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Mick Payne
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                             Mick Payne – Player 1958-61 

 

 

Mick Payne was with Cowden in the late 1950’s and then went on to enjoy a varied career both down south and in the USA.

 

‘I come from Cowdenbeath and was kicking a ball as soon as I was old enough back in the days when I lived in Perth Road.  I went to St Bride’s school and then St Columba’s High when it was located in Stenhouse Street.  I played in the St Columba’s school team and we had a good side.  Teammates there included Tom and Willie Callaghan and future MP Denis Canavan. 

 

Celtic was the team I supported as a boy and Bobby Evans was my hero.  Mind you Celtic never won anything back then apart from when they beat Rangers 7-1 in the League Cup final.  When I was just 14 I signed for the local under-18 team Cowdenbeath Royals.  The Royals then were run by Bobby Little from Kelty.  Watty Glancy the sprinter was the trainer and we played our home matches at Central Park.

 

It was a thrill playing at Central Park back then and groundsman Willie Docherty had created an immaculate playing surface.  Teams we played against were the likes of Novar Star and Bowhill West End. 

 

At school I was selected for Fife Schools in 1957 and starred in a trial match for Scotland schools when the side was being picked to face England at Wembley.  I somehow though wasn’t selected for the team.  In the Fife schools team I played at inside right with Andy Penman as my partner on the right wing.  Andy signed for Everton just after that and of course had a marvellous career with Dundee and Rangers.  Sad to say Andy died relatively young and in fact I met him in Dunfermline one day not long before his death and he didn’t look well at all. 

 

Another player in the Fife Schools side was George Yardley from Kirkcaldy who played with East Fife and Tranmere both as a goalie and a centre forward.

 

Playing with the Royals though was a great time.  We had a team which reached the semi-final of the Scottish Cup twice and we had tremendous success in the league and in the various cups we competed in.  We had so many good players.  The Royals side included Tom Kay who has been running Hill of Beath Swifts now for about 20 or 30 years and Bobby Anderson at centre half. 

 

Tom was an exceptional player with the Royals.  Tom and Bobby played together for Cowdenbeath and then went down south to join Bedford Town.  The Royals had one of the best goalies I ever saw in George Rae.  George played a couple of games for Cowden.  He also was junior with Bo’ness and then kept goal for the Metropolitan Police team for years.  Johnny Greenlees the brother of referee Bobby Greenlees was in that Royals line up as were a young Denis Jack and Andy Rolland.  There was also Danny Taylor who went to Raith Rovers – he had a good left peg. 

 

While playing for the Royals I was featured in an article in the Edinburgh Evening News – the Pink that used to come out on a Saturday night.  The article was headlined ‘Introducing Mike Payne’ and highlighted I had scored 38 goals that season. 

 

I had missed out on a schoolboy cap but was picked to represent Scotland in youth internationals.  We shared the British championship that year and I played in all 3 matches.  The youth set-up was run by Roy Small who years later was anchorman for a time on Sportscene.  He looked a bit like Clark Kent.  I remember we were all staying in a hotel in Glasgow and Roy took us to the pictures.  When we got back to the hotel he asked us all to come up to his room. He then gave each of us a spoonful of Milk of Magnesia!

 

We played Northern Ireland in Belfast at Glentoran’s ground the Belfast Oval.  Scotland won that game 4-1 and I scored one of the goals.  The others were all scored by a lad called Tom Carey.  The biggest name in the Irish side was Terry Neill who was then representing Derry Boys Club.

 

The Scotland Youth side had some good players.  The team included the future Sir Alex Ferguson who was then playing for Drumchapel, Jim Easton who went on to play for Dundee for a number of years, Billy Cranston who joined Blackpool, Dougie Robertson who became Dumbarton’s goalie and Bobby McCallum who signed for Rangers. 

 

We then drew 1-1 with England at Pittodrie.  England actually had an excellent team including a right-half called Geoff Hurst.  He was the same size as a boy then as he was when England won the World Cup years later!  In that match both Fergie and I were carried off injured and ended up in hospital in Aberdeen. 

 

Fergie had a shoulder injury while I had torn ligaments in my ankle.  I couldn’t play for the next eight weeks.  The hospital strapped my leg up and I had to struggle home when I got off the train at Cowdenbeath station.  Wales featuring Mike England in their line-up were then beaten by 3-1 at Stark’s Park and I still have the trophy awarded to each of the Scotland players for winning the British Championship along with my Scotland jersey.

 

Back with the Royals, we had some memorable games versus Jock Stein’s Celtic Colts.  They came through to play us at Central Park and thumped us by 5-0.  Big Yogi Hughes scored twice.  I was also kayoed when I ran into John Cushley.  I didn’t know what had hit me – mind you I was only about six stone then. 

 

Afterwards, Big Jock like a true gentleman came into our dressing room and thanked each of us for the game.  He told us we had played well and that he had privileged players in that they were allowed to play for Celtic.  Later we had a return match at Barrowfield in Glasgow and Jock arranged for us to be shown round Parkhead by Billy McNeil and Sean Fallon.

