31st January 1987 is a date all Accies fans of a certain age remember…Adrian Sprott day!
Three years ago, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary, former Secretary and club historian Scott Struthers caught up with skipper Gerry Collins and scorer Adrian Sprott. Here’s the article from three years ago….
31st January 1987 – Scottish Cup 3rd round – Rangers 0 Hamilton Accies 1
This week marks the 30th anniversary of one of the club’s most famous victories in our history, which saw the name of Adrian Sprott immortalised in both our and Scottish football history.
While the result was certainly a surprise – the bookies had Accies at 16/1 and 18/1 to win at Ibrox – it perhaps wasn’t the ‘biggest cup shock ever’ as some portrayed, after all we were both in the Premier League at the time.
However, it was Rangers first season under Graeme Souness, they had changed the nature of the game in Scotland that season by signing big name big money players from England, including England skipper Terry Butcher. They had already won the League Cup, beating Celtic in the final earlier in the season, and were expected to win the league and hoped to complete a treble by adding the Scottish Cup.
We were bottom of the Premier, and had famously gone until the end of November before winning our first league game of the season, 3-1 at Hibernian’s Easter Road. Over the next eight-nine weeks we had picked up a couple more wins and some points here and there, including a draw at Pittodrie, a 4-2 Ne’er Day win over Motherwell, and had beaten St Mirren 1-0 at Love Street the previous Saturday. So we weren’t the complete no-hopers as was often portrayed, but the home side were very clear heavy favourites.
Add in to the mix we had lost 2-0 in a league game at Ibrox just a fortnight earlier, in a game which saw Rangers have both Graham Roberts and Iain Durrant red carded for fouls on John Pelosi, and our Bobby Barr suffered an unfortunate leg break after a Terry Butcher tackle. There was a wee bit of spice in the cup tie.
Then there was the prospect of what to do if we drew the game – at that time (old) Douglas Park was without floodlights as new modern pylons were being erected (and would be formally opened against Icelandic side IB Keflavik later in April that season). Any replay would have had to be on a weekday afternoon, or we would have had to borrow another team’s ground.
It was that scenario that lead to Chairman Jan Stepek telling Manager John Lambie that we needed to go to Ibrox to win, as we couldn’t host a replay!
Also happening that day was Rangers goalkeeper Chris Woods entering the record books. Rangers hadn’t conceded a goal in ages and such was the length of time that it would be the 35th minute he would break the British record for most minutes without losing a goal, unless we scored of course!
Woods duly broke the record as Ibrox broke out in applause. The record was then ended soon after as Adrian Sprott netted…and the rest is history.
Around 35,000 were at Ibrox that day with Accies having around 1500 fans in the front section of the Broomloan Stand.
The Accies team – Dave McKellar, Kevin McKee, Adrian Sprott, Ally Brazil, Mark Fulton, Gerry Collins (c), John Pelosi, Stevie Clarke, John Brogan, Albert Craig, John Mailer (sub Alex Taylor). Unused sub Gerry McCabe. Attendance 35,462.
Incredibly, it was our then two record signings (Gerry McCabe £25,000 from Clydebank, and Alex Taylor, £40,000 transfer tribunal ordered fee from Dundee Utd) who were on the bench for us that day. John Lambie’s backroom team was Jim Dempsey, Davy Wilson (the former Rangers and Scotland player) and George Caldwell, with Bobby Reid the physio.
Adrian now lives in Spain and we caught up with him by phone and email last week for his memories of that time; and also with skipper Gerry Collins for his recollections.
