#WFC1982 – Keith Pritchett & Drumchapel Amateurs

McAvoy & McIntyre Trophy, Round 2
Scottish League 1
Drumchapel Amateurs FC v Wellhouse AFC
Ayr United v Brechin City
Saturday, 28th March 2015, 2pm
Saturday, 28th March 2015, 3pm
Glenhead Park
Somerset Park
Entrance n/a, Programme n/a
Entrance £15, Programme £2
Distance (from Vicarage Rd) 401 miles, Attendance 1 (me)
Distance 393 miles, Attendance 986
Having stood patiently in line, it was as if I’d uttered a magical password for hypnotic recall. Behind the Avis desk at Glasgow International Airport – negotiating the release of a stupidly inappropriate Mercedes – a very amiable and hard-working lady named Karen paused and stared wistfully into the distance.
“Oh, my dad played for Drumchapel… many, many years ago.” She smiled before recounting some of the many more illustrious alumni that the club boasts “The list goes on and on… Oh, it’s such a special club… They got all their players through the Boys’ Brigade.” Snapping back into reality, she sighed “I’d talk all day about it, if there wasn’t this massive queue.” And there it was; my delightful welcome to Scotland and a small insight into the almost mythical world of Drumchapel Amateurs.

150328 Drumchapel Amateurs (10) (800x450)

Speaking via email to Keith months before, he’d articulated how “Drumchapel was the best Amateur Club in Scotland; they produced hundreds of professional players over a fifty year period. Douglas Smith was the founder of the club; he was also a leader in the Boys Brigade. I was asked by them to join when I was 14. They had 4 active teams; U15/16/17/18… Before I left them they purchased a ground [Glenhead Park] in a place called Duntocher. Duntocher Hibs, a Junior side had gone under and Douglas was in quickly to buy the ground.”
Whether or not he was a descendent of BB founder Sir William Alexander Smith remains on my to-do list but, Arnott Young shipyard owner Douglas Smith (1/8/27 – 25/2/04) was also the Captain of the 1st Drumchapel Boys’ Brigade for 25 years. Without any doubt, Douglas’ passion for football lead to “his boys” turning out in two different leagues under two different associations.
When summoned by SFA Secretary Willie Allan to explain such audacity, in 1950 Douglas established Drumchapel Amateurs and – implementing many Boys’ Brigade tenets – turned them into the benchmark for Scottish youth football.

150328 Drumchapel Amateurs (87) (800x533)  150328 Drumchapel Amateurs (97) (800x533)  150328 Drumchapel Amateurs (93) (800x533)

It had been raining throughout the night but an hour after leaving the Karen to her thoughts; I was sitting in the Drumchapel private members club over-looking Glenhead Park. With me Club President, Jim Wood (Keith’s former coach at The Drum), and Club Secretary, Charlie Devlin, waxed lyrical about club matters. Then once the inquest into the cancelled game had subsided, a stack of old photos and club memories became our focus.
Of Keith, it wasn’t long before Jim jovially recounted “He used to be at my door every Sunday morning, wanting a ball to play with; him and Billy Paxton.”
150328 Drumchapel Amateurs (22) (800x450)Recalling his experiences in those successful times Pritchett explained, “Playing in the Scottish Amateur League 15/16 for two years… we won it aged 16.” continuing “The U17/18s both played in the U18 league and my side won it as U17s. All the way through this period, I also played for my Victoria Drive school team who won the Glasgow Cup and were second in the Scottish Shield. Out of that school team, myself and Tom McAdam (Celtic) made the professional ranks. When I think back we were a tight knit group with a few leaders on the pitch.” Summarising his young football life, Keith told me “It was two games on a Saturday with a bit of lunch thrown in.”
The “lunch” was another Douglas Smith initiative. Held at Reid’s Tea Rooms, boys would be fed after their morning matches before being driven to Drum fixtures in the afternoon. Demonstrating their then status in the hierarchy of Scottish football, in the next room 1881 Scottish Cup winners, Queens Park, were doing exactly the same thing.
Recounting life in Smith’s club; Jim and Charlie (both former Drum players) recalled the history from Clydesdale & District Youth Amateur League – where the side originally played under the name “1st Drumchapel BB” – to their current life in the Central Scottish Amateur League. Explaining their countless successes, Jim explained “You had to be the right standard to be picked by Douglas. It was invite only.”
Whilst Douglas’ hand-written diaries and numerous photos helped fill in the blanks, in the corridors underneath us, the true magic of this club’s past exploded into life. Shelf upon shelf of trophies, pennants and programmes; signed memorabilia and team photos filled with countless household faces. There was evidence of numerous foreign tours – regularly facing the likes of Barcelona, Milan and Schalke – and then standing in the home changing room to finally witness the pièce de résistance. Under every peg sits a numbered plaque naming former players who’ve gone on to represent the national side.

