FROM AN ARTICLE BY RICHARD BOTT, PUBLISHED IN THE CITY PROGRAMME 19TH DECEMBER 1987
In his twelve years at Maine Road, the popular Glaswegian made 421 League and Cup appearances and won 35 full international caps for Scotland. He made the No.3 shirt his own for seven years after beginning his City first-team career as a midfield player. And he proved a very worthy successor at left back to Glyn Pardoe, though he was not the first to be granted the opportunity. Arthur Mann and Dave Connor were tried first
“All my Maine Road memories are good ones”, says Willie, 35 in October and determined “to carry on playing for as long as I can, until I’m on crutches”
Willie combines playing with coaching at Oldham. but is no rush to venture into management. “I still have a lot to learn about the coaching side and I’ve no real desire to be a manager. I‘ve played under quite a few and appreciate they have a hard job, everybody’s on their back when things ge wrong”.
A few’? A quick count up shows that Willie has served under nearly a score of different bosses! “At Maine Road, I played under Malcolm Allison (twice). Joe Mercer, Ron Saunders, Johnny Hart and Tony Book, And for Scotland, Jock Stein, Willie Ormond, Tommy Docherty and Ally McLeod” There were others at Portland Timbers, Norwich and Burnley.
Now he’s player-coach for Joe Royle, one of his former Maine Road team·mates. And you would need a calculator to tot up all of them!
A product of Harry Godwins scouting network, Willie arrived at Maine Road in 1968, just after City had won the championship im such colourful style, What was it like for a young apprentice in that golden era’? “Brilliant. I was very fortunate to be amongst great piayers who were also very generous people. In fact, throughout my time at City I felt I was in a very happy environment and, naturally, I still have a soft spot for the club.
“I still have so many good friends there, Tony Book, Glyn Pardoe, Ken Barnes, Roy Bailey, Steve Fleet. And I hope they make it back to the First Division for the sake of the fans, who have been so loyal over the last ten years.
Among his City memories are his two League Cup final appearances, end his two goals! Neither of them came at Wembley of course, though he did have a foot in City’s spectacular winning goal against Newcastle United in the 76 League Cup final. “I did the easy bit, taking the free kick. Tommy Booth and Dennis Tueart did the rest,
“I remember scoring against Birmingham City at Maine Road and against Leeds at Elland Road. You do remember goals when you only score two“
His first Wembley appearance, in the 1974 League Cup final, ended in the disappointment of a 2·1 defeat against Wolves. “lt was a good occasion because l’d never played there before. And it seemed to whizz by. We should have won because ot the quality of the players we had but we didn‘t play to our best.
“Two years later, when we beat Newcastle, I was able to enjoy it muoh more.”
“It was disappointing not to win the League championship and we came very close when Tony Book was in charge. Mind you, finishing second wasn’t bad”
Ask Willie his favourite memories of playing for Scotland and his answer comes back as sharp as any of his tackles., “Beating England he says. Like playing for City l was lucky to play with some great players, including Denis Law and Kenny Dalglish. Then there was the 1978 World Cup finals in Argentina, which unfortunately finished up_a big anti·clirnax. I felt sorry for Ally McLeod. Maybe he didnt do things the right way in the finals but his record as Scotland manager was better than he was given credit for”
Willie was transferred to the North American League club Portland Timbers, in March 1980, for,£200,000. “l needed a change and going to America was a very enjoyable experience. Since I came back I’ve played for Norwich, Burnley and now Oldham. And lets hope l can keep going for a few more years”.
Willie at home in Poynton with his Wife Yvonne and Children Kirsty and Daniel in 1978
A TOPPS CARD FROM THE 70’S