Greatest XI - 9. Striker
2nd April 2016
As Derek Whiteford takes the final midfield spot in our Greatest XI, all that remains is to select our two strikers. A number of talented forwards have graced the Diamond over the years, from flamboyant showmen to deadly poachers.
Again, the double vote system comes into play for the strikers; there are eight shortlisted players, and the winner of this week's poll goes into the Greatest XI. The next four most popular nominees go into next week's poll to find the second striker.
Our panel agreed on the following shortlist of eight. After a lively debate, the likes of Tommy Murray, Alex Thomson and Jim Storrie just missed out.
As always, voting closes at 12pm on Friday (8th April).
Hugh Baird had represented Calderbank in the Airdrie Schools’ Cup competition before he took a step up to Slamannan Villa, and then on to Dalry Thistle. He played only a handful of games at Junior level before he moved to Broomfield in March, 1951. Initially, opportunities at centre-forward were difficult to come by, with both Willie McGurn and Guy Lennox barring his way, but once he got a run in the side, late in 1952, the highlights, and goals, came thick and fast.
His 14 goals in league and cups in 1953/54 were not enough to prevent our relegation, but our dominance of ‘B’ Division in 1954/55 gave him seven hat-tricks in the campaign, as well as the club record of 58 goals (in all competitions) in a single season. He was Airdrie’s top marksman for 5 consecutive seasons, from 1952/53 to 1956/57, inclusive.
The continuation of those goalscoring feats at the highest level – he finished as the top league’s leading scorer in both 1955/56 and 1956/57 – ensured there was no shortage of interest in his services, and he eventually left the Diamonds for Leeds United in the summer of 1957, when we received a record transfer fee of £12,000. He was a Scottish internationalist by then, having played against Austria at Hampden in 1955/56. His 175 goals for Airdrie, in 200 appearances, contained only three from the penalty spot.
Aberdeen later splashed out their record fee of £11,500 to bring him back north from Leeds, and he netted for the Dons in their 1958/59 Scottish Cup final defeat by St. Mirren.
One half of one of the most potent double acts ever seen in Airdrieonians colours. "We have got Andy Jarvie and Drew Busby" was sung to the tune of a well-known pop song.
Born in Glasgow in 1947, Drew scored Third Lanark’s final senior goal in his first season in senior football. He signed for Airdrieonians in June 1970 and was the perfect foil for Jarvie in an Airdrieonians side that feared no club - especially in the Texaco Cup, scoring in every round en route to the 1972 final, finding the net against Manchester City, Huddersfield Town and Ballymena.
His goals contributed to the team’s success in reaching the 1970/71 Scottish Cup semi-final, his first season with the Diamonds. He tried his best in 1972/73 to keep the Diamonds in the First Division but despite being top scorer (into double figures), his efforts were in vain. With relegation looming, Heart of Midlothian swooped to secure his services in a £35,000 deal. Drew left Broomfield having scored 43 goals in 93 league games, and providing many more for his strike partner and namesake.
One of the finest strikers to have played with the club, Drew was inducted into the Airdrieonans Hall of Fame in 2014.
Born and raised in Airdrie, Sandy Clark grew up to live out his boyhood dream of playing for the team he supported from an early age. He was faced with the option of joining Leeds United in the top League of England or joining Airdrie as a schoolboy in the early 70's, but there was no competition for the youngster - it was Airdrie all the way.
Sandy would go on to sign up for the First Team squad in 1974, however as Airdrie had a fairly settled team at the time he would have to wait til the 1975/76 season to break into the first team on a regular basis. In the opening League game of that season Clark would come on as a substitute to score once and set another goal up in a 3-3 draw against Dunfermline at East End Park. After a couple more seasons establishing himself at the club, in 1978 when Bobby Watson became Airdrie Manager he quickly appointed Sandy as his team Captain.
