Dunfermline Athletic

McSeveney turns back the clock

Saturday, 30th Jan 2010

Pars legends turn the clock back more than 60 years!

Willie McSeveny and Ron Mailer
Willie McSeveny and Ron Mailer

Willie McSeveney was guest of honour in the Kingdom Suite on Saturday when Dunfermline should have played Queen of the South. His career at Dunfermline lasted from 1948 to 1954. It was quite a surprise to the guests in the Kingdom Suite to discover that there was a player alive from that era! The former Pars player went on to make 197 appearances for Motherwell and scored 20 goals for the Steelmen.

Willie, now 81 years of age, played first Pars game against Dumbarton at inside left. He proved that he had a remarkable memory and expanded:-

"People don't know anymore what an inside left is but that is the position I played that day. I can't remember the exact team but the left half was a guy called Davie Noble who had won the Scottish Cup with Clyde in 1939. The outside left was Davie Kinnear who left here and went to Rangers where he finished his career and was the trainer at Rangers for a great number of years.

"Jimmy Cannon (1949-51) was one of the cleverest footballers that I have ever seen in my life. He was the guy who invented dummies, he let the ball go through his legs, things like that. Gerry Mays was a genius, for a small guy he was a great player. This club made a great mistake later on in his career when they gave him a free transfer and he went to Kilmarnock where he had tremendous success. He should never have left this club; we had two marvellous players; Cannon and Mays. We had Jimmy Clarkston at centre half, he used to head aeroplanes when they were passing over. I had great days at Dunfermline and I will never forget them.

"I came here as an inside forward and ended up being picked at left back through circumstances. We were in the Second Division and when we played here against Rangers in the League Cup [September 1951] I was picked to play against Scotland's outside right Willie Waddell. It is my most memorable game because Middlesborough made a big bid for me after the game. That was my most successful game when we beat Rangers 1-0 here. We were in the Second Division; I cannot tell you the Dunfermline team but Rangers team was Brown, Young and Little, McColl, Woodburn and Cox, Waddell, Findlay, Gardiner, Thornton and Rutherford.

"The biggest disappointment was in 1948-49, my first season, on the last day of the season we ended up having to go to Kirkcaldy needing one point for promotion to 'A' Division. It was 30th April 1949. We went through there and it was the day where you were suppoesd to have a letter from the club either retaining you or giving you a free transfer. That day if you didn't have a letter you were automatically a free.

"We arrived through at the ground and got chatting in the dressing room all the players. 'Have you opened your letters lads?' There were five guys who were picked to play in the team that day when we had to beat Raith Rovers who had been been given free transfers. We went out and played the game but unrtunately our goalkeeper broke his arm after ten minutes and there were no substitutes in those days. We played Raith Rovers with ten men and got beat 4-0 but that was the days of Willie McNaughton, Andy Leigh and all those guys.

"I felt really sick because to play a game of such importance where we only need one point, with five guys who were getting freed I thought was a disgrace to this club. That's what happened, I don't think the Directors wanted promotion that year."

Despite a £5000 bid from Middlesboro, Willie was transferred to Motherwell in 1954 only to be re-united with his Pars boss Bobby Ancell the following year. He became the captain of what was termed the Ancell babes - "ten babes and me because I was definitely the oldest."

"The Motherwell forward line was Hunter, Reid, St John, Quinn and Weir - five international players. Behind them was big Charlie Aitken, Bert McCann and the rest of us. I was appointed captain and then coach by Bobby Ancell, serving Motherwell for 20 years as player and coach.

"I joined the team that had won the Scottish Cup in 1952 which was quite an aging team and they had started to break up that team. "When Bobby Ancell came in '54 he started to sign young guys like John Martis, Ian St John, Billy Reid, Charlie Aitken. It was a young team whgere I was probably the oldest. We got to two semi finals and finished third in the league. We never really got to the top but we had a great reputation for playing great football. Ancell brought Flamenco from Brazil to play us and we won 9-2, we beat Leeds United 7-0 and we had an unblemished reputation against foreign teams. Our reputation was built on playing good football."

Willie started his football career at Wishaw Juniors but confessed to loving Dunfermline Football Club:-

"You never forget your first club, I came over here in 1948 from a good distance away - Shotts in Lanarkshire."

Ron Mailer was an apprentice joiner in his father's business in Auchterarder, he explained:-

"I stayed part time until Jock Stein arrived, I am glad I did because that was the best part of my football career."

Everyone recognises Ron Mailer as the first ever captain to lift the Scottish Cup for Dunfermline but prior to that he had played in the Pars team that won the final game of the 1958-59 season against Partick Thistle by the startling, but necessary, scoreline of 10-1. Harry Melrose scored six goals in that game with Alex Smith adding two and Charlie Dickson and George Peebles grabbing the others."

Jim Leishman joked that there had been rumours of bungs that might have influenced the scoreline but he quickly absolved Ron:-

"Not from you, you were a joiner and could only give an estimate!"

Ron admitted that the scoreline had caused much scratching of the head since that eventful day, he added:-

"It was one of those things. These things happen but you should ask Harry Melrose because every time he touched the ball it went into the net.

"The next year when Jock Stein came in March 1960, we were really struggling again but we got the finger out and started playing a bit. He gave us a lot of confidence. He hardy made many changes at all but he had us playing in a different manner where we weren't losing goals. Defensively we played a lot better and that is how we went six games without defeat."

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