Greatest XI - 11. Left Midfielder
12th March 2016
As Alan Lawrence grabs the number 7 shirt in our Greatest XI, we turn our attention to the opposite flank as we ask you to decide Airdrie's greatest ever left-midfielder.
There was no shortage of debate over the position, with names like Willie McGuire, Jimmy Somerville and Mark Cowan just missing out.
The panel, led by Honorary Club President Ian McMillan, worked as hard as ever to put together a list of four Diamonds greats.
As always, voting closes at 12pm on Friday (18th March). The shortlisted nominees are:
So impressed were they with Tommy Duncan’s wing skills, when he played against Airdrie for Buckie Thistle during a two-game Highland tour in April 1952, the Diamonds’ directors invited him to turn out for their team at Huntly three days later.
Born in Portsoy on 15th July 1936, Tommy was still a 15-year-old pupil at Banff Academy when he first attracted attention but, in spite of his tender years, the Diamonds hierarchy made plain their insistence that such a precocious talent should not be allowed to slip away. His move to Broomfield followed quickly. Season 1952-53 then saw him become a feature of the Diamonds’ reserve side while his schooling continued at Airdrie Academy. For that term’s final fixture on 2nd May, however, Tommy was thought ripe for promotion to the top team. He made his debut against Albion Rovers at Cliftonhill in a Lanarkshire Cup tie. Three months later, and just a few days after his 17th birthday, Tommy signed professional terms with the club, and would remain at Broomfield for the next decade until injury forced his retirement from the game.
During that time, he became a firm favourite with the Diamonds’ support, consistently producing a sparkling brand of wing play out on the left. He also delivered 63 goals over 211 appearances for the club, a healthy enough scoring ratio equating to just under a goal every three games. His most productive season in front of goal came in 1960-61 when he found the net on 15 occasions. He also scored his first hat-trick in the 9-1 League Cup win over East Fife at Broomfield in August 1957 and, five years later, repeated the feat as the Diamonds trounced Raith Rovers 8-1 in a Division One game, again at home, in September 1962.
Although international honours continued to elude him throughout his time with the Diamonds, Tommy was selected as reserve inside-left for the Scottish League v League of Ireland fixture at Celtic Park on 28th November 1962. Sadly, his career was blighted by a serious knee injury and, despite surgery in April 1963, he followed medical advice by announcing his retirement from the game just before the start of the following season.
WILLIE 'COWBOY' McCULLOCH
Outside-left Willie (soon nicknamed “Cowboy” due to his bandy-legged appearance) arrived at Broomfield from Cumnock Juniors in mid-December, 1950. He had previously been senior with Kilmarnock, but after less than a dozen first-team outings in his three year-plus stay at Rugby Park he returned to the junior ranks.
He joined an Airdrieonians side in a perilous position in the top league. We had only four points (and one win) to our name when he made his debut at Aberdeen two days before Christmas. His goal in a 1-1 draw at Pittodrie represented a good start to Willie’s second stab at the senior game, and the Diamonds quickly grew in confidence to embark on a points-gathering run which contrasted starkly with the team’s lack of accomplishment in the first part of the campaign. Willie Brown came back from a lengthy injury absence in our next match, and the two wingmen were instrumental (and ever-present) in our long spell of fine form which included victories over Motherwell, Hibs, Rangers, and Celtic, among others. The legendary last day of season 1950/51 produced that unbelievable 11-1 slaughter of Falkirk which, against all the odds, enabled us to preserve our ‘A’ Division status.
Willie continued to star for us until January, 1957, when he was transferred to St. Mirren. He clocked up almost 250 appearances, and weighed in with an impressive 84 goals. 22 of those came in our 1954/55 rampage through ‘B’ Division, when we were undefeated in our opening 24 league fixtures. He scored 4 times in a 6-2 win over Morton in that period.
He was capped by Scotland at ‘B’ level against England in 1956, when he scored one (a typical McCulloch 30-yard screamer into the top corner) and made the other Scottish goal in a 2-2 draw.
Born in Glasgow in 1910, Mooney started his career with Royal Albert having previously been a provisional signing with Celtic without actually gaining a full-time contract with the Glasgow club, he signed for Airdrieonians in November of 1931.
Mooney was a strong bustling left sided midfielder, and he had a great ability of turning games in favour of his club. He will probably be best remembered however for his ferocious shooting power, legend has it that many a net gave way to his thunderous shots which he would attempt from all manner of positions on the pitch.
Mooney became a much sought after player throughout the whole of the UK and in 1936 he joined Newcastle United for £2650. He would go on to make 81 appearances and score 19 goals for the Magpies, however his match time was hampered like so many others during the Second World War. This did allow him however to return to Airdrie on loan during this period. In 1944 he joined Greenock Morton where he would see out the remainder of his career.
During his time at Airdrieonians Tom was selected to represent the Scottish League XI on two occasions in 1933 and 1935. Mooney made 279 appearances for Airdrieonians scoring 102 goals, which included 19 penalties and a number of free kicks.
Billy Wilson arrived at Broomfield in May 1967 as a Scottish Junior Cup winner with Kilsyth Rangers. He had been part of the side that had beaten Rutherglen Glencairn in front of 22,000 spectators and alongside Drew Jarvie and Jimmy Green, he signed for the Diamonds. Wilson and Jarvie made an immediate impact, becoming first team automatic selections.
In just over a decade he made over 400 appearances (taking friendlies into account) scoring 64 times. It was to be more as a supplier of goals that Billy would make his name, sometimes on the right but more from the left. In only his second season as a professional, as the Diamonds were building an excellent side, he provided Marshall and McPheat with the chances that took Ralph Collins’ side to an unbelievable seventh place finish in the top league. Wee Billy was a mainstay at Airdrie throughout the successful years that followed.
He played in the Airdrie side that went all the way to the 1971 Scottish Cup semi-final, scoring in a fabulous 3-3 draw against a multi talented Celtic side at the same venue as his Junior Cup success. They lost out in the replay to the eventual winners. One of his finest games came as Airdrie chased and earned a Dryborough Cup place, weighing in with goals himself but setting up chance after chance for his team-mates as they ran up seven goals defeating Fergie’s Falkirk. He tormented the Bairns rearguard who were happy to hear the final whistle. His talents were at the heart of the Texaco Cup success the club enjoyed, and while even though he saw team-mates Goodwin, Jarvie and Busby earn big moves in the early seventies, Billy remained to play a critical part in Airdrie's 1974 Championship winning success after their relegation. He was into double figures in goals that season, but there were no statistics kept of the assists in a season when Ian McMillan’s side scored over a hundred league goals. Season 1974/75 saw another return to Hampden for a Scottish Cup final date and defeat by Celtic. Just before that final, at Ibrox when Rangers were celebrating winning the league for the first time in ten years, big Peter McCloy was rolling the ball inside his penalty area, unaware wee Billy had come back on to the park behind him - Billy collected the ball and put it into the net to spoil the party. Season 1975/76 brought Spring Cup success, while Billy’s experience was of great value to the club in his remaining couple of seasons, educating the youngsters in the same way as he had enjoyed in 1967.
His departure in 1978/89 also led to his retiring from playing. Those who watched him play were always very vocal in letting other club’s fans know ”We’ve got Billy, Billy, Billy, Billy Wilson ON THE WING, ON THE WING!”
There was no greater sight in the sixties and seventies than when this one-club man graced the Diamond.