Alistair Hunter – From 214BB to Scotland Goalkeeper

Ex Member Alistair Hunter recounted his football career at our Annual Reunion in 2019.

I can remember my first game ever and it was for the Lifeboys at Knightswood Park on a cold frosty morning. I had a heavy wool polo neck, satin pants that my mother made, old socks with the feet cut off as knee guards, and my school cap. I must have looked like a refugee. The strip the team wore was navy and blue stripes.

When I graduated to the BB team, the original strip was green and white stripes. Apparently, the thought was that it would never clash with other teams.

Bob Valentine ran the team which had some really good players like Willie Law, Gordon Ferguson, Donnie Gemmel, Eddie Thomson, Hugh Fulton, Archie Longwell and my brother Stuart.

As I was so small, I would frequently get thumped by enthusiastic opponents and I can remember Archie and Stuart used to take great pleasure in retaliation on my part.

The abiding memory of those days were the dressing rooms. Yes, the long dark compartments with no light, no heat, no water. You frequently came out with half of somebody else’s clothes on.

Hyndland Secondary School Team Ally is the wee boy in the goalie jersey 4th from left on back row.

In 1966, when I was 16 going on 17, I went on to Drumchapel Amateurs following in the footsteps of many Scottish players and run by a great BB man, Dougie Smith.

Two years later, Johnstone Burgh were looking for a replacement for their injured goalkeeper. They had won the Scottish Junior Cup the previous week and my name was put forward by Jim Arthur who some of you may know through the bowling fraternity.

Junior football was a big step, as the standard then was very high, but I loved it. It was a good side and we got crowds into the thousands. We won the Evening Times Trophy that year.

One night at training, I was called into the manager’s office to find Walter McCrae, the Kilmarnock Manager there. He asked if I would sign for them as a part timer.

In those days to be a Kilmarnock goalkeeper was to follow in the footsteps of great Scottish Internationalists, Jimmy Brown, Campbell Forsyth, Bobby Ferguson and Sandy McLaughlin. I jumped at the chance. £15 a week, £12 in the summer. Ronaldo eat your heart out!

I learnt a lot playing reserve football and you have to learn quickly or your career ends even quicker.

The Kilmarnock team in those days had the likes of Jackie McGrory, Billy Dickson, Frank Beattie, Tommy and Jim McLean, and Ross Mathie, another BB boy.

Ally in full flow March 2019

We went on a 4 week tour of Rhodesia at the end of the season and I made my first team debut in the town of Wankie!…..Yes! Was that a sign?

On our return, we went on an exotic pre season tour of Hull, Grimsby and Wolverhampton. I made my British first team debut at Grimsby. I was in the squad for the Fair Cities Cup that year where we played at Zurich, Slavia Sofia before going out against Bacau in Romania.

I got into the first team and became a regular and the following season I was picked by Bobby Brown for the Scotland Under23 team versus England at the Baseball Ground, Derby. We drew 2-2.

They had players like Kevin Keegan, Mick Shannon and Malcolm McDonald. We had Kenny Dalglish, Asa Hartford, Martin Buchan and Lou Macari. Later that year we beat Wales 2-0 at Pittodrie.

Following that, I progressed to a full International cap against Peru at Hampden which we won 2-0 with goals from Denis Law and John O’Hare. This was followed by a Scotland trip to Brazil with Tommy Docherty to play in the Independence Cup.

I played in one of the three games against Yugoslavia at the Belo Horizonte stadium which we drew 2-2. I was on the bench for the final game against Brazil at the Maracana. Bobby Clark was in goal and we were unlucky to lose 1-0.

They had players including Gerson, Rivellino, Tostao and the scorer Jairzino.

I had been playing well at Kilmarnock although still part-time.

One day at work I was approached by a colleague who was a friend of Sean Fallon. He asked if Celtic were to approach Kilmarnock for me, would I be interested?

A “no brainer” as they say today. I had already played with Scotland greats like Law, Bremner, George Graham etc., now I was playing with 80% of the European Cup winning side, McNeil, Murdoch, Johnstone, Lennox etc.

George Connelly looking on and I think it is Joe Harper on ground in the League Cup final.

