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Tom Dawson
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Tom Dawson – Player 1961 – 1967

 

The story of Tom Dawson who was a Cowden stalwart back in the swinging sixties.   

 

My father was brought up in Cowdenbeath and he supported both Cowden and Rangers.  They used to dig a hole under the fence at Central Park back then and crawl under it to get into the game.  He emigrated to Canada where he worked on a farm and in a general store.  The store burned down but my dad rescued the horse and the safe.  My brother and sister were born in Canada but during the depression the family returned home and I was born in Fife. 

 

We lived in Dunfermline at Brucefield in the Dockyard houses when I was a boy.  My Uncle Joe Dawson lived nearby in Beveridge Street.  Joe was a joiner like me and not unusually for a joiner had a missing finger.  He also played football for Cowdenbeath, Raith Rovers and St Bernards.  Horace Demarco used to tell me about watching my Uncle Joe play when he was a laddie.  My brother Bill Dawson also made it as a pro playing with Hearts, Dunfermline, Montrose and Brechin. 

 

My early football was played in the usual 15 or 16 a side games you got at Rex Park and Rosefield in Dunfermline.  I just nipped over our garden fence onto the pitch and we would play till it was dark.  At St Leonard’s Primary I captained the school team and played in goal.  I also captained the Queen Anne High School team but by then I was playing outfield.  For a time I played for Kingseat Athletic and Wellwood where I played alongside the likes of Ally Brand who joined Dunfermline. 

 

My next footballing port of call was the Kirkcaldy juvenile side Novar Star.  Eddie Brown who had a pub ran the club.  I needed to catch three different buses to get to training.  There were a number of good players at Novar Star including Willie Penman who went to Rangers, goalkeeper Andy Page who joined East Fife, and Ralph Walker who had spells with Raith Rovers and Southend. 

 

Around 1956, a Lochgelly Albert scout saw me playing in a Juvenile select game I think at Rex Park.  I then joined up at Gardiner’s Park.  Team-mates I can recall there were Berry, Halliday, Bostock, and Tommy Hope who had once been senior with Southend.  Lochgelly Albert were a useful outfit then and we won the Fife Cup and the West Fife Cup.  Ronnie Ross was there as secretary – a smashing guy who never changed over all the years.  Bobby Kinnear, the brother of Rangers’ Davie Kinnear, was a scout for Rangers in those days.  He was watching me and had spoken to me a few times before in 1958 I was asked to sign provisional forms with Rangers.

 

It was really the start of Rangers youth policy then.  I used to play for Rangers youth team versus top Scottish Junior sides and youth teams from clubs such as Hibs, Hearts, Morton and Queen’s Park.  If we weren’t playing we’d be sitting in the stand at Ibrox watching the first team play.  The Rangers youth team included guys such as Norrie Martin, Craig Brown, Lex Gold, and Roger Hynd.  Latterly, John Greig and Willie Henderson were introduced to the side.  Lots of players of course didn’t make the grade.  I also recall Bobby Hume playing in the youth team and he did play some first team games.  Later, he went to South Africa and was killed while still a young man.  He was a carjacking victim and when he refused to get out of his car he was shot dead. 

 

Scot Symon of course was the Rangers boss at the time.  He used to watch our practice games on Tuesdays when we’d take on the first team.  Unfortunately my form started to shade and I eventually dropped out of the team.  I was maybe trying too hard but I could see Scot Symon’s interest was cooling.  In 1960, I was called up for my National Service and Scot Symon did want me to come back but I decided to move on. 

 

From my Rangers days I have a lot of admiration for Ralph Brand – he always had time for the younger players.  Wee Iain McMillan was a real gentleman and he was a part timer as well.  Ian McColl was still at Ibrox and he was a real hero of my dad’s.  Then there were others at the club like Sammy Baird, Billy Stevenson who went to Liverpool, Bobby McCallum who was to become Falkirk’s trainer – sadly he’s dead now, and Roddy Grant’s father Bobby Grant. 

 

Anyway in 1960 I was called up for the RAF – just 8 weeks before the last ever National Service intake.  I certainly wouldn’t have volunteered but looking back now I would have hated to miss the experience.  We spent a while squarebashing at Bridgenorth in Wales but things looked up once I began playing football.  When I was down at Plymouth I played a game for Plymouth Argyle.  Then I played for West Brom at Hereford where there was mud up to your knees. 