For the 30th anniversary, which falls on the day we host Inverness CT in the Ladbrokes Premiership on Tuesday 31st January 2017, here is our interview and stories from Adrian and Gerry……
WHAT ARE YOUR MEMORIES OF THE LEAD UP TO AND WEEK OF THE CUP TIE
Memory does fade over time! I do recall a trip to Blackpool prior to the game. Or trips! These did always seem to coincide with a pigeon convention at the tower. Not sure how John managed to convince the board to travel! Anyway as always John was posted missing at training. I didn’t gamble so I missed most of the late night antics when John appeared. Gerry Collins was driving our mini-bus there and he was trying to lose the following cars by imitating a stall at greens and running red lights, it was hilarious at the time, but we never managed to lose them. We found our top quality accommodation where I shared not just a room but a bed with Alex Taylor! It was large bed thankfully, otherwise the smell of fish would have been too strong, Alex owned a fish shop, I recall. Also we shared the only window, with next door, it had the partition wall, running through it. It was a fight to get fresh air in the room, when the smell of fish got too strong, when next door were feeling the cold! It was January.
I travelled through to Hamilton for the game with Ally Brazil. We may have have had a pre-match meal at Bothwell. We only confirmed the bonus that day, not really giving it much consideration as we didn’t think we would win. Hamilton won that one. I do recall a tongue in cheek remark by John on the bus through to Ibrox that we had to win as we couldn’t afford to draw as Douglas Park would not be available for the replay.
Adrian’s memories are funny! I remember driving round a roundabout several times and the others kept following us! We got up to a lot of daft stuff then but it was great for team spirit.
When the cup draw was made our reaction was very much along the lines of ‘what a great draw it was for the club from a financial point of view’, we hadn’t really thought about going there and winning. Rangers were playing so well that season, they had a really good squad.
We only really discussed the bonus at lunch that day. I’m sure I asked John (Lambie) for £1000 and he said he’d never get that from the Chairman. We settled on £500 win, £500 draw, and a club holiday later in the year.
The week before the Rangers game we had beaten St Mirren at Love Street, and we were going to Blackpool after it. Brogie (John Brogan) had scored for us as we won 1-0. But i remember losing my contact lens near the end of the game and I couldn’t see anything! I was meant to be driving the mini bus to Blackpool and I couldn’t see. I was out on the pitch afterwards with Alan Dick and Scott Struthers trying to find it, but we got it after 10 minutes of searching!
JOHN LAMBIE KEPT CHOPPING AND CHANGING THE TEAM THAT SEASON. EVERYONE WANTS TO PLAY IN A SCOTTISH CUP TIE THOUGH, HOW CERTAIN WERE YOU OF PLAYING?
We always had a great team spirit, mainly because of the West of Scotland humour. John brought in a lot of new summer signings, so the team that began that season was nothing like the side that won promotion. Gradually, the team that won promotion was reunited. I got back into the team then blew it by going to America mid-season. That resulted in me being dropped for some weeks. I was to be playing upfront against Celtic at Douglas Park that week, but ended up as an unused sub in the reserve fixture at Parkhead. However, training with the UCLA football team in America, was perhaps the best thing that happened to me and for my confidence. I gained my place back and I don’t think I looked back, by the time of the Ibrox game I was confident of playing.
I don’t think anyone was a certainty to play. That was the way John Lambie was. He had a habit of chop and change, there wasn’t really any rhyme or reason to it, but it kept everyone on their toes. John was more of a motivator and man manager though, as opposed to tactics and set plays. He got the best out of everyone at that time.
THE FIRST HALF WAS MEMORABLE FOR RANGERS KEEPER CHRIS WOODS BREAKING THE BRITISH SHUT OUT RECORD. HIS RECORD WOULD BE ENDED IN THE 70TH MINUTE. HOW DID YOU FEEL THE GAME WAS GOING?
I remember hearing the tannoy announcement around 35 minutes that he had broken the record. I recall the game in general was backs to the wall stuff. Not because we planned that, just Rangers were a quality outfit, full of quality players and had the vast bulk of possession. But Rangers under Souness were trying to play a European style of football and most of the play was in front of us, not around the side or behind us. As long as Dave McKellar in goal dealt with the long range stuff (which he did) we had a chance. In addition, Kevin McKee had a great game against Davie Cooper and Stevie Clarke was rattling Graham Souness, they were key.
