Briefly outline your football career prior to joining Deveronvale?
I came through the Elgin Boys Club (senior player of the year 1991) before playing for Elgin City youth and joining Dyce Boys Club in Aberdeen. I then went to play for Kemnay and finally Deveronside at U-18 in a side that included Molby, Derek Milne, Craig Stewart and Andy Matheson among others. That year, having started Uni in Aberdeen, I defected to the Vale youth team and when Kevin Bremner took over the following summer joined the first team for pre-season training and obviously showed up well enough..
Which year(s) did you play for Deveronvale? Who signed you for the club, and what attracted you to join?
1994-1997 Having trained throughout the summer I got the second half of a pre-season game, I think it was against Hibs, before heading to Wales for the Ian Rush tourney with the rest of the Deveronside team. I did okay and was never shy in organizing the defence (or anyone on the pitch including refs) so with a shortage of players Kevin Bremner chucked me straight in at sweeper v Lossiemouth in the first game of the season despite the fact that I had missed the other games due to the Ian Rush tourney. Gary Clark and Darren Still had been Lossie's big signings and halfway through the first half Clark was through 1 on 1 with Colin Randall but I was able to get back and make a crucial tackle that settled me down and showed what I could do. In the end we came from 2-0 down to draw that one thanks to a thunderbolt free kick from Wayne "Chisel" Thornton and David "Tani" Ironside's sclaff over the line after Billy "Suds" Sutherland had a penalty saved in the last minute. Kevin offered me a contract after the game. I actually went to the ground thinking I would be in the stand or on the bench if I was lucky (2 subs in those days) and was going to say to Kevin that I had a couple of offers from Junior clubs that would see me get regular football. It was a thrill to be in the team and to do well..
What are your fondest memories of playing for Vale ?
"The first season and a half! I absolutely loved everything about that time. The management team of Kevin Bremner, Dod Simmers and Billy Anderson was ideal for me as Kevin was excellent at instilling the basics, he had made a career out of the game after all, Dod Simmers was a growler who would give you a kick up the a**e whenever he felt it was needed (although in generally he just kicked everyone in training) while Billy would come over at half time, put an arm around my shoulder and ask me what I thought about how the game was going and would talk through situations with me. Alec "Faither" McPherson would pretend to give me 10p every week while telling me to buy some blades for my razor before giving me my boots and pants which were always ready in the pigeon holes through the back of the old wooden dressing rooms and Maureen who made the soup, she was always having a laugh with us after the game regardless of the result. The year before Vale were almost bottom of the league but that year we won the Aberdeenshire Shield and had a run of clean sheets which helped us actually go top of the table for a while having played more games than the rest so things went well on the field. Off it the club made my folks feel really welcome and given that my dad was just recovering from a heart attack and starting a new era in his life that welcome was a real benefit to him and the entire family. It is the main reason that I started a company to try and ensure the coverage of the HFL didn't disappear altogether. Their was a great social aspect to things with some nights out in the Seafield and of course the Bullseye competition (don't think Stilly has forgiven me for not getting the Silence of the Lambs question yet) and the Boxing Day get togethers at the Side social club. As I said I loved every minute of it and I even had a quality curtains hairdo to cap it all off. "
What is the most memorable game you played in for Vale, and why ?
