Sunday, July 28, 2013

Nairn County FC Legends night - an enthralling eye-witness account

Thanks to Donald for the following magnificent piece detailing the Legends event organised by Graeme MacLeod in the Seaforth on Friday night: 

"Both the good the bad and the ugly times which form the rich tapestry of Nairn County’s history were recalled at an evening with Club Legends in the Seaforth Club on Friday night.
Graeme Macleod hosted the event and presented it in an entertaining style with Dave Cochrane, captain of the ‘75-76 Championship winning team; Rab Mulherron assistant to manager Mansell Craib when the club reached the third round of the Scottish Cup for the first time in 1986 and Director of Football Peter Mackintosh and current manger Les Fridge at the top table.
‘Ging’ set the ball rolling by asking Rab, now Director of footie, at Loadsamoney Brora, about his memories of that historic Scottish Cup run by a side cobbled together from the amateur and welfare ranks of Inverness and Nairn football when the club was so skint Mansell even used to pay for white liner for the pitch!
Seriously though, Rab lived up to his reputation as  a raconteur and despite his new allegiance to the Dungeon (sorry Dudgeon) Park, he regaled his audience with the harsh realities of life at Station Park during these times of great austerity.
The players were unpaid and I know personally any modest renumeration Mansell received was channelled directly back to the club supplying equipment. But the second round of the Scottish Cup was their finest hour – well more than three hours to be exact because they defeated Meadowbank Thistle , Darren Jackson and Terry Christie’s duffel coat, after a replay in Edinburgh.
Rab gave us a great insight into events surrounding the match including the wonderful tale about Kev Fraser who had severely damaged ankle ligaments and was in plaster days before the match. All the guys were desperate to be in the side for the replay and Rab told of a visit he received from Kev who assured him his ankle was fine but he needed a bit of help to get the plaster off. Now Rab has never to our knowledge been a great horticulturalist. But he laid claim to tackling Kev’s plaster with a pair of garden shears. Mansell was never told, Kevin was in the starting line-up and after 70 minutes turned to the dug-out pleading to be substituted because his ankle was up like a balloon. But it was party time afterwards on the bus journey home after a 2-1 victory put them through to a 3rd round tie with Dundee played out before 3,300 fans on a bone hard pitch at Station Park. We won’t go into the result!!!!
Onlookers in the Seaforth watched as Les and Peter turned white at the tale of the plastered footballer – I got the impression such desperate measures would not be countenanced today.
Dave Cochrane’s pride as captain of the league winning side shone through in his contribution towards an enjoyable evening. His winning mentality and that of his team-mates – who he conceded were not the finest footballing side to have graced the county colours- saw them through an historic campaign to take the top honour – the coveted league title of 75-76.
Dave, without a Pernod and coke in sight, (he settled for a couple of pints of lager), recalled the man management skills of Mac (Innes Macdonald) and his able assistant, trainer George Welsh, as they moulded a team of grafters into a side with a never-say-die and one-for-all-all-for-one attitude.
The might of Elgin, Caley, Ross County and Peterhead suffered humiliating defeats at the hands of Nairn that season.
But it looked as if they had fallen short in the final run in and had to wait for Keith to finish their programme. The Kynoch Park side imploded and couldn’t reach the points totals of Nairn and Fraserburgh. The stage was set for the last play-off ever to decide a Highland League title and Dave delighted his audience with the events of that evening at Borough Briggs when a Nairn team including two trialists – Billy Mitchell and Tommy Wilson wrote their own chapter in club history. The post match celebrations at Stan Brown’s pub – the Canteen - were not bad either. I got home at 5am.
Next up were Peter and Les who is now is in his tenth season with the club as manager. Inevitably Les was asked  - ‘ are we going to be celebrating a second title at the end of this season?’.
Les, as always guarded in his comments, said he hopes with the new signings if they can be in the top four or five towards they end of the season they will be in the mix.
The passion for the club of both these guys was evident to everyone in the room.
Les spoke warmly of his first North Cup success against Forres Mechanics. But the Scottish Cup run of last season undoubtedly is high on his list of the team’s achievements.
The great spirit within the club and the professionalism it demonstrates towards the welfare of its playing staff was never more evident than last season to some of the players in times of greatest need.
Peter was asked what he felt the Chairman and board’s greatest achievement has been since they too over the helm in 1999.
“Saving it,” he replied.
I don’t think he could have put it more succinctly than that because we know not the perilous financial situation the Mackintosh family inherited.
He spoke warmly of his father and brother’s great affection for the club and how they have brought people with skills on to the board and put it in the stable financial position it is today.
Looking forward to next year he is excited about the Centenary. I have been privileged to work with other volunteers beside Peter, Mike, Les Bob et al during the close season watching the transformation that has taken place. I have witnessed the fine detail they go to ensure Station Park is a superbly presented footballing arena for the players and fans. I have seen what has already been achieved INSIDE the stand in the referee’s accommodation. Only thing missing is a Teasmade and Sky TV – I’m sure it’ll be worth five or six penalties a season to us anyway!
“Wait ‘til you see what we do with the changing rooms next year?” was Peter’s parting shot.
“It’s going to be very special.”
And a new enclosure to boot!.
Peter said there is no doubt they would not have been able to progress the works as quickly without the fantastic support of you the fans – so we must maintain the momentum and ensure that we play our part in achieving these targets in 2014.
It was great to see several of the St Ninian ‘75-76 Championship winning team in attendance along with Stan Brown and Robin Mitchell from the County’s Championship side in attendance at Friday’s Legend’s night along with Sandy Finlayson who has a long and distinguished history of service to the club.
Centrepiece of the top table was the North of Scotland Cup – be sure there is going to more silverware to follow!
Ging raised £320 for the Ground Improvements Fund. if you couldn’t make it last Friday and feel you would like to contribute – all contributions gratefully received – we have a helluva lot of work still to do!!!!!!!Thanks Ging and all the speakers for a fantastic evening."

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