomson was sent off and young Brian Potter was brought on in goals.  Originally it was expected I would be the sub keeper for the League Cup ties but it turned out I was ineligible because I was cuptied having sat on the bench for Motherwell earlier in the competition. 

 

Scott Thomson though was suspended after being sent off and I was brought in for my one and only Raith game – a derby versus the Pars at Stark’s Park.  That wasn’t one of my best days!  I had a good first half but then wee Kenny Ward on the right and Marc Miller on the left started to rip us apart.  I then flogged a cross for the Pars to score their third goal.  Stewart Petrie ran across me and I just knocked the ball down about the penalty spot for Hamish French to hit it back past me.  I got blamed for Raith’s 5-2 defeat by the punters and every time I meet a Raith fan they still cast that game up. 

 

Raith won the League Cup beating Celtic in the final and I was there, travelling through to watch on one of the supporters’ buses.  Again I played regularly in the reserves.  Ironically, Ian Redford was playing alongside me there and we won the East Reserve League title.  I was still training with Brechin then and taking the goalkeeping training for Cowden plus doing a bit extra as well.  Jimmy Nicholl was a really good boss and he joined in all the carry on in the dressing room.  There were a lot of good boys at the Rovers and we all socialised together – Shaun Dennis, Davie Sinclair, big Ally Graham, Daz, Davie Narey, etc.  Jason Dair was there too and I could remember him as a baby back when I played with his dad Iain.  Raith of course won the First Division championship that year. 

 

I had enjoyed my year with Motherwell and Raith but wasn’t enjoying the fact that at 3 o’clock on Saturdays I wasn’t playing.  For me Saturdays were all about playing football.  I therefore was freed by the Rovers in the summer of 1995 and ended up going back to join Brechin City.

 

Brechin and Forfar are both good clubs.  Brechin didn’t have a lot of money but they saw you all right.  There was a laid back approach and it was enjoyable.  There were great people at Glebe Park like Tom Gilmartin the physio who kept me going despite injury problems and Alan Grieve.   John Young was the manager and he had been assistant manager when I had previously been with Brechin.  He knew when to be serious but he was also a great laugh and full of tricks.   The tea ladies at Brechin too were famed for the spreads they laid on even for reserve games.  You were treated really well at Brechin (and at Forfar). 

 

1995/96 was another memorable year and Brechin won promotion by finishing runners-up to Livingston in the Third Division.  That was the year Livingston changed their name from Meadowbank, left Edinburgh for Livingston and had big Leish as manager.  Stewart Williamson and Willie Callaghan were playing for Livvy then along with Rab Douglas in goals.  Brechin had a rock solid defence – we didn’t score many goals but we had 19 shut outs.  Sandy Ross was our top scorer again but I don’t think he even got into double figures.  We had about the oldest back four in Scotland with guys like me, Harry Cairney and Bobby Brown.  We were actually featured in the press before our last game having conceded only 18 goals in 35 league games and the papers were talking about the best defence in Britain.  We were high as kites having already celebrated winning promotion but came down to earth in our last match at the Shire.  It was a scorcher of a day and the pitch was brick hard and ‘stoorie’.  We lost 3-0!

 

Injury was beginning to take its toll on me by now though.  The start of it was in a 1-0 defeat for Brechin from Cowden when Willie Syme scored a goal past me.  Later, I was playing for Brechin v Albion Rovers about 4 years before I packed in.  A Rovers player went to shoot, I got half crouched and set myself but found I couldn’t move.  I missed a couple of weeks and then started getting injections in the back which helped it to heal up a bit.  Unfortunately it was discovered that a number of joints at the base of my spine had seized up.  For the last 4 years of my career, I needed painkillers before every game although I could still manage at training OK..