 

Eventually, I was posted to Newhaven where the ferry runs to Dieppe and was in the office of Air/Sea rescue.  There was a game with Brighton when I was down there.  In due course I was posted to Coastal Command and remember playing in a Coastal Command tournament at Uxbridge.  I played for RAF Scotland v Ireland as well although ironically the return match was cancelled because we couldn’t get a plane.  I also played for the RAF side versus the Army.  Jim Baxter was in the Black Watch but he wasn’t available to play in that match.  I had appeared in the District Schoolboy team with Jim.  He was even skinnier in those school days and was a left back. 

 

Coastal Command was headquartered at Pitreavie Castle though and that meant I was moved back up to Fife.  Ronnie Ross from the Albert worked at Pitreavie as well.  I signed for Cowden in October 1961 when Harry Colville was the manager and I used to get permission from the RAF to play for Cowden.  Once I was down in Plymouth and Harry phoned down as he needed me within 24 hours.  It cost the club 5 travel costs and Jock Gilliard from the Supporters Club arranged the payment.  Everyone of course will remember Jock Gilliard and the Supporters Club.  We had some great New Years there with his famed ‘One Singer, One song’!  I recall sometimes the Dunfermline players used to come through to join us.  The Supporters Club was always packed – there were more people in that club than you would see in the ground. 

 

Cowdenbeath Royals trained with us at Central Park in those days.  They had players like Ian Porterfield and Tommy Callaghan.  Denis Jack and Andy Rolland both stepped up around the time I joined Cowden from the Royals as well.  Andy was a centre-forward then.  He moved to full back years later.  Other team-mates included Charlie Drummond in goal who had formerly been with Harry at Raith Rovers.  I recollect when Charlie went for a cross you had to look out – a fair few teeth were removed by Charlie over the years!  Later I think he worked at Grangemouth Docks. 

 

Tom Kay who broke his leg about three times and Bobby Anderson were also with Cowden . They both went south and subsequently played for Bedford.  Bobby was a Kelty lad and I used to see him when he visited his sister who stayed just down the road from me in Cairneyhill.  Bobby had moved down south but sad to say he died of Legionnaires disease just a few years back.

 

Up front the team featured Ken Allison and Dave Fraser who had both been with Hibs.  Jimmy Robertson who went on to join St Mirren and Spurs played for us as an amateur while left winger Willie McIntosh was an excellent player.  He left us for ES Clydebank where the Steedman brothers were spending a bit of money.  Later Willie played for Aberdeen.

 

I started out with Cowden at right half.  I was a sort of long striding player and my role was to win the ball and feed the forwards.  Later on I spent some time playing at centre half and that was more a no-nonsense type role.

 

There were some memorable games in that first season I had with Cowden.  We lost 7-1 to Queen of the South at Palmerston.  They had a veteran called Jim Patterson and he scored 6 times none of them from more than five yards out.  Ex-Cowden boys Tommy Robertson and Jock Murphy were in the Queens side.  Wee Tosh scored our goal and that game was the first time I ever captained Cowden! 

 

We were run ragged but the real reason was we were exhausted after having played Celtic in the Scottish Cup in midweek at Celtic Park.  We lost 5-1 to Celtic.  They had Paddy Crerand – what a guy!  There was Yogi Hughes, Mike Jackson, Haffey, Chalmers, McNeil, etc. as well. 

 

In the last League game of that first season 1961/62, we drew 3-3 with Arbroath at Central Park.  That match was the one and only time I was ever sent off in my career.  An Arbroath player grabbed my jersey, I knocked his hand away and we were off.  I remember speaking to that referee years after and recalling the incident.  He was a good ref, Syme I think his name was.  Referees then of course were different, guys like Tiny Wharton, they talked to the players. 

 

My first manager at Central Park was Harry Colville.  Harry more or less managed the way he had played the game and you were left to your own devices to arrange the team on the pitch.  Only time things were different was when we played Morton who were beating everyone in sight at the time.  We went to Cappielow for a Scottish Cup tie and played 9 at the back and one up front. 

