Born: 20 August, 1938, in Kilmarnock. Died: 24 February, 2016, in Kilmarnock aged 77.
‘Big” Jim McFadzean, who has died, aged 77, after a lengthy battle against illness, may not be the most-distinguished Kilmarnock Academical. That school has produced two Nobel laureates, in Sir Alexander Fleming and John Boyd Orr, four moderators of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and a certain Willie McIlvanney.
But none is, like Jim, “a Kilmarnock Immortal”, a member of the squad which brought the Scottish League Championship to the town in 1965.
That unique triumph for Scotland’s oldest professional club was McFadzean’s second taste of league championship success, he had been a member of the Hearts side which had stormed to the Scottish First Division title in 1959-60.
He was educated at Loanhead Primary School, before going on to Kilmarnock Academy, where he set a schools long jump record which still stands. On leaving, he went on to the Scottish School of Physical Education, at Jordanhill College, to study PE.
The Academy was a rugby-playing school, but, even as a pupil there, Jim was showing promise as a footballer, with Kilmarnock YMCA. Rangers signed him, then released him to join Hearts, for whom he signed as a 17-year-old in 1955. The Tynecastle club farmed him out to Troon Juniors, before calling him up at the start of the 1956-57 season.
He made his debut in September, 1956, aged 18 years and 18 days, in a floodlit friendly against Newcastle United, at St James Park – scoring the winner in a 2-1 victory for Hearts.
But, he never established himself at Tynecastle, making a mere 28 appearances before departing for St Mirren, in 1962. However, he did make enough appearances in that title-winning 1959-60 season to qualify for a League Championship medal.
His stay in Paisley was short, after a year he moved on to Raith Rovers, before, at the end of the 1962-63 season, he signed for Kilmarnock, and immediately took off with the squad for what was then an annual end of season trans-Atlantic trip to compete in the New York International tournament.
He made the first of his eventual 178 appearances for his home-town club in a “kicking match” against West German side Preussen-Munster. Killie won the match, in Chicopee, Massachussets, 5-2, with McFadzean contributing one of the goals.
These were frustrating seasons for Kilmarnock, they were regular title challengers, and European games were common, although McFadzean was to play in one which was distinctly uncommon. In September, 1964 Kilmarnock made their European debut, in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, against the legendary Eintracht Frankfurt. Three-nothing down after the first leg, the European hill became a mountain when the Germans scored first in the second leg at Rugby Park.
Then, Kilmarnock scored and the greatest come-back in Scottish football history was on, the Ayrshire side going on to win the match 5-1 and the tie 5-4 on aggregate, with McFadzean scoring the third goal with a header. His great life-long friend Ronnie Hamilton, whose father had driven the young McFadzean through to sign for Hearts, scored twice that night, with Brian McIlroy and Jackie McInally getting the other goals.
Everton nocked Killie out in the next round, but, that couldn’t spoil a great season, which reached its climax on 24 April, 1965, at Tynecstle. This was the final game of the league campaign, Hearts held a one point advantage over Killie at the top of the table, a draw would give them the title, but for Kilmarnock only a 2-0 win would do, under the complicated goal average method of separating teams level on points which was then in operation.
Goals from Davie Sneddon and McIlroy ensured the title would be going to Kilmarnock for the first, and still only time; but, McFadzean, the player whose career had been so tied-up with the competing clubs wasn’t on the park. Injury relegated him to a watching brief, but, he played in 28 of the 34 league games during that long season, which began on 8 August 1964 and ended in New York on 25 July, 1965. He demonstrated his versatility by wearing seven different jerseys as he played 42 games that season, when needed in both full-back positions, centre-half, on both wings and in midfield.
He did this whilst a part-timer, his teaching career was taking off and Killie manager Willie Waddell was not entirely happy at McFadzean splitting his time between teaching and football. However, after Waddell left, he continued to serve Killie until the end of the 1968-69 season, when he moved down the A77 to Ayr United.
Ally MacLeod signed him to replace Dick Malone, who had moved to Sunderland, but, his greatest contribution to United was as a player-coach and father figure in the reserve team, where he nurtured such talents as Stevie Nicol, Robert Connor and Johnny Doyle. He later, in 1979, joined MacLeod at Motherwell, as a coach, before, on Ally’s departure, new boss Davie Hay promoted him to assistant manager, in which role he helped Hay take Motherwell back to the Premier Division in 1981..
By now, McFadzean was installed as Head of PE at Loudoun Academy, a comprehensive school built to serve Galston, Newmilns and Darvel, the lace towns of the Irvine Valley. He had been the new school’s first Head of PE and in this role he established an ethos in PE which has survived to today.
McFadzean was not content to offer the kids in his care the standard diet of football, rugby and basketball for the boys; hockey and netball for the girls. Loudoun puils got to experience trampolining, archery and other minor sports. He established a strong athletics tradition, and when he introduced volleyball, got instant pay-back, coaching both the First Year and Senior teams to Scottish Cup finals, with the younger team lifting the trophy.
In retirement, he didn’t stray too-far from Loudoun, golfing at Loudoun Gowf Club, whose course is just over the fence from the school. He became a keen and skilled gardener, enjoyed his days away fishing, and showed a talent rare among footballers, as a painter in water colours.
He also lavished love on his family, who survive him: wife Sheila, son Rod, daughter Fiona and, in time, their partners and his three grand-children. His final years were difficult, as illness took hold, but, under the devoted care of Sheila, he bore his cross with dignity and good grace until the end.