I wasn’t aware of the shut out record at all at the time. I was certainly aware of it after the game, as we broke it! I don’t think anyone would have forecast us beating it. I do remember the scoreboard clock seemingly stuck on 39 minutes for ages, I thought we were never going to get to half time!
WHAT DID JOHN LAMBIE SAY AT HALF TIME?
I can’t recall anything about the half time talk, I hope Gerry can. However, John was not so much the tactical type, but played on motivation. It was always 11 v 11. He believed he had professional footballers on the pitch who knew what to do. There was always some tactics, but he always motivated you, making you believe you were better than you were.
At half time John went on about the Rangers fans, how they were getting agitated, how they were nervous, how they weren’t getting behind their team. That was because we were doing well. He told us to go back out and continue to frustrate them. There wasn’t anything about corners or free kicks, it was just go back out keep working hard, keep frustrating them.
ADRIAN’S FAMOUS GOAL CAME IN THE 70TH MINUTE. TALK US THROUGH IT ADRIAN, AND YOUR FEELINGS AFTERWARDS
I’m not sure how I came to be in the Rangers box, it certainly wasn’t in the game plan. I can only think, marking Robert Fleck, that we just drifted into the Rangers half and I ended up losing him and found myself in the box. I recall we had a free kick on the main stand side of the pitch near the half way line. Gerry, I think, took it. A long ball into the Rangers box, where Dave McPherson, under no pressure and trying to keep possession, took his eye off the ball and it found its way into my path. I struck it well with my left foot across Woods, and the rest as you say is history.
They say silence is deafening, well it was for about 2/3 seconds, after the goal, as the Rangers supporters fell silent in disbelief, before the sound picked up and they got behind their team for the last 20. As for the celebration, I think the Celtic-minded contingent in team celebrated more!
GERRY, YOU TOOK THE FREE KICK, WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER
Shock and disbelief! I remember taking the free kick about 10 yards in. John Lambie wanted me to pass it back to Dave McKellar (in goal), but i thought ‘you can’t do that’, so I played it forward to inside left. Dave MacPherson went to control it, but the ball went under his foot and Adrian got in behind him. What he was doing there I don’t know! But he scored! Mayhem! The late Jim McCluskey was the referee that day and I remember him saying something along the lines of ‘you’ve just woke up the Rangers fans, it’s going to be an onslaught now’.
IT WAS BACKS TO THE WALL FOR THE LAST 20 MINUTES, BUT GERRY HAD A GREAT CHANCE SOON AFTER TO DOUBLE OUR LEAD….
I still can’t believe Gerry missed from two yards! I am sure Gerry will try to convince you it wasfive yards, but believe me…….! Or do we talk in metres now! With hindsight it worked out well for me, but at the time it would have finished the game. I always felt Rangers might get that equaliser, history tells us they always seemed to.
John Brogan was the best two footed finisher I’ve seen, he was that confident in both feet. He was through, but he always wanted to beat the keeper himself, he never wanted to cut the ball back. But I had made a run, and Brogie cut the ball back for my chance. I was that shocked at getting a chance from Brogie that the ball went under my right foot as I tried to shoot. Chris Woods saved it with his foot and Graham Roberts cleared it off the line and into the stand. I should have scored, but I wasn’t expecting to get the ball from John!
THE OTHER PARTICULARLY MEMORABLE MOMENT WAS DAVE MCKELLAR’S MAGNIFICENT SAVE FROM COLIN WEST LATE ON. THAT WAS RIGHT IN FRONT OF US ACCIES FANS. WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER OF THAT?
It was a fantastic save and for me was the definitive moment, where Dave tipped the ball away from the top corner, when I felt we could go on to win.
