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Past Master #6 – Alex Linwood

The club were saddened to learn of the death of former star Alex Linwood last week, so it’s fitting that he should be next to feature in the re-produced ‘Past Master’ series.

The following is an interview with Alex conducted by Paul Pettigrew around two years ago, originally for the Clyde View…

#6 – Alex Linwood (1940s)

Can you please give a potted history of your career with dates? – I left school at 14 and went into the mines near Drongan in Ayrshire. I played school and juvenile football, and was called in to play for Muirkirk Juniors as a stand-in outside left. I only played 5 games for them when the scouts came knocking on my door. I scored a lot of goals for Muirkirk and that attracted the attention of Hearts, St. Mirren, Ayr and Kilmarnock. I eventually signed for St. Mirren in 1938 when I was 18, but then War broke out, and although I continued to play I had to go back down the pit as part of the War effort. I was transferred to Middlesbrough in 1946, but I didn’t do very well down there, although my cause wasn’t helped by the fact that I still had to work as a miner as recovery began, when all the other players were full-time. So I was transferred to Hibs after about a season, and then joined Clyde for £8,000 in 1948. I played for about three seasons and then finished my career with Morton where I stayed until 1955 when I was 35.

What was the highlight of your career with the Bully Wee? – With Clyde it was playing in the Cup Final against Rangers at Hampden in 1949 in my first season with the Bully Wee. There were over 120,000 people in the ground, and although we were well beaten by Rangers 4-1, the score wasn’t a fair reflection of the game because we gifted them a couple of goals. I was also unlucky enough to play in a Wartime International against England, when we lost 8-0 at Maine Road! Mind you, I touched the ball more than my mates…9 times … it’s just that they were all kick-offs! I also played against the Irish League in 1949 when we won 1-0 with a Bobby Mitchell goal, and against Wales in 1950 at Hampden when we won 2-0 with John McPhail and myself getting the goals. I also scored 30 goals in my second season with Clyde, which wasn’t bad going even for that time.

And the worst moment? – There were no bad times as I can recall, but we flirted dangerously with relegation in the season we got to the Cup Final in 1948/49. That season had been tricky for Clyde despite the fact that the club had spent £20,000 on Stan Gullan, Archie Wright, Charlie Bootland and myself. I think we finished up 3rd bottom, which gave us all a fright. We missed relegation by only 2 points, even though we got to the Cup Final!

Any ambitions unrealised? – No, I played for Scotland and three great Scottish clubs in St. Mirren, Hibs and Clyde. I played with great players like Billy Steel, Willie Woodburn, George Young, Harry Haddock, and Billy Liddell, so I can have no regrets about what I achieved in the game, especially as none of it was planned! I never thought for a minute that I would become a footballer. It just happened! I was very lucky.

Who was the best player you played with at Clyde, and why? – Peter Galletly was a great right-winger. I also liked Tommy Ring and Jock Buchanan. I suppose I liked good wingers because they could make the goals for a centre forward like me. Johnny Deakin was another great wee player, who came to Clyde from St. Mirren.

Who was your most difficult opponent and why? – I was fine against the big guys like Woodburn and Young. I always seemed to score against them. But I couldn’t play against the wee terrier types like Aird of East Fife and Paton of Motherwell, who was the dirtiest wee so and so that ever kicked a ball…and that was rare because he would rather kick the man first!

Do you still look out for the Clyde result on Saturdays, or perhaps even come to watch our games? – I’ll tell you the first result I look out for…Ayr United! I am still loyal to my local team even though I never got the chance to play for them. Sorry, Clyde and Buddies’ fans.

Would you rather be playing today compared to your day and why? – My grandson tells his Dad that at today’s prices I would be on £20,000 a week, and then proportionately his pocket money would have to go up to £2,000 a week! The money the players get these days is fantastic. With St.Mirren my basic was £2 a week! But I enjoyed playing with and against some of the greatest players in Britain, and we did it as much for fun as money. It still amazes me that young men get paid all that money just to keep fit, look after themselves and play a few games of football. It certainly beats mining for a living I can tell you!

Do you still keep in touch with any of your former teammates, and if so, who? – No, I am a loner now, I think! Jimmy Campbell is still around I believe and he lives very near where I come from in Ayrshire, but I am not in touch with any of the old boys and most of them have passed away now.

X-Files: Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us? – Well, when I was with Clyde I had a secret job as an insurance salesman with CIS. I was never better off than at that point! Oh, and I am a teetotaller and non-smoker, and have been all my life. I have always tried to look after myself and I am now 81, so I can recommend a healthy life style!

What was the funniest incident you experienced with Clyde? – I cannot remember any particular incidents. In those days you just turned up to train and play and then you were rushing to get back home, which for me was Edinburgh when I was with Clyde. One thing I recall is that Shawfield was run to suit the dogs rather than the football. When the dogs were on you couldn’t train! But Clyde was a very pleasant club to play for. They treated you well, and made sure there was always a welcoming atmosphere about the place.

Which former team-mate was the funniest or oddest character and why? – Wee Peter Galletly always had stories to tell and would keep us all going with his patter. Harry Haddock was a great player, but whenever we lost a goal, he would usually blame one of the forwards, usually me, for giving the ball away up the park! It was never the defence’s fault in Harry’s eyes!

Anything you want to say that I haven’t asked? – I wish Clyde all the success in the world. I loved it at Shawfield and I am proud to have played for the Bully Wee. I had some great years there and I hope the team now get as much fun and pleasure as I got from playing football and getting paid for it too. It really is a privilege.

If you have a suggestion of who you’d like to see featured next in the series, leave it on the Message Boards.

Thanks to Paul Pettigrew.