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A Close-Up View Of A Great Season

By Dougie Donnelly
Tue, 11th Jun 2002 12:00am

To most people in Scotland Dougie Donnelly is best known as the long-established main presenter of BBC Scotland’s Sportscene but Bully Wee fans hold him in even higher regard - along with Craig Brown he shares the title of Clyde’s best known supporter.

Unlike some celebrities, Dougie’s devotion to Clyde is real and lasting and when he was asked to pen a few words for the new Official Clyde Web Site he immediately agreed to the request. We are grateful to Dougie for finding the time in his ever-busy schedule, in a job he regards as never less than enjoyable, to recall time in the mid 1960s when he experienced a previous position of some privilege, that of Bully Wee ballboy.

I’m a TV sports presenter; so stating the blindingly obvious comes naturally to me. Here’s another one for you: only football players transfer their allegiance - football fans don’t. Not proper fans anyway.

In Glasgow, it’s the easiest thing in the world to support Rangers or Celtic. Without any effort on your part, along comes guaranteed success, enormous media exposure and the security of thousands of like-minded others who have also taken the easy option.

Thankfully my Dad didn’t follow the crowd. He was a Third Lanark fan, and I might have followed him to Cathkin Park, but for two reasons.

One was that poor old Thirds went defunct in 1967 - a momentous year for Scottish football which I’ll return to in a moment.

The other was that my grandfather had recently begun a part-time job as a turnstile operator at Shawfield Stadium. As a youngster of 8 or 9, I began to go down with him on a Saturday afternoon, and quickly became a committed Clyde supporter.

I only ever saw them play at home, of course, because when the first team was playing away we would be collecting the money for the few hundred fans who would turn up to see the reserves!

I can still remember waiting along with hundreds of other supporters after the final whistle for the tannoy announcer to bring us the first team result. It was always greeted with either a cheer or a loud groan before everyone headed off to the pubs along Rutherglen Rd. The comprehensive radio and TV coverage we take for granted was still a long way off!

By the time 1967 came around, I had graduated to ballboy and the unimaginable thrill of running out of the tunnel just ahead of the teams!

At first, I was confined to the old dog track, where I could pass whole matches without ever getting a touch of the ball.

But then, seniority allowed me to take up the much-coveted post behind the goals, where not only were you guaranteed plenty of the ball, but also heard every word the players said.

I think that’s where I first learned to swear properly!

Every Scottish football fan will remember 1967 – Celtic winning the European Cup; Rangers losing in another European final just 6 days later, and of course Scotland beating England, the world champions, at Wembley. But a greater achievement than any of those, at least for fans of the Bully Wee, was our astonishing achievement of finishing 3rd in the old First Division as a part-time club, with a hard core support of just 5000 fans. We only lost to Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi final after a replay.

I think I’m right in saying that Davie White’s team used only 14 or 15 players all season – but what players they were!

Eddie Mulheron, Stan Anderson, John McHugh, Harry Hood, Joe Gilroy, Sam Hastings and the rest – my first football heroes.

Incredibly, 35 years have passed since that famous season, but my memories of the Clyde team I watched from my privileged vantage point are as vivid as any of the thousands of matches I have seen since from TV gantries around the world.