1971

Scot who gave Gra­ham Tay­lor his big break

The Sunday Post (Newcastle) - - POST MATCH - By Brian Fowlie sport@sun­day­post.com

THERE will be a re­minder of the Army Game later this year in Scot­land.

A Hearts leg­ends team will take on the Bri­tish Army Over-35s side in March to raise money for the Sol­dier’s Char­ity.

Dur­ing the era of Na­tional Ser­vice, the Bri­tish Army XI com­ing to a ground near you was quite an at­trac­tion.

Big crowds paid to watch them tak­ing on clubs sides and league se­lects.

The big draw was the chance to see in­ter­na­tional stars along­side fa­mil­iar faces from the Scot­tish League.

It wasn’t easy to get a glimpse of those fa­mous names in the time be­fore wall- towall tele­vi­sion cov­er­age.

As well as pro­vid­ing a splash of glam­our for sup­port­ers, it also gave some play­ers the chance to line- up with a few il­lus­tri­ous team-mates.

John McTurk was a tough- tack­ling full­back with St Mir­ren when he ended up skip­per­ing the best of Bri­tain’s young tal­ent.

He re­called: “I’d started my ca­reer with St Mir­ren be­fore be­ing called- up to serve with the Royal En­gi­neers.

“At first I was loaned to Wrex­ham, but that didn’t re­ally work out.

“I pre­ferred to play my foot­ball up in Scot­land and the club agreed to fly me up and down from Fleet in Hamp­shire for matches.

“Not every­one looked for­ward to do­ing

mil­i­tary ser­vice, but be­ing a foot­baller cer­tainly made it a bit eas­ier.

“You got away with a lot if you were in the Bri­tish Army team.

“I was also in my reg­i­ment’s team and that meant you were train­ing and play­ing games most of the time.

“I was part-time with St Mir­ren, work­ing as a joiner, so I was prob­a­bly as fit as I ever was dur­ing my time in the Forces.

“It was back to train­ing two nights a week at Love Street – Tues­days and Thurs­days – af­ter I was de­mobbed.”

The Bri­tish Army side were reg­u­lar vis­i­tors to Hearts, Hibs and Rangers.

In 1958, they made their way north to play Aberdeen in front of an 8000 crowd.

John went on: “Most of the other play­ers went on to be­come full in­ter­na­tion­al­ists but I was given the hon­our of cap­tain­ing the side.

“As­ton Villa’s Gerry Hitchens was all the talk for Eng­land at the time and he hit the net for us be­fore Rangers’ Davie Wil­son gave us a 2-1 win.

“We played other sides in Eng­land, like Ply­mouth and Ever­ton.

“Al­though we didn’t train to­gether and only met up be­fore the games, we were never de­feated dur­ing my time in the side.

“The matches were very com­pet­i­tive. The op­po­si­tion teams def­i­nitely didn’t want to lose to us.”

Play­ing for the Army team was a great ad­ven­ture for John, but it didn’t help his chances of get­ting a game with St Mir­ren.

Dis­plac­ing John “Cock­les” Wil­son proved to be a tough task.

He said: “I played in the sec­ond round of the Scot­tish Cup in 1959, but then I was dropped and didn’t make it for the Fi­nal when we beat Aberdeen.

“That was a dis­ap­point­ment, but it was just one of those things. You hoped there would be other fi­nals com­ing along.”

John, now 80, left the Saints to join Queen of the South in 1961.

He then had spells with Ayr United, Stir­ling Al­bion and Al­bion Rovers

His time for Mor­ton was no­table for be­ing on the score­sheet along with Gor­don Smith in a 2-0 win over Queen of the South.

Smith, the for­mer Hearts, Hibs and Dundee leg­end, was play­ing his last- ever league match in Scot­land.

■ Gerry Hitchens scored for the Army against Aberdeen in 1958.

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