Former Arbroath manager and cult hero Danny McGrain said he’s hoping the “bearded army” will be celebrating a third division title win on Saturday.
McGrain is still fondly remembered in Arbroath where his trademark chin-warmer made him instantly popular with the fans who wore tribute T-shirts and stick-on beards.
The Celtic and Scotland legend joined Arbroath as manager in November 1992 when the club were in the second division and spent 14 months in charge followed by “Danny McGrain’s Bearded Army.”
McGrain, assistant coach of the Celtic Development Squad, told The Courier he is willing the Lichties to lift their first ever championship on what could be a historic occasion against bitter rivals Montrose at Gayfield.
“I still have a lot of affection for the club and I always look for their results,” he said. “I’m very pleased for the club and chairman John Christison and it’s great for Arbroath.
“I was never aware that Arbroath had not won a championship. To win the championship you have to be at your best and Paul Sheerin’s got to take great credit for the position they are in.
“I know all about the rivalry with Montrose and Montrose will make it hard for them.”
Arbroath was McGrain’s first managerial appointment and his last.
The small matter of an Old Firm derby will take up Danny’s Sunday viewing and he’ll be hoping it’s a double weekend of celebration following Saturday’s shoot-out at Gayfield.
“I’ll be hoping if they don’t win it on Saturday they’ll get it sooner rather than later,” he said. “The supporters are great and I’ll never forget the Bearded Army,” he said.
“Someone had the idea to stick a beard on and it just caught on from there. Apparently it was an old bear costume he had under his bed somewhere that he cut up. It was crazy but brilliant.Good run”They were right behind me, and it was a case of ‘if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.’ It helped the fact we were on a good run and doing well.”
Arbroath reached the quarter-final of the Scottish Cup in McGrain’s first season before going down 3-0 to Rangers in front of 6000 fans at Gayfield with goals from Mark Hateley, Neil Murray and Ally McCoist.
The following season Arbroath suffered a record 9-1 defeat to Celtic in the League Cup, with Charlie Nicholas and Frank McAvennie among the scorers as Liam Brady’s side put the Lichties to the sword.
“When I was in charge we drew Rangers and Celtic, which were obviously high-profile games,” he said. “The whole day was exciting for the Arbroath public and the supporters so it was very memorable.
“It was a great time because obviously Arbroath at that time were never in the papers but the beard caught the imagination of the whole of Scotland.
“We were playing Rangers and Celtic on TV and our fans all had their beards on. It stuck and it raised the profile of Arbroath but suddenly it was more about the beards than the team.”
McGrain was part of Jock Stein’s nine-in-a-row glory days, winning eight league championships, five Scottish Cups and two League Cups.
He spent his final season of his career with Hamilton Academical, where he won them promotion to the Premier League.
McGrain eventually called time on his Gayfield career in 1994 because the commute was getting too much.
He admits though that he loved his short spell at Arbroath. “They were a good bunch of guys and they were prepared to work hard,” he said.
“I just couldn’t go on another year driving from the west coast especially the winter nights.
“I did a good job with Arbroath and thought I would get a job elsewhere but it didn’t transpire. Now I’m back as a coach at Celtic Park.”