First class in defence and great in attack…
Davie Laing should have played for East Fife! Born in Strathmilgo, with Bayview his closest senior ground, his talents saw Davie playing for the appropriately named Bayview Youth Club, and seemingly destined to play for the Fifers. The fact he didn’t is due to a twist of Scottish Football fate, and ultimately one man – Davie McLean. Davie moved from East Fife to manage Hearts, and went back to his old stomping ground to take five players from the Bayview Youth Club to Tynecastle, and young Davie Laing was amongst them.
Davie signed-up for the Navy in 1942, so that delayed his Hearts debut until November 1946, although he apparently made guest appearances for Celtic, West Ham and Bath before that. In total Davie played over 250 matches for the Hearts, scoring 17 goals, none of which were against the Bully Wee!
In September 1954 Clyde splashed out the relatively high amount of £6000 to bring Davie Laing to Shawfield, and it was to be money well spent.
A skilful wing-half, with passing, tackling and shooting abilities in there as well as a talent for a long throw-in, Davie made his debut for the Bully Wee on the 11th September 1954 in a 2-2 draw with Celtic at Shawfield. This was the first of 63 matches Davie was to play for the Bully Wee, before relegation and the consequential cost-cutting saw him leave Shawfield, while in total he contributed 5 goals in those matches.
Davie, though, was at Shawfield long enough to play a major part in our Scottish Cup final victory over Celtic in 1955.
It all started with a home match and a 3-0 win over Albion Rovers, then the other Rovers, Raith, were similarly sent packing, this time by 3-1. Falkirk, perhaps the toughest nut to crack so far, were, as often happens, dispatched by the biggest scoreline – 5-0 in Clyde’s favour. Clyde were now in the semi-finals, and they were drawn to face champions-elect Aberdeen. A 2-2 draw at Easter Road, thanks to a late equaliser from Tommy Ring (although Archie Robertson missed a penalty) meant a replay at the same venue. Archie Robertson, this time with a successful conversion from twelve yards, was our match winner. And so the final beckoned, and Davie Laing, who had played every match so far, was about to make his indelible mark on the history of Clyde FC.
Celtic were to finish runners-up to Aberdeen in the League, and although Clyde were to finish seventh we would still be 15 points behind Celtic, and 18 behind Aberdeen. The basic story of the 1955 Cup Final is well documented. Favourites Celtic take the lead, then hold that lead until underdogs Clyde equalise direct from a corner to take the match to a replay. Cut into that story and you’ll begin to understand the part Davie Laing played – “Laing was first class in defence and great in attack” wrote one scribe. This was preceded by the general comment “the best buy Clyde have made in years is the Laing purchase”.
So was this a one-off match? Did the big stage give Davie the impetus to play a one-off “blinder”? Don’t you believe it! Davie grew in stature, and after the second match, which was won by Clyde thanks to a Tommy Ring goal, another tabloid hack shouted from the pages of his newspaper “Once again the Man of the Match was Clyde’s left half Laing, surely the greatest “buy” of the season”.
Then he put the icing on the cake…
“ONE MEDAL FOR THE OTHER 10 CLYDE PLAYERS TWO MEDALS FOR LAING”.
Davie played in all seven cup games that season, and when he got a seat at the top table Davie proved he had the ability and temperament to not only handle it but to rise to new heights.
Even in his relatively short period with the club he played in a number of the famous friendlies of the fifties, and had a good record: he played in both matches against Manchester United (4-1 and 2-1 wins for the Bully Wee); Sunderland at Shawfield (3-1 to Clyde); Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park (1-1 draw); and finally Arsenal (2-1 victory at Highbury).
His part in our 1955 Cup Final is captured – whether by default or design – in the Song of the Clyde (Clyde version of course):
Hewkins, Murphy, Haddock, Granville, Anderson
Then there was Davie Laing
Divers, Robertson, Hill, Brown and Ring
And in 55 they did the same
Finally, Davie still proudly keeps his jersey from the 1955 Cup Final in his possession – reportedly unwashed!
After leaving Clyde, Davie played ten games for Hibs before signing for Gillingham (where he played in their record 10-0 FA Cup win), Margate, Ramsgate and Canterbury. Although he retired from playing in 1963 while with Canterbury, he made a very brief comeback to help Margate out, playing four matches for them in 1964.
Davie had a long association with Hearts and, apart from being a player with them, he edited their match programme for a while. He must, though, have also made a favourable impression on the other side of Edinburgh, because it was as a guest of Hibs that he was taken to Hampden for the 2012 Scottish Cup Final.