Obituary: Colin McAdam, footballer and teacher

Colin McAdam
Colin McAdam
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Born: 28 August, 1951, in Glasgow. Died: 1 August, 2013, in Glasgow, aged 61

The death of Colin McAdam just four weeks short of his 62nd birthday caused genuine shock throughout Scottish football. He died of complications following a heart attack, and his passing prompted many tributes from his various clubs, fellow players and fans.

Though he was never an exponent of silky soccer, McAdam’s skills were underrated, and he certainly scored numerous fine goals in his career. He was also versatile, able to play at centre-forward or centre-half, as strikers and centre-backs were known in those days.

He was, though, the type of honest and wholehearted player whose nicknames of Hoof, Beast and Big Beastie are the best evidence of the prodigious strength and energy that were his main playing attributes, another being his undoubted heading ability.

While he was with Rangers in the early 1980s McAdam and his younger brother, Celtic player Tom, made a little piece of footballing history when they became the first set of siblings to appear on opposite sides in an Old Firm match. They did so on eight occasions, and, happily for family harmony, they each played on the winning side four times apiece.

The brothers had played together on numerous occasions for Dumbarton FC in the 1970s when the Sons had a formidable array of talent pass through their ranks on the way to bigger clubs. Later Scottish internationalists Ian Wallace and Murdo MacLeod were contemporaries in a side marshalled by shrewd manager Alex Wright.

McAdam senior had joined the Boghead club in 1969, a year before his brother, from Clydebank Juniors. It will no doubt seem strange to followers of the modern game that back then players nearly all had second careers and while he was with part-time Dumbarton, McAdam completed the necessary studies to become a physical education teacher.

He is still fondly remembered at Dumbarton, where his feat of scoring from his own half against Arbroath is the stuff of legend.

It was perhaps his need to develop his teaching career that held back McAdam’s development as a professional footballer. He was in his 24th year before a more senior club came calling, and he moved to Motherwell after 70 appearances and 11 goals for Dumbarton.

Used mainly in defence by Motherwell, McAdam notched just three goals in 62 appearances in three seasons for the Fir Park club. He then joined Partick Thistle where he mainly became a bustling striker, scoring 24 goals in 70 appearances for the Jags.

His good form was recognised when he was selected for the now defunct Scottish League XI in 1978, his only representative honour.

McAdam was a key figure in the Thistle side which reached the semi-final of the Scottish Cup in 1979-80, always maintaining the Jags were “robbed” of victory when the referee adjudged a “goal” to be offside. Rangers won the replay and went on to feature in the notorious Old Firm Final that ended in a riot and battle on the pitch.

At the end of that season, when McAdam was already 
approaching his 29th birthday, Rangers manager John Greig signed him for the Ibrox club, saying that he wanted a proven striker.

It was at this point that McAdam featured in another piece of Scottish footballing history. The Scottish Football Association had sanctioned the use of an independent tribunal to adjudicate on transfer issues, this being an era when clubs often disagreed about the worth of a player.

Partick Thistle had valued McAdam in excess of £400,000, while Rangers offered less than £100,000. The tribunal decided on a fee of £165,000, causing apoplexy in north Glasgow.

McAdam duly made his debut for Rangers against Airdrieonians on 9 August, 1980, in a match that ended in a 1-1 draw. Three months later his popularity with the Rangers support was ensured when he scored twice in a 3-0 victory over Celtic.

He would go on to feature consistently in the side over the next two seasons, scoring 12 goals in 31 outings in his first season.

It was a fallow period in terms of league success for Rangers, but McAdam did feature in a 
Scottish Cup-winning side, starting in the 1981 Final against Dundee United and being an unused substitute in the replay which was won 4-1 by Rangers.

He featured as a substitute again in the following year’s final when Rangers were on the wrong end of a 4-1 scoreline against Alex Ferguson’s Aberdeen at the end of a season in which McAdam was used more often in a defensive role.

By the 1983 final, again featuring Aberdeen defeating Rangers, McAdam was no longer a regular in the first team, and his last appearance in a major final came in the Scottish League Cup Final in March, 1984, when he was a second-half substitute in the 3-2 defeat of Celtic.

With Jock Wallace having replaced John Grieg as manager with the brief to rebuild the team, McAdam’s time at Ibrox was soon up and after 99 appearances and 32 goals, he moved to Australia where he played twice for Adelaide City.

Homesickness set in, and McAdam returned to sign for Hearts, for whom he played 
six times, before his former Rangers’ teammate-turned-
manager Derek Johnstone signed him for a second stint at Partick Thistle.

Going back to the junior ranks in his late 30s, McAdam played for Irvine Meadow and Maryhill before hanging up his boots in 1990. He returned to the school gyms to teach PE and was more often seen at junior matches in his latter years.

He did appear on the pitch at Ibrox for one final time last December when he joined a host of former Rangers players to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the founding of the club.

Though he largely shunned the limelight that ex-players often bask in, McAdam was always a popular guest at reunions and was always happy to speak to fans who recalled his career with his various clubs. Fierce and fearless as he was on the pitch, McAdam was thoroughly pleasant off it.

Colin McAdam is survived by his family, including his brother Tom. His funeral will take place at 10:30am on Friday at Dalnottar Crematorium, Clydebank.