By David Walker

The Sunday Post (Newcastle) - - FRONT PAGE -

A friend to most, a men­tor to many, Ron Scott was a great sports writer, more than that he was a great man

This page nor­mally car­ries The Voice of Ex­pe­ri­ence, an in­sight­ful, thought-pro­vok­ing and en­ter­tain­ing col­umn, writ­ten by Ron Scott.

It’s ab­sent to­day, leav­ing a void in this news­pa­per which will never ad­e­quately be filled.

Ron, Ron­nie, Scot­tie, Sco­tia – he an­swered to them all – passed away last Satur­day af­ter­noon at the age of 70.

The pre­vi­ous day, he had filed his fi­nal col­umn from his bed in Ninewells Hospi­tal in Dundee, hav­ing asked his brother, Bruce, to fetch his lap­top from home, even though his health was ail­ing.

That was Ron­nie all over, al­ways go­ing the ex­tra mile to make sure his copy reached the of­fice in good time.

His last piece of work landed in my In­box at 12.35pm a week past Fri­day.

A lit­tle over 24 hours later, Ron­nie was gone.

His pass­ing re­ver­ber­ated through­out Scot­tish foot­ball, and beyond, un­leash­ing an out­pour­ing of heart­felt praise from all walks of the game – fel­low jour­nal­ists, play­ers past and present, man­agers, ad­min­is­tra­tors and sup­port­ers.

He was a friend to most, a men­tor to many and es­sen­tial com­pany when­ever jour­nal­ists got to­gether to dis­cuss the game, be that so­cially or pro­fes­sion­ally.

Ever the tra­di­tion­al­ist, Ron­nie didn’t have much time for the per­pet­ual de­bate about sum­mer foot­ball.

That, how­ever, didn’t dis­suade him from declar­ing sea­sons of his own – John­nie Walker Black La­bel in win­ter, Tan­queray gin in the sum­mer.

Unique, funny, re­as­sur­ing, gre­gar­i­ous, leg­endary, im­mor­tal.

Just a few of the ad­jec­tives used to de­scribe Ron­nie amongst the many mes­sages I have re­ceived in re­cent days, and those posted on Twit­ter.

Sadly, that fi­nal ad­jec­tive was in­ac­cu­rate.

It was ironic that his death had such an im­pact on so­cial me­dia, some­thing Ron­nie con­sid­ered “a pest”.

Never slow to have a laugh at his own ex­pense, he would have had chor­tled over that.

In the lat­ter years of his work­ing life, Ron­nie was a re­luc­tant con­vert to modern tech­nol­ogy, pre­fer­ring the old school way of note­book, pen and land­line to lap­tops and mo­biles.

In­deed, he was the last Sun­day Post jour­nal­ist in the 100-year his­tory of this pa­per to phone his match re­port to a copy­taker.

His Sports Ed­i­tor for 28 years, and a pal for longer, I was happy to help him cre­ate an­other mile­stone in his life. And what a life Ron­nie had. Born in his beloved Dundee in 1947, his fa­ther, Jim­mie, was the Scot­tish scout for Pre­ston North End, and Ron­nie was a promis­ing full-back him­self.

He earned a trial for St John­stone. Un­for­tu­nately for him, the venue was Ibrox and his di­rect op­po­nent a fleet-footed young­ster called Wil­lie John­ston.

Al­ready serv­ing an ap­pren­tice­ship in the Process De­part­ment of DC Thom­son, Ron­nie was given an­other trial, this time as a re­porter.

The first match he cov­ered for The Sun­day Post was a pre-sea­son friendly in Au­gust,1968 be­tween Ar­broath and Shrewsbury Town at Gay­field.

He was duly given the op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate a niche for him­self on the Sports Desk, with the rider from one of my pre­de­ces­sors: “If it doesn’t work out, you can al­ways go back to your trade.” Ron­nie didn’t look back. Wem­b­ley Wizard Jack Hark­ness was The Post’s chief foot­ball writer at the time, with an­other for­mer player, Doug Bail­lie, be­ing read­ied to as­sume Jack’s role while Ron was grow­ing his ca­reer and con­tacts book.

Those un­der Jack and Doug all as­pired to be­ing given the house by-line “Bill McFarlane”, af­forded the next in line on the sports desk.

Ron­nie’s eye for a story and skill at cul­ti­vat­ing con­tacts – of­ten in a nearby hostelry – soon stood him out from the crowd.

He duly ac­quired the moniker in the mid-1970s, and with it the un­en­vi­able task of hav­ing to ex­plain to man­agers, play­ers and the like why they were be­ing in­ter­viewed by Ron Scott, but that the story would be writ­ten by Bill McFarlane.

Most took it in their stride, many with good hu­mour.

And even when, in the mid1990s, com­pany pol­icy changed and Ron­nie’s by-line matched his birth cer­tifi­cate, Dundee United boss, Ivan Go­lac, with a glint in his eye, would al­ways greet him with: “And how are you, Beel?”

