Williamson – Player 1983 – 1988
story of Stewart Williamson who made 196 appearances for Cowden back in the 1980’s and then spent a decade with Meadowbank/Livingston. A model pro, Stewart made 531 senior appearances in his 15 year senior career.
I come from Bonnyrigg and played
for my school team before graduating to Edina Hibs. Then I was with Musselburgh
Windsor as a juvenile. A team-mate at Musselburgh was Dave McGovern and we grew
up together playing at Musselburgh.
Guvnor’ joined Celtic. He was a potentially great player but had his leg
badly broken in a car crash when he was 15. The driver never got over hitting
Dave in that accident.
I joined Musselburgh Athletic
and was playing junior with them at the age of 18. Their manager was Billy Brown
who is now Jim Jeffries’ assistant at Kilmarnock. Musselburgh were struggling
a bit then in the old junior B Division. The team was full of old pros. I had a trial with East Fife but
that didn’t work out.
Then John Murray a Cowdenbeath scout got me a trial for Cowden. John
is now scouting for Hearts – Billy Brown took him to Tynecastle when he was assistant at Hearts. I played in two trial games for Cowden. In the second match
we played against Hibs and I was up against Graham Harvey. He led me a merry
dance. It made me realise the standard you had to be to play senior.
That game I felt I played poorly but Cowden manager Hugh Wilson liked what he saw and offered me a contract. I was delighted to sign. I had made my
mind up at the age of 18 that I would really try and make it in the game and I worked really hard at it. I didn’t drink and got myself really fit.
Cowden were the first senior
club to ask me to sign. Hugh Wilson was a quiet man and a gentleman while Willie
McCulloch his assistant was hard as nails.My first game for Cowdenbeath after signing was a reserve
match at Pittodrie v Aberdeen. We had lots
of young players and there were about 40 players on the club’s books. We
travelled up to Aberdeen in a mini bus. However, two
trialists didn’t turn up and another player missed the bus.
When we got there John Murray
nipped over to a nearby playing field and within 10 minutes got a guy to come and play for us v Aberdeen. Fergie was just building
up his side then and I recall Brian Gunn was in goal that night when we lost 3-0. My first
team debut was near the end of season 1982/83 in a match v Queen of the South at left back.
We lost 3-2 and Rowan Alexander scored a hat-trick – he was to be the bane of my life for years.
Soon after I switched to right
back where I was to play regularly. I replaced Keith Ferguson who went on to
move to Meadowbank. Fergie was a great player with great ability. In my first training session with Cowden I came across the young Craig Levein. Craig said ‘I hear you’re fast’, and challenged me to a race. I fancied my chances and he kicked the ball away into the far corner of the park. First to reach the ball would be the winner.
Off we went and I was ahead pounding away as hard as I could. As
I neared the ball Craig just cruised past me and dragged it back laughing. He
was a fantastic player and he along with Brian ‘Bisto’ Christie was the life and soul of the dressing room. Later I used to enjoy watching Craig when he played for Hearts and then when I played
for Livingston he joined us a coach.
There was something about him. He was articulate and an excellent coach
– it’s no surprise that he has achieved all that he has in the game.
There were lots of characters
at Central Park then. There
was wee Bertie Miller on the wing. When Bertie got in the box he would fall crashing
to the turf and then have the ball placed on the penalty spot before the ref had even blown his whistle. Big Grant Tierney was centre–half and I still see him a couple of times a year. I couldn’t get rid of him as he played with me at Cowden, Meadowbank and Livingston.
He was a great centre half but he must have cost Cowden millions of pounds buying elastoplasts. We used to say Grant only started playing once his blood started flowing.
Meadowbank sold him to Dunfermline and he did well there.
His debut was against Meadowbank and we lost 1-0 with Winker Watson scoring the Pars goal. Cowden also had the ex-Hearts star Willie Gibson who scored plenty of goals and alongside him was Colin
McIntosh who had once been hailed as the new Kenny Dalglish.
Ronnie Scott, Derek Hyslop, and wee Russell Dunlop were on Cowden’s books too and I used to travel over
to Cowdenbeath with John Mitchell. Then we brought in Kenny Ward from Oakley
– he was fantastic. I remember him and the other great finishers we had
then such as a raw young Roddy Grant and Colin ‘Dibble. McGlashan. They
were on fire sometimes at training and you never saw such quality finishers.
