I have persuaded a good pal of mine, Auld Boab, to share with me some East End memories from the 50s and early 60s, and here he muses about three old players whose names are well-known in the Pars’ annals.
"I was a wee boy when I first saw the Pars at Hampden in 1949, when we lost 3-0 to East Fife in the Final of the League Cup. I cannot recall our team, but I remember loving the East Fife strip of black and gold stripes! East Fife, of course, had a cracking team at that time, many of whom were hard local miners. The team included Dundonian Henry Morris, who scored a hat-trick for Scotland on his first international appearance, and was never selected again! Then it was into the 50s with the Pars, with names like Jimmy Cannon, Tiny Clarkson, Willie McSeveney, Tommy Wright, Bobby Kirk, Gerry Mays, goalies Michie and Moodie. But I’m moving on today to recall three favourite players, all local products playing for their local team.
Jackie Sinclair was a local boy, and a young cousin of the aforesaid Tommy Wright, who earlier had been a tricky inside-forward. Jackie came to Dunfermline from Blairhall Colliery in 1961 aged 18, and took up his place on the left-wing. He was not your traditional left-winger driving to the bye-line before lifting the ball over, but resembled Cardle, in that he loved to cut in. There was no more stirring sight than Jackie jinking in from the half-way line area, and beating a couple of men before releasing a rocket shot, the power of which belied his skinny slight white-skinned frame. From that left-wing, he scored an amazing 33 goals in only 61 appearances over five years, before being transferred to Leicester, then Newcastle, with whom he won the European Fairs’ Cup in 1969.
Jackie played and scored in that famous game V Valencia, but the everlasting memory picture of him is that cutting inwards to find space for his shots from outside the box. Just exactly like Aird did the other week, though the difference was that Aird curved his ball inside the post past an unsighted keeper, while Jackie would have thrashed his high past the keeper at full throttle. Post-football, Jackie became Steward of Dollar Golf Club, and died from cancer aged 67.
In a word, rocketeer!
Second local boy is Alex Smith, who signed for us in 1958 from Dunbar - how did a Rosyth boy find himself signed by Dunbar? Alec was never blessed with great speed or athleticism, but these shortfalls were more than compensated for by his speed of mind and his strong physique. He played inside-right and right-half, and while arguments took place as to which was his better position, truth is that he was such a classy controller of a game that he was equally at home in both places. He would compete, he was not frightened of scoring, (68 goals in 213 Dunfermline appearances) and he was sound in the air, but his greatest asset was his ability to make space for himself with a characteristic feinting dip of the head, or a shake of the shoulders, before releasing an incisive pass. He was possessed of wonderful footballing vision.
He scored the sixth goal in that Valencia game with a balanced sprint on a decidedly unbalancing pitch, but the abiding memory for me is that 1961 speculative lob from the right wing in the gloom of Hampden, which Haffey misjudged, allowing Charlie Dickson to trundle the ball home for the decisive goal which relaxed all of us watching incredulously from the terracings.
Alex’s ability was picked up elsewhere, and in 1966, after eight years with the Pars, he signed for Rangers, where he played for three years. In retirement from football, he took over the Coaledge Tavern, and he is still a Saturday regular at East End, though his gait today indicates that he is paying the price for his hurly-burly playing time.
In a word, class!
The third local boy goes back furthest in time, namely George O’Brien. George was born and raised in Dunfermline and took up employment as an apprentice plumber, before his promise brought him as a part-timer to East End from Blairhall Colliery in 1952 at the age of seventeen. He formed a superb youthful and energetic right-wing partnership with another local boy, Johnny Reid, who had just left Dunfermline High School, and when John, an amateur, moved on to Queens Park in 1954, George paired up effectively with Colin McKinlay.
George played inside-right and was not a big man, but he was strong, fast and with one motivation, namely to pick up the ball and drive towards the opposition goal, something today’s players could learn from.
The match I recall was that stirring win against 1st Division Partick Thistle in the Scottish Cup in February 1955. George did not actually score in the game, but his energy made him a pivotal figure in the Pars’ fightback, when they came back from two goals down at half-time, to triumph 4-2. George’s intelligence and vision were key factors in Dunfermline’s second-half drive and recovery.
George’s transfer was inevitable, and in 1957 he moved to Leeds for two years, then on to his career pinnacle with Southampton, where he formed a legendary powerful partnership with England winger Terry Paine for seven years, during which time George was Southampton’s top scorer for several seasons, scoring a superb 154 goals in 244 appearances at inside-right. George also played there alongside the redoubtable Martin Chivers, later of ‘Spurs and England.
George spent summer holidays back in Dunfermline, and I had the pleasure of playing golf with him many times, both at Canmore and further afield, travelling in George’s snazzy blue and white Hillman Minx.
In a word - directness!”
More from Auld Boab to follow in coming weeks!
(Some of you may recognise the writer's identity but for the purpose of the articles he has agreed to write for Pars Review, he has asked me to refer to him as "Auld Boab").