Airdrie's Greatest Midfielder - Derek Whiteford
1st April 2016
The second central midfielder in our Greatest XI is DEREK WHITEFORD, with 68% of this week's vote.
As a youth with Hibernian in the early sixties Derek gained Scotland honours at that level including representing his country in the 1965 tournament in Germany. However when he signed for his local side in June 1967, the Diamonds had themselves an absolute gem. He soon became the figurehead of the club and quickly earned the reputation of a highly influential player and superb skipper who led the club with great distinction. As fate would have it, Derek scored the only goal in the 1968 Scottish win over his former club. He always believed Airdrie had rescued his playing career.
Between 1967 and 1977 he scored 116 goals in 438 appearances, an extraordinary scoring rate for a midfield player. His ability to hang in the air to meet aerial passes was incredible and his well timed runs into the box provided a constant threat that opponents could not handle. His stature across all of Scottish football was akin to Old firm captains McNeill and Greig. He led the club to some of their greatest achievements during that highly successful period. His roll of honour included: 1969 Scottish Cup quarter finalists, 1971 Scottish Cup semi-finalists, 1972 Texaco Cup runners up, 1973 League Cup and Scottish Cup quarter finalists, 1974 Second Division Champions, 1974/75 League Cup semi-finalists and Scottish Cup runners up and the 1976 Spring Cup winners.
In 1977 manager Jackie Stewart foolishly allowed Derek to move, a step he had no wish to take. With Dumbarton Derek outscored all of the Diamonds strikers at that time and the fans could only look on with envy after his new side finished well above Airdrieonians that season. He returned to manage the club for a season in the mid-eighties simply because he wanted to reconnect with the club. His beaming smile as he took the field for the Broomfield farewell in 1994 was met with the one of loudest cheers of the day.
Derek was an instant inductee at the initial Hall of Fame in June 2002 where the profile for him described him as Mr Airdrie, a truly fitting description. In the Herald, five months earlier, the words of the late Bob Crampsey stated ”The early onset of his cruel illness deprived us of one who at the age of 54 still had much to give football”. A true legend.