I recall big Raymie Allan
would go mental if Dibble or Kenny dared to chip him in training. He would chase
them round and round the park if they did that. I still see Raymie now and again
especially when I was assistant manager at Glenrothes. He was a fine, hard working
pro and a madman as well. I was delighted when late in his career he got a move
to Motherwell and played in Europe – he really deserved it.
The highlight of season 1983/84
was probably our wee run in the League Cup. We beat Stirling Albion over 2 legs
when Raymie saved two penalties from John Colquhoun. Then we faced Hearts. We drew 0-0 at Central Park
and went to Tynecastle for the second leg on the Saturday. All my family were
there. I was a bit nervous as it was the first really big match I had ever played
in. I was directly up against Willie Johnston.
Bertie Miller came up to me before the game and told me to relax and then Bud Johnston came over to wish me all
the best and said he hoped I would have a good game. The game started and I went
for the ball down in the corner when Willie came flying in and kicked me in the face.
Accidentally I must say. He said to me then, ‘You’re in a
game now son!” We drew 1-1 after extra time with Bisto scoring our goal.
Craig Levein was immaculate that day and of course Hearts were to sign him very soon afterwards. I played well too but I did give away a penalty when John Robertson dived after I tripped him. Raymie of course saved Willie Johnston’s spot kick. We
lost on penalties and I can still recall Derek Hyslop missing for us.
Craig’s departure though
left a void and we went through a bit of a transitional period. I really enjoyed
my first full season but there was a bit of infighting between some of the younger an older factions in the team so we didn’t
do too well overall.
Wilson left as manager as he was busy running his pub and Willie McCulloch stepped up to become boss. Willie was a nice guy too but he had a problem with a team where players were either just starting out
or at the end of their careers. There weren’t many players in between those
Jackie O’Donnell joined
us and I used to give him a lift over from Craigmillar. He was an aggressive
player. We also signed Ian Paterson. Patsy
was an excellent centre and a real gentleman. He scored goals and worked hard. Other recollections of 1983/84 include a couple of games v East Fife.
A young Gordon Durie scored twice as we lost 2-1 in a match where he was later sent off. A couple of years later I was directly up against him when he was with Hibs and he gave me a pretty hard
time scoring twice in a 6-0 win for Hibs in a League Cup tie. Then near the end
of the season we went out at Central
Park to meet East Fife again.
Willie McCulloch’s instructions for the game were simple ‘Just go out and do your own thing’. It was like we had 11 guys then who wanted to play up front! We lost 5-1 and Willie packed it in after that drubbing. I
had a generally good record in derbies though when I was with Cowden and we usually did well v Dunfermline.
I can well remember the New Year game at East End Park in 1984 which ended up being abandoned before half time. The pitch was flooded from the start and I went flying in for a tackle with Trevor
Smith. We created huge tidal waves but the ball never moved. The game was called off but the fans were less than happy.
After Willie McCulloch departed our next game was v Queen’s Park at Hampden. I was held up on the way and when I got into the dressing room we had a new manager. Who’s that I asked and was told it was John Clark the ex-Lisbon Lion. Joe Craig was also there as his new assistant.
That match at Hampden was Davie Shanks’
last game for us. Cowden sold him to Clydebank. Later he was chairman of Albion Rovers. Davie was a
good ball winner and really put himself about on the pitch. We called him ‘spiderman’
at training because he wore the tightest tracksuit bottoms anyone had ever seen.
John Clark as our new boss of
course was a legend as a Lisbon Lion. We all respected him and none of us would
step out of line as he would have given you a torrid time. Mr Clark we called
him and he knew exactly what he wanted from you.
never swore apart from one time when he almost knocked the dressing room door down in a fury.
I recall once there were six injured players waiting for treatment from physio Jimmy Reekie. John then came into the dressing room and asked each of them in turn what was wrong with them.
first five he just bluntly told to get out and start training. When there was
only one guy left he then told Jimmy to do his stuff. Jimmy had some antiquated
equipment mind you and there was perhaps a risk of electrocution from some of the gear he used on you!
