Montrose FC Legends Day 2008
Montrose FC held their Legends' Day at Links Park on Saturday and with so much talent in the stand the players on the park had a lot to live up to. Of course, some outstanding displays and results from our current playing staff and they too could be talked off in the years to come.
No doubt the old timers talked of internationalists Sandy Keillor and George Bowman, who were not only great players but local lads into the bargain. Later generations watched players such as Davie Paris, Willie Nicoll, the Kemp brothers and talked about the enigma that was Billy Birse. Then came the players who are here today such as Les Barr, Denis D'Arcy, David Larter, Jim Oliver, Gary Murray, Charlie Guthrie and Bobby Livingstone.
Of course our special guests had had skill and talent in abundance. The more mature supporters will recall those special moments and games but for the benefit of younger fans it might be appropriate to mention a few things.
The legends of the 70s defeated Hibs over two legs, competed with and should have beaten Rangers. They dominated three cup matches against Hearts and, again, should have won the tie and made their way through to possible cup final and a European place in the days when the idea of a team from a lower Division doing such a thing was unheard of.
Another generation of legends won the Club's first ever championship and defeated Premier League Hearts, who had been unbeaten at home during a run that had lasted umpteen games, at Tynecastle. (That man Barr contrived to play in both squads.)
Some of our current squad might think that playing for Montrose doesn't mean very much, that it is part-time football at the lower end of the spectrum. If any of the players do have such notions perhaps I can put them right on a few points.
The fans expect to see a winning team out on the park. They remember, the older ones at least, a time when the name of Montrose was feared throughout Scottish football. No team, and I mean no team, at any level of the Scottish game was keen on having to play the Gable Endies, particularly at Links Park.
In the 70s and 80s in particular, Links Park was a graveyard for the hopes of many sides.
But while it is grand to look back and remember victories over Cup holders East Fife, defeating teams from the old First Division and competing with, and beating, teams from the Premier League we need to look forward. Last week we took a step into the next round of the Cup and now a difficult tie against Clyde at Broadwood awaits.
To do that, we have to compete. I wrote last week about the teams from the 70s coming from two goals down to see off Hibs and from four goals down to defeat Raith Rovers. These Montrose teams had fighting spirit and a belief that, no matter how many the opposition scored, they would score more.
The players in any team have the opportunity to become legends. All anyone has to do, and it sounds simple enough, is score a goal as good as, if not better than, the most talked and written about goal in the history of Montrose FC. Or just be part of a squad that takes on and regularly defeats Clubs from higher divisions.
That last suggestion, in itself, is not enough but it is a start. For our legends did not take on other teams on their own. Consider the regular 70s back line of Barr, Markland, McNicol & D'Arcy. Messrs Markland and McNicoll were great players but somehow never quite achieved the hero status of the other two. Can I explain that? Probably not.
Older regularly bemoan the lack of characters in the game now but that is not the fault of the current players.
Consider a tale told to me by Malcolm Lowe, another stalwart from the 70s.
The opposition that day were Stirling Albion. Montrose were attacking down the right when the linesman put his flag up to signal offside. Malcolm says he was so outraged that he grabbed the linesman's flag and broke it. In those days, referees had much more leeway in their application of the laws of the game than they do today. The match official saw the funny side of the incident and the player, luckily, escaped scot free.
Today, Malcolm admitted, he would have been banned for several games.
I am not suggesting that we allow mayhem on the park but all too often officials are restricted in the action they take.
Manager too probably have to take a share of the blame. All too often they want players who will conform to their tactical plan. Fine in the overall scheme of things but sometimes a match simply cries out for a moment of individuality, that moment of brilliance that one of our legends used to supply.
Of course some of our legends were managers themselves. Fans talk in awe of the reign of Alex Stuart at Links Park. Former players talk in awe of Ian Stewart. They too had that spark that set them apart from their fellow players and managers.
On the other hand we could simply advertise; 'Legends Wanted! 'If only it were that easy.