Obit­u­ary: John Lambie

The Herald - - NEWS - MATT VALLANCE

Foot­baller, man­ager of Hamil­ton ac­cies and Partick This­tle and pi­geon fancier Born: March 19, 1941;

Died: April 10, 2018

JOHN LAMBIE, who has died aged 77, was one of the most leg­endary of foot­ball man­agers, par­tic­u­larly through his lengthy as­so­ci­a­tion with Partick This­tle, where, fol­low­ing three sep­a­rate spells as man­ager, he was club vice-pres­i­dent at the time of his death.

Born in the West Loth­ian coal­field in Whit­burn, Lambie was leg­endary for his use of “col­liery lan­guage”. A doc­u­men­tary about his time as This­tle man­ager, which in­cluded a seg­ment, filmed in the Firhill dress­ing room at half-time as Lambie mo­ti­vated his team, is be­lieved to hold the world record for the use of a “bleeper” to cover up Lambie’s mas­tery of early An­glo-saxon in­vec­tive.

He was also a jour­nal­ist’s dream with his one-lin­ers, such as the time he was told by the club physio that, af­ter tak­ing a blow to the head, This­tle player Colin Mcglashan “doesn’t know who he is”. Lambie’s re­sponse was: “Slap him in the face wi’ that f***in’ wet sponge, tell him he’s f***in’ Pele and send him back on.”

Then there was the time, af­ter a gale-lashed game at Rugby Park, when Lambie, a renowned and suc­cess­ful pi­geon fancier, en­tered the press room and in­formed the as­sem­bled hacks: “Ah wid­nae hae sent ma doos oot in that.”

His fa­ther’s ploy of tak­ing the 14-year-old down Polkem­met Col­liery to put him off the miner’s life worked, but foot­ball was his saviour. He played ju­nior foot­ball with home town Whit­burn, be­fore, still only 18, go­ing up­stairs with Falkirk. He made more than 200 ap­pear­ances for the Bairns, be­fore a trans­fer to St John­stone, where he had the best years of his ca­reer in Wil­lie Or­mond’s great side. Orig­i­nally a mid­fielder, Lambie con­verted to full-back, and in well over 150 games for the Saints he helped them to a best-ever third place in the league, a League Cup fi­nal and the club’s first ex­cur­sion into Europe. It was here, too, that he had his first ex­po­sure to coach­ing, be­fore mov­ing to Hamil­ton Ac­cies, as as­sis­tant to Lis­bon Lion Ber­tie Auld. He also had a spell un­der Ed­die Turn­bull at Easter Road – when, he in­sists, it was he rather than Tony Hig­gins (who has claimed own­er­ship of the leg­end) who found Ge­orge

Best in bed with Miss

World and a bot­tle of cham­pagne.

In 1984, he suc­ceeded Auld and im­me­di­ately man­aged Ac­cies to the First Divi­sion ti­tle and a tilt at the Premier League. He also mas­ter-minded one of the great Scot­tish Cup shocks, when Ac­cies beat Rangers 1-0 at

Ibrox in 1987, with Adrian Sprott earn­ing im­mor­tal­ity with the cru­cial goal.

He then moved to Firhill, for the first of three stints as Partick This­tle man­ager, but quickly re­turned to Hamil­ton, be­fore, re­al­is­ing his mis­take, he re­turned to Firhill, to a strug­gling This­tle team, which he picked up, shook up, then took up to the Premier Divi­sion and kept them there for three years.

But life was al­ways tough at Firhill and Lambie moved on, to orig­i­nal club Falkirk. But, this was another bad move on his part; he quit af­ter seven months, and spent a frus­trat­ing pe­riod as a mere spec­ta­tor, be­fore he an­swered an SOS to come back and pick up the pieces at Firhill.

In his ab­sence, This­tle had plunged down the leagues, and even looked for a time likely to fold. Now, there have been var­i­ous Firhill fairy sto­ries over the years but the man­ner in which Lambie stead­ied the sink­ing ship, tak­ing over with the club seem­ingly doomed to a drop into the bot­tom divi­sion, and guid­ing This­tle back to the Premier Divi­sion, is one of the best. He kept them there too and, in 2003, he called it a day and re­tired from man­age­ment – apart from a brief cameo as care­taker boss the fol­low­ing sea­son.

His love of his “doos” was well-known; at one time he had over 80, plus a string of grey­hounds. Lambie was also an SNP sup­porter and a man who em­braced and reg­u­larly at­tended church. He said: “I un­der­stand doos bet­ter than I do foot­ballers, but not as well as I do grey­hounds.”

He was an out­spo­ken and, with his lik­ing for big cigars, an at-times out­landish but gen­uine char­ac­ter who could bring the best out of foot­balling char­ac­ters such as the afore­men­tioned Best and

Chic Charn­ley.

He was fiercely com­pet­i­tive, but the hu­mour was al­ways there and post-match press con­fer­ences in Lambie’s of­fice at Firhill were al­ways won­der­ful af­fairs, since you never knew when he would pro­duce the mem­o­rable quo­ta­tion – but, you could guar­an­tee he would.

Maybe Lambie and the Jags were sim­ply made for each other. Need­less to say, he is in the Partick This­tle Hall of Fame and, less be­liev­ably, also the Falkirk one.

Lambie was am­i­ca­bly sep­a­rated from his wife Mamie, who sur­vives him along with his three daugh­ters and grand­chil­dren.

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