Kenny Ward would play a blinder
on a Saturday and come in looking for praise but the boss would just say he wasn’t impressed. He demanded really high standards. Another time we were all
wearing tracksuit bottoms on a bitter day for training. John came along and told
us to ‘get those trousers off’ and made us train in short sleeved shirts as well.
John Clark was a first class manager.
In John Clark’s first
full season we had an excellent run in the League Cup and reached the quarter finals.
We beat St Mirren during that run by 2-0 at Central Park
with Raymie Allan saving a penalty from a youngster named Frank MacAvennie. I
was at a do in Glenrothes not so long ago and Frank was a guest speaker. I went
up to chat to him and showed him the programme from that game. He read the player
profiles and we laughed at the one for Stevie Clarke – ‘Definite weak link must be played on’.
The quarter final was at Central Park v Rangers and John Clark told us to get in as early as possible to savour the atmosphere. At that time I had moved from a full back berth to play left midfield and I ended
up marking Bobby Russell. I could hardly get near him.
Manny McDonough though kept Davie Cooper quiet and Grant Tierney marked Ally McCoist out of the game. We lost 3-1 before a huge crowd. The late Davie Armour was playing for us then and he was in awe of playing
against his old Rangers colleagues. I got on really well with Davie. A few years ago there was a testimonial
for a Whitburn player versus a Rangers select. I played for the Rangers side
alongside Davie, Dougie Bell, and John MacDonald.
There were lots of characters
then on the books at Central Park. Big Eric
Archibald was with us briefly as a youngster and then there were guys like Gerry McTeague, Davie Wilcox, Peter Shields, Danny
Wilson, wee Roddy Doig, Ian Cochrane and Alan ‘Mad Dog’ Oliver. Wee
Wardie on the wing was a great finisher and he had really superb balance while Colin McGlashan too became a regular scorer.
That season we also beat Raith
Rovers 5-1 at Central Park and the Pars 2-1 at East End Park
to just miss out on promotion. There were good games against East Fife too when they had guys like Gordon Marshall, Stevie Kirk and Stuart Burgess. I always had a really good record as a player versus Dunfermline. We always played for the jersey when up against our local
At that time I also used to
play in some reserve games as well. I was very fit and I think John Clark used
to find it handy to use me as taxi service so I could chauffeur in some of our other younger players from Edinburgh. Around then we had
a good run in the reserve League Cup. I captained our side v the holders Aberdeen. Alex Ferguson and Archie
Knox brought them to Central Park and we were 2-0 down after about two minutes.
Roddy Doig though scored a
couple and we ended up going into extra time. I then scored a 30 yard volley
and Rab Duncan finished Aberdeen off as we ended up winning 4-2. Cowdenbeath then had all the best young talent from Fife. Later Davie Westwood, Iain Kinnell, Rab Duncan and Jake Mitchell
from that reserve team all went junior and won the Scottish Junior Cup with Hill of Beath.
Eventually John Clark quit,
although we weren’t doing badly at the time. His assistant Joe Craig took
over with Bobby Ford as his assistant. Joe brought in a lot of good younger players
such as Paul Cherry, Billy Paxton, Keith McCulloch, George Proudfoot, Roddy Grant, Alan McKenzie and Scott Burnside (who now
has a business in Germany).
He also introduced Derek ‘Zola’ Grant at centre forward. He
was later converted into a centre half and sold for a big fee to Airdrie with Dave Young coming to us in part exchange. Zola was a great player with his long striding, mazy runs out of defence. Keith McCulloch came from a neighbouring village and I would give him a lift over to training along with
Paul Cherry and Lindsay Muir who was an excellent experienced pro.
I can still remember the camaraderie
and antics on our pre-season tour with the original ‘Mad Dog’ - Alan Oliver – it was an eye-opener but of
course as the saying goes ‘What goes on on tour, stays on tour!’ Keith
McCulloch of course succeeded Alan by acquiring the same Mad Dog nickname in due course.
