We spoke to Falkirk legend Scott MacKenzie on his time with Falkirk and his favourite memories from the 12 years and two stints he had with the club.
Scott joined The Bairns in 1990, shortly before Falkirk’s 1990/91 First Division win under Jim Jeffries. The youngster spent his first season after signing on loan to Musselburgh Juniors, where he learnt the man’s game.
“I was playing with Knightswood under-21s when I came in for a trial to Little Kerse in Grangemouth. I played my game for Jim Jeffries and Billy Brown, who hadn’t long got the job at the time. They took a shine to some other players and then the wee scout who took me through told them to take a chance on me as well. I got offered a two-year contract part time and it just took off from there.”
“Jim’s first season Falkirk won the league, with your Stainrod’s and your McGivern’s. About eight or nine of the young boys at the club got sent out to Musselburgh Juniors. We would train at Brockville one night then go through to Edinburgh on another night and play on a Saturday through at Musselburgh or places out in the East. “
“It was a great learning curve for us, it made us into men, I think. We were playing against good Junior sides which toughened us up and held us in good stead for playing first team football.”
From joining the club as a part timer, the midfielder had to wait for his first team opportunities, but when he got a run there was no looking back.
“When I signed in 1990, I was serving my time as an apprentice turner fitter in Yarrows the ship builder. I went full time in August 1991, so the team had just won the First Division. I was in every day; my fitness was really picking up, and I was training with the first team guys which gave me the incentive to bring my game on a bit.”
“I think it was 1992 when I made my first team debut, I came on as a sub against Dundee United. I came on at 1-0, I missed a sitter to make it 1-1 and we ended up getting hammered 4-0, it wasn’t really a debut to remember! I loved trying to break into the team, whenever I was on the bench or in the first team squad it just made me want more of it.”
“I made my full debut against Morton, the season after. I was playing mostly reserve football and I was in and out of the squad, then one of the boys got injured, it might have been big Neil Duffy. Jim put me in, and I made my debut, I think we won 5-1 so it all went well that day.”
After the disappointment of relegation, The Bairns managed to bounce back, aided by Scott who had begun making his mark on the first team. He remembers the first of three league winners’ medals on a famous day at Clydebank.
“I was in and out the team, I might have made about ten appearances that season, and I was on the bench that day at Clydebank. It was a scorching, beautiful day. We were neck and neck with Dunfermline, they had to beat Brechin by some astronomical score, and we just had to avoid defeat.”
“The place was mobbed with Falkirk fans; I can still see it in my mind now. It was a great atmosphere and the boys were nervous but up for it, if they didn’t get beat that day, they’d win the league and bounce straight back up again. The first five or six minutes Jamie McGowan crossed it in for Nicky Henderson to stick away and it just calmed everyone down a bit.”
“I got on in the second half, I remember the clock ticking down and when the whistle went it was just pandemonium. I came off with just my underpants, my socks, and my boots on, everything else was ripped off me! I was just a young boy at the time, so you can imagine what your Cadette’s and Yogi’s were like!”
“It was an unbelievable to be part of that. The last time we’d won the league I was on the side-lines, when they beat Meadowbank at Brockville. It felt fantastic, but I didn’t really feel like part of it, whereas this time I was right in the middle. I remember going back to Falkirk that night and having a wee refreshment or two!”
Falkirk achieved promotion into a top tier with some of Scottish footballs greatest ever teams and players, but it was a challenge relished by the Falkirk team, who’s superb campaign earned many plaudits, and also the now 24-year-old Scott, who was ready to take the midfield spot for his own.
“That year Rangers and Celtic had the big guns, Aberdeen were a great outfit, all the teams in the league at that point were really good. It was amazing going and playing against these guys. You used to watch them on TV and coming up against them you see how good they are, and how far away you are from playing at their level.”
“I think I played every game that season, not all good ones, I had a fair few bad performances mixed in! It was a bit unheard of for a midfielder at the time. Joe McLaughlin used to slag me; he’d ask if I ever put a challenge in because I didn’t get booked!”
“We did really well that season, we were going for Europe with two or three games to go and ended up fifth. It was a fantastic achievement; we had a great squad of players. We didn’t fear anyone, we thought we could beat everybody, at home especially.”
A famous victory from that season was a 1-2 win against Rangers at Ibrox in the Coca Cola Cup, with a Richard Cadette double besting a Brian Laudrup effort from the hosts. The impressive win was discussed by club historian Michael White in his article at the start of this month.
“It was an epic night. Nobody expected us to beat Rangers in the cup, but inside the changing room we wanted to have a go, which we did! At that time, it was unheard of. You see the team they fielded, then in the second half they brought big Duncan Ferguson on! You look at that clock at Ibrox and see 95 minutes and you’re saying to the ref come on, blow the whistle!”
