Briefly outline your football career prior to joining Deveronvale.
Played in a very good school team at Banff Academy 1975-79, which won the North of Scotland Cup at under 13 level. Also played a number of times for North of Scotland select team, which included many boys who went onto play in the Highland League. Most memorable game was a 5-0 win against Arbroath at Princess Royal Park… this was a big deal for a 12 year old Banffer! At about the same time, I started training with the Vale under the makeshift floodlights behind the old stand. Ken Tedcastle was the manager, and about once a month (over several years) he would ask me to drag my elder brother Johnie along, as he was a more skilful player than I was. Unfortunately, John had other interests, in particular a lassie called May from Macduff (whom he is still married to!). At that age I was just a wallflower in the Vale changing room, listening to guys like Kevin Bremner, Allan Forbes and Johnny Mackie telling stories about their weekend exploits. But training with these guys was great and certainly helped to toughen me up, as did playing in the Welfare League for Whitehills for three seasons 1976-79. At Whitehills, Bill Murray and Bert Simpson (generally known as Bertie Roper due to his likeness with George Roper from the TV program George & Mildred) played me in lots of positions for experience and I guess to protect me a bit. I remember playing a lot of games on the left wing.
Which year(s) did you play for Deveronvale? Who signed you for the club, and what attracted you to join ?
As a Banff loon, it was a no brainer to play for the Vale. Deveronside also asked me several times but I really wasn’t interested. Tedcastle gave me my debut at sweeper alongside Chris Slavin in a friendly against Aberdeen in July 1978. My league debut came in February 1979 against Huntly at home. I went on as a sub with twenty minutes left and with Vale 2 up. Huntly scored within a minute and we spent the rest of the game under severe pressure but held out for a 2-1 win. I was amazed at the pace of the game. My first full season was 1979-80 under Billy Anderson and I was with the Vale until August 1985 when I moved to Keith. After 5 seasons at Keith I had agreed a move to Huntly but changed my mind and went back to Vale instead. Ironically, Joe Harper was Huntly manager but within a short period he had also joined the Vale set-up. My career finished at age 29 after an injury I got in September 1992, again ironically in Huntly.
What are your fondest memories of your time with the club?
Bl**dy hell, where do I start. The Vale was great fun to play for because there was always a feeling that we had something to prove and I liked that. I really had three phases at Vale: 1. When I started, we had a really young side with about 50% locals and 50% from Aberdeen. On our day, we were a match for anyone but typically for a young side we were wildy unpredictable and inconsistent. Had we stuck together that team could definitely have done very well, as many of the players went on to find success at other clubs. 2. From about 1982 Vale reverted to a more local set up and to be honest we struggled, both on the pitch and off. There was a small but tight group of committee and players doing endless sponsored walks, jumble sales and the like to raise funds to keep the club alive. But throughout this period the club was very well respected because they were humble and welcoming to all. Socially, it was a fantastic time with almost every Saturday night resulting in another legendary story with the likes of Iain Thain or Ray O’Hara usually in the mix somewhere. Many times we would hijack a rival player to spend the night in Banff and my mother would find another stranger sitting at the table for Sunday breakfast. 3. When I returned to Vale in 1990 they had a chairman whom was investing in players and we managed to build a new squad which once again had a mix of locals and guys from as far a-field as Dundee. The big difference from 10 years earlier was that the squad was more experienced and more consistent.
What is the most memorable game(s) you played in for Vale, and why?
First time I played away to Inverness Thistle in Spring 1980. I was one of about five 16 year olds in a really young Vale team and Thistle were a top team at the time. Billy Anderson asked me to play in midfield and match up to their star player Titchie Black… “Dinky, I want you to man mark their number 10. He is a really tricky player but you’ll be fine if you make him work” Then the immortal lines… “so when they have the ball I want you right up his backside, and when we have the ball I want you right in his box”. It seemed to work and we beat them 6-3 with Soles (Paul McAllister) scoring a hat-trick. That was certainly one of my best ever games for the Vale. Also loved my first game back at Keith after re-signing for Vale in the early nineties. The Keith manager obviously had not seen me as central to his plans, so I was delighted to play a stormer in a 4-0 win for the Vale. Playing against the top sides was always the most enjoyable, (if not always the most productive), and especially away from home. Local derbies were also fun because we always got a lot of stick from the fans at places like the Broch and Buckie. It’s amazing how much motivation you can get from someone stating the bleeding obvious e.g Wilson ye wee sh**e! However, the seven straight wins at start of season 1992/93 probably stands out because everybody believed it was the start of something better for the Vale. We were getting great crowds (1000+ at home and several hundred traveling), and who could forget the super cool purple away strip. The Banff / Macduff area was really buzzing and it alerted people to the fact that a successful Vale team could unite the community and would be well supported.
Who were the characters at the club ?
Too many characters to mention them all but one of my favourite stories involved two great pals from my youth… James Pirie and Gary McDonald (Chubb). Jimmy could and should have played at a higher level, while Chubber was a better player than he got credit for. One day that stands out was a cup-tie in Banff against Buckie Thistle. We were losing 2-0 and Chubber got hooked at half time. Vale got back in the game and Steve Aitken scored a late goal for a 3-2 victory. Later on we were in the Market Arms celebrating the result and whilst Chubb was happy we won, he also felt he had been made a scapegoat for the first half performance. Being friends, we obviously reassured him the first half was no reflection on his performance, blah, blah, blah. Being team-mates, we then proceeded to kick him whilst down… At this time, the Market Bar had a Minor Bird that did impressions so when Chubb went to the toilet we went to work. On his return the bird was singing “Chubber was subbed, Chubber was subbed” and everybody in the pub (bar one) was greeting with laughter! Have many brilliant memories from my time with the Vale and will be happy to share them over a beer any time, but I,m not sure I want to see them in print.
Who were the best players you played with at the Vale and why?
Jimmy Pirie I mentioned, but Gary Loch was a similar type of player that I really liked. Skilfull and energetic strikers with good scoring ratios. There were lots of other young guys like Jim Alexander and Robbie Tough who could have gone further if they had really wanted to. Ian Thain is well known by everyone, but Gordon Mackay was also a very good keeper and it’s a pity he stopped playing as early as he did (Approx 20 years sooner than Thainer!). Rico Masson and Henry Gracie could be both absolutely brilliant and bloody useless in the same half, never mind week to week. Henry deserves a mention just for the day he ripped Caley to pieces at Telford Street. Then there were the more mature guys like Bobby Livingstone and Ray O’Hara who had lost (or never found) a few yards of pace but could still show the youngsters how things should be done. For being the worst losers in the world I have to mention Graeme Masson and Allan Forbes who also had a brilliant scoring rate for a centre back.
And who were the best players you played against, and why?
Charlie Barbour because he will buy me a pint for saying so.! Played against and with Hamish French and he was the most consistent footballer I ever came across. Great skill, always available for a pass, decent goalscorer and incredibly humble.
What have you done in a football sense since you left the Vale ?
Almost nothing! Started playing 5’s again this year with friends.
What does a normal Saturday afternoon entail for you these days ?
Pittodrie watching the Dons or supporting my two daughters in their activities.