 

It worked a treat and we ended up hanging on to draw 0-0.  Usually you would play a big fast guy up front in such a situation but instead wee Willie Benvie did that job for us.  He was great on the ball and that then allowed us to get players up to support him as he held onto the ball.  Willie laid on plenty of goals over the years but hardly ever scored.  It was Alan McGraw’s goals that put us out in the replay.  I was often up against him and he virtually always scored v Cowden. 

 

Other backroom staff at Cowdenbeath included Charlie Gronbach who succeeded Bill Terris as chairman.  Terris was connected with the SFA but he died after falling ill.  Jim Horne was on the board as well and he told me years later that Clyde had tried to sign me but weren’t prepared to pay Cowden’s asking price. 

 

On the training side were Watty Glancy and Jimmy Whyte.  Jimmy was a smashing guy and he couldn’t do enough for you.  I had first met him when we were at Lochgelly Albert together.  I recall when he was giving you a rub and you cried out in agony he would say ‘funny, I can’t feel a thing’.  Then there was Willie Docherty, the groundsman, what a worker he was.  The pitch at Central Park then was excellent.  The surface was better than Hampden and the pitch was as wide if not wider than Hampden.  It was a wee bit shorter and later they cut back the corners and it got narrower for the stock cars. 

 

Players who were at Central Park in my second and third seasons there included Gibby Ormond who was Willie Ormond’s brother.  Gibby stays in Falkirk and I ran into him not so long ago.   Tommy McDonald also played briefly for Cowden then.  He was the first player I ever saw take the ball out to the corner flag to waste time and than he sat on the ball.  I used to play in old crocks game with Tommy who died not so long ago.  His last job was working on the tolls on the Forth Bridge. 

 

Andy Matthew joined the team as well and he of course had already enjoyed a long career.  I had known him when we were both at Ibrox.  Before that I had first seen Andy playing for East Fife where he seemed to be a wee frail sort of guy.  What a difference though when I was at Rangers with him.  He was really stocky by then largely due to humping sacks of coal up flights of stairs in his family coal merchants business.  Andy was the sort of player on a pitch who was always available for a pass – he was easy to find without even looking.  I remember once we were playing Clyde and Andy who was by then a veteran got the ball only to hear a Clyde fan shout ‘Rip Van Winkle’s got the ba’.  I sometimes see Andy’s daughter up the street in Dunfermline. 

 

Younger players were brought into the team then as well.  Jim Burns was a good one.  He was joiner like me (and Jim Taylor).  Cowden sold him to Clyde and he was there for years and captained them as well.  . Stan Vincent was another good young player that Cowden sold.  He was a short dumpy guy but quick off the mark.  He was nippy in the box and was brave too, hustling and bustling away up front.  Stan was sold to Hibs and he was subsequently on the backroom staff at Easter Road for a while. 

 

In 1962/63 I moved for the first time from wing half to centre half.  Unfortunately, just as I was enjoying the match v Ayr their forward Jackie Kilgannon fell on my leg.  I suffered torn ligaments and was out for 6 weeks.  Kilgannon later was with Dunfermline.  He and his brother Jim who was with Third Lanark were involved in a car crash a few years later and Jackie was killed. 

 

Season 1963/64 brought some eventful games.  Early in the campaign, we were up at Forfar when our goalkeeper Frank Traynor called off at the last minute.  We had no back up keeper so I ended up wearing the goalie’s jersey.  At St Leonards primary I had been the goalkeeper in the school team and I always used to like diving around in goal.  I idolised Jerry Dawson as a boy and he was a great keeper.  In fact, my dad was a good goalie as well and he was nicknamed Jerry. 

 

At training I’d often mess around in goals.  I had quick reflexes – too quick perhaps Archie Robertson suggested once when I went into panic mode!  Anyway at Forfar I did OK.  We lost 2-1 but the goals came from a penalty and a deflection..

 

That season, for the only time in my career, I was also moved up into the forward line for a time and played at inside right.  I scored a few including 2 in an 8-2 win over Alloa.  Andy Matthew, Alex Simpson and Stan Vincent each scored 2 that day as well.  Later that season though we were hammered 8-0 by Dumbarton. 