It was also around this time that Clark would strike up a good on-field partnership with Willie McGuire. In the 1978/79 season Sandy would score 26 times which would result in substantial bids from Hibernian and Celtic being rejected by the Broomfield side as they wished to hold on to their star man in their bid to win promotion to the Premier Division. And they would go on to do just that the following season, clinching promotion in a 3-1 win against Motherwell with Clark scoring once. He once again finished as our top goalscorer as well as winning the First Division Player of the Year Award.
Clark would continue to shine as Airdrie's star man over the next two seasons in the Premier League, scoring regularly and continuing to attract attention from other clubs, with Aberdeen and Partick Thistle being the latest clubs to have bids rejected. However with Airdrie being relegated at the end of the 1981/82 season the club eventually accepted a bid of £200,000 from West Ham United for their player. In that final season at Airdrie he would win the Scottish PFA Player's Player of the Year Award. He finished as Airdrie's top goalscorer on four occasions, and in 1980 was selected to Captain the Scottish Semi-Professional team in the Four Nations Tournament in Holland - which they would go on to win. In total Sandy made 267 appearances for the club and scored 101 goals. He was inducted into the inaugural Hall of Fame in 2002.
1990-1993 / 2001-2002 / 2003-2005
When Owen Coyle signed for Airdrie in 1990 for £175,000 he was 24 years old and already attracting attention from a number of top teams in the country, having scored 69 goals in 166 games whilst playing for Dumbarton and Clydebank. He would make his debut for the Diamonds in a 6-0 victory over Ayr United, with Coyle scoring the first of his eight hat tricks for the club. Despite only making ten starts for the club by the end of the 89/90 season, Coyle would finish top League goalscorer for the season with ten goals.
The 1990/91 campaign is a season most Airdrie fans will never forget with the club winning promotion to the Premier League, but also because of the start Owen would would personally make that season. In the first seven league games of the season he would score an incredible 17 goals. By the time he scored all four goals in a 4-1 win over Clyde he was regularly making appearances on the back pages of the nations newspapers due to his "Roy of the Rovers" style exploits. Tragically Coyle's season looked to be in doubt after suffering a broken leg in October with the club having sat top of the First Division for most of the season. By the time Coyle made a speedy recovery to the team in late January, the club had slipped to third in the league. Coyle perhaps unsurprisingly never found his earlier form but did score another three times to help the club to promotion and see him finish Scotland's top league goalscorer with 20 goals.
Coyle was seldom the scorer of what could be described as "wonder" goals, but this was mainly due to the fact he didn't have to. He always seemed to know where to be on the pitch to give himself goal-scoring opportunities. His finishing was clinical and made him the envy of many opposition managers, he had an uncanny ability to simply place or pass the ball beyond goalkeepers. He would play the next two seasons in the Premier League, finishing the clubs top goalscorer on both occasions, and again attracting the attention of other clubs. When Airdrie were relegated in 1993 he would eventually join Bolton Wanderers in the English First Division for £250,000. He would go on to help them gain promotion to the English Premier League, scoring in the play-off Final against Reading at Wembley.
Coyle would return to play in Airdrie not once but twice, firstly in 2001 with the club in administration and struggling to field a team he would help the club avoid relegation, scoring six goals in the final ten games of the season. The following season would see the club challenging for promotion and winning the Challenge Cup Final, with Coyle scoring 27 goals in all competitions. With the club declared bankrupt at the end of season he would go on to join Falkirk. Aged 37 Coyle returned to Airdrie United in 2003, his experience proving invaluable as he helped the club to win the Second Division Title. He would play one final season in the First Division, scoring regularly as well as helping youngsters like Alan Gow and Willie McLaren with his experience and knowledge. He left to become player/manager at St.Johnstone and has continued in management in England and currently the MLS in America. In his time at Airdrie, Coyle finished top goalscorer in seven of the eight seasons he played. He won promotion to the Premier League, played in the 1992 Scottish Cup Final, League Cup Semi-Final, played in both legs of the European Cup Winners Cup matches, won the Challenge Cup in 2001 and the 2nd Division Title in 2004. He was inducted into the inaugural Hall of Fame in 2002.