It was an unbelievable save. Rangers had a corner, Colin West had just come on as sub, and he got in a header from the corner. Big Dave spun round in mid air and made an incredible save. I would have loved to see the stats from that game (that we have so much of in the media now). Had Dave McKellar been at a bigger club he would have been capped for Scotland that season. He was a great shot stopper. Graeme Souness subsequently signed him for Rangers as back up a couple of seasons later.
As much as Adrian scored, it was Dave McKellar’s day too. He was magnificent that day. It was onslaught after onslaught. It was the best goalkeeping performance of any game I have played in. You can talk about Gordon Banks save from Pele, but this was as good.
FULL TIME – WHAT HAPPENED?
We went to clap the Accies fans who were celebrating in the corner. There were a few photo’s taken next to the dugout and then back to the dressing room. I went to the bus as we normally do after the game, only to find only Fergie (the fan) in it. I returned to the stadium to find everyone up in the suite having a beer, so I joined them for one. The enormity of what I had done didn’t register with me. I was more relieved just to have scored again after almost a year. Those on the bus returned to Douglas Park. Ally Brazil had driven there to meet the bus, so we had his car and headed back to Edinburgh. We congregated in the social club at Douglas Park and I recall Alan Dick saying he would substitute that win for survival. No one agreed with him, we all thought we could survive from that point. I guess Alan was correct!
We didn’t leave the park for ages! We were dancing in front of our fans, fully enjoying it as you would. It was an incredible result for every one of us. Rangers were just devastated. The dressing room was chaotic as you can imagine afterwards. It was an incredible feeling. We went upstairs to the post match suite for a beer and the next round draw was live on the radio, we got drawn at home to Motherwell and we all cheered. Then the steward in the suite asked us to leave, so we headed to the bus. One of the Directors, George Fulston, had put our famous fan Fergie on the bus, as he said he was skint and had no money to get home! (Aye right!) But it was memorable so Jan Stepek (Chairman) relented and agreed and told Fergie to sit at the front and not open his mouth. As the team bus pulled away you can imagine how long Fergie’s silence lasted, he started on the Rangers fans still at the front door, then I got it for my miss! When we got back to Hamilton George Fulston gave Fergie £20 and a bottle, and told him to enjoy his night.
THE GAME WASN’T ON TV, THERE WERE NO HIGHLIGHTS, AND RADIO COVERAGE WASN’T WHAT IT IS NOW . IT WAS PRE INTERNET AND TWITTER DAYS, 30 YEARS AGO! WHAT WAS THE GENERAL MEDIA REACTION?
My wife’s (Karen) disbelief about all the attention, and the press at our door about 9am the next morning. Never expected that! In fact a friend, who was a Celtic supporter, telephoned Karen after the game to find that she knew nothing about the score and was a bit nonplussed about the whole thing. I think Karen was in town shopping. It obviously meant a lot to those from the West.
Here’s a story that has never come out till now – the following season, as part of the bonus, we had a club trip to Fuengirola in Spain. We had a bounce game while we were there, it was organised by the ex Rangers manager Jock Wallace (who was managing at Seville), and I recall Willie Henderson (also ex Rangers and Scotland) being there too. But we were in a Scottish bar one night after the game having a beer and all of a sudden over the loudspeaker in the bar came a radio commentary of a football match. It was Richard Park (the Radio Clyde commentator and sports presenter at that time) actual commentary of Adrian’s goal. It was unbelievable. The bar owner recognised us, and he had a tape of the commentary. I had never heard it before, and have never heard it since. (Nor have we!)
THAT WINNING TEAM NEVER PLAYED TOGETHER AGAIN, AS ALBERT CRAIG WAS TRANSFERRED TO NEWCASTLE UTD (FOR £95000) A COUPLE OF DAYS LATER. WHAT DO YOU RECALL?
As one of the many Celtic supporters in our squad, the result meant a lot to Albert. I can’t recall how I heard about his move. Albert was a quality player. I can’t recall how long he was at Newcastle, but we did meet up again at Stenhousemuir several seasons later. He still had quality in those feet. After football, when I was still with the police, I would often see Albert making his deliveries to the headquarters. He never lost his Glesga humour.