 

Another game I can well recall was at Central Park v Arbroath.  Jimmy Burns caught Cargill of Arbroath in a clash and his leg snapped.  Strangely Jim was booked but we got the free kick.  Cargill later wrote in to the SFA to say that it wasn’t Jim’s fault and the caution was cancelled.  In that same match I caught another Arbroath player on the shin and he had a great big hole in his leg.  I was almost sick when I saw it.  They were down to nine men but went on to beat us 2-0. 

 

In 1964, Harry Colville resigned and ex-Clyde and Scotland star Archie Robertson was appointed as Cowdenbeath’s new manager.  Archie later told me he had phoned Harry Colville to ask about the Cowden players.  Harry had said ‘Dawson will run all day, passing suspect’.  Archie soon therefore had me working on improving my passing and he had me practicing wall passes after training off the stand wall.  It did help. 

 

I had known Archie for a good few years.  I had first met him at East End Park with my brother Bill when Rangers first wanted me.  Players like Ronnie Sharp and Tommy Gray of Arbroath trained at East End Park then and so did Archie.  Archie used to use the wall pass routine at East End Park hitting the wall behind the stand again and again on exactly the same spot from varying ranges. 

 

Archie was a really skilful footballer although he was as slow as a carthorse.  His passing and shooting were superb.  As a boss he was so professional.  He was a modern manager and would spend any amount of time coaching youngsters and giving advice.  Archie was a clever bloke.  He thought up match situations, dead ball moves, patterns of play, and devised routines.  There was lots of ball work as well as running and stamina training.  He brought Andy Rolland back to the club and eventually turned him into a full back. 

 

Archie was a dead ball specialist and he coached Andy Rolland in this art.  Eventually, a free kick taken by Andy was just like having a penalty.  He was more deadly than Beckham although Andy didn’t bend the ball just hit it like a bullet.  Andy was a character – I can recall once playing at East End Park versus the Pars in a Fife Cup tie and Andy took great delight in taking the mickey out of the Dunfermline players. 

 

At training Archie Robertson also used to put our goalie John Ritchie through the mill.  He would torment John firing in shots either side of him and John would have to dive all over.  He’d just get up from the ground and the next shot would be on its way.  I actually ran into John at the barbers recently.  He was telling me that his son Paul who is now at East Fife had never known his grandfather as he had died before Paul was born.  Paul had asked to see his photo and John had shown him the one he had.  Paul though said ‘but that’s just a photo of a match at Central Park.  My granddad never played for Cowden’.  John then pointed out his own dad sitting in the crowd in the stand!

 

Archie would be an ideal manager nowadays but sometimes he was a bit too clever for us.  I remember wee Roger Sugden standing with his mouth open when Archie was trying to give him some instructions.  Archie pushed us a bit too hard sometimes – we weren’t really as good as him.   I remember though that Roger scored the first goal of the Scottish season when he scored in the first minute of our opening game. 

 

Archie had drilled us in lots of dead ball moves.  We had 4 different moves from throw ins and it was my job to take them.  First shy of the game, it worked a treat and Roger was in to score. 

 

One player Archie brought to the club who did really well was his old Clyde teammate Mike Clinton.  Mike had just about packed in playing but Archie persuaded him to help us out.  Mike was given the sweeper role and never looked back.  He was a super guy and ended up being our player of the year.  Archie at first played a few games as well just to get the feel of how we would play.  He could still play and encouraged a passing game. 

 

Archie Robertson brought Andy Kinnell into the side at centre half and he was obviously a good young player.  We also had three of the best full-backs in the League in my latter days at Central Park - Andy Rolland, Bobby Wilson and Denis Jack.  I don’t know how Denis never made the step up to bigger club.  He was so quick and light on his feet and forwards couldn’t get past him.  Dunfermline were keen on him at one time. 

 

Big Tom Clark played up front for us then.  He was a bit of a plodder but he scored goals.  He looked about 7 feet tall.  I remember marking Tom when I played for East Fife v Cowden after I moved to Methil.  Dusty Miller and Alex ‘Gus’ Guthrie were in the team as well.  Gus later on scored lots of goals when we played together for Lochore Welfare and then he went on to play with Arniston Rangers. 

 

Archie Robertson went down for a coaching course at the FA’s Coaching School in Lilleshall.  He dragged me along with him.  I roomed at Lilleshall with Archie and Partick Thistle’s Jacky Husband who really was a smashing guy.  He was at Firhill for years both as player and trainer.  One of the stands at Firhill is named after him nowadays. 

