Soapbox: on to Kilmarnock & Burnley as the summer starts here

Well, that’s the retirement malarkey over and done with. Thursday at work was an emotional day, culminating in the presentation of a framed, signed photograph of the 1973 FA Cup winning side. It is now replete on my living room wall, sandwiched between a photo of Niall Quinn and another of Marco, rolling the second goal past Fat Burridge in 1990.

The day on the Trans-Pennine Ale Trail went swimmingly. If the old maxim “A man can be judged by the quality of his friends”, then I must rank somewhere between the Dalai Lama and MK Gandhi as a truly wonderful person.

The beer was excellent and the company exceptional. I heartily recommend the Riverhead Brewery Tap in Marsden and the West Yorkshire Refreshment Rooms on Dewsbury Station. Wonderful places to have a pint or two.

It was a day minus serious mishaps, apart from Mr Pete Horan clambering on board the wrong train at Dewsbury and returning to Huddersfield instead of embarking for York. He caught up with us eventually.

Courtesy of Wood Minor, we were able to get the score from MoenchenGladbach, although it failed to excite us. It seems to have been a decent performance, with some solid defending and tight midfield play but without a great deal of punch up front. Ji Dong-wan appears to have had a decent game and looks to be higher up the food chain than Connor Wickham at the moment; midfield selections for the final pre-season games will be interesting.

I have no intention of getting into lengthy discussions about the importance of pre-season as I firmly believe that a good one is usually followed by a disappointing start to the league programme.

We should treat the German tour as a team bonding exercise and start to tighten the fitness levels and general awareness of each other at Rugby Park, Kilmarnock on Wednesday night.

They opened their SPL season on Sunday with a useful 1-1 draw at Dundee United. Saturday’s Guardian had Killie as favourites for the drop, so they may well have something to prove to their fans before they open their home programme against Motherwell on Saturday.

They did have Kevin Kyle for a while and we did long ago sign Sandy McLaughlan from them.

McLaughlin was a goalkeeper who arrived in September 1964, after we had gone into a First Division campaign with a 15-year-old goalkeeper as the sole replacement for Monty who had broken his arm. Derek Forster (for it was he) had done well enough in his opening games but it was clear that a more experienced keeper was required.

We had no manager at the time and the directors were buying players and picking the team. They picked Sandy up for £12,000 from Killie and, for a short man (5’8”), he did well. I remember him having a blistering game at Elland Road in January ‘65 when he stopped just about everything that an increasingly powerful Leeds United could throw at him.

His final game for us was one of legend. New Year’s Day 1966, at home to a decent but not brilliant West Bromwich Albion side and he had a stinker as we lost 5-1. Memory tells me he was responsible for all of them and the rumours went round the ground that he had celebrated Hogmanay a little too well. Rather than having a piece of coal in his pocket for good luck, it was more as if he had a sackful of the stuff on his back. He never played for us again, moving back to Ayrshire in July 1967.

After Kilmarnock, we head for Burnley, Hartlepool and Hibernian, all decent sides, so by the 13th of next month we could well be ready for our day at Anfield. Maybe one more to come in. Who will it be? …

Next Post