Relegation once again followed, but one of the most fondly remembered days for all Bairns wasn’t far away with the terrific win against Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-final replay.
“Another experience of just waiting for the clock to tick down was when we beat Celtic in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup. You’re looking at that clock and it’s as if it’s not moving, I remember screaming at Willie young to please blow the whistle!”
“After the first game against Celtic everyone said they would win the replay easy, but we didn’t have that in the changing room. We saw it as a second chance, you don’t usually get a second bite at Celtic, so we went out to try and win it.”
“The goal definitely settled the nerves a wee bit. We had chances to make it two, but Celtic had an unbelievable amount of opportunities that night. I remember the ball getting headered off my shoulder, hitting our post, and landing at my feet, it’s those types of things that make you think it could be your night! Celtic’s fitness was well superior to ours, but we got the bit between our teeth and managed to hold on.”
“It was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had after the game, it was just incredible. We got back on the bus back to Falkirk, where we arrived at the Roman Bar, and there was about 300 people on the roundabout outside at 11 o’clock at night, it was incredible scenes!”
“It was a lucky tournament for a few years, the net year we got to the semi-final and obviously Hearts beat us. I call that the McAllister game; the wee guy was just sensational that day. I was nearly in tears when he walked into the changing room with the man of the match, he didn’t deserve to be in the losing side. For his age at that time it was unbelievable how he could play like that for 90 minutes.”
With The Bairns unable to step up to the SPL even if they won the First Division due to stadium issues around Brockville, Scott made a move after the best part of a decade at Falkirk to Love Street and St Mirren.
“St Mirren offered me a deal and I went there. The first season I didn’t really feature much, then I managed to get in playing the second season, but I wasn’t there for long and then I came back to Falkirk under Ian McCall.”
Under first McCall, then a team of Owen Coyle and Yogi Hughes, The Bairns won the title but were still unable to be promoted. A disappointing season followed for the team, but another title win in the 2004/05 season signalled not only The Bairns return to the top flight, but also the end of Scott’s time at Falkirk.
“We got back in the Premier League that season, but Yogi was bringing through some younger guys and some boys from Portugal, which meant I wasn’t really featuring. I was at an age where I really needed to play, I was playing reserve team football and it wasn’t the same, I wanted to play at the top level for as long as I could.”
“I got the opportunity to go to Hamilton on loan, to play on a Saturday and get my fitness up with a view to coming back. It never worked out that way which was disappointing, I was 12 years at Falkirk, and I didn’t really get a chance to say cheerio to the fans.”
A short time at Hamilton followed before finishing his career with a spell in Dumfries with Queen of the South.
Since retiring from playing Scott has spent time involved in football, notably spending time as Brian Reid’s assistant at Ayr United and as the under 20’s and reserve coach at Partick Thistle, but is currently out of the game and works full time as a cab driver. After nearly 15 years away from the club he spent the vast majority of his career with, he reflected on his time with the Bairns.
“I loved my time at Falkirk. I have a massive soft spot for the club and it’s always the first result I look for. Even when I was at St Mirren and went back and played against Falkirk, I was always horrifically bad, I don’t know whether it was a mind block or what. I remember Falkirk battering us 5-1 at Love Street and getting taken off at half time I was that bad, I just couldn’t play against them!”
“I had great success, winning the league three times, Challenge Cups, the Scottish Cup final, getting my testimonial, I sometimes pinch myself at the guys I played with and the times we had. What there was at Falkirk was great team spirit, great changing rooms, and I think that was the catalyst for the success we had”
“When you’re not playing well, the Falkirk fans are not shy in telling you, but if you give 100% they’ll back you to the hilt. I’d like to think I made some of the fans happy, I know I made a few of them upset, because I wasn’t there type of player, but you get that at every club! The Falkirk fans were very good to me, they always spurred me on to try and better myself.”
“I was one of those players who wasn’t a headliner, I just did my job for the team to let the guys like your Brian Rice’s, your Latapy’s or your McAlister’s to go and entertain the fans. My job on the team was to break things up and win the ball to give to them, but I was just glad to have a jersey. My dream was to be a professional footballer, I did it for 12 years at Falkirk and played with some amazing players, so I was quite happy to sit in the background and do my job.”
With the discussion on amazing players, and with a selection of some of the finest footballers ever to pull on the navy blue in his locker, Scott finished by giving his thoughts on the best player he played with!
“There’s your Maurice Johnstone’s and your Yogi’s, I never played with Stainrod in the first team to be fair, but it’s McAllister all day for me. When you mention legend, that is him, he’s Mr Falkirk. he’d be one guy I’d always pay to watch.”
“A close second to him, in terms of ability, would be Russell Latapy. He was a genius with a ball, an absolute genius, but you could ask me a million times and I’d always say McAllister. He was a joy to play with and a joy to watch, it’s no wonder he was player of the millennium.”