Dunfermline Athletic

Harry Melrose 1975-80

The launch of the former players association in 2009 saw a very warm welcome back to East EndPark for Harry Melrose, a Pars legend who has, over the years, been a tremendous ambassador for the club as player, manager and administrator.

Dunfermline was only one of a number of clubs to spot Harry's potential in his early days with Dalkeith Thistle but his decision to join Rangers meant it was to be another couple of years before Andy Dickson persuaded the left-winger to put pen to paper. He duly signed for the Pars on 5th May 1958, a few weeks before his 23rd birthday, and in a brilliant first season his speed, skill and powerful shooting saw him become not only the Athletic's top scorer with 28 goals but also the highest scoring winger in Scotland.

On the last day of the season, Dunfermline needed to beat Partick Thistle by a large margin to stand any chance of avoiding the drop and did so thanks to Harry, who scored six in an incredible 10-1 victory to equal the record for a winger in Scottish football.

In 1960/61 Harry was an integral part of the team that lifted the Scottish Cup, playing in all but one of the eight matches, and the following season netted Dunfermline's first ever goal in European competition, against St. Patrick's Athletic. He also scored the late winner that knocked Everton out of the 1962/63 Fairs Cup.

Having recognised Harry's ability to read a game, Jock Stein converted him into a very effective inside-forward and during experiments with an innovative 4-2-4 system he became one of the first 'midfield' players in Scottish football.

In his last full season at East End, he helped the club return to HampdenPark by scoring the opener in the 2-0 semi-final win over Hibs and although he did the same in the Final, Celtic came from behind to defeat Dunfermline 3-2.

Although Harry had adapted to a new role coaching and captaining the reserves, Aberdeen manager Eddie Turnbull thought that he still had something to offer and paid £10,000 for his transfer on 8th October 1965. The following season he captained the Dons to fourth place in the league, its highest position for eleven years, and once again came up against Celtic in the Scottish Cup Final, losing 2-0.

Early in 1969 Harry took over as player/manager of Berwick Rangers and guided the club to sixth place in the old Second Division in 1973/74, at that time its best-ever position. At East EndPark, however, the club was struggling to come to terms with life after league reconstruction and the sudden resignation of George Miller saw his former team-mate persuaded to take over on 10th September 1975.

The failure to qualify for the inaugural Premier League was a body blow to a club already suffering severe financial problems and, as crowds dwindled even further, Harry could do little to halt the decline as the Pars slid almost helplessly into the Second Division.

After two near misses, promotion was finally achieved in 1978/79 but, although Dunfermline seemed to be slowly rebuilding, pressure intensified on Harry following a poor run of form, particularly at home, during 1980/81. Having suffered a bout of serious illness a couple of years earlier, he decided that managing a cash-strapped club was a thankless task and he handed in his notice on 9th December.

It's worth noting that Harry brought some extremely popular players to Dunfermline, such as Bobby Robertson, Jim Bowie, Paul Donnelly, Hugh Whyte, John Salton, Mike Leonard and Sandy McNaughton. One thing he probably won't want to be reminded of is that he is now the oldest-surviving Dunfermline manager.

After a period during which his only interest in the game was as a Pars supporter, he returned to East End in May 1990 as general manager but it was as a player that Harry Melrose gained legendary status. His total of 106 goals in 271 appearances remains the third highest in club history behind Charlie Dickson and Bobby Skinner.



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