 

I was playing for Cowdenbeath Royals at the start of season 1958/59 when Cowdenbeath manager John Dougary asked Bobby Little who ran the Royals to let me play as a trialist for Cowden. 

 

I played in a couple of matches on the right wing in November and then on New Year’s day I played in our 4-2 derby win over East Fife at Central Park.  I was up against Sammy Stewart of East Fife in that match – I was 16, he was about 39.   Sammy was an excellent player but I gave him a bit of a roasting.  He never once tried to kick me though and congratulated me after the game on my display. 

 

Willie Finlay of East Fife also told me at the end to ‘stick in’.  The Cowden team then included Jocky Miller and Albert Craig.  Bobby Ross who used to live next door to me in Sinclair Drive was an old campaigner who knew all the tricks.  At full-back there was Jimmy Lindsay who was a hard man and Donald Clark who was more gentlemanly but a good player.  You could play three games as a trialist so I returned to the Royals for the rest of the season where we  pretty much swept the board winning most of the Fife trophies  

 

I was then signed by Cowdenbeath on my seventeenth birthday.  Jimmy Mitchell was by then the boss and I received 20 for signing.  By now the team had a number of great characters in it.  There was big, gangling Watty McWilliams.  Up front we had Bobby Gilfillan.  He was some centre and Cowden later sold him to Newcastle United.  Then he played for a number of clubs such as St Johnstone and Doncaster Rovers.  He spent a good while at Doncaster. 

 

Basher Murphy was the captain then.  Basher would kick his granny if he had to in order to win.  He was as hard as nails but he really could play football too.  Basher of course was sold to Queen of the South where he played alongside the English internationalist Ivor Broadis.  He was at Palmerston for years until a broken leg ended his career. 

 

We also had Big Dave Beveridge who was slower than my granny but he knew how to score goals.  Archie Buchanan was right half for us then and he had spent many years with Hibs.  He was very experienced and a real character.  Later, he became Cowden’s player/manager but just on a temporary basis.  I thought a lot of Archie.  He could be tough if it was required but also knew how to motivate individuals. 

 

1959/60 of course was a real up and down season for Cowden.  We started off with a 7-3 defeat from a fine St Johnstone side and I remember their centre Liddell was in brilliant form.  The ex-Ranger Valentine though was playing centre half for them then and he must have been the dirtiest player in Scottish football. 

 

In the League we had a terrible time and were bottom of the Second Division almost all season.  However, we also fought our way through to the semi-final of the Scottish League Cup. 

 

We played Hearts at Easter Road in the semi.  Dave Mackay had just left Tynecastle but they had Gordon Marshall in goal, Alex Young, and Gordon Smith.  I never saw an athlete like Smith in my life.  After we lost I went into the Hearts dressing room and John Cumming took me round all his playing colleagues to sign my brother’s autograph book.  Gordon Smith was just rippling with muscle although his legs were black and blue all over.  He was such a dedicated pro but strangely he could never really turn it on for Scotland. 

 

We had a bad, bad spell of results after that and lost game after game.  At the turn of the year though things picked up and we won a few games.  We beat Jerry Kerr’s Dundee United 3-2 in January at Tannadice.  They were on their way to promotion and because lots of games were called off the match was featured on Scotsport. 

 

 I remember meeting Arthur Montford at the time.  I was working at the Lindsay Pit at Kelty then.  Everyone had watched the highlights and they gave me a hard time on the Monday at work claiming I was the only player who still had clean pants after 90 minutes!  We then played Falkirk at Central Park in a Scottish Cup game and beat them 1-0 – that was another surprise result.  There was a big argument in the Falkirk dressing room at half time and Dougie Moran knocked out Tommy Younger who was the Falkirk manager at the time.  I think Falkirk played with 10 men in the second half as Moran didn’t come out again. 

 

After that we were drawn away at Eyemouth in the last 16.  I was actually asked to be best man at a friend’s wedding on the day of that game but Cowden wouldn’t let me off.  I wish they had – it was unbelievable we lost 3-0. 

 

I only scored one goal for Cowden that season but it was a cracker.   A 25-yarder goal of the game v Queen’s Park at Central Park.  Unfortunately we lost that game 9-1!  By now the management were drafting in lots of trialists and chopping and changing the team every week.  

 

For 1960/61, ex-Raith player Harry Colville was brought in as manager and there were a lots of changes to the team.  Willie McIntosh came in at outside-left from Hearts and he was really a first-class player.  Dave Fraser was to prove a regular scorer.  Then we had Tommy Robertson at inside-right.  He was a lazy player but he could play football.  Later I played against him in my time south of the Border.

 

Unfortunately that season I suffered a bad injury and then couldn’t get my place back in the team.  If I’m honest Harry Colville didn’t really want me.  Harry wasn’t too keen on fitba’ players, he preferred big, brawny types similar to his own playing style.  I remember Harry used to join in our five-a-sides at training and basically he would kick anything that moved. 

 

He gave a lot of the younger players a hard time.  He made a mistake one day though as Basher Murphy was training with us.  He picked the wrong guy to kick and Basher had a right go at him – Harry fled back up the tunnel with his tail between his legs’. 