You know, I wasn’t aware of that till you just told me. I never knew that team never played together again. However, and here is another one that I don’t think has come out before, which i found out many years later when I was scouting in England. Newcastle were actually watching, and about to sign, Stevie Kirk of Motherwell. They were at the new years day game at Douglas Park when Albert scored all four goals we beat Motherwell 4-2 (another great memory!). They were watching Stevie, but left very impressed by Albert and watched him in our next few games – when he scored at Celtic, then we played Rangers, St Mirren and Rangers again. Albert caught their eye, and he got an incredible move.
THE NEXT ROUND WE WERE DRAWN AT HOME TO MOTHERWELL BEFORE ALMOST 8000 AT DOUGLAS PARK, IT WAS AN EARLY KICK OFF AS WE HAD NO FLOODLIGHTS. WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER?
I recall now, it was the lack of floodlights that caused the comment on the way to the Ibrox game that Douglas Park would not be available for a replay. The Motherwell game was hyped up, because it was a local derby and because of our 3rd round win. Regrettably it obviously fired up Motherwell more than us. A Gerry Philips goal, I recall, gave us some hope, but I think we were well beaten, even if the score was close. There was a good atmosphere at that game.
However, the best atmospheric game I ever played in, despite large attendances at Ibrox and Parkhead, was a 1-2 Scottish Cup defeat at a full Douglas Park, by a high-flying Hearts side in a midweek Scottish Cup 3rd round tie when we were still a first division side (a Monday night in March 1986, it had been postponed several times). John McNaught set up a first minute John Brogan goal that set the place on fire. There was no pre-trip to Blackpool that time, Crieff Hydro didn’t work. John Lambie got it right the following year.
I can’t remember the actual game against Motherwell. In fact I’m certain that I didn’t play in it. (Correct, missed through suspension!). I remember getting beaten, but we had had our day in the spotlight.
IN GENERAL HOW DO YOU RECALL YOUR TIME WITH ACCIES
Very fondly. It took me a bit of time to settle in when I first arrived from Meadowbank. That might have had something to do with my first training session, paired with John McNaught, at least I thought it was him, I only ever saw his back, I thought I was quite quick! My first game was a 6-1 victory against Dumbarton. I scored that day, but unfortunately the ball was (correctly) ruled out of play before Willie Watters cut-back to me. Would things have been different if it had counted, who knows.
I think it was my first trip to Blackpool that settled me into the West culture and into Hamilton. John Pelosi, John Brogan, Stevie Clarke, Jimmy Sinclair, Tommy O’Neil, Gerry McCabe and Gerry all played their part. Or was it this trip that Gerry ran the red lights? John McNaught, may he RIP, remains the best player I played with at Hamilton. Strong, fast (very) and no shortage of skill. It was a surprise to me he didn’t have more success at Chelsea. Another talent wasted. Another highlight was a one-eyed Gerry Collins finding his lost contact lens in the grass under floodlights at Recreation Park, after the game, a 5-4 victory if I recall correctly. How he did it, I don’t know.(Actually, Gerry recalls this as the game at St Mirren, the week before the Ibrox victory, but the 5-4 at Alloa was another great memory, thanks!)
Another was John Lambie cracking his head of the 4×4 beam on the roof of the Raith Rovers dugout, about to go off on one, after we had put the ball unnecessarily out of play.
I had four good seasons at Accies, it was an amazing time. We were a small club and over-achieved at that time based on our resources. But we had great team spirit. It was a wonderful period I had with Accies.
I always felt that the best footballing team i had played with was at Ayr – we had Robert Connor, Alan McInally, Jimmy Murphy, Hugh Sproat in goal, Eric Morris, Ian McAllister, but at Accies there were so many good memories playing alongside good players too.
