Lewis Connolly sat down with former Bairn Peter Hetherston as he went over the players that would fit in his ultimate Falkirk side!
Peter Hetherston, or “Silky” as he was better known, was a classy midfielder who represented The Bairns over two spells in the 1980’s and early 90’s. He joined The Bairns in 1984 and would go on to make 132 starting appearances and a further 34 from the bench, chipping in with 16 goals along the way, all in league competitions.
He enjoyed a good career that saw him feature for Watford, Sheffield United, Raith Rovers, Aberdeen, Airdrie, Partick Thistle and Queen of the South, as well as his two spells at Brockville which came either side of his time down south.
Silky was somewhat of a fans favourite and added both flair and creativity to the middle of the park during his time in a navy blue jersey. Despite his own obvious skills, Peter has opted not to pick himself in his My Falkirk XI.
Joining and then rejoining the club.
“Falkirk was my first club, straight from Bargeddie Amateurs and is a club close to my heart for that very reason. I had a great time there, I’m quite a private person and keep myself to myself, but I’m humbled by the way the fans remember me. Anytime I’ve been back I’m always treated well by the fans and those up in the boardroom too.
I left Falkirk after an enjoyable first spell and played down south. I went to Watford, then on to Sheffield United, but the simple truth is I was very homesick. Falkirk heard I was intending coming back up the road and Dave Clarke called me and asked how I’d feel about coming back to Brockville. I felt it would be a great move as I had been happy there first time around and we won the league a season later, so it worked out very well”.
Formation: 4-4-2. “I’ve gone with this formation due to the players I’ve picked, two of my favourites during my time at Falkirk were wingers and they’ve both got to play. I’ve tried to pick the best collective XI along with certain partnerships that I think would complement each other well”.
Manager: Jim Jefferies (1990 – 1995)
“There were a few to choose from. Billy Lamont & Billy Simpson were both born winners, great characters too. It was Billy Lamont’s way or no way, you had to absolutely do what he said or you’d not be in the team and his assistant backed him up and wasn’t to be messed with! Dave Clarke had his own way of doing things, with Mike Marshall beside him and then Jim Duffy and Dom Sullivan were there too, granted for too short a period…. albeit Jim might have gotten longer if not for the infamous Saltcoats incident!
Then Jim Jefferies and Billy Brown came in and I ended up playing in the majority of the games when we won the league the following year. After we won the league, they got rid of me out the blue and at the time I felt really hard done by, what with winning the league title then being let go. Looking back with hindsight all these years later though I can see I went to Raith Rovers and won the title again the following year and went on to have a good career and while I felt it was harsh at the time I realise now it was the right decision by Jim.
I was a decent player but, looking back, I was perhaps too opinionated and had too much to say for myself, which other players would listen to and a manager can’t have that. Truth is I get on great with both Jim and Billy nowadays, the way we played football at Falkirk that year was incredible. It was great to be a part of it. So Jim gets the nod”.
Goalkeeper: Gordon Marshall (1987-91, 185 appearances)
“Nelson Still was there first time around and we had Nicky Walker come in on loan and do well but it was really down to two options. The first was a fantastic keeper, George Watson. He was a legend and a brilliant lad into the bargain. He was great to go and talk to as a young player coming through. A great shot-stopper, brave and was a good looking guy too…. much like myself!
Despite all that, George just loses out in a really close battle, as I’m going for big Gordon Marshall. Big Marsh was a brilliant keeper and he could easily make the difference by gaining 12-15 points a season. He was very professional, both on and off park, everything he did was so professional and that stood him in great stead as he went on to have a good career with a deserved move to Celtic”.
Right-back: Andy Nicol (1978-91, 339 appearances, 4 sub appearances, 3 goals)
“Andy pips Gary Smith, who was so laid back he was horizontal! When I joined, Andy was one of the older guys in the squad, he was certainly what you called the definition of a right-back. A proper player. He was a good footballer and could get up the park and back but he defended first and foremost and was very good at it. He was good in the air, solid in the tackle too and simply put in all my time in football he’s one of the best pros I’ve come across.
He was a part-time player so would work at his job then still be raring to go with the football. He trained hard too, yet you never heard him once moan, then on top of all of that he would give you a 7/10 or above performance every Saturday. He’s always someone you would have in your team, especially given who I’m playing in front of him”.
