Andy StevensonThursday, 8th Feb 2018
Dunfermline Athletic Football Club is deeply saddened to hear of the death of its former Trainer and Physiotherapist Andy Stevenson who passed away on Monday 5th February 2018.
26 December 1919 – 5 February 2018
Andy Stevenson was born in the miners’ rows at West Benhar, just outside Shotts in Lanarkshire, on Boxing Day 1919. Like many of his generation, Andy left school at 14 and started work as a Moulder at the Lion Foundry near Kirkintilloch. When the Second World War began Andy applied to join the RAF but his application was delayed since he worked in a vital wartime industry. however, he managed to join six months later and became a Rear Gunner/ Radio Operator with Transport Command as part of a team delivering planes from England to North Africa. When Andy was demobbed in 1946 he worked briefly at Singers in Clydebank before moving to Lenzie where he was employed as a Storeman in a colliery.
Up to this point there is no mention of either football or physiotherapy, but that was about to change, thanks to his father Andrew. Andy’s Dad ran professional athletics races, from sprints to marathons, which were very popular in the post-war years, and were potentially quite lucrative thanks to the amount that people gambled on the races. However, there was a significant cost involved in bringing in specialist trainers to make sure that athletes were fit for races, so to try to save himself money, Dad Andrew encouraged Andy to train as a physiotherapist. There then followed three years of hard graft as Andy continued his day job as a Storeman while going five nights a week to the Athletes’ Clinic and Glasgow University to train as a physiotherapist.
Andy became a qualified physiotherapist in the early 1950s and became a member of the Faculty of Physiotherapists but ironically he never used his skills for the purpose that his father intended because by then his father had finished with the sport. Instead Andy slowly built his reputation in what was in those days a new profession through referrals from local doctors. His first football involvement came when he became Physiotherapist for junior side Kirkintilloch Rob Roy towards the end of season 1960-61. It was no coincidence that in his first full season there Rob Roy won everything including the Scottish Junior Cup, the Central League Championship, Coronation Cup and the Dumbartonshire Cup. While at Kirkintilloch one of the players was Martin Ferguson, brother of Alex, and the Ferguson connection thus became a big part in his life from that point on.
In 1963, Andy took up a part-time job as Assistant Trainer with Third Lanark then a year or so later, he decided to apply for two jobs for two First Division teams that were recruiting at the time – one was Partick Thistle and the other was Dunfermline. Luckily for the Pars, Andy didn’t get the Thistle job, but after being interviewed by Willie Cunningham, the new Pars manager, and Leonard Jack, Andy was appointed. Andy, who had never played football but rather had been a runner with Glasgow`s Springburn Harriers, later said that he knew that Cunningham favoured him because, as someone from a non-football background, Andy wasn’t perceived as a threat to Cunningham’s own job!
On 23rd June 1964 Andy Stevenson was appointed as Head Trainer at Dunfermline. Andy’s professionalism and expertise were soon being put to good use as Dunfermline, in Andy’s first season with the club, very nearly pulled off an unlikely league and cup double. And the following season, Andy took over as Caretaker-Manager for three games when Willie Cunningham was admitted to hospital, and a pretty good job he made of it too, defeating Partick Thistle in the Scottish Cup, securing an away draw with Spartak Brno in Europe to see the Pars win on aggregate, and drawing an away league match, all of which allowed Andy to quip that he had been the only undefeated manager in Dunfermline’s history!
For those who might wonder what Andy was like in his job, there is nothing better than the account of one of the leading players of the day, Alex Ferguson. In his autobiography ‘Managing My Life’, Alex Ferguson has a couple of things to say about Andy Stevenson:
“Whereas Tuesday training sessions under our physio-trainer Andy Stevenson were spectacularly gruelling, on Wednesdays the players were often allowed to relax at the local swimming baths”.
And then this:
“Andy Stevenson… was a master at rubbing away aches and tensions.”
Not a bad reference from a man whose judgement became legendary.
Andy continued his important role, even after Dunfermline had decided to replace manager Willie Cunningham in 1967, and was a key part of the 1968 Scottish Cup win and the subsequent dizzy heights of the European Cup Winners Cup semi-final against Slovan Bratislava in 1969.
When things took a turn for the worse, the Board decided to sack manager George Farm in October 1970, but such was their faith in Andy Stevenson that he immediately took charge as caretaker manager. In the games that he was in charge it was said that there was a visible improvement in performance, particularly against top teams Celtic and Aberdeen. When Alex Wright became manager he brought in his own backroom team but retained the services of Andy Stevenson as Physiotherapist. Andy remained in post and under George Miller saw the Pars gaining promotion back to the First Division. In the summer of 1974 and after ten seasons at East End Park, Andy left to take up position as Physiotherapist at Tynecastle with Hearts.
Andy remained at Tynecastle for a further ten years until in the summer of 1984 and just six months before his retirement age, Andy was made redundant by Hearts. However, retirement wasn’t going to happen because shortly after this Tom McNiven, the Hibernian Physiotherapist, took a heart attack and Andy was called upon to fill the gap. but McNiven never did return and Andy remained at Easter Road until he was 72 years old before finally retiring.
Both during and after retirement, Andy’s services were much sought-after, and being the kind of person he was he would help out local sports groups as well as national figures. He was an almost permanent Physio to Olympic Gold medallist Alan Wells in the six months prior to Wells winning at the Moscow Olympic Games. He was held in high regard by the Doctor of the Scotland Rugby Team and was employed to travel to the Borders rugby teams and to support the likes of Scotland hero, ‘Mighty Mouse’ Ian McLaughlan. In one of his more interesting assignments, he was employed to look after both male and female ballet dancers from the Royal Ballet when they were performing in Edinburgh. But as well as the stars, he also looked after the local people too – boys from the local under age teams, runners who trained up at Townhill, rugby players at Dunfermline Rugby Club, and his own friends and neighbours.
Andy always had a soft spot for Dunfermline – in part no doubt because he has continued to live just around the corner from East End Park. In his later years he went to see the Pars a few times until his eyesight deteriorated. Andy’s wife Janet passed away in 2003 but he did everything to keep himself fit by walking every day and looking after his garden. In 2013 Andy was admitted to a care home, Craigie House in Crossgates which is where he lived until his death.
Andy was much admired by all those who knew him and who benefitted from his great skills. Dunfermline Athletic were very fortunate to have him in the backroom team at East End Park in the most remarkable period in the club’s history and his influence on the confidence, ability and fitness of the playing squad was enormous. His contribution was recognised in September 2007 when, alongside his great pal Sir Alex Ferguson, he was inducted into the Dunfermline Athletic Hall of Fame.
When fans look back at the glorious 1960s, they will always naturally turn to the favoured players of the day – guys like Harry Melrose, Bert Paton, Pat Gardner, Alex Smith and Alex Edwards to name but a few. But those same players know that they would never have been able to become the players they did without the knowledge, expertise and support of one of the best physio-trainers around, Andy Stevenson.
Our sincere thoughts and condolences are with son Andy and his wife Beth, daughter Noreen and husband Clive, and to the four grandsons that Andy was very proud of - Eric, Stuart, Clive and Mark.
Andy`s funeral will take place on Friday 23 February at 11.30am, Dunfermline Crematorium.