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Among the many, names from my youth leapt out; Asa Hartford, John Wark, Archie Gemmill, Alex Ferguson, John O’Hare, David Moyes, Mo Johnston, John Robertson, Pat Crerand… All the while Jim and Charlie were there – sound-tracking this vision – with endless tales of Man Utd’s generosity and how Kenny Dalglish was originally rejected as Hartford was already at the club. There was so much one could hardly take it all in.
I doubt I’ll ever find the words to truly explain the enormous importance of that dressing room on the sporting world, or the visionary hard work of Douglas Smith’s footballing family. For Keith, life was all about football; like numerous others Drumchapel afforded him the outlet.
“My dad was a policeman in Glasgow for 30 years and my family upbringing was very stable and supported my football ambitions.” Though he also trained at Rangers, playing for The Drum showcased his talents – first at left wing then left back – he explained “I was selected for the U18 Scottish Amateur team and, when we played England away I was scouted by Wolves. Hibs, Hearts and Kilmarnock were also watching but, it was Wolves where I trialled and eventually signed.”
With our match at “the best facilities in Scottish Amateur football” sadly cancelled, Charlie let me tag along to watch another former Drum full back now plying his trade at Ayr United; his son Nicky Devlin.
With two fantastic covered terraces behind the goals; in days gone by Somerset Park rocked through the late 60s and 70s. Now however, the club is involved in a dogged relegation battle near the foot of the third tier.
The game started in tight conditions with Ayr winning many of the opening exchanges without scoring. About me shouts of both encouragement and frustration came aplenty, most of which I could understand. As predicted by Charlie however, when Ayr failed to take the lead they deserved, a sloppy mistake put them a goal down.
150328 Drumchapel Amateurs (136) (800x533)Half time pies came and went, substitutions were made and just minutes later Ayr were level as Brian Gilmour headed home. The interval’s tactical change moving Nicky from centre back to his preferred wide berth, also began to pay dividends. His ranging runs up the wing started to penetrate and four minutes after parity had been restored, Nicky had been brought down in the box.
By the time Jon Paul McGovern fired home the resultant penalty, Nicky was pleasingly back on the half way line; attentively taking instructions from the bench.
The rest of the half was mainly one way traffic with Ayr spurning chance after chance of clear cut openings, whilst Brechin desperately tried anything to prevent the tide. Unsurprisingly, cards flowed freely, Brechin were reduced to ten men and Ayr made one more mistake at the back…
In the end a draw felt like a loss but the point may yet prove invaluable come May.
We’d driven in convoy far further from Glasgow than I’d ever imagined let alone planned but, sitting amongst the Clan Devlin – discussions on the superiority of black boots aside – the family support felt as strong as that of The Drum.
Wondering about Nicky’s relationship with Drumchapel, later in the week he told me “It was my earliest memory of watching football and being about a football club. From a really young age I used to go; I loved it.”
Discussing the impact of the modern premier leagues Jim and Charlie spoke of academies “plucking” the best talents without much hope of ever reaching their potential in a quick-fix society, one uttered “The be-all-and-end-all is not Celtic or Rangers”
150328 Drumchapel Amateurs (92) (800x533)Nicky also confirmed “There are still great opportunities to prove yourself. It’s still massive honour to play for The Drum; it’s still known for being the best set up outside professional clubs, so young boys are proud to play there. They prepared me for the professional game in the best I could. Being part of that great set up made my step up to the professional game much easier!”
Charlie explained, “We’re trying to get back to how we started; to Doulas Smith’s vision; his SPIRIT.”
At the entrance to the home dressing room a sign details; Standards, Pride, Inspiration, Respect, Integrity, Teamwork. These were the words of Douglas Smith; from his Boys’ Brigade to one of the great youth amateur sides…
Whilst Keith has now made his name in New Zealand, I finally wondered whether Nicky might ever return to Glenhead Park to help them again progress. “Yeah it’s definitely something I would never rule out. I still enjoy going to watch them, and I owe a lot to them for helping my career.” Demonstrating the togetherness of The Drum he concluded “I’m sure my dad would love me to do it also!!”
Final score: Drumchapel Amateurs FC P-P Welland AFC         
Final score: Ayr United FC 2-2 Brechin City AFC