Obviously the first game I played and that tackle which paved the way for a 10 year career. After that it there are few others: First was the Aberdeenshire Shield final where Cove, who were a real problem side for us in the league giving us 6's and 7's, battered us for 80 minutes but we defended well and Vietchy (Ally Veitch) was on top form then with five minutes to go Morland handled it and Bridgey (Paul Bridgeford) scored from the spot. After that Bradley Kerr kept the ball for virtually the rest of the game. It was the first thing the Vale had won in 16 years and I still have the scarf that was planted around my neck before going up to pick up the huge shield. Second was going back to Borough Briggs for the first time, but by then I was the captain. There had been snow the night before and even though the pitch was 90% mud the game was on and we annihilated them. It was 4-0 but some of the football we played that day was different class and it could have been 10. Craig Stewart got sent off for trying to nail me when it was 3-0, the worst move he ever made was signing for Elgin instead of the Vale that season as he had a lot of ability. I was singing in the big bath after the game fair trickit. Another thing I remember about that day is Dippy arriving in the red metro to announce that Brad wasn't with them as he had decided to start hitch-hiking to Germany or Sweden or somewhere the day before and just told Dippy to tell Kevin. Third was another Borough Briggs day, the day we qualified for the Scottish Cup for the first time in about 32 years. We were deservedly 2-0 up and a man to the good when they scored and the last few minutes were pretty nervy. When the whistle went it was absolute chaos. I am sure days like that one and the Shield win probably gave more pleasure to the guys who were a part of the club then, like yourself Mr B, than you will get from so many of the great things the club is achieving just now simply because it was against the odds back then. Fourthly it was beating Albion Rovers. We were excellent that day. I was actually on the sidelines when Craig Stewart scored the opener as Al Murray was stitching up my head. It was a case of "ooocha, ooocha, oooocha, YEEESSSSSS, ooocha". Dippy ran the show and Heggie's goal was a stunner, probably the best of the tourament. We were cruising at the end and I must admit I was joining in with the choruses of "We are going to win the Cup" and "You'll never walk alone" from the fans when we were on the attack near the end as the noise was fair reverberating off the wall at the opposite side from the stand. Finally it was the two games with Keith in the next round. We really should have beaten them at PRP but didn't deserve anything from the second game. It was so gutting to be so close to playing Rangers and then lose. I turned 20 in between the two games and 10 year on it still frustrates me. I still think we could have came back to win the second match had we not taken off Stuey Cameron at 1-0 down. I lived right opposite the corner shop on Merkland Road back then so I woke up to find Keith fans outside the flats the day they played Rangers. It was so gutting, as can you imagine that was Vale fans! I decided to get out of the flat and put £10 on Rangers to win 10-0 before going to watch Cove. I heard it was 10-0 when leaving the ground and was rubbing my hands at the thought of £500 until I switched on the radio in the car to hear it was full time at Pitoddrie and Mark Garden has scored a consolation goal in the last minute. Things weren't quite the same after that as the season petered out and the following year I was played at right wing back which didn't suit me as I liked to move the ball onto my right foot. You don't have space to do that out there.
8. Who were the characters at the club ?
Where do I start? I have mentioned Faither (top of the list) and Maureen (the soup lady). I liked the fact that as skipper I had to organise the end of season/Christmas whip round for these two because they were as much a part of the experience of playing for the Vale as anyone. It was great to see Faither in the pics from the Forres game on my site the other week and also I saw Maureen at a Whitehills game last year when I helped out Fochabers during the early kick offs. Having mentioned Kevin/Billy/Dod I better mention the best team talk we ever had….from Uncle Mo! I think we were losing to Buckie at half time when Mo, a little worse for ware, burst into the dressing room and told us we were playing …… ….. and that we had to get our fingers out our ….. a**es and get stuck into those useless ……. Kevin let him have his rant then said okay Mo now out you go. It was also good to see him in the pics from the Forres v Vale game. Moving onto the likes of Mr Banff and Dav who joined us for a few nights out, Eddie who always had a smile and would analyse how things were going in a positive light. Stilly hosted a few nights out and always had a craic, even if he looked green for a month if we lost the festive derbies to Buckie. He probably mortgaged his boat to pay off the Jags fans if we ever lost to them back then but he will have made it back betting Brochers! His tatties for fish barter was a great one for getting Dad involved with the club too. Bradley Kerr was a class act and a character. He had a Cantona manner about him on the field with his upright posture although playing Wick on December 17th wasn't his idea of fun and he actually did the warm up in a holey pair of blue long johns. I miss the old wooden dressing rooms although they almost disappeared earlier than expected when Alan Scott shouted Rico Masson in to get changed when Rico was trying to have a fly puff before a friendly. Rico stuck the fag in his pocket and quickly got changed but about three minutes later smoke was coming out of the now hung up trousers at a fair rate as a hanky and the pockets of his trousers started to catch fire! Big Tani, Andy Heggie, Dod Simmers and Ian Woolley were all great characters in different ways and I better say the ball boys were good then or Linda won't send me the team sheets any more. I have to give Heggie a special mention for scoring the best goal never given in a midweek game against Peterhead. 30 yard pearler only for Martin Pirie to be taking the goal kick while we were still getting up after a mass Klinsmann dive style celebration.
