NEWS

EXPERIENCE, TRACK RECORD, PERSONALITY – AND PLAYED FOR FALKIRK

Steve Clarke has an impressive background to be the manager of the Scotland national football team. He has played at the highest level, including Internationals, been successful in club management and has clear leadership qualities. He is only lacking in one possible attribute for the job- he hasn’t played for Falkirk. No fewer than seven of the national team managers have been Bairns at one time, although it must be conceded that one has a tenuous connection.

The first of the former Bairns to take the job on was John Prentice. He was seen as an ideal player to help develop the many talented youngsters assembled by Bob Shankly after an impressive career at Ibrox. He made his Falkirk League debut against Dunfermline at East End Park on September 22nd. 1956, when Falkirk lost 2-1.Apart from the infamous “weakened team” against Raith Rovers, John played in every match and was a stalwart in defence. He contributed his share of goals, including the penalty in the Saturday Scottish Cup Final. Prentice led his team well, and his bravery and commitment were beyond question.

John played at Falkirk until 1958/59 season when he moved to Dumbarton for a short spell. His time at Boghead was short-lived, playing only 13 games, and he made two more appearances after returning to  Falkirk in February 1959. These were desperate times at the club, under Tommy Younger, and John left to take up coaching duties at Arbroath and Clyde. He managed Scotland for only four games.

He replaced Sammy Kean as boss in 1966/67, and his arrival produced an upturn in form. It was fitting that he was manager for the tenth anniversary of the cup win. He was not afraid to make changes, and realised that a lot had to change. After only four games of the 1968/69 season, he left the club.

It is regrettable that his second management term at Falkirk would tend to cloud the memories of a great Falkirk player, and a man who led his team to great achievements.  Many years later, he looked back at the 1957 team as being a unique blend of youth and experience.

 

The next former Bairn to take over as Scotland manager was Bobby Brown. He was a great storyteller, blessed with a phenomenal memory, and he recalled matches and personalities in the most incredible detail. Dunipace-born Bobby was a Falkirk High pupil who signed for Queens Park just before the war and made his debut in April 1940 against Celtic at Parkhead which ended 4-4. He enjoyed a great career with Rangers, winning nearly every honour in the game, including International honours. In 1956, he signed for Falkirk for a fee of £2,200 and he started the cup-winning season as the first- choice keeper. The emergence of young Bert Slater restricted his appearances and Bobby final retired at the end of the following season. In total, he had played 31 games for Falkirk, but like Jerry Dawson before him, his best days were seen at Rangers, where he had won his three full Scotland caps. Bobby’s managerial career with St.Johnstone earned him the Scotland job.  He was in charge of the national side on 28 occasions between 1967 and 1971, including the unforgettable 3-2 win at Wembley.

 

Next to take over the national side was Willie Ormond. He was another local boy, like Bobby Brown, and had started his career with Stenhousemuir. Capped six times at full level by Scotland, he took part in the ill- fated World Cup Finals in Switzerland in 1954 and made his last Scotland appearance against England at Wembley in 1959. The last of the Famous Five to leave Easter Road as a player, Ormond won three League Championship medals between 1948 and 1952 scoring 187 goals in 503 appearances in all games for Hibs. He came to Brockville at the end of his playing career and helped coaching as well as providing playing cover when needed.

Like Bobby Brown before him, was to find managerial success in Perth. He took over at  St Johnstone as manager in 1967, when Bobby Brown took over the Scotland job and during the following few seasons Ormond led the Perth side, not only to its highest ever league position, but to an appearance in a national cup final for the first time- and subsequent qualification for Europe. In 1973,he replaced Tommy Docherty as manager of Scotland, leading the side to the World Cup Finals in West Germany, where they exited the competition as the only unbeaten side in the entire tournament. Willie Ormond had been in charge for 38 games when he left the post.  He later became manager of Hearts, where he was never really accepted, and he re-joined Hibs as assistant manager to his former Famous Five colleague Eddie Turnbull in 1980. After a short spell in charge at Easter Road, ill-health forced his retirement and he died aged only 57.

