AN INDIAN SUMMER
I often used to wonder just what an Indian Summer meant when it was applied to a footballer’s career. For years I had heard my grandfather’s pals in the Brockville centre stand remark that so and so was enjoying “An Indian Summer” at Falkirk. The dictionary definition states that the expression may apply to “a late flowering of activity before old age.” Several other, less charitable comments were applied to older players, both then and now. These included expressions like “done” “finished”, “past it” and phrases like “the legs have gone. “I had first heard the expression applied to Jimmy Delaney and then Johnny Kelly, both of whom seemed to me to be anything but “Bairns” when I saw them on the wings. Jimmy had played for Scotland as far back as 1935, and many thought his career was over when Falkirk signed him from Aberdeen in 1951. He was 37 years old, and I used to see him quite often, as we both lived in Marshall Street Grangemouth. He looked an old man to my young eyes, and it caused me to question the club’s nickname. He was far from finished as far as we saw in his spell at Brockville, where he scored 26 goals in his 65 league games- not a bad return for an out-and-out-winger. He was the first Falkirk player I remember watching, without appreciating the extent of his career and his previous achievements. He must have been some player given his record with Celtic, Manchester United and Scotland.
Johnny Kelly was another who looked as though he was in the latter stages of his career when he arrived at Falkirk from Barnsley in 1953. He was aged 32 and had played for Scotland in 1948 as well as in one wartime game. He was an out and out left winger and had been a great entertainer, notably at Barnsley where he counted a young Michael Parkinson among his many admirers. He was from the generation of “tanner ba’ players” and he could lead full-backs a merry dance on his day. He played in 39 games for The Bairns and we saw glimpses of a great player. Since then, various players at the veteran stage have arrived at the club and their record has been variable to say the least. Some had been great players at previous clubs but didn’t really make a mark at Falkirk. Others found a rich vein of form and occasionally showed what players they must have been in their hey-day. Alex McCrae was a great example of this and showed that his hero status at Middlesbrough was well-merited. The great cup-winning side had a solid core of experienced players, who certainly had an Indian Summer to remember. Alex Wright (32), Andy Irvine (36) John Prentice (31) and George Merchant (31) were no longer youngsters by the time of the final, but Reggie Smith knew that and had the youngsters to make up for their lack of pace. It was an intriguing balance of youth and experience and certainly paid off.
Falkirk seemed to have a history of signing veteran keepers whose best days were behind them and that could apply to Bobby Brown, Tommy Younger, Eddie Connachan and Thomson Allan- all of whom had represented the full Scotland side, but would not look back on their Falkirk career as a highlight. Maybe only Jerry Dawson could lay claim to an Indian Summer at Brockville. Other big names arrived at the club and didn’t live up to their reputations. Jimmy Milne was a Tynecastle legend as was Jimmy Murray, and Easter Road fans will attest to the ability of the legendary Willie Ormond – a member of the great Famous Five forward line. None of them were to recapture the form of their earlier careers in a Falkirk shirt.
Three more successful examples of the Indian Summer phenomenon were Simon Stainrod, Mo Johnston, and Russell Latapy.
Jim Jefferies surprised everyone when he signed the enigmatic Simon Stainrod from French side Rouen in 1990. In truth, his career had stalled. He was a player who had once appeared for QPR at Brockville in a pre-season friendly. The programme had referred to him as “Simon Hainrod”. He had been around a bit, been the subject of some big money transfers and was at one time touted for an England cap. He arrived at Falkirk and looked anything but fit. He starred in the Musselburgh Fives tournament, easily winning the award for “Player of the Tournament” and he showed his undoubted skills and trickery.
The first many of us saw of him was at Gretna where he was a spectator at a pre-season Friendly. He was oozing confidence and was clearly sure of his ability- once he got himself fit. There was plenty of incentive to do so, as his weekly wage was £1.00. In other words, no play- no pay.
He came into the side and made things happen- and so began a love affair with the Brockville fans that made it a season to remember.
Stainrod wasn’t the fastest of players, but he had amazing skills. His colleagues were impressed by his trickery and circus skills in training and he brought some of them to the pitch. He was an intuitive player and set up chance after chance for others. He brought the best out of Sammy McGivern. He was arrogant, cheeky, teasing and simply one of the biggest showmen seen at Brockville for many a long year. He nutmegged opponents, sat on the ball, waved at the crowd, played keepie-uppie and drove the opposition wild. Simon Stainrod made that promotion-winning season and he is definitely one of the all-time Falkirk Legends. Even now, he loves to talk about his time at Brockville- and he clearly enjoyed every single minute of it.
