Still regret abandoning the Hi-Hi

Updated: Sep 10

Third Lanark’s demise was inevitable because it was deliberate. Fifty-two years on it’s obviously far from being the most important event in my life, but to this day I still regret abandoning the Hi-Hi.

If Third Lanark had survived the deliberate mismanagement of club chairman and biggest shareholder William Hiddleston in the early 1960s I would never have thought of supporting anyone else, even after my move to Dundee.

However, I can’t even claim to be one of the small number of Thirds supporters who remained loyal to the very end. In December 1966, the aforementioned Mr. Hiddleston and his cohorts decided to sell the club’s last remaining decent player, top scorer George Fyffe, to Airdrieonians. That was the final straw for me, or perhaps it was just a convenient excuse for a nineteen-year old who, surrounded by teasing Celtic-supporting work pals, had become increasingly embarrassed to admit he was a Thirds supporter.

In any case, I never went back to Cathkin. Six months later such a return was no longer an option as Third Lanark, past champions of Scotland, twice Scottish Cup winners and one of only two clubs to be founder members of both the Scottish Football Association and the Scottish League, ceased to exist.

In the same period, December 1966 to May 1967, I finally became aware that something very special was happening across at Celtic Park. The team looked unbeatable in Scotland (except when they played Dundee United!) and their supremacy was being extended beyond our little country. I started going to Parkhead for domestic and European matches with workmates and although the football (and the atmosphere) was amazing, I concluded I was never cut out to be a supporter of a big team.

That was underlined six weeks before Celtic’s match with Inter Milan in Lisbon. A guy called Harry Hood moved in across the road from our house in Glasgow. Apparently, he was a part-time footballer with Clyde and had previously played for Sunderland. I’d never heard of him.

In 1967 Clyde were on course to finish third top of Division One behind Celtic and Rangers and the Bully Wee had also reached the Scottish Cup semi-final – against Celtic. I decided to go along to Hampden. What I saw was a very brave and skillful Clyde performance and their star man turned out to be Harry Hood. He was a fantastic dribbler and could score with either foot. The gap between his skills and the standard I had been watching at Cathkin in the run-up to the Fyffe sale was marked.

When Thirds folded, I never gave Celtic another thought. It was Harry Hood and the Bully Wee for me and I followed Clyde home and away for nine years…then in 1976 I moved to Dundee, permanently as I thought.

So out went Clyde, and in came Dundee United, at that point still the smaller of the city clubs but that was about to change. For the next ten to fifteen years I watched the best football I had ever seen or was ever likely to see in Scotland. I followed United all over the place, saw them win two League Cup Finals and clinch the Premier League championship (all at Dens!) and experienced fantastic European nights at Tannadice, including the highly emotional UEFA Cup final against Gothenburg in 1987.

Amazing memories, but you know what? I’d swap them all to still be able to wander along Cathcart Road to Cathkin to watch the dear old Hi-Hi. Clyde and particularly United still mean a lot to me but emotionally they seldom came close to Thirds. Starting to support another team when you are nineteen or twenty-eight just can’t compare with the team you spent every minute thinking about when you were a schoolboy – and I refer to my non-existent academic qualifications to back up that last statement.

Third Lanark’s demise was inevitable because it was deliberate. Fifty-two years on it’s obviously far from being the most important event in my life, but to this day I still regret abandoning the Hi-Hi.

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