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Greatest XI - 1. Goalkeeper

30th January 2016

Our search for the ultimate Airdrieonians XI begins today as we ask you to vote for the club's greatest ever goalkeeper.

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 5th February, and the winner will be announced thereafter.

The subject was debated in detail with honorable mentions for such players as Willie Duncan and Javier Sanchez Broto, but our panel finally settled on the following nominees: 

1909-1912 / 1923-1927
Born in Perthshire in 1891, Jock Ewart started his senior career with Airdrieonians in 1909. He was with the club for three years before signing for Bradford City at the age of 21. Bradford payed £1,200 for Jock, which was the record transfer fee for a goalkeeper at the time.

Ewart spent eleven years at Bradford during which time his career was interrupted whilst serving in the First World War.

He returned to a relatively successful Airdrie team for the 1923-24 season, with the club having finished runners up in Division One the season before. The club would once again finish runners up in the league, however it was in the Scottish Cup that he cemented his place in Airdrie folklore, helping the team to a 2-0 victory in the final over Hibernian - and becoming the only keeper to do so whilst representing Airdrieonians.

Jock returned to Bradford four years later before finishing his career at Preston North End. He made two appearances for the Scottish League XI, as well as earning a single Cap for his country in a 3-0 victory over England.

Despite the brevity of his stay, Lawrie’s popularity with the Broomfield faithful grew considerably when it became evident that their heroes had signed a keeper of rare ability who ruled his goal area with commanding authority. It is doubtful whether there has ever been a more daring custodian to don the Airdrieonians No.1 jersey although the catalogue of injuries resulting from his exploits was a heavy price to pay for such bravery. 

In spite of spending less than two years at Broomfield Park, he represented his country an astonishing nine times in one guise or another. All five of his full caps were gained in the same year, 1961, and to that haul he was able to add a further three League caps and one more representative honour. In fact, it was only a nasty and, ultimately, debilitating eye injury that prevented him from playing in 1961’s infamous 9-3 defeat to the ‘Auld Enemy’ at Wembley. Much, I’m sure, to his own later regret, it was Celtic’s Frank Haffey who received the eleventh hour call to fill in for Lawrie even though Leslie was the name listed in the match programme.

Born in Edinburgh in 1935, his earliest footballing experiences were as a right back although it was between the sticks that he earnestly cut his teeth in the juvenile and junior ranks. In 1956, Hibernian persuaded him to put pen to paper. Unfortunately, his time at Easter Road was blighted by injury problems, ultimately leading to the move which took him to Broomfield in November 1959. Diamonds’ manager Willie Steel paid £4,475 for him but, despite injury again limiting his involvement during season 1959-60 to 11 starts, the following year, as team captain, he remained fit enough to turn out on no fewer than 44 occasions, including an appearance in the Scottish Cup semi final against Celtic.

As his reputation extended south of the border, it was West Ham United who moved quickest to secure his signature. In June 1961, he was off to Upton Park for a modest fee of £14,000. Injury concerns persisted, however, and after just over two seasons in East London, he moved to Stoke City where he featured for the Potters in the final of the 1963-64 Football League Cup against Leicester City. Subsequent moves to Millwall and Southend United completed his playing career down although, at Roots Hall, he also went on to fill the post of trainer/coach for a time. 

2005 saw Lawrie enter the Airdrieonians’ Hall of Fame.

A popular figure with fans, John's playing career stretched across two decades from 1980 until 1999. In that time he became the club record holder making 769 appearances, across eight different competitions. With his 134 Premier League appearances, he became the club's only player to have played in the top league in all of their four seasons there. Records that will never be surpassed.

He is one of the few goalkeepers who has actually scored a goal, but it is his record at saving spot kicks - generally, but more importantly in penalty shootouts - where there are few equals. He was central to the Diamonds wonderful nineties when they reached two Scottish Cup Finals, four League Cup semi-finals, and lifted the Challenge Cup, in addition to making an appearance in European Competition.

Martin had a shutout ratio of around one match in three, an incredible figure given his total appearances, but the notable occasions came in his first appearance at Ibrox in 1980, against Celtic at Broomfield in 1991 in the Skol Cup before excelling in the penalty shoot out, in the Diamonds' final fixture at Broomfield in 1994 and in his last ever appearance in 1999. 

He signed for Airdrieonians soon after a Scotland Junior international appearance and he also went on to represent his country at semi-professional level as a consequence of his excellent form which has also led to him pick up player of the year awards by the sackful, while also being inducted into the Hall of Fame. He has also retained his club links through well publicised charitable work. A legend in every aspect.

Roddy MacKenzie joined Airdrie in 1963 from the renowned Drumchapel Amateurs nursery. He was pitched into the struggling first-team before the end of September, but suffered a nightmare introduction.

His opening 3 league games produced 3-1, 7-1, and 9-1 defeats. A win and a draw preceded a trip to Celtic Park, where we found ourselves 9-0 in arrears just past the hour mark. The homesters sent up their goalkeeper, Frank Haffey, to take a penalty-kick shortly thereafter, but Roddy pulled off a fine save to avert double-figure ignomy, and we managed to keep our lines intact after that. Our young ‘keeper then returned to reserve football for almost 18 months to restore his battered confidence.

He patiently did that, and when he came back into the top team in April, 1965, he was there to stay. He missed only 7 league matches over the 5 seasons from 1965/66 to 1969/70, inclusive. The ingrained MacKenzie, Jonquin, and Keenan backline still trips off the tongue with ease. He also achieved international recognition during that period, making 3 under-23 appearances for Northern Ireland. The fact that he possessses only 1 full cap is largely down to the presence of the legendary Pat Jennings, whom Roddy understudied on several occasions.

Roddy made the step up to full-time football when he was transferred to Hibs in 1973 after more than 250 outings for the Diamonds, but he came back to (almost) haunt us in that unforgettable Spring Cup final of 1976, when he did all that he could in the Clydebank goal to deny us. Had it not been for his outstanding display we would have won that epic battle far more comfortably than we eventually did.

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