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Because these articles are initially appearing in the 2014-15 Watford FC matchday programmes, they will consequently have a delayed publication on here.
[pics to follow]


Posted in #WFC1982, 2014-2015, McAvoy & McIntyre Trophy, Scottish League 1 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#WFC1982 – Pat Rice & Arsenal Youth

Premier Academy League
Arsenal U18 v Norwich City U18
Saturday, 28th February 2015, 11.30am
Shenley Training Centre
Entrance £free, Programme £none
Distance (from Vicarage Rd) 9 miles, Attendance 53
In 2012, one website ran a series of polls to determine Northern Ireland’s Greatest Ever Football Team.  For the number-crunchers among us, such a process is a most worthy past time; to others it just provides conclusive evidence of the level of player popularity.
Narrowly missing out on the right back slot to Jimmy Nicholl – but easily the most popular “substitute” – was Patrick James Rice. Proving this was no fluke, in 2008 Arsenal arrived at much the outcome.
Achieving his fame through “hard work and luck”; Pat’s playing style was both uncomplicated and unwavering; he was the one upon whose foundations others’ limelight was celebrated. Because of this, at both his league clubs Pat will forever be idolised as an essential squad member. Without any doubt, the roots of this standing in the footballing world were sewn decades earlier.
With his father sadly passed away, in the late 50s Pat’s family moved from Belfast to Islington. His two older brothers – an electrician and a plumber – were already working in the area Pat explained and, his mother “didn’t want to break up the family.”
Arriving in Monsell Road, Pat was just nine years old. His mother went to work for Alf Wilson who ran the greengrocers on Gillespie Road; his older sister to Stephens Ink Factory on the same street. Being the only sibling still of school age, young Pat attended St Joan of Arc but when school was out “we played [football] in the streets; we played in the parks.”
At the same time Spurs’ coach Micky Doolan worked for the local council. His task was to scout local youth teams and “pick the two best players in each school”. These lucky boys would then be given trials, from which the Islington and Hackney sides were selected.
Though Pat wasn’t one of the chosen ones – “Quite rightly. I was not good enough for Islington” – amiably he explained that because of the locality, he was invited “to train with Islington, on Monday and Thursday evenings, on the gravel pitch behind the Clock End.”
Some years on, Arsenal were rocked with an injury crisis. Reserves were called into the first team to cover, youth players moved up accordingly and, unattached young amateurs drafted in to cover the gaps in the youth squad. Having seen Rice’s attitude to training, Dennis Evans and Ernie Collett – the Arsenal U16 coaches – approached Pat and, in 1964 he signed apprentice forms to let him play for their youth team.
Pat explained. “I wasn’t good enough for Islington but, I’d go in early for training. I’d run a lot to bring up my fitness, and worked hard to improve my technique. Mine was a never say die attitude.”
It wouldn’t be the last time Pat benefitted from being in the right place at the right time. Sixteen years after joining Arsenal, “coincidence” was the term Pat used for the Sam Ellis scouting mission to Loftus Road.
Having won the 1971 double and just lifted the 1979 FA Cup; Pat was “thinking of moving to the US” and had “sort the advice of Bertie Mee on this a year before.”
Pragmatic enough to appreciate “Arsenal were thinking of the future.” Rice had been looking at other options. America and the Millwall player/manager post were both in the frame but, the matter was decided when Graham Taylor asked Ellis for feedback. The response was simple “I haven’t found you a player; I’ve found you a captain.”

150228 Watford U18 v Swindon (15) (800x534) 150228 Watford U18 v Swindon (16) (800x534) 150228 Watford U18 v Swindon (22) (800x534)