 

Walter Winterbottom was head of the coaching school then.  He had been the England manager before Alf Ramsey took over.  There were other well known guys on the course too such as Frank McLintock and Irish internationalist Peter McParland.  McParland had starred for Northern Ireland in the 1958 World Cup.  During a practice match at Lilleshall I was in goal and saved a penalty taken by Peter McParland.  As for the coaching, well Archie was actually better than the Lilleshall coaches.  I don’t think they were very happy when Archie ended up telling them things and making his own points.  He also used to tie them in knots with his convoluted ‘what if’ questions on the laws of the game. 

 

Back at Central Park, Cowden enjoyed a great Cup run in 1966 but Jim Burns, Andy Kinnell, and Mike Clinton were becoming the regular half back line.  Jim Taylor also arrived on the scene for 1966/67 and I was playing less often.  Archie Robertson wanted me to stay and help on the coaching side but I wanted to play as long as possible. 

 

Cowden therefore agreed to release me and Jimmy Bonthrone signed me for East Fife.  Archie Robertson went on to manage Clyde but tragically he was to fall ill and died young.  I knew Archie was ill but he died quite suddenly and it was Andy Matthew who told me as he had been at Archie’s funeral. 

 

I enjoyed it at Bayview although not as much as I had enjoyed being at Central Park.  The players at Cowdenbeath all got on really well both on and off the park.  The East Fife team then featured Bobby Wilson’s pal Willie Wyles and Hamish Watt who was bit of a comic with his Chic Murray impressions.  Wee Billy McGann was in goal and he was an excellent ‘keeper though he was troubled by his shoulder. 

 

Then there were the likes of Bertie Miller, big Walter Borthwick, and wee Jim Kinsella.  Henry McLeish, the First Minister was an East Fife player then and so was George Dewar.  George had a real eye for goal and also became fairly wealthy outside football.  Johnny Lawler was another East Fife player from then who made good and became a millionaire.  I met him at a Corporate day at Ibrox not so long ago.

 

Jimmy Bonthrone was a decent guy, a gentleman.  He would give us a team talk before a match.  He was different though from Archie, much less dynamic, but he knew what he was about.  Jimmy Philp the trainer was another good guy.  Of course, he and Jimmy Bonthrone and Andy Matthew had all been East Fife team-mates at one time. 

 

I finished my senior career with East Fife in 1967 and then went junior with Lochore Welfare.  Willie Finlay the ex-East Fife and Clyde player was in charge there and he was followed by Andy Young.  Later, Andy took up a job with Leeds United and was succeeded by Davie Sibbald.  Eventually, Davie left for Broxburn United and I took over as coach.  I was nine years training, coaching, and scouting there.  I played on for as long as I could though. 

 

One player that Cowden fans will remember well was John Dickson who was a team-mate at Lochore.  He was really a one-off type of player.  He had a bit of an attitude and could be hard to handle.  What a talent he had though. 

 

He was full of tricks and with the right attitude he could have been a really great player.  He had been with Leeds United but they released him and Andy Young signed John for the Welfare.  He didn’t really fit into the team and he was prone to hang onto the ball.  However, some of his moves were fantastic and we just let him do his own thing.  When we were knocked out of the Scottish Junior Cup, I phoned Andy Matthew at Cowdenbeath and John Dickson was promptly signed up by Cowden. 

 

I spent many happy years at Lochore Welfare after I went there in 1967.  Our best run was to the quarter finals of the Scottish Junior Cup.  There were a lot of good players in my time there.  I can remember Ian ‘Pink’ Campbell.  Then there was Ian Blackadder – he joined Cowden and he could run all day.  Mind you he had a bit of a short fuse and you couldn’t get through to him so he was often sent off. 

 

Brian Nicoll who was with Brechin City was at Lochore with me.  He did his knee at a time when he could have gone to Dundee United.  Brian worked for me for 34 years.  Davie Cook who had a really powerful shot was another one who went from Lochore to Cowden as did Bobby Morrison who also played for Dunfermline.  Ronnie McHale who took me golfing up at Kinneswood was also transferred to Cowdenbeath.  Alex Fiddler was our centre half and he hailed from Cowdenbeath.  He was an accountant.  I got him trials at Dunfermline and Clyde. 

