#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.

150328 Drumchapel Amateurs (105) (800x533)  150328 Drumchapel Amateurs (110) (800x533)

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

150328 Drumchapel Amateurs (104) (533x800)

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