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Class of 1979: St Johnstone and Rangers legend Ally McCoist as you’ve never seen him before

Rangers Ally McCoist
Ally McCoist was still at school when he signed for St Johnstone and started his journey to becoming one of the all-time greats of the game.

The days of Super Ally were still some way off when he was a fresh-faced 16-year-old at East Kilbride’s Hunter High School.

McCoist was taking his first steps in what would be a trophy-laden career with St Johnstone, Sunderland, Rangers, Kilmarnock and Scotland.

McCoist brought the curtain down on his glittering career in 2001 and we have taken a look back at some memorable images from his life and times.

Picked up at the school gates by Sir Alex

Sir Alex Ferguson used to pick McCoist up from school and give him a lift to training while he was manager of St Mirren.

Rangers Ally McCoist
Ally McCoist went to Hunter High from 1974 to 1979 and he is pictured in his final year at school in January 1979.

McCoist would train with the youth team at Love Street but Sir Alex did not fancy the slightly-built striker, fearing he was too small.

”You have got to do your studies, and stick in at school,” said McCoist.

“My school days were some of the happiest days of my life.

Ally McCoist walking to school in East Kilbride.

“When I started playing for the school team, I was lucky that it was run by someone as knowledgeable and talented as Archie Robertson, my chemistry teacher who played for Clyde when they won the Scottish Cup.”

He signed for St Johnstone in 1978 and was introduced to the first team by manager Alex Stuart when he was still studying at Hunter High.

Rangers Ally McCoist
Ally McCoist signed for St Johnstone from Fir Park Boys Club.

McCoist made his St Johnstone debut on April 7 1979 in a 3-0 win over Raith Rovers.

The rest is history.

He scored 27 goals in 68 games for St Johnstone.

Ally McCoist pictured in 1981 during his spell at St Johnstone.

Rangers, Wolves, Middlesbrough and Sunderland all tabled offers in excess of £300,000 for McCoist.

Alex Rennie was appointed St Johnstone manager in April 1980 and said the club wouldn’t let McCoist go without a fight to keep him.

“Alistair has learned a lot in this, his first full season,” he said.

“But he would improve in many ways by remaining here for another term.”

McCoist scoring for St Johnstone against Ayr United in 1981.

Alan Durban’s Sunderland signed McCoist for a club record fee of £400,000 where he would become the poster boy for a squad which was undergoing a major revamp.

McCoist scored his first Sunderland goal in a 3-2 defeat at Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest but his first season was a huge disappointment.

McCoist only managed to score one more goal in his debut season where Sunderland beat the drop with a final day win over Manchester City.

Ally McCoist pictured in 1982 during his time at Sunderland.

McCoist would end his second year with just six goals in the English First Division before a £185,000 move to Rangers at the end of the 1982-83 season.

Sunderland manager Durban said the signing was a case of “right player, wrong time”.

McCoist went on to score 355 goals in all competitions for Rangers in a 15-year spell at the club from 1983 to 1998.

He holds the record for the most goals in the Scottish League Cup and in European competitions, with 54 and 21 goals respectively.

Rangers Ally McCoist
McCoist amongst his Rangers colleagues in August 1983 during the team line-up picture for his first season at the club after signing for John Greig from Sunderland.

He found his home at his boyhood heroes and won over the fans after a difficult start with a hat-trick in the League Cup Final victory against Celtic in 1984.

McCoist was the top goalscorer as Rangers won their first league title in 11 years in the 1986-87 season following the arrival of manager Graeme Souness.

During his time at Rangers he won 10 league titles, nine League Cups and one Scottish Cup along with the European Golden Boot twice with 34 and 49 goals.

Ally McCoist playing for Rangers against Dundee at Dens in 1992.

He also scored 19 international goals in 61 Scotland appearances and played at the 1990 World Cup finals and the 1992 and 1996 European Championship finals.

A stunning strike by McCoist in the final game at Villa Park against Switzerland was Scotland’s first and only goal of the tournament.

Rangers Ally McCoist
McCoist is denied by England goalkeeper Peter Shilton in the 1989 home international at Hampden.

He left Rangers in 1998 and wound up his career at Kilmarnock for three seasons where he played his final game against Celtic in May 2001.

“Overall I have no right to look back with regret or remorse,” he said.

“It has been like being on the biggest and best roller coaster ride ever for 23 years.

“I have had the chance to live out every schoolboy’s dream.

“Sure, it has not been plain sailing all the way but it’s been some experience and the good times have far outnumbered the bad ones.

“The great thing is I have probably learned more from the downs than I have from the ups.

“So there is no way I can stand here and say I wish I was just starting out again.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.”

Rangers Ally McCoist
McCoist brought the curtain down on his career at Rugby Park with Kilmarnock.


1979–1981 – St Johnstone 68 appearances (27 goals)

1981–1983 – Sunderland 65 appearances (9 goals)

1983–1998 – Rangers, 581 appearances (355 goals)

1998–2001 – Kilmarnock, 63 appearances (14 goals)

TOTAL GAMES – 777 (405 goals)