Michael Alexander speaks to St Andrews United FC historian Donald Gellatly about a big year of celebration ahead.
It was the greatest day in the history of St Andrews United Football Club.
On May 21, 1960, United travelled to Hampden Park to face Greenock Juniors in the Scottish Junior Cup Final.
Remarkably, coming at the end of a season that saw the St Andrews club sustain only one loss on the way to claiming the Fife League title, the 11 men who faced Greenock in front of 34,603 fans at Scotland’s national stadium had never previously played altogether.
The team was also selected by the club committee rather than the coach and went into the final as massive underdogs.
However, in true ‘Roy of the Rovers’ fashion, the Fifers returned to St Andrews not only with the cup after a 3-1 victory but with their very own ‘Roy Race’, one Romeo Borella.
The Crail restaurateur beat Tail o’ the Bank goalkeeper Mike McGinlay with two terrific solo efforts in the second half, having switched positions with Jock Fraser from outside left to inside right at the interval.
Future Rangers and Newcastle United star, Willie Penman then added the third.
The victorious squad received a rapturous welcome back in St Andrews when met by thousands of cheering locals between the West Port and the Town Hall.
Captain and future referee John Hughes held the Scottish Cup out of the team bus window as the procession headed along South Street and the heroic players met the Lord Provost prior to enjoying a long night of celebrations at the Cross Keys Hotel on Market Square….
As the 60th anniversary approaches, St Andrews United historian and programme editor Donald Gellatly has enjoyed researching the detail of that remarkable day.
However, with the 2020/21 also season marking the centenary of St Andrews United Football Club’s formation, he is also helping to organise a series of events to mark the bigger occasion – and he is hoping that former players and club associates will get in touch.
“The first problem we faced whilst choosing dates for the centenary events was deciding when the club was actually formed,” explained Donald.
“The committee of the mid-1980s added the date of 1920 to the official badge based on advice from the Scottish Junior Football Association.
“It was thought that the current St Andrews United was a continuation of a club called St Andrews Comrades yet a quick online search of the British National Newspaper Archive two years ago clearly showed those two sides were completely different outfits.
“Further research resulted in discovery of the real date of St Andrews United’s formation, which was May 17, 1921.
“Yet there are some large decorative badges around the ground at Recreation Park that would not be easily amended to reflect a date change.
“The badge on the official club website and match programmes therefore shows 1921 as the date of formation, whereas the crest on the Facebook page still shows 1920!
“However, everybody on the St Andrews United committee is happy to acknowledge 2020/21 as being our centenary season and that provides the opportunity to host events this year and the following year.”
Mr Gellatly said a sub-committee has been formed to manage planning and organisation of centenary events.
The first event in the pipeline to mark the centenary is an evening get together for a buffet and musical entertainment involving supporters and former players. Sub-committee chairman Ian ‘Tottie’ Barrie is organising that function for Saturday June 20, 2020 at 7.30 pm.
Club chairman Johnny Strachan has expressed a desire to erect a marquee on the pitch at Recreation Park and the plan is to invite a number of former players as well as members of the local community.
“The exact format of the evening is still to be determined regarding speakers, entertainment, food and pricing,” said Donald, “but fundraising to cover costs is well underway, with a recent sponsored walk raising more than £800.”
The sub-committee has also discussed producing a commemorative booklet for the dinner featuring a short history of St Andrews United plus a few old photographs from the archives.
“I have thus spent the last 10 months trawling through the club’s leather-bound minute books and old newspapers to produce a suitable review of the last century,” continued Donald, “though former committee member Ken Morton is working on a more substantial book on the same subject.
“An exhibition would potentially take place in the spring of 2021 to coincide with the club’s 100th birthday and there is talk of organising a special ‘centenary’ match around that time, perhaps involving glamorous opposition or former players.
“The current squad will also be wearing a special kit throughout the 2020/21 season and we will announce details of that or any further plans in due course.
“Such ideas include reverting to the original club name of St Andrews United Services just for next season or releasing interviews with former players.”
Donald added that St Andrews United’s move into senior football last summer combined with an upturn in fortunes on the pitch this term has created a feel-good factor at Recreation Park that the committee hopes will generate further enthusiasm and interest in the club over the course of the centenary season.
*As the history project begins to take shape, the club is keen to hear from anybody in possession of old St Andrews United team photographs that could be scanned or copied. Likewise, Mr Barrie’s sub-committee would be interested to hear from any former players who would be interested in attending the celebratory evening on June 20. To get in touch, please contact Donald Gellatly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also urges supporters not to forget the ongoing floodlight appeal:- visit www.gofundme.com/f/floodlight-fund for more details.