My move to Accies was the day before the two teams played each other in the league. George Caldwell (Ayr Manager, later reserve coach at Accies in 1986-87, and in the dug out at that Rangers game) told me he felt Accies would go on to win the league and it would be a good move for me, and a chance to play Premier the following season. And I had been at St Rochs in the junors just a few seasons before that. At that time Accies trained 3 nights a week, and we never saw the footballs! It was all about fitness and stamina, and we went on to win the league that season at a canter, scoring many late vital goals. We were fit and organised and hard to beat.
FINALLY, HOW HAVE THE LAST 30 YEARS TREATED YOU?
I now live in Spain. Well, my body is suffering from a 20 year career. Stretching morning, noon and night just to remain upright. I have absolutely nothing to do with football now, apart from watching it on TV and taking the occasional trip to watch my local team Granada FC! I continued working with the Police until I took redundancy at the end of 2011. Early in 2012, I started working with Hawk Plant Hire in their admin team and went out to work in their Sierra Leone operations, supporting the iron ore industry working from the mine in Tonkolili and their depot in Grafton near Freetown. A fantastic experience and continued worked in Sierra Leone until early 2015, through the height of the Ebola outbreak. Sadly the Iron Ore price bottomed, and bankruptcy of the main major iron producers followed. We started winding down mid 2014. However a life experience I will never regret. I worked back in the UK, in Shropshire at Hawk’s HQ but the 5-hour commute each week eventually took it toll. Thankfully, my wife has a successful business that allows me to spend more time in Spain, I still return to Edinburgh often, but do spend a lot of time here. As I speak I am looking out, down the valley, over the campo which is turning orange as the oranges are being harvested. Just to rub salt in the wounds, I had to sprinkle the grass this morning!
I am also lucky enough to be able to travel to Dubai to visit my daughter Blair who lives and works there.
When I left Accies I followed John Lambie to Partick Thistle, having had a loan spell there earlier. Lambie then went back to Accies before returning to Firhill. I became a coach there, under both John and Sandy Clark who became Manager (and would later become Accies Manager), and I eventually became Manager at Firhill. I had a spell helping out at Armadale after I left Partick Thistle, then Alan Rough (another ex Accie from our 1988-89 Premier season), asked me to take over at Glenafton Athletic. We won two cups with Glenafton that season.
After that I became a Watford scout for six seasons, covering games up here and in north of England for them, and took Don Cowie to Watford. I moved to Brighton, where I was Chief European scout, before going to Sheffield United. I was also a match delegate for the Scottish Premier League, being their eyes and ears at many games. I stopped that last season.
Now, I just pick a game on a Saturday with one or two friends and head off there – it can be Accies, Celtic, Partick, Motherwell, St Mirren, Hibs, whoever. I always enjoy watching football and still have many contacts who ask for opinions on players etc.
FROM BOTH ADRIAN AND GERRY –
Many thanks for letting us express our memories of the game and our time in general at Accies. There’s no doubt we both remember it well. Our very best wishes to the club, the fans, and the players, staff and officials.
FOOTNOTE – Of the team that defeated Rangers, John Mailer is sadly no longer with us, he passed away from cancer some years ago.
David McKellar would go on to knock Rangers out the cup again the following season, when he was on loan from us to Dunfermline. As Gerry says above, Souness then signed Dave for Rangers. He was last heard of on the committee at Ardrossan Winton Rovers Juniors, but isn’t there now. Stevie Clarke’s son, also Stephen, is one of our current Accies Academy coaches. John Brogan went on to manage various teams, senior and junior, and is currently in charge of local side Lanark Utd. Albert Craig moved to Newcastle on the Tuesday after that famous victory and played 10 times in the English top flight for them. He was later back with us on loan, before playing at Dundee, Partick Thistle and Falkirk amongst others. Albert Craig’s son Ryan would become a player too, and was at Clyde alongside Dougie Imrie, but is now with Greenock Juniors.