 

1996/97 saw Brechin back up in the Second Division.   I started off as the regular ‘keeper that season but then was sent off for the first time in my career after bringing a forward down outside the box as the last man.  Stuart Garden was the reserve keeper and he got in.  I couldn’t then get back in the side.  However, in the second last League match of the season Stuart was ironically sent off.  Thus I returned to play in what was to be my last ever game on the final day of season 1996/97 just after my 42 birthday.  Brechin manager John Young then wanted me to sign on for another year but really I’d had enough and with the pain from my damaged back just couldn’t take it anymore.  I told John that I was packing in with 6 or 7 weeks of the season to go.  After all those years in the game I was starting to lose a bit of interest.  I was coming in from work and couldn’t be bothered with training – that wasn’t like me at all.  I would usually have trained 7 days week if I could have.  They would be turning the lights off at Brechin and I’d still be out there working hard.

 

John asked me to stay, he said I could take the other keepers for training and play in the first team or the reserves.  I told John again I was quitting and he said he would try Cowdenbeath or East Fife if I wanted to find me a team nearer home.  He said ‘I’ll give you six months and then you’ll be desperate to get back playing again’.  Jim Moffat also contacted me and asked me to coach the goalkeepers at East Fife but I turned him down.  I decide I wanted to play golf instead although I had always thought I would end up coaching.  Really though I find it too hard to watch and not play. 

 

I miss the banter from the football but I get that now on the golf course.  Mainly, I miss being young enough to play football.  I rarely go and watch games.  You’ll be lucky if I’ve seen a dozen games in the 9 years since I packed it in.  Usually if I go to a game it is more about meeting up with old mates from my Brechin or Cowdenbeath days.  There’s a good social scene with Glenrothes Juniors though and whenever there’s a Scottish Cup tie I meet up with many of my old playing colleagues from my Warout days.  I went along to see Cowden v Brechin in the last game of season 2000/01 when Toorie Winter scored the late winner to take Cowden up.  I knew Toorie’s family back from when my mother had a shop in Randolph Street years and years ago.  I was speaking to Harry Cairney of Brechin after that game and he told me he was going to pack it in.  He couldn’t take losing out like that on the last kick of the season. 

 

I said to him not to do it if he wasn’t sure he was ready and to play on a couple of years if he could.  He did that and ended up with a championship medal.  Harry of course resigned as Arbroath manager after some poor results not that long ago.  That’s the sort of guy Harry is, he would look at his own self first if there was a problem.  He’s a good lad, a schoolteacher and I’ve got a lot of time for him.  You always normally have a lot of time of course for the boys you played alongside when you enjoyed success.

 

I remember talking to Tam Ogilvie at Central Park and in fact I can recall when he was our local policeman when I was a boy.  He always remembers a game when Brechin won 1-0 at Central Park.  I made a save in that game when a Cowden player hit a shot I hardly even saw from about seven yards.  I couldn’t get my hands up to it so I headed it over the bar.  After the game, Tam asked me ‘See that one you put over the bar, did you header that?’  He was right I couldn’t get to it so I just stretched my neck and headed it over – the referee gave a goal kick though! 

 

I had a good career and there was nowhere I played that I didn’t enjoy.  It was good late in my career at Brechin to have some success at last with two promotions in three seasons.  That was fantastic and they made me feel really at home up there.  There’s nobody really that I disliked after all my years in football or have any grudges with.  We could kick lumps out of each other but at the end of the game it would be forgotten.   Of course I could be a bit crabbit but that was because I like to think I was a winner.  I was a wee bit fiery sometimes but goalkeepers are often like that, for example Alan Combe.  We’re a different breed – goalkeepers and football players aren’t the same. 

 

As I said golf is my sport now.  I had first played years ago with my granddad George Kyle at Kinneswood.  I play off four nowadays and in the summer play seven days a week at Glenrothes.  In the winter there’s four of us go to Wellsgreen twice a week.  As I mentioned I could be a bit fiery and that was costing me a fortune at the golf at first.  We had an arrangement among the boys I play with that if you handed in a N/R card you would pay a fiver into the kitty.  I was ending up paying for their night out! 

 

I still come across a lot of my old playing colleagues on the golf course or locally such as Davie Hunter, Andy Rolland, Robin Thomson and Andy Harrow.  It’s getting on for 35 years now since I first played for Cowden and I’ve been working at the dockyard for even longer than that.

Cowden Conversations with David A Allan