Obituary: Tommy Bryceland, footballer

Tommy Bryceland
Tommy Bryceland
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Tommy Bryceland, footballer. Born: 1 March 1939 in Greenock. Died 22 January 2016 in Ay

Tommy Bryceland was an outstanding footballer whose name here will always be associated with St Mirren and the notable part he played in their famous Scottish Cup win of 1959. His death comes just over two months after that of Cup winning teammate Jackie McGugan’s.

In a career stretching from 1956 to 1973,he also played with distinction for Norwich City and Oldham Athletic before returning to St Mirren as player/manager, and in all totalled over 500 senior games. An extremely effective inside right or what would today be termed ‘attacking midfielder’,Tommy had skill in abundance, played to win and was adept at opening up defences with the ‘killer pass’.He also had an eye for goal and ranked high in the goalscoring lists at all his clubs. Unfortunate not to gain a Scottish cap,he was selected for the Scottish League to play the English League in 1959 but had to withdraw through injury.

Tommy stamped his name all over ‘The Buddies’ 1959 Scottish Cup success. In the 2nd round he notched a hat trick as Peebles Rovers were despatched 10-0 while in the next round he scored the winner to eliminate Motherwell. Injured for the quarter final which saw Dunfermline ousted ,he returned for the semi final against Celtic who were routed 4-0 with Tommy scoring the fourth goal. In the final against Aberdeen,in front of 108,500 fans[the last 100,000 plus crowd in a Final not involving one of the ‘Old Firm’],Tommy was involved in each of his team’s goals.From a Miller cross just before half time he headed the all-important opening goal while in the 65th minute his defence splitting pass led to Miller scoring the second and 10 minutes later he pushed the ball through for Gerry Baker to net, sending the Saints’ fans into raptures. Aberdeen’s goal at the end was merely consolation and certainly did not dampen the never to be forgotten celebrations in Paisley as thousands thronged the streets and Jail Square as the team bus edged its way through.

Rounding off a successful season,St Mirren finished 7th in the old 1st Division. A challenge was issued to play the F.A. Cup winners Nottingham Forest and in September Saints beat them over two legs 5-4 with Tommy on the scoresheet. Two years later Saints reached the Cup semi final, losing after a replay to Dunfermline but in 1962 Tommy played in his 2nd Scottish cup final for the Paisley outfit ,losing 2-0 to Rangers with only ‘Cockles’ Wilson and him surviving from the 1959 team. The semi final against Celtic was memorable for all the wrong reasons as their fans invaded the pitch to try to have the game abandoned with mounted police becoming involved in what Tommy later described as ‘one of the scariest moments ever on a football pitch.’

Other cup highlights included his guesting for Kilmarnock in 1960 as they competed in an international cup in New York, helping them reach the final knocking out Bayern Munich and then English champions Burnley en route, And in 1967 playing for Norwich, he figured prominently in the unfancied ‘Canaries’ defeat of Manchester United in the FA Cup at Old Trafford,Best,Law,Charlton et al.

Born into a large family in Greenock,his football skills soon saw him representing the area schools’ select before winning two Scottish schoolboy caps against N Ireland and Wales. Next he joined juvenile St Columba’s before at 16 signing for Gourock Juniors. Senior clubs including Arsenal, Manchester City and Celtic were keen to sign him but he instead joined the Saints on his 17th birthday, making his debut against Celtic shortly after. Initially he combined football with a television engineer’s apprenticeship before going full time in the game.I n 1962 after 167 games he left for Norwich City where he played some 280 matches. In 1963 he married Maureen Cunningham from Paisley,going on to enjoy 52 years of happy marriage. From Norwich he moved to Oldham Athletic in 1969, and played 67 times for them. He rejoined Saints at New Year 1972 , becoming player/manager soon after till May 1973. His efforts to win promotion were hampered by lack of finance and differences with the board over strategy.

After leaving Love Street he ended his formal association with the game but remained keenly interested in it and was often a popular guest at Saints’ matches and reunion functions. He ran a grocer/newsagent’s business in Copeland Road near Ibrox and then a confectioner’s in St George’s Cross in the city.In 1981 he and his wife Maureen purchased the Craiglea Hotel in Ayr which they ran till retirement. He enjoyed spending time with his family,gardening and holidays with Maureen.

His son Marcus commented,’We all loved him dearly,he was a very sharp,witty man who was great company and great fun with the kids.He was very humble and never made a fuss about his football success.We will miss him terribly.”

He is survived by Maureen,Marcus,daughter Marieanne and grandchildren Luca and Mia.

JACK DAVIDSON