Rangers visit recalls some bittersweet cup memories

WHILE this weekend’s game draws comparisons with Berwick Rangers’ giant-killing of their Glasgow namesakes in 1967, for one man at least, it stirs memories of an earlier meeting.

Friday, 24th August 2012, 7:00 pm

Alexander Fowlis played for Berwick against the Old Firm giants in 1960, in the first round of the Scottish Cup.

He remembers it as the day he and one of his best friends, Willie ‘Wassell’ Purvis, who passed away last month, nearly made history.

Purvis, says Alexander, was “Tough and full of running. He went on to play for Grimsby, as well, for a couple of years.

“We combined well, with him through the middle of attack. I played outside left and outside right - because I could kick with both feet, unlike some players nowadays.”

This is borne out by a Glasgow paper’s match report, which noted: “The strong raiding of Fowlis and Purvis kept the Ibrox rear-guard on their toes.”

Alexander remembers being on a £100 bonus for winning the game - a fortune to players like ‘Wassell’, who worked as a welder during the week.

For a time it looked as though they might pull it off, but though Berwick got to 80 minutes at 1-1, the Glaswegians stole two late goals to avert a shock.

Alexander will be watching the game on TV, and recalling his time at Shielfield, when the team turned out for “£6 a week, with a £3 winning bonus.”

“I remember John Rugg our centre-half, he played that day. He was 6’ 4’’, and he had size 13 feet. He managed to forget his boots for a game at Dundee United. And of course, he went round Dundee looking for a pair but he couldn’t find any in his size, so he ended up playing in these massive baseball boots that he got his hands on.”

Then there was Tom McQueen, father of Gordon, who went on to play for Manchester United and Scotland, and grandfather to Sky Sports presenter Hayley.

“He was our keeper. But back in them days, with everyone having to pull together a lot more, he used to clean up the changing room and help with the grass on the pitch as well.”

There was a slightly different approach to the stewarding of the game as well in 1960.

Back then, the local soldiers of the KOSB were asked to take on the policing of the 15,000 strong crowd.

And the King’s Own Scottish Borderers also had a representative on the pitch.

Astonishingly, as Alexander tells it, Bert Kennedy managed to play regularly for Berwick despite being stationed in Berlin with the KOSB.

“He used to get flown over on a Friday and back again at the end of the weekend. He must have had about a 2,000 mile round trip for every game.

“For home games we were treated splendidly. We used to get put up at the old Salmon Hotel for the weekend.”

Alexander recalls his team-mates with great affection, and that goes for his manager at the time as well.

And he points out that Mourinho and Pep Guardiola weren’t the first managers to stand out on the sidelines.

Alexander’s boss for most of his time at Berwick was Danny McLennan.

Alexander recalls him fondly as ‘Danny Mac.’ “He was an absolute gem of a man, he used to stand there by the bench, always in an absolutely immaculate suit and a smart hat. He was like somebody out of the films.

“He started out at Berwick as a player manager, but that was only a title, really. He was such a gentleman, he would never play himself. He’d always give one of the lads his place.”

McLennan remains the only man to manage both Iran and Iraq - something unlikely to be repeated in the near future.

Living in Edinburgh, Alexander regularly holidays in Berwick, and admits a lasting wish.

“If I ever win the lottery,” he says, “I’m buying Berwick Rangers.”