Like the great Hughie Gallacher before him, Bobby Flavell scored goals for fun. Born 1st September 1921 in the village of Annathill, just north of Airdrie, Bobby began his career with Kirkintilloch Rob Roy before stepping up to the senior grade with Airdrieonians in January 1938.
His Diamonds’ debut came later that same month when he was fielded at outside-right against Alloa Athletic. However, it was as a centre-forward that his reputation spread after switching to that position during season 1939-40.
Bobby’s Broomfield career was severely curtailed by the outbreak of World Ward 2, although he would remain active throughout the conflict involving himself in a series of friendly and challenge matches. Included in these was one where he linked up with Diamond-for-the-day, Stanley Matthews, against Dundee United. Perhaps inspired by the great English wing wizard, Bobby performed his own acts of largesse around that time by making guest appearances with North London giants Tottenham and Arsenal.
It wasn’t until the Scottish League resumed in 1946 that Bobby really came into his own as a goalscorer of supreme quality.
Contemporary reports heaped praise on his fearlessness and ability to retain possession of the ball against seemingly overwhelming odds while his expertise in front of goal survives among the most impressive in the post-war era. From the cessation of hostilities until he left Broomfield just over a year later his scoring ratio of over a goal a game made the headlines far and wide, with international recognition also arriving courtesy of two full and two League caps. His appearance against the Irish League in April 1947 even saw him bag no fewer than five as the Scots roared to a storming victory.
By the December of that same year, however, Bobby said his goodbyes to the Diamonds, signing for Heart of Midlothian for a fee of £10,000. He continued to score regularly for the Tynecastle club but, after three years in the capital, it was time to move on again and, even today, his choice of destination takes a bit of believing. Back then, the notion of a footballer plying his trade abroad, never mind thousands of miles away in another continent, was fanciful to say the least. For Bobby, though, this was how he envisaged his immediate future and, as the 1950’s dawned, he set off for Colombia becoming Millionerios FC of Bogota’s latest foreign import. Although fleeting, it was a Latin adventure that also gave him the opportunity to play alongside another world class star in Alfredo Di Stefano for a spell. By September 1951, however, he was back in Scotland with Dundee, helping the Dens Park club to back-to-back League Cup triumphs with goals in both finals. Subsequent spells with Kilmarnock and St.Mirren preceded his retrial from the playing side after which his venture into management would include time at Ayr United, St.Mirren and, latterly, Albion Rovers where he later served on the board.
Hughie Gallacher is not just an Airdrieonians Great, he is one of Scotland’s Greatest ever players. He was one of the first Scottish footballers in the nation's Hall of Fame in 2004. He was also entered into Airdrieonians' Hall of Fame in its first year. Bob McPhail described him as a superb centre forward with a superb sense of getting himself into the right position, never caught off balance and capable of shielding the ball probably better than any other player he had seen. One of the best footballers in the world at the time.
Born in Bellshill in 1903, he signed for Airdrieonians in May 1921 from Queen of the South. His scoring record was fantastic, netting 100 goals for the club in 129 appearances. During the same period he also gained five Scotland caps and three other international honours, scoring 16 goals when playing for his country. His time with Airdrieonians saw the side winning the Scottish Cup and finishing second on four occasions in the top league.
He remained with the club until December 1925 when a £6,500 fee took him to Newcastle. He went on to break all sorts of records that most players could only dream about. He scored five goals on six occasions in his career, once for a Scotland B side and once for a Scottish League side, both while with Airdrieonians. He held the position of third in world football with a scoring ratio of 24 goals in 20 games. He also attained legendary status for his country through being a "Wembley Wizard".
English football had Sir Stanley Matthews, Scotland had Hughie Gallacher. And isn’t it wonderful to know he was a Diamond.
