Today's 'Throwback' features a player who played for both the Pars and our opponents this weekend, Alloa. Gary Thompson played for both teams in the 1980s and contributed to promotion successes with the Wasps and the Pars. In this article, I will look back on my memories of Gary when I was a young fan, plus I have to thank former Alloa goalkeeper Ronnie Lowrie, who very kindly supplied some great memories of his own, as a team mate of Gary's at Alloa.
Born on 11 June 1956, Gary Thompson began his professional career at Morton at the age of 20. The following year he began a 5 year spell with Falkirk, making almost 100 appearances. He was part of the Falkirk team that won the Scottish Second Division title in 1980, the first of 4 promotions (2 of which were title wins) in his career, achieved with 4 different clubs.
In 1983, former Alloa manager Jimmy Thomson brought Gary to Recreation Park. At the time, I was a 12 year old Alloa fan; I supported my local team for 5 years (the story behind why I was an Alloa fan before following Dunfermline can be read here). Gary was a key part of an Alloa team that punched above its weight in the Scottish League, defeating far bigger clubs, especially at The Recs.
The Wasps team in that period included Stuart Munro, who went on to play for Rangers, alongside other players who all made big contributions to Alloa's relative success in that decade: Donald Hunter, Larry Haggart, Bryan Purdie, Arthur Grant, Davie Houston, Lennie McComb, Davie Lloyd, Drew Paterson, Kenny Thomson - released prematurely by Dunfermline after 12 years' service but who went onto play professionally until the age of 40; Ronnie Lowrie, Frankie Cole, Martin Nelson and others. It's a period I look back on fondly despite later switching teams (after a gap of 4 years of not going to any football matches) that was caused, ironically, by a bad experience working for Alloa FC in 1987.
In season 1984/85, Dunfermline and Alloa were fighting for second place in the Second Division; the second last game of that season took place between the clubs in Alloa. A Pars win would have seen them leapfrog Alloa into second position with one game remaining. In the end, in front of a crowd of almost 5000, I watched a goalless draw, with Dunfermline missing a penalty. The next week, the last game of the season saw Alloa defeat Arbroath 1-0 at Gayfield to win promotion. I was there with my dad and saw Gary Thompson, playing at right back, score the game's only goal after 4 minutes (as seen in the photo below). It was typical of the player: grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck, the tenacious and highly competitive Thompson was one of the team's leaders. He took no nonsense and was hard but fair. He also had a trick that is recalled later in this article by Ronnie Lowrie, that involved selling his opponent a dummy and cutting inside, that seemed to work every time.
Gary joined Dunfermline in 1986 and was a key part of the team that was promoted to the Premier League in season 1987/88. He played both fullback and midfield for the Pars, as he had done at Alloa.
Entering his 30s, Gary signed for St Johnstone in 1988 and was involved in yet another promotion campaign, this time winning the First Division in his second season at the club, 1989/90. From there he played for Forfar and Arbroath before retiring.
In 1996, when manager of junior side Kirkintilloch Rob Roy, Gary tragically died after an accident on a construction site. He was only 40 years old. You never forget the heroes of your childhood; Gary was one of mine.
Another one of my childhood heroes has contributed the following memories of Gary: I contacted former Alloa keeper Ronnie Lowrie through Facebook this week and was delighted when he supplied the following recollections of that time, which I will end this article with. Thanks to Ronnie for being so kind, and also thanks are also due to the Alloa Stats Twitter page who sent me some of the photos used in this article plus Gary's career stats. You can find them on Twitter at this link: https://twitter.com/AlloaStats
Ronnie Lowrie's memories of Gary Thompson:
I joined Alloa in September 1984 and was fortunate to be part of a team that won promotion after an intense battle with Dunfermline.
It soon became clear that Gary Thompson was the main driving force in that team, sporting a beard (before they were really fashionable), socks around his ankles (before shin guards were compulsory), the stocky right back was not an athletic looking figure but he led by example and demanded the highest standards from his teammates.
Off the park, Gary was fantastic company. I would collect him from his house in Glasgow’s south side twice a week on training nights, then pick up Stuart Sorbie, Davie Houston and David Lloyd and Gary would entertain us on the lengthy journey through to Alloa.
I remember crossing the Kincardine Bridge on our way to a midweek match and Gary started singing Glen Campbell’s Rhinestone Cowboy but the chorus went,
“ I’ll be there when the lights are shining on me, Recreation Park Alloa “ ! !
A daft story but typical of Gary’s humour.
On the second last day of the season we were at home to Dunfermline, a win saw us promoted, a defeat saw Dunfermline promoted and a draw meant it would be decided on the last day. It ended 0-0. We had to go to Arbroath knowing a win would be good enough, while the Pars were at home to Berwick.
Four minutes into the game at Arbroath Gary appeared in their box and volleyed what was to be the winning goal.
I will always remember that goal but more than that I will remember his trademark ‘ dummy ‘ which he got away with in every game, shaping up to play a long ball up the line to a forward, at the last minute he stopped and cut inside to burst into the opponent’s half, his timing was so good no one could anticipate it.
Gary moved on to play with St Johnstone and of course Dunfermline .
Sadly, Gary died following an accident at his work but he will be fondly remembered by fans and teammates wherever he played.