 

I left Cowden in 1961 and was recommended to Oxford United.  I went down to the Manor Ground for a two-week trial and was signed by their manager Arthur Turner.  They were a non-league outfit then captained by big Ron Atkinson.  They actually got into the Football League just after I left them. 

 

Other players included: Ron’s brother Graham who was an excellent player, John Shuker, George Luke a veteran Geordie with an unintelligible accent who was ex-Newcastle, wing half Tony ‘Hattie’ Jacques, Ian McIntosh (ex-Partick Thistle) at inside-right, and an Irish nutter called Cullen in goals. 

 

At Oxford I played some matches as a wing half which had been my original position before Cowdenbeath Royals put me on the wing because I was too wee.  I also made a couple of appearances at full-back. 

 

I played for United for a season in the Metropolitan League.  I vividly remember playing an Arsenal side at Highbury with its marble halls and heated floors.  You were able to dive into the bath after the game.  I was outside-right that day and Arthur Turner told me that his old teammate Stanley Matthews had stripped exactly where I was sitting when they were at Stoke together.  Oxford was all right although it was a bit of a toffee-nosed area. 

 

In 1962, I joined Winsford United who were in the Cheshire League.  I was there for two years.  That was a competitive league where we played against the likes of Wigan, Altrincham and Macclesfield.  There was a Scots colony at Winsford with Felix Reilly, Bobby Danskin and Jimmy Bryce all having played for East Fife.  There was also ex-Hibee Des Fox who was well named as he was a clever sort of player. 

 

Winsford was a town that housed an overspill from Liverpool and it also had Britain’s last remaining salt mine.  In our first season we were there or thereabouts in the League and the following year we won the Cheshire & Lancashire Challenge Cup.  We beat Wigan in the final over two legs – they’ve gone up a bit in the football world since then. 

 

I used to work alongside Jimmy Bryce who hailed from Methil when I was at Winsford – we were brickies.  I had got married by then and my wife wasn’t too keen on living down south plus she didn’t have any great interest in football.  We therefore decided to return home to live initially with her mother in Glencraig.  Thereafter I was 19 years in Ballingry and now 21 years in Lochore.

 

Back in Fife, I went junior with Oakley United and was there for three seasons.  The famous Charlie ‘Legs’ Fleming was our coach at Oakley and he was a great guy.  The best kicker of a dead ball I ever saw.  At Oakley there were a lot of well-known faces:  Bert Allan who had been with Celtic as a youngster and then played with Stenhousemuir, Arthur Walsh (ex-Dunfermline), Clark Allison who Rangers had their eye on at one time (his two sons played with Cowden), Chic and Bob Sharp, and Roddy Mill and Rab Dow who had been with me at the Royals.  It was Rab who got me to go to Cowdenbeath Royals.  He was a really fit guy who could run forever.

 

In 1967, Charlie Fleming was contacted by a millionaire who was originally from Edinburgh called Norman Sutherland.  Norman had made his fortune in the US and asked Charlie to come over and run his football club Britannica which had been established to play in the  new American Soccer League. 

 

 

Charlie then got me to come with him and we shared an apartment in Washington with Ray Lodge (ex- Newcastle) and ex-Hearts man Billy Fraser.  Billy had a very successful career in the US.  It was great fun living and playing football in the States. 

 

Pretty soon Britannica changed it name to Washington Darts.  We played against teams such as Rochester and Philipadelphia.  I have the match report still of one of our first games when we beat Philadelphia German Hungarians 7-2 and I scored two of the goals.  Our first-team squad was made up of 1 American, 3 South American, 2 Haitians, and 8 Europeans. 

 

Around that time Sunderland featuring both George Kinnell and Jim Baxter were touring the States playing under the banner of Vancouver.  Everywhere we went we met ex-pats who would tell us that Baxter and Kinnell were here last week and all they say about them is true! 

 

Once when playing for Washington I lined up against Rochester Lancers.  Turning out for Rochester was my ex-Cowden colleague Ken Allison who when he saw me looked over in surprise and shouted ‘Mick, what the fuck are you doing here!’

 

I returned home from Washington to Fife and played junior again with Newburgh for a time.  By now though I was a bit disillusioned and decided to quit.  I did play for Elliot’s factory team up at Woodend after that when I worked there.  We didn’t lose a game in three years.

 

Looking back now on my Cowden career, I particularly recall players such as Jocky Miller, Basher Murphy, Bobby Gilfillan and wee Willie McIntosh.  Willie Terris a lawyer from Kelty and Bob Taylor were the club chairmen back then.  Mick Paton was the trainer.  He was a PT instructor and Cowdenbeath daft. 

 

Opponents I admired were Tommy Ring and Archie Robertson of Clyde, Alex Parker at Falkirk, John White at Alloa and Falkirk, and Big Ron Yeats of Dundee United.  I enjoyed my football career and had some great experiences.  I must confess I haven’t been back to Central Park all that often in recent times.  Last time I remember I went along to watch Eric Archibald in action but not unusually he was sent off.  Charlie Gronbach and Horace Demarco though still recognised me that day and shouted over ‘Mick, how are you getting on’.”

 

Cowden Conversations with David A Allan