1967-1972 / 1982-1983
The last Diamond to gain a full Scotland cap while playing with the club, Drew’s hat-trick of appearances, against Portugal, Northern Ireland and England, occurred within weeks of each other in 1971 and, on each occasion, involved him join the action from the substitutes’ bench. Sadly, a career playing for his country would fail to extend beyond this sudden burst, so it was to be in the domestic game where this classy inside-forward found fame, if not, perhaps, the fortune that often goes with it.
Drew was born in the small village of Annathill, on 5th October 1948. His football career began at local amateurs Kirkstyle FC from where he stepped up to the Junior grade with Kilsyth Rangers. Already a provisional Airdrieonians signing along with team-mates Billy Wilson and Jimmy Green, Drew was with the Duncansfield Park club when they won the Scottish Junior Cup in 1967. His call up to Broomfield came just before the start of the following season.
A stylish footballer, Drew was also razor-sharp in front of goal and, by the time Drew Busby had added his more full-bodied qualities to the mix, his renown as half of one of the most feared striking partnerships in Scottish football was set in place.
Away from the international arena, where he had also turned out for his country at League and Under-23 level, Drew’s lone domestic honour as a Diamond came in the shape of a Texaco Cup runners’ up medal although he also holds the distinction of scoring four goals for the club on no fewer than three occasions. Possibly, the most notable of these came in the 5-1 annihilation of Huddersfield Town at Broomfield on the way to the aforementioned 1972 final. In spite of their part-time status – Drew was an auto electrician to trade - it seemed only a matter of time before one of the big guns would snap him up and sure enough, as season 1971-72 ended, Aberdeen paid a fee in excess of £70,000 to take him to Pittodrie. He would go on to feature strongly in the Dons’ 1979-80 League championship success as well as appearing in three League Cup and one Scottish Cup final as the north-east coast club rose from strength to strength under a succession of high profile managers including, of course, the inimitable Alex Ferguson.
In October 1982 after more than a decade away, Drew returned to a very different Broomfield Park. The Diamonds were going through a dismal spell which even his homecoming couldn’t assuage. As a result, his second spell was brief before St.Mirren came in for him with a swap deal that would bring former Dundee striker Eric Sinclair to Lanarkshire. On leaving Love Street, Drew stepped into coaching, initially with former club Aberdeen but, in 2003, he also served a term as assistant to former Dons boss, Ian Porterfield, at Buson I’cons in the South Korean K-League. A member of both the Airdrie and Aberdeen Halls of Fame, in 1982 Drew was rewarded for his sterling service to the Pittodrie club with a testimonial against Ipswich Town.
Bob Scott was turning out occasionally for the Airdrie reserve side, and sometimes when we fielded a “scratch” XI, as early as 1885/86 when he was a 15 year-old left-back. He graduated to the first-team in the final few weeks of 1887/88, by which time Coatbridge Albion had converted him to an inside-left.
He made a real impact in 1888/89, and such was his obvious talent that he was selected to play for the Lanarkshire F.A. in February, 1889, and scored a hat-trick on debut. He added another nine of those in his ten years with Airdrieonians, including four goals in our record 15-1 Division Two win over Dundee Wanderers in 1894. A few months earlier he had captained the side in our first Scottish League fixture at Motherwell, and netted the club’s first league goal at Broomfield.
He took the accolade of leading goalscorer in four of his seasons with the club, and was joint top-scorer in two others. In that first league campaign of ours he set the standard when he found the net in each of seven consecutive Division Two games. He was chosen to play in the S.F.A.’s international trial of March, 1890, while he was still a teenager, but had to wait another four years before he won that coveted full Scotland cap against Ireland. A broken leg sustained in a league match against Motherwell on Christmas Eve, 1898, brought his career to a premature close.
He had played just over 300 games for Airdrieonians, and scored 207 goals – how much higher those totals could have been but for that derby day heartbreak when he had just turned 28.