Left-back: Jim Holmes (1988-1990, 57 appearances, 2 sub appearances)
“Jim Kerr was a great player and there were others to consider such as Graham Hay, plus Brian Whittaker who had been at Celtic and Hearts, you could even have played Dave Beaton out there. In the end though it came down to two and was almost a flip of a coin! Tommy McQueen was a terrific signing and an absolute bargain into the matter. Especially with a background at Aberdeen and West Ham United. A great passer, brilliant on the overlap and a great crosser of the ball. He’s VERY unlucky to miss out.
Jim Holmes was absolute quality during my time with Falkirk though. He was coming towards the end of his career but was a class act. He never went to ground unnecessarily, you never saw him left on his backside as someone skipped by him. Very few wingers ever got the better of him. Good distribution too, he was comfortable playing a reverse pass or distributing down the line. There was even talk of an international cap when he was at Morton in the top flight”.
Centre-half: Roddy Manley (1984-89, 167 appearances, 12 sub appearances, 4 goals)
“Centre half was a really tough one as there was so much healthy competition. Jim Dempsey, Bryan Purdie, Kenny Brannigan, Gary Smith, Brian Irvine, Peter Godfrey, Crawford Baptie… every one of them could do a job. A solid partnership is what I really wanted and I narrowed it down to four with Brian Martin, Yogi Hughes, Roddy Manley and Stuart Burgess and it was a hard decision!
Big Burgess came from East Fife where he had played with Marsh (Gordon Marshall) and is one who perhaps never quite fulfilled his huge potential, he played within himself because it was so easy for him. He went to Killie and then retired young from football, I still think he should have kicked on to a higher level as he certainly had the ability.
Stuart was great but I’ve opted for Roddy Manley as my first centre half though. He was a good passer, a great reader of the game, strong, aggressive, everything you could possibly want in a centre half. No offence to St Mirren, but I think he could’ve easily went to a bigger club as, like Stuart, he too had everything needed to go and play at a higher level”.
Centre-half: Brian Martin (1985-87, 63 appearances, 3 sub appearances, 2 goals)
“I wanted another strong centre half to slot in beside Roddy and strongly considered Yogi. He arrived from Swansea as a striker, got moved back to midfield, then eventually moved to centre half and that’s when he came into his own. With all the game in front of him he could really go and attack things, he was strong, aggressive and a good leader too. Despite all of that though he just misses out as I’m opting for Brian Martin.
The main reason is I think it’s a great partnership between Brian and Roddy and would be a really strong combination. Brian was very aware of the game around him and that meant he was always in the right place at the right time. He could handle 1-on-1’s no problem and could even play right-back if needed. He was brave, versatile, good in the air and went on to have a great career at Motherwell and even represented Scotland. A solid defender. Others are unlucky to lose out, but I think it’s a strong combination”.
Central midfield: Alex Rae (1987-90, 79 appearances, 13 sub appearances, 21 goals)
“Again there were plenty candidates, you could play Peter Houston as either a midfielder or striker, you knew exactly what you got, dependable every time. Jimmy Hughes was different class too, great on the ball, brilliant vision and the ability to make things happen, him and Houstie are my first two subs though. Colin McNair never quite fulfilled the promise he had at the club, Eddie May did a really good job, Steven Cody was loved by Jim and Billy and whilst he maybe lacked a yard of pace he was great with both feet. Sadly it just never happened for him at his time at Brockville, but he could certainly play.
However, my decision is Alex Rae. As a young boy he came in and he was certainly a bit cocky… but by God he could back it up! He wasn’t the same player as the midfield enforcer that younger fans will remember when he went to Rangers in 2004, he was much more attacking while at Brockville. He always wanted the ball and was determined to always influence games and drive us forward.
He had a fantastic career, was great to pay with, fit, fast, aggressive and could pick a pass… everything you could want”.
Right wing: Kevin ‘Crunchie’ McAllister (1983-85, 1988, 1991-93 & 1997-2002, 319 appearances, 36 sub appearances, 60 goals)
“Unlike the other positions, my wingers were my two easy choices. I knew straight away who I wanted. Falkirk always struggled to replace him after Kevin left and he’s a proper out and out winger. Fans loved him, you’ve got to give it to Kevin he could score goals, make goals, but most of all he was one tough little bugger! I watched him get kicked by defenders and then ten seconds later turn to me and say ‘give me the ball back’ and he just went and went relentlessly. Plus, despite being known for his attacking skills, he would put a shift in defensively too, but the number of times he hit the byeline and delivered was unreal.
I also had the pleasure of managing him and I called Totts (Alex Totten) to see if Kevin could come to Albion Rovers with me. I’ll tell you now the Third Division will never see a player like him! Other managers were asking me how I got him, it was a pleasure to watch him for a season”.
