FROM LITTLE ACORNS…
Celtic’s loss was Clyde’s gain! Pat Nevin trained with his boyhood heroes, but they felt he was too small so didn’t take the chance to sign the wing wizard. Craig Brown and Clyde took that chance, and it’s fair to say it worked extremely well for both club and individual.
At the start of season 81/82 Clyde were still a Second Division team. Craig “raided” Gartcosh United and brought four players to Shawfield; Paul Flexney, Tommy McQueen, Gerry Hendry and Pat Nevin. Gerry unfortunately didn’t make it, but the other three certainly did, all becoming permanent fixtures in the Clyde first team that season. It was around this time that Pat, so the story goes, was moved from centre forward to the wing!
As with so many close-season signings, Pat made his debut in a pre-season friendly at Shawfield, against Sheffield United. The team didn’t display too much in this Friday night game, but in a 1-4 defeat Pat gave us a glimpse of what was to come with his first goal for the Clyde.
Pat was mainly used as a substitute in the early part of the season, but he still managed to make at least one significant contribution to the Bully Wee in the first few months of the season. Forfar and Clyde both had a 100% record from their first three games when The Loons came to Shawfield on the 12th of September 1981. They looked like keeping that record going until the final minute of the match, when Pat fired home a late equaliser to restore parity. Even this early in the season it was a crucial result, and of course Pat had scored his first competitive goal in a Clyde jersey.
Pat finally got to play from the start in a league match against Cowdenbeath at Shawfield on the 7th of November 1981. The match finished 1-1, without Pat scoring. Pat retained his place, though, and scored in each of his next six matches.
Not surprisingly Pat kept his place in the team, and his skills and trickery made a vast contribution to our march towards the Second Division title in 81/82. By the end of that season Pat had made 30 starts, plus 13 subs places, and scored 14 goals. The title was duly won with three records being set; most wins (21), most points (59) and fewest defeats (4).
Pat was himself awarded the SPFA Second Division Player of the Year, and was also a fixture in the Scotland Under-18 team.
For whatever reason, Clyde struggled at the start of the following season back in Division One, but in early October a masterly performance by Pat saw Danny Masterton score a hattrick as our luck changed in a 4-3 win at Broomfield. Then, on the 8th of February 1983, Clyde went up to Recreation Park to play the hosts. It was a dark Tuesday night, thus the game was played under the floodlights. Pat got the ball on the stand side, with Clyde shooting towards what is now the Railway end. He beat any number of defenders (ranging between three and six, depending on who is telling the story and where they are at the time!), then rounded the goalkeeper. At least one defender got back behind the goalie, but undaunted Pat beat him as well before slotting the ball home. Pat has scored many fine goals in his career; this one could top the lot!
In his second season with Clyde Pat played in 44 matches, was listed as sub on 5 occasions, and returned 6 goals. So overall, ignoring his appearances from the bench, Pat started 74 matches and scored 20 goals.
During his time with Clyde Pat was also starting out on his Scotland career. At the end of his first season with Clyde, Scotland Under-18’s took part in the European Youth Tournament in Finland. One of the early group games we played was a 1-1 draw with Holland. To give an idea of the quality of the Dutch side, their goal was scored by no less than Marco Van Basten, and many of the squad were still there when they won The European Championship in 1988! Still, Scotland qualified from their group, beat Poland 2-0 in the semi-final, then beat Czechoslovakia 3-1 in the Final, with Pat scoring one of Scotland’s goals in this latter match. As well as his winner’s medal, Pat’s contribution was such that he was named Player-of-the-Tournament.
The following season Pat moved up to the Scotland Under-20 team. In the equivalent World Cup in Mexico, Pat and Scotland again did well, this time reaching the quarter-final.
Pat decided at the end of season 1982/83 to move onwards and upwards to Chelsea, and he made a little bit of football history in so doing. The football transfer rules were changing, and Chelsea were entitled to offer their valuation of the player. Not surprisingly, it came in well below Clyde’s valuation of their prize asset. The result was that Pat’s transfer fee would be settled by the first-ever Football Tribunal set up for this sort of situation. The end result was that Pat moved South for £95000, just over half of Clyde’s valuation. No wonder Craig Brown stated “Chelsea got a real bargain at this figure…”.
Chelsea had languished in the English Second Division for five years, but the arrival of Pat and the combination of Pat and Kerry Dixon saw Chelsea promoted to England’s top Division. Pat was awarded Chelsea’s Player of the Year in his first season, an award Pat was also to receive in 1986/87. Chelsea fans took Pat to their hearts, and one of their abiding memories is very similar to Clyde fans. In a match against Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge, Pat got the ball on the edge of his own penalty area, beat any number of Newcastle players, and got to the other end of the pitch before crossing into the penalty area… sound familiar?
After five years with Chelsea they were relegated, but Pat stayed in England’s top division, moving on for almost ten times the fee Chelsea had paid for him. This time the move was to Everton, and the fee was £925000. Probably one of his career highlights at Everton was scoring the winner against Norwich City in the FA Cup semi-final of 1989, putting Everton into the FA Cup Final against Merseyside rivals Liverpool.
By this time of course Pat was also established in the full Scotland team, having received the first of his 28 caps against Romania in 1986.
His career continued on Merseyside, when he moved to Tranmere Rovers from Everton. From there he came back to Scottish football, both playing and also as CEO at Motherwell. His media commitments are widespread and he is a familiar face on television. He also writes, though, and has spells as a guest DJ.
But it is his two seasons with Clyde that we remember, and his Induction into the Clyde FC Hall of Fame in 2011 is an award from every Clyde fan that ever saw him play for the Bully Wee.