St Andrews United FC historian Donald Gellatly shares first-hand accounts of the “greatest day” in the club’s history 60 years ago. Michael Alexander reports.
Plans to celebrate the greatest day in the history of St Andrews United Football Club have had to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But that hasn’t stopped the two surviving members of the ‘Saints’ squad who won the Scottish Junior Cup at Hampden Park 60 years ago from sharing their memories.
On May 21, 1960, Romeo Borella and Tommy Will were part of the United squad who travelled to Glasgow to face Greenock Juniors in the Scottish Junior Cup Final.
Remarkably, 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 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’, in the form of 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 inside left Willie Penman promptly added a third with a mis-hit shot through McGinlay’s legs. But Saints’ goalkeeper Jock Lister made a couple of important saves towards the end of the match as Greenock piled forward.
Messrs Borella and Will were recently interviewed by St Andrews United club historian and programme editor Donald Gellatly.
Borella recalled that confidence was high amongst the St Andrews United players on the back of some impressive results in previous rounds against formidable opponents.
However, what sticks in their minds most are the jubilant scenes when the final whistle blew and the rapturous reception when they arrived back home in St Andrews.
“The final whistle eventually sounded and the travelling fans from St Andrews roared in appreciation as United captain John Hughes climbed the stairs of Hampden’s main stand to collect Junior football’s most prestigious trophy,” Mr Gellatly told The Courier.
“Borella later expressed disappointment that stewards stopped the celebrating squad from parading the trophy around the perimeter of the pitch yet there were no such issues when the victorious players arrived back in St Andrews.
“United’s medal winning left half and bulldozer driver Tommy Will recalled that the streets of various North East Fife villages on the route home were lined with well-wishers, whilst the team bus struggled to travel along South Street in St Andrews because the crowds were so large.
“Will also remembers a pipe band marching in front of the bus and the civic reception held at the town hall prior to celebrations continuing at the Cross Keys Inn.
“Borella, who played in the final with a broken jaw, also notes the Scottish Cup heroes had never previously played together as an 11, though Will states that was never going to be a problem because the players could all depend on each other and the team spirit was fantastic.
“The result meant St Andrews United thus became only the second team from Fife (at that time) to win the Scottish Junior Cup (after Inverkeithing United in season 1912/13) but Borella and Will are the only surviving members of the starting 11 from that famous day 60 years ago.”
Mr Gellatly said the current St Andrews United committee was hoping to mark the May 21 60th anniversary and the club’s forthcoming centenary with a marquee event on the pitch at Recreation Park.
Not surprisingly, that has been postponed due to the coronavirus situation.
A golf day has been rescheduled for October. However, new dates have still to be found for the marquee gathering and special friendly matches, including a fixture against the present Greenock Juniors’ team.
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