 

Alex Ferguson stepped in on a temporary basis after the death of Jock Stein in Cardiff and he led the team to the World Cup Finals in Mexico in 1986.Alex Ferguson was born in Govan on 31st December 1941. His playing career began as an amateur at Queens Park from where he went on to play at St Johnstone from 1960. It was here he was noticed by professional club Dunfermline Athletic and he signed with them in 1964. Ferguson scored 66 goals in 98 appearances before being signed by Rangers for £65,000 three years later: at the time a record transfer fee between Scottish clubs. His career at Ibrox was going nowhere, when he had the choice of moving to England or accepting an offer from Falkirk who were then in the Second Division. He became a great favourite at Falkirk and was a regular goal-scorer even after promotion back to the top- flight. He was involved with the Players Union and was a key figure in the infamous Falkirk Players Strike which led to the departure of then manager Willie Cunningham. Many thought he would succeed his former boss, especially as he had been involved in coaching at the club, but the Directors chose to bring John Prentice back and Fergie headed off to Ayr United to finish his playing career. It would be interesting to know what might have happened if Fergie had been given the Brockville job. His later managerial successes with East Stirling, St.Mirren, Aberdeen and of course Manchester United are well-documented.

 

Fergie’s old strike partner, Andy Roxburgh  was a surprise choice as the Scotland manager in 1986, when many had thought the job would go to Billy McNeill or Jim McLean. Roxburgh was one of the “Largs Mafia”. His playing career had seen him play for Queens Park, E.S. Clydebank and Partick before coming to Brockville in 1969.

The now-former Primary School headteacher set up successful coaching courses at the SFA headquarters in Largs which attracted many managers and coaches from Europe. Roxburgh’s reputation within the game was boosted by Scotland’s success at Youth International level, but his appointment as team manager was a risky one, but he managed the full side on 71 occasions. He was a meticulous planner and he was ably assisted by Craig Brown. Under Roxburgh Scotland achieved World Cup and European Championship qualification. After a  disastrous World Cup 94 campaign had left Scotland with only four wins, Roxburgh resigned.

 

Craig Brown succeeded his former boss Andy Roxburgh and he too had been a surprise choice. His playing career had never really recovered from a serious knee injury and after finding chances limited at Ibrox, he had moved to Dundee in 1960. Again, knee problems dogged him, and he made relatively few appearances in his four and a half years at Dens Park. He had been a qualified primary teacher when he signed for Falkirk in 1965 as a part-timer. He played 18 first team games for the club in his three seasons and the knee problems were clearly hampering his career. He was released in 1967 and was in the process of signing for Stranraer, when medical advice forced a premature retirement from the game.

 

The last Bairns connection is the cheekiest one. George Burley was the surprise selection for Falkirk at Douglas Park on Saturday January 8th, 1994  against Hamilton Accies when he played as a Trialist from Ayr United, where he had been player-manager. It was the only Falkirk game for the classy wing-back. He won 11 Scotland caps and had been a key player in the great Ipswich Town team under Bobby Robson. In all he made more than 500 appearances for the Suffolk side before a nomadic career as a player and then manager.

On 24 January 2008, Burley was confirmed as the new manager of Scotland. In his first match in charge, Scotland drew 1–1 with Croatia. After narrowly missing out on qualification for the 2010 World Cup, Burley continued as manager for a short period before the SFA and Burley parted company in November 2009.

 

For a so-called “provincial team” that is a remarkable record- to have seven ex-players manage the Scotland side. Only John Prentice has managed both Falkirk and Scotland, but the others were all first team players although probably many had their best years behind them when they came to Brockville. Will there be another addition to the list? Of those with current or recent managerial experience, Davie Weir and Jack Ross might be possibilities. Only players will be able to tell you if the  “show us your medals” approach still holds when a new manager arrives. Some of the Scotland managers had the playing credentials, but were unable to bring managerial success- remember Berti Vogts? Others were never International players themselves, such as Andy Roxburgh and Craig Brown. Keep a close eye on any current and future players and see if you can look back in years to come and say – he used to play for Falkirk.

 

PLAYER FFC GAMES FFC GOALS SCOTLAND WIN %
J.PRENTICE 99 10 4 12
B.BROWN 31 28 46
W.ORMOND 33 6 38 57
A.FERGUSON 125 (3) 57 10 50
A.ROXBURGH 69 (3) 33 62 52
C.BROWN 18 70 58
G.BURLEY 1 14 32

 

 

Michael White

Club Historian

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