Celtic had been losing goals and I was lucky to hit the best form of my career helping to turn their fortunes around and win the league at Easter Road in 1973.

In the same month I was picked to play for Scotland against England at Wembley. Few things can compare with walking out to 100,000 people at Wembley against England.

Scotland squad at Largs. Willie Morgan, Lou Macari, Jim Holton, Billy Bremner, me and Sandy Jardine.

I was aware of Wembley being a graveyard for Scottish Goalkeepers but I played well despite injuring my ankle in the first half. We were unlucky to lose 1-0 to a Martin Peter’s goal with Shilton making a great save from Dalglish to avoid levelling the game.

Wembley 1973

I finished that season playing in Jackie Charlton’s testimonial at Elland Road. I also played for the Scottish League v English League.

Wembley 1973

Later that year was the biggest game in Scotland’s history till then. The final qualifying game for the 1974 World Cup against Czechoslovakia. Considering it was almost 50 years ago it’s amazing how people still talk about their memories of that game.

Needless to say, I have mixed memories having conceded a soft goal in the first half. I misread a dipping shot from Nehoda which silenced the Hampden crowd. However, Scotland never got things the easy way and I managed to hold it together for the rest of the game and the rest of the team played magnificently to win 2-1 and qualify for the World Cup in Germany. I was on the bench for the academic return game in Bratislava but didn’t play for Scotland again.

Recording “Easy Easy” and album at Polydor in London for the 1974 World Cup in Germany.
The Scotland Squad receiving their World Cup cars (on loan) after qualifying for Germany 1974.

I remained at Celtic until 1976 winning another League Championship medal and being involved with European Cup games in places like Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland, East Germany and Iceland.

Scottish Cup final 1973 Rangers 3 Celtic 2

I moved to Motherwell for a couple of seasons which included playing against a Mexico Select in the Aztec Stadium, Mexico City, as well as games in Haiti and Bogota.

Following that Alex Ferguson signed me for St. Mirren where I finally ended my career.

A few years later some ex-players and personalities got together and formed the Charity side Dukla Pumpherston (Sawmill & Tannery). It started off small but grew into a monster.

Dukla Pumpherston. Back: L to R Jimmy Bone, Bobby McCully, Unknown, me, John McCormack, Gerry Collins, John Brownlie and Andy Ritchie.
Front: Chick Young, Jackie McNamara, Pat Clinton, Johnny Hamilton and Jim Brogan.

We travelled all over the country at our own expense to support local charities. We eventually raised our own finance through our Dinners and expanded into games against initially British Forces in Germany, Cyprus, Gibraltar, Hong Kong as well as matches in Mexico, Cuba and Brazil.

Dukla Pumpherston in Rio De Jeneiro

Regular players who played for us were John Brownlie, Tony Higgins and John Blackley of Hibs, Danny McGrain, John McDonald and Gordon Smith of Rangers, Andy Ritchie and Jimmy Bone as well as Chick Young, Tony Roper and Jonathan Watson.

Dukla Pumpherston

On one such trip to Cyprus my experience in the 214BB Pipe Band served me well.

We played against the Kings Own Scottish Borderers to raise money for a young soldier who had been killed.

On arrival the Army Pipe Band was parading on the park. We spoke with the guys and with me being an ex-Celtic player I came in for particular friendly abuse from a Bluenose drummer.

In response I remarked that Drumming looked pretty easy to do compared to playing the pipes. He took the bait and said “I’d like to see YOU try it!” The colonel was present and sussed my scam. He said “OK Private Campbell, if Mr Hunter can’t perform on the drums satisfactorily, he must contribute £20 to the kitty. If he manages to perform then you will be his batman for the whole day.”

I remarked that the drummer on the end played more than the rest and they copied what he played to be told he was the “Leading Stroke.” I said that I would play his part. Needless to say, despite being pretty rusty, I managed to carry it off before the band collapsed with laughter half way through Scotland the Brave.

That night at the Ceremonial Dinner, Private Campbell had to run from the bottom table to me at the top table to fill up my drink and pass me the bread every time the colonel called him.

It just goes to show that you never know when your days in the 214BB will come in handy.