As well as Lindsay Muir we had
Drew Rutherford and Raymie Allan to add experience to the side. Raymond I remember
saved a penalty versus Albion Rovers and had his leg broken when saving the rebound. Nobody realised Raymie had a broken leg and he stayed on the field although he was
in shock. We were supposed to keep the ball away from him but straight away there
was a pass back which slowly rolled past the immobile Raymond but thankfully went by the post.
John Clark had gotten hold of the player who made the pass back he would have killed him.
Wee Dickie Baillie joined us then and he was the hardiest schoolboy player I’ve ever seen. Big Raymie was always kicking Dickie up and down the park in training.
Rutherford was a majestic player. He must have been some player in his younger
days. It was really sad to learn of the passing of Drew and Davie Armour in recent
times. I can still remember playing alongside Drew in a reserve match for Cowden. There was a new young referee in charge. He
gave a foul against Drew and the big man then said ‘You’re the worst referee ever.
That’s it I’m retiring. Your decision has just made me retire!’
then started marching off the field and gave me a big wink as he went past. The
referee was panicking and saying ‘Come on Drew, don’t be like that, I’m sorry’. Drew was just winding him up.
We always had good players
at Central Park we just couldn’t hang onto them. When Joe was manager we had Roddy Grant at centre forward and brought in Billy Blackie to play alongside
him. They were a great pairing. Roddy
would just flick the ball on and Billy who was greased lightning would run through to score.
Once we were 4-0 up v St Johnstone with Roddy and Billy banging in the goals.
They pulled it back to 4-3 mind you and we finished up hanging on for dear life.
Soon after Paul Cherry, Kenny Ward, Billy Blackie, and Roddy Grant were all playing together for St Johnstone which
gives you and idea of the quality we had available to us.
Off the park, the directors at
Cowdenbeath were OK. Eric Mitchell was an enthusiastic chairman and he was succeeded
by Tom Currie who put a bit of money into the club. Jimmy Malcolm who I think
once had played for Hearts was also on the board. I got on particularly well
with Willie Foster who was the club secretary.
There was a bust up in the boardroom
though and we were all shocked when Joe Craig who had been doing well was sacked in the close season. Most of the players went on strike then and refused to train. There
was also a function which ended up with a scuffle involving players and Eric Mitchell.
I remember Eric with his wig all askew after it. It was not a great time.
Dick Campbell was brought in as the new manager but with such a troubled background
he was up against it from the start. The players had no pre-season and we couldn’t
recover from the lack of preparation. Strangely though we won the Fife Cup in
the pre-season. I lifted the trophy as captain when we beat Raith Rovers in the
final. We won the Fife Cup several times when I was with Cowdenbeath.
However, we beat Raith because we were
fresh but we soon suffered from our lack of training build up once the season kicked off in earnest. Morale plummeted and there were a lot of comings and goings. One
game Paul Cherry was so annoyed he came off and booted the dressing room door. Unfortunately
his foot went straight through and he ended up trapped with his foot stuck in the hole in the door.
We hardly won a match before Dick was
sacked just about three months into the season. John Blackley was appointed as our new manager and I really
liked ‘Sloop’ – his training was great. Paul Cherry and I battled
to see who was the fittest at the club.
John was a disciplinarian and you certainly
didn’t want to get on his wrong side. That said he wasn’t as scary
as John Clark had been. Dick Campbell had already changed the personnel quite
a bit. Billy Paxton had gone to Partick Thistle.
I remember Billy was sent off a couple of times playing v Meadowbank. He
was a local boy and they knew how to wind him up.
Keith McCulloch was another local lad
who wasn’t able to keep the heid v the Thistle when needled. Keith went
to Alloa. One of Dick’s signings though Jim Sinnett was released straight
away by John Blackley. Jim had great feet and was as confident as hell. Graham Hutt was with us by then and Hutty was a real workhorse. I remember visiting his ‘mansion’ in Cairneyhill.
John Brownlie joined us as assistant to John Blackley and we didn’t
really get on. Of course like me he had been a right back – a great one
in fact. Raymie Allan and myself I guess though aren’t the only ones to
have fallen out with John Brownlie.
I had had 5 or 6 good years at Cowdenbeath
and hardly missed a game. At the end of the season in 1988 there were contract
talks. John Blackley made Paul Cherry and I offers and we both said we’d
like to think about it. 15 minutes later I was amazed to find we had been put
on the transfer list.