An­other man­ager, whose view of a game dif­fered from Ron­nie’s, told him: “You were bet­ter when you were Bill McFarlane.”

What­ever his name, Ron­nie be­came a trusted con­fi­dant and men­tor for a suc­ces­sion of man­agers, play­ers and col­leagues.

He de­vel­oped close re­la­tion­ships with many, in­clud­ing Alex Fer­gu­son at Aberdeen, Jim McLean at Dundee United, plus Wal­ter Smith and Gor­don Stra­chan when they were set­ting out on their play­ing ca­reers on op­po­site sides of Tan­nadice Street.

Fine din­ing and long, boozy nights with news­pa­per col­leagues were de rigueur. But the job al­ways got done

That al­lowed The Sun­day Post to lead the way with break­ing sto­ries when the so-called New Firm were on the rise in the early-1980s.

In­deed, Ron­nie was first with the news that Dundee United had sent Hamish McAlpine home from a tour of Ja­pan, thanks to a call he re­ceived from Wal­ter Smith in a Tokyo rail­way sta­tion.

Ron­nie cov­ered the two clubs’ mem­o­rable runs to Euro­pean club Fi­nals, with Aberdeen in 1983 and United four years later.

He also got close to the Old Firm and, thanks to Ron­nie, The Post was also ahead of its ri­vals on break­ing some of the big­gest trans­fer deals to take place be­tween Scot­land and Eng­land.

The fact he had been en­trusted to act as the mid­dle­man – ba­si­cally “tap­ping” a player on be­half of a man­ager – may have had some­thing to do with that!

Ron­nie loved his job, and never re­ally came to terms with the fact that he ac­tu­ally got paid for watch­ing foot­ball.

There were lows, of course. He was at Hills­bor­ough in 1989 when a FA Cup semi-fi­nal was ren­dered mean­ing­less and he be­came a news re­porter for the day.

Ron­nie cov­ered Scot­land’s progress, or lack of it, at the World Cup Fi­nals in 1990 and 1998, was at Euro 96 and vis­ited some weird and won­der­ful places, from Am­s­ter­dam to Za­greb, cov­er­ing Scot­land, the Old Firm and our other Euro­pean rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Fine din­ing and long, boozy nights with news­pa­per col­leagues were de rigueur. But the job al­ways got done.

Ron­nie never for­got his roots, and was a life­long Dundee fan, as well as serv­ing on the com­mit­tee of ju­nior out­fit, Dundee Vi­o­let. Or Dundee Vi­o­lent as he liked to call them!

Ron­nie as­sumed the role of Chief Foot­ball Writer for The Sun­day Post in Jan­uary, 2002.

Even fail­ure to qual­ify for ma­jor tour­na­ments these past 20 years didn’t dent Ron­nie’s air miles.

He cov­ered count­less club trips in Europe, North Amer­ica, even Asia, and per­suaded me it would be “a splen­did idea” to con­vince my su­pe­ri­ors to send him to the World Cup Fi­nals in Ger­many in 2006 and the Eu­ros in Aus­tria & Switzer­land two years later.

Symp­to­matic of the re­gard with which he’s held in Scot­tish foot­ball and beyond, Ron­nie was elected Pres­i­dent of the Scot­tish Foot­ball Writ­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion in 2007, a po­si­tion he held for three years.

He re­tired from full-time em­ploy­ment in 2012.

Ron­nie did so with no re­grets – but con­fided in me he was jeal­ous of cricket cor­re­spon­dents from the early part of the 20th Cen­tury.

“Imag­ine it,” he would say, wist­fully. “Off to Aus­tralia, on a cruise liner, to cover an Ashes se­ries. Out of the of­fice for weeks, no phone con­tact while at sea – and a bar. Won­der­ful!”

Ron­nie en­joyed hit­ting a golf ball as much as the sound of leather on wil­low, but foot­ball was al­ways his first love.

It was a mea­sure of his stand­ing that on the day Ron­nie va­cated the of­fice, a be­spoke mes­sage from Sir Alex Fer­gu­son was played on DVD.

A tragic irony, there­fore, that the med­i­cal de­mons that vis­ited Sir Alex last Satur­day were sim­i­lar to those that ended Ron­nie’s life.

Tonight the Scot­tish Foot­ball Writ­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion will hold its 54th an­nual din­ner in Glas­gow.

More than 600 glasses will be raised in Ron­nie’s hon­our, and our thoughts will turn to his fam­ily.

And I’ll see the big man there, a glass of Rioja in one hand, a fine cigar in the other.

And I won’t be alone in smil­ing, or shed­ding a tear, at the me­mory of a great man.

Ron Scott in the mid­dle of the sort of com­pany he kept, be­fore the 1983 ECWC Fi­nal. To his left is Aberdeen man­ager Alex Fer­gu­son, and on his right, Ian St John, to­gether with jour­nal­ist pals Ian Broadley and Ken Gal­lacher

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