 

Davie Brown the goalkeeper was at Lochore for 15 or 16 years.  Whenever Brechin were short they would get Davie to fill in.  Hugh Dackers was also at the Welfare with me.  One player that never fulfilled his promise was Craig Levein’s brother Paul.  He was like Beckenbauer but went a bit off the rails and never made the best of his career. 

 

Celtic were watching him before he even played for Lochore.  I hadn’t even seen him play when I sent him on as a substitute in a Scottish Junior Cup tie in Glasgow at half time.  He was only aged 15 or 16 then. 

 

Latterly I would pick and choose my games for Lochore.  Really from the age of 24/25 I had bother with my knee after a clash with Jacky Kilgannon that left me in a stukey for six weeks.  I carried out about every possible role at Lochore but eventually I found I just had too much on my plate with my joinery business.  Once the new pavilion was completed at Central Park I left.  I greatly enjoyed my years at Lochore. 

 

The committee was really dedicated and they put in a fantastic amount of work.  Curly Farmer’s wife didn’t even get any money for the soap powder for washing the team’s strips.  I went back a while ago and was made a life member of Lochore Welfare.

 

My level of fitness was still quite good so I used to enjoy turning out for an Old Crocks side – Fife All Stars.  We had players like Alex Kinninmonth, Bobby Reid, Jimmy Bonthrone, Andy Matthew, George Dewar, Charlie Fleming, Harry Melrose, Harry Colville, and Jock Forsyth.  The guy that amazed me in those games was ex-Raith and Scotland star Willie McNaught.  Even at the age of 52 he would just stroll through games. 

 

I recall once scoring in a 5-1 win for the All Stars against Levenmouth Police in a charity match.  Willie Penman who had played for Raith years before scored twice along with Willie Finlay and Geordie Dewar. 

 

Looking back on my own career I was fortunate enough to play alongside some good players.  Archie Robertson was the best manager I ever came across and the best side I played in was Archie’s team at Cowdenbeath.  Star men were those three great full backs – Andy Rolland, Bobby Wilson, and Denis Jack. 

 

I caught up with Bobby and Denis not too long ago.  At Rangers I most admired Ralph Brand.  I once had to mark Ralph when playing for the reserves against the first team.  My tongue was hanging out in next to no time.  One second he was beside me and the next he was miles away in the corner.  Jimmy Millar just laughed, ‘Murder Tam, eh!’  He was so fit and fast and never stopped moving.  I don’t know why the Rangers support sometimes gave him a hard time. 

 

Among the teams I particularly remember playing against were Celtic of course and Morton when Alan McGraw was leading their attack.  My toughest opponent was Alex ‘Dixie’ Ingram the Ayr United centre forward.  He wasn’t tall and I was quite good in the air but I could never handle him.  He could have broken the high jump record. 

 

I was pleased to see that Ronnie McKinnon who was then the Rangers and Scotland centre half had real trouble when up against Ingram in a televised game.  Even with a running jump he couldn’t win the ball against Ingram in the air. 

 

I always enjoyed playing at Central Park.  Hamilton had a nice pitch and Easter Road was good too.  Hampden was pretty poor.  The pitch was bumpy and chewed up while you could hear every word the crowd shouted when there was a small crowd.  Airdrie was another poor pitch – you’d come off there and your legs would be all scored by ashes. 

 

Years ago my partner and I bought the joinery business Sharps of Torryburn and I still trade under that name.  We bought it from a super guy who we had worked for.  He had angina and we ended up buying him out and then he worked for us for years.  My partner retired 7 years ago and my son Neil then became my partner.  Neil was twice Scottish champion in motorcycle trials.  My daughter Kerry also stays nearby.  I have 3 grandchildren – Joe who likes football and trial bikes, Declan who’s a Celtic fan, and Rachel aged 10 going on 23. 

 

I was born in Inverkeithing and lived in Dunfermline for many years but my wife and I have been happily living in Cairneyhill now for many years in a house which I built.  A couple of years ago I took Joe to the baths in Cowdenbeath and we had a wee nostalgic wander down to look round Central Park.  I couldn’t get over how wee the pitch was now.  It was a really big pitch when I first played for Cowden over 45 years ago!

 

Cowden Conversations with David A Allan