Paul Cherry demanded to be let go immediately
and joined St Johnstone. I hadn’t wanted to leave and had really enjoyed
my days at Cowdenbeath. I played with so many good players and generally was
well treated. I was the captain of the club in 1988 and can’t help but
think Sloop was trying to make some kind of a statement at the time.
Meadowbank were interested and Alan McGonigal was supposed to be exchanged for me. However, Alan said that he hadn’t agreed and promptly went on holiday. It was the pre-season before the deal finally went through.
Terry Christie was given permission to speak to me and he offered me a non-negotiable
two-year contract. I thought it over and then signed for Thistle. Paul Cherry had told me St Johnstone were interested but I was happy enough to sign for a local Edinburgh based club.
What can I say about Terry Christie and Meadowbank?
Terry was brilliant. He was tactically superb. He was another disciplinarian and you had to play his way. He
told me ‘you will adapt to us as we won’t adapt to you’.
I recall playing St Johnstone at Muirton where he said to me ‘if you cut inside
I’ll take you off’. He also told me that if I tried to go forward
he would sub me. My job was to pass the ball to Stevie Logan and if he was marked
to find the channels with the ball. I learned a lot about how to defend and using
positional sense from those days.
Meadowbank Thistle were a pretty good side.
Of course I had started out as a full back but I was playing in midfield for Thistle until one day we were playing
v Stranraer. Big John Inglis was our centre half and we had signed him from East Fife. John of course was
concerned with his model looks and Derek Cook of Stranraer was giving him a real hard time flying in with his elbows.
John went off and I moved to centre half. I just absolutely leathered into Derek Cook and from then on I was playing regularly
as a centre half. In my first season at Meadowbank I won several player of the
year awards which was a real honour given some of the guys I played with at Thistle.
Best of all I think was Walter Boyd, his ability
and his dribbling was something else. There were also guys like Tom Hendrie,
Louis Armstrong, Dave Roseburgh and John Perry. Nipper Lawrence returned on loan briefly too from Dundee and scored something like 7 goals in 4 games before he was sold to Airdrie.
Later there were other guys there like Neil
Irvine, Alan Prentice and Dougie Samuels. There was also a young Lee Bullen –
he was excellent in training but was too nervous to do himself justice in matches. I’m
glad to see he has done so well in his more recent career.
After Terry Christie, Donald Park and George Mackie were in charge for a time
and things didn’t really work out. I was club captain and I learned the
club were thinking of freeing Dave Roseburgh. I felt it was wrong and although
I didn’t interfere it maybe seemed like it was perhaps time for me to move on.
I didn’t fall out with Donald but he took the team captaincy away and
made Gordon ‘Poodle’ McLeod the skipper although I was still the club captain.
I was out of the side for maybe 4 or 5 months and wasn’t involved until John Brownlie took over as manager.
That didn’t immediately seem like good news for me but I met his assistant
Gordon Millar and he told me to come back to the club. I did and within a week
John Brownlie departed as well to be replaced by Micky Lawson.
Of course that was to be a period of great change for Meadowbank and they ultimately
left Edinburgh to become Livingston. There were a lot of
boardroom battles during that time when the knives were out.
Over time matters eventually settled down. Bill Hunter in some people’s eyes was a controversial figure but it’s
really to his credit what he achieved in taking the club to Livingston. In fact the club had earlier looked at relocating to Musselburgh
at one stage.
Bill Hunter was good for me and I have a real lot of respect for him. It was really hard for the supporters though who wanted to stay at Meadowbank. It was sad how matters ended in Edinburgh but the move to Livingston opened up a
whole new era for me on a personal basis.
Jim Leishman was brought in as manager. Leish then brought in his own backroom team including George McNeil who was the fitness
coach. Soon I had my first ever League championship medal.
That early Livingston team featured ‘Poodle’
McLeod who was a fine player who had bad knees from his Dundee days, Graham Harvey who we knew as Harvanelli, Graham Davidson,
Horace Stoute and Rab Douglas in goal, Craig Smart, and of course ‘Call’ – Willie Callaghan who joined us
from Cowden. There was great team spirit there with Leish as the boss.
