Greatest XI - 3. Left Back

13th February 2016

This week we ask you to vote for Airdrie's greatest ever left back, as Paul Jonquin takes his place in the Greatest XI team.

The four nominees chosen by our panel are listed below, and you can vote for your choice at the bottom of the page. Voting closes at 12pm on Friday 19th February, and the winner will be announced thereafter.

The job of getting a huge list of names down to the shortlist below was our panel's toughest task yet, and the likes of Jackie Keenan, Willie Cunningham, Davie Rombach and Paul Lovering were unlucky to miss out. The four players who made it through to our vote were:

JOHN LAPSLEY
1973-1980
During an inordinately successful Broomfield career, John matured into one of his era’s finest exponent of an emergent phenomenon, the overlapping full back. Signed from Linlithgow Rose in the summer of 1973, his progress in the senior game was swift and he made the left-back position his own as the Diamonds aimed to recapture their top flight status with immediate effect after demotion the previous season.

Appearing an impressive 24 times during his rookie season, he featured strongly as Ian McMillan’s Diamonds took the Division Two title in style, scoring 102 goals in the process. A medal so early after his introduction to the senior game is bound to have thrilled the Edinburgh born youngster, but there was more to come – and quickly.  

Promotion secured, Airdrie grew from strength to strength under the Wee Prime Minister, but it was their cup exploits that really started to turn heads over the next couple of years. Narrowly losing out to Celtic at the semi-final stage in that season’s League Cup appeared, if anything, to strengthen the part-timers’ resolve and by May 1975 they had confounded sceptics and critics alike by going a step further in the Scottish Cup. Again, thanks to Celtic, there would be disappointment although, switching to midfield for the day, ‘Laps’ had played his part in a courageous effort. Aside from reaching the final at Hampden, John’s main claim to fame during that memorable campaign was scoring the late winner that saw off fierce rivals Motherwell in the replayed semi. A year later, there was yet another medal in the Lapsley household display cabinet, this time a winner’s one for success in the never-to-be-repeated Spring Cup. Not bad work for just three years...

A dead ball expert, especially from 12 yards, John’s ripest spell of goalgetting came towards the end of his Diamond days, ironically a period of comparatively leaner success for the club as a whole. Curiously, John’s days at Broomfield only neared an end when the attack-minded Bobby Watson took over the managerial reins and, in 1980, a deal worth £35,000 took him to Partick Thistle. Subsequent stints with Ayr, East Stirlingshire, Stenhousemuir, Cowdenbeath, Hamilton, Falkirk, Dunfermline and Brechin followed, but none of these brief stop-offs could ever rival Airdrieonians in terms of belonging or success for a player boasting over 250 appearances and 26 goals in the famous Diamond.    

GEORGE McQUEEN
1921-1933
George McQueen holds a unique place in the celebrated history of the Airdrieonians Football Club, as the only man to captain a Diamonds side to a national trophy success. He was skipper for four seasons in total, including our two greatest, of 1923/24 and 1924/25.

He arrived at Broomfield in the summer of 1921, having been released by Rangers, after 4 years, and limited first-team opportunities, at Ibrox. He spent 12 seasons as a Diamond, playing almost 400 times in the top league, as well as close to 50 Scottish Cup ties. The 1924 final was, of course, the pinnacle of those, although it was in the semi-final win over Falkirk that one newspaper described him as “a very prince of defenders.” Such was the esteem in which he was regarded by all Airdrieonians, that, on completion of his first 5-year term with the club, in August, 1926, he was allocated the Division One fixture against Rangers as his Benefit Game.

He came so close to an international appearance, but, unfortunately, that full Scotland cap eluded him, despite being nominated twice as the travelling reserve, once each in 1924/25 and 1925/26. He played for the Scottish League in Belfast in that latter campaign, on the occasion when his colleague Hughie Gallacher scored five times in a 7-3 victory. A dead-ball expert, his career total of 37 goals included 27 from penalties, and the majority of the rest direct from free-kicks. Indeed, he finished as the team’s leading league and cup scorer, from left-back, in 1922/23, with 11 goals. 

The directors offered him a contract for 1933/34, but he was not entirely happy with the terms, and, a few months short of his 38th birthday, he decided to retire altogether.

JIM SHANKS
1950-1963
Jim began his time as a Diamond in 1950. His final season was 1962/63 when the full back pairing of Jonquin and Keenan became the preferred option of the new manager Archie Wright who moved into the manager’s seat in January 1963. During his time with the club he made more than 300 appearances for Airdrieonians. 

Looking back over the fifties, many observers believed that Jim was not out of place among the many Broomfield colleagues of the day, including Baird, Fraser, Leslie, McMillan, Neil, Price, Storrie who were to enjoy a much higher profiles at the time. He was principally a team player whose contribution was more recognised and appreciated by his teammates.

He was like a good number of singings at that time, a local lad and supporter. On the field he was described in one of the programmes when he played as a tireless and eager defender who was quick in the tackle and a tenacious challenger. A very committed footballer who always built a fine understanding with his goalkeeper.

Season 1954/55 would be the best during which the club reach the League semi-final to be beaten by Hearts, took Celtic to a replay in the Scottish Cup at the semi-final as well and enjoyed a very long unbeaten run en route to winning the B Division and a return to the top league - only two games were lost in their 30 match campaign. Season 1960/61 saw a return to the last four of the Scottish Cup and once more Celtic were a hurdle the Diamonds were unable to clear. He headed for Stranraer after leaving Airdrieonians and after 4 years he retired from football.       

SANDY STEWART
1989-2000 / 2001-2005
After spells at Hearts and Kilmarnock Sandy signed for Airdrie at the start of the 1989/90 season, he spent his first two seasons making appearances in various positions in the team including many from the substitutes bench. However in 1991 following Alex MacDonald's appointment as Manager he quickly became a mainstay of the Airdrie defence.

Stewart was a savvy, intelligent player who had a great reading of opposition teams and players. Although a very measured player in his approach to the game he was never afraid to roll his sleeves up and battle to a victory always committed to the cause. Whenever in possession of the ball he would welcome the opportunity to push forward linking well with his team mates.

Stewart played for Airdrie till 2000, leaving to join Partick Thistle. However he re-signed with Airdrie again in 2001 as the club was fighting its losing battle against liquidation. When Airdrie United were given a place in the league the following season it was Sandy Stewart who became manager. He would lead the club over the next five seasons. Since departing the club Sandy has became Owen Coyle's Assistant Manager at various clubs north and south of the border as well as in the MLS in the USA.

In his time at Airdrie Sandy was part of the 1990/91 Promotion Squad, won the Challenge Cup in 1994 & 2001, played in four League Cup Semi-Finals, and two Scottish Cup Finals in 1992 & 1995 captaining the team in the 1992 Final. As Manager with Airdrie United he took the club to the 2003 Challenge Cup Final and most notably won the 2nd Division Title in 2003/04. Sandy was among the first Hall of Fame Inductees in 2002, and has also returned to the club on a number of occasions to take part in fundraising/anniversary events. 

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