Central midfield: Alex Taylor (1990-93, 64 appearances, 6 sub appearances, 6 goals)
“I’ve listed many of the options above when picking Alex Rae and it’s another Alex in at the heart of the midfield beside him, this time Alex Taylor. A hard-working and determined player who was very under-rated. He would help form a great partnership in the middle of the park with his namesake and the two would be great together. A fantastic footballer, he could easily see a pass through to the strikers, anyone will tell you that”.
Striker: Sammy McGivern (1986-93, 131 appearances, 22 sub appearances, 37 goals)
“Again there’s plenty to choose from such as Gerry McCoy, Billy Lamont loved him and had him everywhere, good in the penalty box but he was up there with Jimmy Gilmour and ‘Gunner’ (Derek McWilliams) for moaning, if you didn’t get that ball in the box he would certainly let you know! Jimmy Gilmour is another one to consider and Crawford Baptie too. Alan Irvine was lightning fast then went down to Liverpool, but perhaps didn’t score enough compared to others. Ken Eadie, sadly it never worked out for him at Falkirk but he arrived with great pedigree, a total professional, gave his all, just didn’t happen. Bobby Russell was there too, a great character.
After thinking about it though, there’s one guy that pips them for me and that’s the ‘red haired crab’, none other than Sammy McGivern. He absolutely worked his socks off. He was dogged, would run all day for you, was brave and would never hide during a game. Simply put, he always gave you his all.
He had a real purple season under JJ and he was different class that year, you could put it in from either side of the pitch and he was there. He could look after himself and cut full backs down, or if you played it over the top he would chase it in a flash. A great all-rounder. His finishing in that one year in particular was superb. Sammy is a better player than people gave him credit for”.
Striker: Simon Stainrod (1990-92, 63 appearances, 1 sub appearance, 21 goals)
“Simply put, he was brilliant! Perfect partner for him in Sammy too, the combination worked so well. Sammy did the work for him and was prepared to do it all unselfishly, one would go short and the other went long. They had great link up play between them too, comfortable taking the ball into the channels or linking up via a little dink around the corner. JJ got the best out of Simon, undoubtedly.
You could play it into either his feet or chest, but whatever height it was, you knew he would flick it on or bring others into play with total ease. Then you add the flair and skill he had into the equation and it was the complete package.
Biggest compliment I could give him is that he could easily have went to Celtic Park or Ibrox and been the star player, he would’ve made it his stomping ground and with a crowd of 50-60,000 he would have been in his element. He was so confident and his skill with the ball was so natural to watch. JJ getting him to sign for Falkirk was a miracle”.
Left Wing: Derek McWilliams (1987-91, 133 appearances, 44 goals)
“Jimmy Gilmour was in with a shout here, a wizard on his day, but the biggest moaner in the team. He could moan for Europe, but what a player! He could take people on with ease and shoot from anywhere. Paul Rutherford was talented, could easily play wide left, score goals and make things happen too. He was good about the dressingroom and a very good player, but I don’t think he fulfilled his full potential, whereas Derek was a great player for Falkirk and so consistent too.
Falkirk to Dunfermline was the biggest mistake of any player making a move right enough!
Gunner was a fantastic player. He was quick, aggressive, could defend well when needed, score goals and assist too. Like Sammy McGivern he was a great all-rounder, but God could he moan! Joking aside, I genuinely believe Gunner should have gone on to play at a higher level, he was one of my favourite players during my time at Brockville. Brilliant at breaking into channels, him and Crunchie on the wings will do for me all day long. My easiest two picks”.
Peter Houston (1982-87 & 1988-91, 204 appearances, 33 sub appearances, 43 goals)
“Very versatile, could play anywhere, either through the middle or even up with Simon”.
Jimmy Hughes (1985-87, 33 appearances, 15 sub appearances, 4 goals)
“A brilliant midfield player, came from Pollock Juniors, talented player but came to Falkirk too late”.
Jim Dempsey (1984-88, 147 appearances, 2 sub appearances, 8 goals)
“Great player. Just pipped by big Roddy as I wanted that partnership at centre-half”.
Jimmy Gilmour (1984-88, 78 appearances, 9 sub appearances, 24 goals)
“A near 1-in-3 strike ratio and very unlucky to lose out in a couple of positions”.
Crawford Baptie (1984-93, 236 appearances, 14 sub appearances, 39 goals)
“Hard as nails and could play anywhere on the pitch. Always gave his absolute all”.
Stats provided by bettermeddle.org.uk