My senior days at Livingston ended when I needed a knee operation and it took me some time to get over it. I didn't play for two years until Willie Newbigging at Oakley persuaded me to join
Oakley United. Ex-Cowdenbeath players Kenny Ward and Scott Johnston were both
at Oakley while Willie Newbigging was still a capable player. He was good at
reading the game and of course few opponents can get round him.
Subsequently I became assistant manager at Glenrothes with Keith Burgess as the manager. I played the odd game for the Glens alongside guys like Clive Guppy and Benny Andrew. Other players at Glenrothes that Cowden fans will remember included wee John Paul Burns. JP was a great guy but really didn't fulfil all his potential and when last I heard he was at Hill of Beath.
Martin Grant was there as
well and he was lightning on the wing. He was the sort of player who needs a bit of mollycoddling. I don't think he's playing nowadays at all. It was me
who actually came to Central Park to resign Martin from Cowdenbeath. I met Mixu who wished Martin to stay and try and play his way into the team but Martin wanted to leave. It was nice back at Central Park
where I was soon spotted and greeted with a shout of ‘Stewarty Williamson he’s a Cowden legend!’
Keith and I left Glenrothes
to take over at Tayport. Of course Dave Baikie had done a great job there and
we also had big John Ward at centre half. He was a great centre half. My time at Tayport culminated in a brilliant day when we beat Lochee at Tannadice in the Scottish Junior
Our tactics were spot on and
that gave us great satisfaction when we won the trophy. Other players with Cowden
connections at Tayport of course included Gus Malone who had been at Central Park with me back in the 1980s. He was about 45 but he still had
the fitness and was a very useful member of the score it. He’s a fine player
but he is also a real keen tackler.
Murray McDowell’s now
at Tayport as well. Another junior player I remember well is Tam Courts of Hill
of Beath who I knew from his days at Livingston when he was a young lad who was always keen to learn.
My time at Tayport ended unsatisfactorily. For some reason they decided to change things and I got a letter saying thanks very
much and that my services were no longer required. Not much later Keith was sacked
as well. So at present I’m not in the game at all.
Looking back on my career and
some of the players I played with – Craig Levein was a fantastic player. At
Meadowbank, Wattie Boyd and Dave Roseburgh were also great guys to play alongside. Then
there was Graeme Armstrong who played on for many, many years. Armstrong and
Adrian Sprott’s corners were a deadly weapon for Meadowbank and teams were really unable to defend them.
Among the toughest opponents
I played against were Billy Dodds, and Ken Eadie who was the sort of player who just drifted away and suddenly appeared behind
you. Rowan Alexander was another
and was able to just hang in the air. Of course he’s now done quite a job
at Gretna. Winker Watson
of the Pars was another who was hard to play against and I had many strong physical battles with him. Then there was Graham Harvey who in my first senior trial taught me so much about the standards required
in senior football.
Probably the best team I played
in was Livingston’s Third Division championship side. All the players had a really good attitude and Jim Leishman led us to believe we could beat anybody. His pre-game speeches were really memorable and I remember once we were four in front
after just 10 minutes.
I played against some good
teams including Hibs, Hearts, Rangers and Celtic but what I do particularly remember was play v Manchester City
in a preseason game. We lost 4-0 and were two down in five minutes despite
our instructions to keep it tight. That team included Rosler, Kinkladze, and
Dickov. Uwe Rosler scored a hat-trick including a header from about 40 yards.
Of the grounds I played at,
Hampden was a favourite and I enjoyed Meadowbank stadium because visiting teams didn’t.
Meadowbank was a nice family club and I had great times with the fans in the Brake Club. I always enjoyed playing with Cowden at Central Park. It is no surprise I expect that Cliftonhill wasn’t a favourite. I'm sure it's much better now that Davie Shanks my ex-Cowden team-mate is involved at Coatbridge.
Looking back all I can say is
it was a great privilege to play with so many fine players. I enjoyed every minute
of my career with almost 17 years as a senior. In fact the thing I miss most
of all in life now is pulling that shirt on over my head on a Saturday.