Pat still considers himself fortunate to have benefitted from “great coaches” like Dave Sexton and Don Howe however at Highbury he “was only concentrating on trying to play.” When Rice came to Watford, Taylor and Tom Walley nudged him towards to imparting his invaluable experience and work ethic.
Once “thinking of moving into coaching”, Pat started working with Tom. “We used to do school boys on Mondays, in a gym in Watford town centre. There were two age groups.” This gave him both the grounding for his eventual return to Highbury, three years later, and the opportunity to be involved in all three of Arsenal’s double winning seasons.
Though he’d won the 1966 FA Youth Cup, Rice was keen to point out that from his experience “Both at Watford, and especially at Arsenal, they weren’t bothered about youth sides winning; the main focus was on player progression.”
Promoted from within to Youth Coach by Howe, the pair were in regular contact. Later George Graham encouraged total unity in the ranks and “used all his coaches for scouting”.
Pat’s Arsenal Youth side would “play just like the first team, in case they needed to step up.” Off the pitch “they tried to calm things down” clarifying “They could encourage as much as they liked; what we didn’t want was parents shouting instructions from the side lines.”
It was at this juncture that our conversation drifted to my weekend watching youth football, and the differences to Pat’s time both as player and a coach of this level.
Timing things perfectly, I’d taken in three games, at both Rice’s old clubs and also one of Europe’s finest Youth Academies; Schalke 04.
Whilst a visit to any Watford fixture will for me be a welcome experience – overlooking the fact that Bernard Mensah was enjoying a cooked breakfast and I couldn’t even get toast – I was quite taken aback to find so few fans watching the match. Swindon’s impressive Tom Smith aside, the eventual 3-0 win for the Hornets demonstrated much promise in our youngster’s performance.
Away from the match, the training ground is a fine place to catch a game. The staff and players were only to keen to welcome regulars and, the facilities for supporters made the neighbours seem like the poor relations. All this made leaving at half time for my intended destination – if they’d let me in – somewhat unsatisfactory.
150228 Arsenal U18 v Norwich (16) (800x534)  150228 Arsenal U18 v Norwich (18) (450x800)  150228 Arsenal U18 v Norwich (20) (450x800)
With a later kick-off, next door Arsenal’s U18s were about to take on Norwich City. At the main gate autograph hunters were being held back by security but having earlier created an opening, I thought I’d give it another go. Up the drive I hesitantly drove, nodding knowingly to stewards as if I was meant to be there; knowing all the while I probably wasn’t….
Look if there’s a confessional for this type of footballing white lie then undoubtedly, I need to go. It should be noted that I had indeed jumped through all the right hoops to attend this game; I’d called the club numerous times, and then emailed my formal request months in advance. I even got an official standard reply. Just because it didn’t actually specify approval, does that mean I shouldn’t still try? Imagine if Pat Rice had given up so easily I thought, justifying my actions.
After the disappointing application process – the less said about the one vending machine the better – at the gate it was a delight to find real people with football in their heart. At the George Armstrong Memorial Pitch the stewards were again superb; one was helpfully only too pleased to discuss their great Irish players of the 70s.
On a fantastic artificial surface, the game itself was a tight affair with Norwich deservedly coming out on top. Norwich took the lead through a tame penalty decision which Todd Cantwell scored. George Couzons added the second from close range. After the break a superb Josh Da Silva strike pulled one back but, the visitors’ lead was restored moments before time by Dexter Peter.
Clearly there was huge potential skill out on the pitch – the young referee with the extraordinary beard was easily the highlight – but some absurd petulance made the viewing it as much of a strain as the plummeting temperatures.
And all too often even my son could see the obvious. “They need to spread out more, and pass the ball.” he muttered incredulously midway through the action. Mistakes in play I however could forgive any young player of; for me the biggest disappointment came in the soulless atmosphere dictated by the strict viewing rules.

150301 Schalke A Junioren v Wuppertal (111) (800x533)150301 Schalke A Junioren v Wuppertal (161) (800x533)150301 Schalke A Junioren v Wuppertal (48) (800x534)150301 Schalke A Junioren v Wuppertal (19) (800x450)

In total contrast, the following day at Schalke, supporters of any hue were welcomed in their droves. They mingled easily with players and could stroll freely round the entire Gelsenkirchen campus. There were bars open and food outlets serving fantastic footballing delicacies, and the teams in return served up an entertaining five goal thriller.
Considering myself truly fortunate to speak with Pat and have attended all three games, the stark disparity between my Arsenal and Schalke experiences left me wondering again about club priorities. At the latter, youth football was openly celebrated, not hidden, yet they could still count four current World Champions from their ranks.
Remembering how he similarly used to appear on the Vicarage Road pitch – all hard working yet contented – hearing Pat freely admit “I was very fortunate but, I had to fight hard for everything.” was unsurprising; his pleasant yet short reply to my final question was even less so. Do players have to fight now?
In 2008 Pat was understandably named 17th in Arsenal’s Top 50 “Greatest Players”. Could he have been a World Champion too? In his “passion and love of the game” he certainly had the right qualities.
As Arséne Wenger said of Pat “He had 100% genuine commitment every day and you respect that when you see that from somebody… You would love to be in the trenches with Pat and those are very difficult qualities to find in modern society.”
Final score: Arsenal U18 1-3 Norwich City U18
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Because these articles are initially appearing in the 2014-15 Watford FC matchday programmes, they will consequently have a delayed publication on here.
IMG_8580 (800x533)   IMG_8582
Posted in #WFC1982, 2014-2015, Premier Academy League | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment