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Past Master #8 – Frank Mcgarvey

Next up in the series is a player from a more recent era, best remembered for his outstanding contribution to the 1992/93 Second Division Championship – Frank McGarvey.

The following is an interview with Frank conducted by Paul Pettigrew around 18 months ago, originally for the Clyde View…

#8 – Frank McGarvey (1990s)

Can you please give a potted history of your career with dates? – I joined Kilsyth Rangers in 1973 and the next year Alex Ferguson signed me for St.Mirren following a tip off from Rangers. I’ll tell you more about that in a minute. I had five great years at Love Street before I signed for Liverpool in 1979. It was tough getting in the team at Anfield when the Reds won the league scoring a record number of goals, and with David Johnson and Kenny Dalglish as the first choice strikers. Johnson scored 39 goals that season for Liverpool. So I came back up to join Billy McNeill’s Celtic in 1980 for £325,000, and I was at Parkhead for another 5 years. I scored the winning goal in the 1985 Cup Final on the Saturday, and the following Monday David Hay told me I was too old (at 29!) and wasn’t good enough to warrant another contract. So I went back to Love Street and played for a further 3 years, and in that period I played the best football of my life, with Saints nearly getting to the quarter-final of the UEFA Cup. In 1990 I went to Queen of the South as player/manager, which was the worst mistake I made in my life. There were some unsavoury goings on with the then Chairman, Willie Harkness that are better left unsaid. I left at the end of the 90/91 season when John Clark signed me for Clyde. I was happy to join the Bully Wee as a favour to John, as he needed someone to hold the ball up. I only took £20 a week. I had a successful couple of seasons with Clyde and really enjoyed myself, scoring 16 goals in my last campaign at the age of 37. After a dispute with Alex Smith, I left at the end of the 92/93 season and spent the last 11/2 years of my career back with John Clark at Shotts.

What are you doing now? – I have my own joinery business, and am involved with Jim Craig at Celtic doing on-line internet summaries of Celtic matches. I also contribute now and again to the Celtic View.

What was the highlight of your career with the Bully Wee? – Winning the Second Division Championship against Queens in Dumfries in May 1993 was sweet revenge after the way I was treated by Harkness. It was a great day all round and the celebrations were brilliant.

And the worst moment? – Alex Smith gave me no thanks for my contribution to our Second Division Championship. In fact the only reason I stayed with Clyde after John Clark left was that John McBeth persuaded me. After we had won the Championship, at training on the following Thursday he came up to me and said: “You really looked your age in training tonight”. That was that, I just couldn’t play for the man again and decided I couldn’t play in the final game against Brechin at Douglas Park.. It still leaves a bad taste in the mouth to be humiliated after doing so well for the club. I certainly don’t believe the saving of £20 a week to the wage bill was the reason! I still think that had I played in the last game Stranraer would have been promoted rather than Brechin City, although they came up as champions the following season, while Brechin went straight back down.

Any ambitions unrealised? – None. I won every major medal in Scotland at the time: Premier League, 1st Division, 2nd Division, Scottish Cup and League Cup. I think only Dom Sullivan has come close to that record. I only got 7 caps, when I should have had more. In 1980 I scored 30 goals for Celtic and couldn’t get in the Scotland squad! Mind you, I’d fallen out with Jock Stein at the time. But it makes you think when nowadays a Celtic reserve like Jackie McNamara, good player that he is, can be part of the Scotland set-up. It says a lot about the changes in Scottish football over the past 20 years.

Who was the best player you played with at Clyde, and why? – Stevie Clarke was an exciting player, and good to play with. When I was holding the ball up, you could rely on Stevie getting up quick to support you. He was the best without a doubt. Mind you he would have been even better if he’d shed 1/2 a stone, maybe by cutting down on his pie intake!

Who was your most difficult opponent and why? – Willie Miller of Aberdeen was probably the most difficult opponent I played against. He was a very good player who could read the game and anticipate your moves and counteract them with great economy. Everyone knows he was a great leader on the park who could put tactics into effect and change them to suit the game. He could and should have become a great manager in the Ferguson class given a proper chance.

Do you still look out for the Clyde result on Saturdays, or perhaps even come to watch our games? – Yes, I look out for St.Mirren, Clyde, Liverpool and, of course, Celtic. I am involved with Celtic on Saturdays so I have never been to Broadwood, but I’ll get up there one of these days.

Would you rather be playing today compared to your day and why? – I’d rather have the money nowadays definitely. I would have been a millionaire! But football was more exciting when I played. Teams attacked each other more. Dundee United and Aberdeen, for example, used to come to Parkhead and have a right go at you, which meant the game was exciting to watch and play in. Nowadays teams come to Parkhead and make no attempt to make a game of it and score, just to keep the inevitable defeat respectable! No wonder kids aren’t coming into the game!

Do you still keep in touch with any of your former teammates, and if so, who? – As I am talking to you up here in Maryhill I am playing for fun with Tommy Burns and Gordon Smith, so I see some of the old pros, but not the Clyde boys I’m afraid, unless I catch sight of Stevie Clarke now and again delivering his pies!

X-Files: Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us? – When I was at Kilsyth I nearly went to Rangers! A scout introduced me to a club official who gave me a funny handshake. Being a young Catholic lad I had no idea what this was about. I just thought he was probably gay, and to be polite I just did back what he did to me! They were about to sign me when they realised their mistake, and they tipped off Alex Ferguson, who signed me for St. Mirren and the rest is history.

What was the funniest incident you experienced with Clyde? – I think the last goal at Dumfries to win the 2nd Division Championship was great when I shoved Stevie Clarke off the ball to score. I was maybe still half a yard quicker than Stevie, and sure enough it paid off, although I half expected the referee to call the play back for a foul. I think Stevie appreciated it really, especially when the ball hit the back of the net.

Which former teammate was the funniest or oddest character and why? – With Clyde, it would have to be Stevie Clarke again. He had a great sense of fun and loved his football. His enthusiasm was infectious in the dressing room, and of course he was a cult hero with the fans. The other guy who sticks out is Vic Davidson who played with me at Celtic. He had a very dry, deadpan sense of humour, and was absolutely hilarious to have around.

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.