Who were the best players you played with at the Vale ?
Dippy has to be the Vale's greatest ever player. He was extremely skillful, a great passer, really quick and a great crosser. The best left back the league has had during my playing days and the partnership he and Stuey Cameron struck up was superb to watch. That said Bradley Kerr was probably the most talented player to have worn the red while I was there. He was the HFL's equivalent of Cantona and the game where we played really badly only for him to beat Nairn virtually single handedly, chipping the keeper three times sticks out in my mind. We had the makings of a really good side that year with Ross Maclean developing into one helluva player while Murray Ritchie's holding midfield play and range of passing complimented Bridgey's movement and finishing perfectly but the side broke up after Kevin left.
And who were the best players you played against ?
Huntly had a great team at the time and you could run through their entire squad. I would say Stevie Gray and Stevie Lennox particularly impressed me though even though they gave up in about 95. Iain Stewart, current Peterhead boss, was a master finisher. Even when you thought you had every angle covered he would find a way of getting a shot on target and as a sweeper it was just a case of trying your best to make him have to do something inventive. Keith boss Martin Allan has a similar stature and had the same sort of cleverness on the park. As I said earlier we always had trouble with Cove and Alan Leslie seemed to get 3 or 4 whenever he played against us but Ray Yule is the one player who I would pick out as being the most under rated player in the league in the 90's. He was a master at coming through from midfield to attack the back post. Finally Terry Hurlock. He was in the Fulham team that came up to play us and I remember there was a 70-30 in my favour so I thought I would slide in and get the ball but trip him up in the process (not a studs up injuring tackle just a slide in trip tackle with my shins hitting his ankles) just to say I felled Terry Hurlock. Basically I bounced off him and as he flicked the ball over me he stood on me before making the pass. When it came to tackling he put me in my place with that one. The site of Jimmy Hill in the old wooden stand was only eclipsed by his thank you for the invite speech in the 'side club during which he spent three minutes talking about the horrors of war in Bosnia.
What have you done in a football sense since you left the Vale ?
I left to take up a soccer/academic scholarship in the States which was a great experience in some ways and not in others. The football side went really well and the trip had a dramatic influence my life. Having played for Lossie and Buckie during "vacations" I joined Buckie on my return with Alan Scott and Billy Anderson and thoroughly enjoyed my time there. We finished in the top three four years in a row and I converted into a goalscoring midfielder bagging a couple against the Vale and finishing the clubs second top scorer the year we finished level with the Broch in second. From there it was Elgin City and Forres Mechanics but by that time the success of the website had taken the fun out of training and the game as a whole as I found that I had become a political figure. I wasn't treated as fairly as others and I was even missing training on occasion to discuss things with board members who didn't have a clue what a computer was because someone had made this comment or that comment on the Rumours Page. Work also meant I was last in the dressing room and first out so the banter disappeared and I only really began to get a run of games together in the second half of my season at Forres. I completed my 10th season in the HFL more out of a sense of achieving as opposed to enjoyment and at 28 I stopped playing. I played 6 games at Christmas time the following year but haven't pulled on my boots in over 14 months now. .
What does a normal Saturday afternoon entail for you these days ?
During the sunnier months I am up at 7.30 to play golf, often against Vale fan John Steele. I took up golf last year to give me something to replace football. I then go home and get everything prepared for dealing with the matches. We take all the info from around the grounds in live and feed it out to various places so every goal, sub and booking gets called in. After that it is all about getting the reports done, stats in and putting the reports on the site and out to meet deadlines. That normally finishes about 9ish and I make myself something to eat before heading out on the town. During the winter fielding postponement and pitch inspection news replaces the golf which ultimately leads to a 15 hour working day!