Mo Johnston was the next arrival to cause raised eyebrows. His career had been drifting after finding himself at Hearts where he clearly didn’t fit into their plans. He had been a big, big star with both sides of the Old Firm as well as playing with distinction at Watford, after signing from Partick, and Everton.
38 Scotland caps gave an indication of his calibre and he had been a prolific goal-scorer. He had played in Cup Finals on both sides of the Border, in France with Nantes and had played in a World Cup Finals. Bairns fans queried the wisdom of this Jim Jefferies signing, but Mo defied all those who thought he would just go through the motions at Brockville. He was outstanding and you could see him bringing on the younger players around him. In the disastrous Lambie-Collins season, he continued to give everything and won over all the doubters. In a poor side, he gave his all and he will be fondly remembered. The transfer was an astute one and paid off greatly. He left Brockville to go into coaching and management with Kansas City Wiz. Falkirk fans were privileged to see such a player in their team. He never once let them down. Mo Johnston only played 43 games for Falkirk at the end of his long and distinguished career, but his time at Brockville convinced many people that they had seen one of the best Scottish strikers of the modern game. He came with a reputation, yet he converted all the doubters and turned in some great performances for the club. The trade- mark socks around the ankles, jumping out of tackles aimed at bringing him down, and the clinical eye of the finisher were all there for Falkirk fans to see. He ran his heart out for the team and was instrumental in the development of younger players around him.
Russell Latapy was probably the biggest signing gamble that John Hughes ever took. It was a personal friendship that was to pay off, and The Little Magician gave Falkirk fans some amazing memories and an Indian Summer to cherish. He was born in Port of Spain Trinidad on 2nd August 1968 .After an outstanding career in his own land, he sought a new career in Portugal where he won many honours. He starred for Academica, Porto and Boavista before coming to Scotland in 1998. He played International football with Trinidad and Tobago, making his debut in the 1990 Qualifying campaign against Honduras in October 1988.At Porto, Latapy earned Portuguese Superliga winner’s medals for the 1994/95 season and the 1995/96 season. It was also while playing with Porto that Latapy earned the distinction of being the first Trinidadian to play in the UEFA Champions League.
After he moved to Boavista FC he was part of the team that won both the 1996/97 Cup of Portugal and the 1996/97 Portuguese Super Cup Cândido de Oliveira.In 1998, Latapy signed for Hibs, then managed by Alex.McLeish. He was voted Scottish Division 1 Player of the Year as Hibs won the 1999/2000 Division 1 title.
Russell was signed by Rangers F.C. but his career at Rangers never really took off. When McLeish replaced Advocaat, many thought a move would be imminent. Sure enough- Dundee United F.C. signed him, but he only played a few games there. A career going nowhere was rescued by John Hughes, who had been a teammate at Easter Road. The Falkirk manager tracked him down in Portugal and the rest was Falkirk history. On 3rd. August 2005 Russell Latapy played his first international game in four years in a World Cup qualifying match and he returned to a hero’s welcome as Trinidad and Tobago played in the Finals in Germany. Latapy played as a substitute in the game against Paraguay- as a Falkirk player.
You could argue that Latapy was the greatest of the Indian Summer signings, but there was one more that could lay a claim to that title- the legendary Patsy Gallagher. I well remember my grandfather telling stories of the mercurial Irishman who came to Brockville and confounded all the critics who though he was “finished”.Patsy proved them all wrong and went on to win further International caps for Ireland as a Falkirk player and was taken as a guest on a Scotland tour of Canada where he turned out in navy blue.
When the legendary Irishman finally retired from first class football in 1932, a Scottish League Select played a special Testimonial Match against a Celtic/Falkirk Team at Parkhead on January 4th, 1932. A crowd of over 5,000 tuned up to pay tribute to one of the best -ever players to turn out for the Parkhead club. The combined Celtic/Falkirk team beat Scotland 10-7.
The Falkirk players who played in his famous Testimonial were Hugh Hamill, Johnny Hutchison, Patsy Gallagher, and Willie Gall. One of the linesmen was none other than the famous Jocky Simpson, who had been one of Falkirk’s most famous players and who had won English League and full England caps after his transfer to Blackburn Rovers. Patsy had moved to Brockville for a fee of £1,500 in October 1926, and many thought he was at the end of a glittering career. Wrong.
He was the first- but not the last- of our Falkirk Indian Summer signings.