Andy Young: Footballer

Born: 21 June, 1925, in Oakley, Fife. Died: 17 October, 2008, in Dunfermline, aged 83.

THERE are Raith Rovers supporters of a certain age who insist that, while Willie McNaught was undoubtedly a fine footballer, deserving of more Scotland caps than the meagre five he collected, their favourite Rovers player was Andy Young. Versatile, consistent, enduring and a match-winner, he was the complete footballer in all but pace. It is no accident that the club's golden years coincided with Young's 16 years at Stark's Park.

There have been few more effective players in the club's history than the former miner from Oakley. He was comfortable in any position, such was his all-round ability, and outstanding in midfield or attack.

To everyone's astonishment, he did not receive a representative honour. One can only speculate how many caps he would receive in the present day, and he probably suffered from a belief among selectors that one Raith Rovers player in the team was sufficient.

A powerful header of the ball, with a blistering shot as well as a deft touch, he was a consistent goal scorer through his long and loyal service to the club.

He attended Blairhall School, near Oakley, and was one of a handful of outstanding players who emerged from this small corner of west Fife. Within four years of his birth, Blairhall also produced future footballing luminaries Charlie Fleming and Tommy Wright, both of East Fife, Sunderland and Scotland, and the Rangers goalkeeper George Niven.

Young rose to prominence first at Wellwood Juveniles, and then at Steelend Juniors. At 17 years of age, he was recommended to Celtic, played a trial for them at Dumbarton and signed for them, along with Bobby Evans, after the game.

During his two-year spell at Celtic Park, he made regular first-team appearances but was hampered by the demands of his day job – he had to combine playing football with working in Blairhall pit, which often meant doing a night shift followed by travelling to Glasgow, or places such as Aberdeen, to turn out for Celtic.

The travelling forced Young to leave Celtic and go on loan to Raith Rovers in February 1945, making his debut in a 2-1 Northern League defeat to Arbroath. He signed permanently for Raith in September that year, and over the next 16 seasons he would play in every position, including a 20-minute stint as goalkeeper.

But it was in the half-back line that Andy Young would make his name, firstly as part of the Ernie Till, Young and Tommy Brady partnership that would win the Second Division championship and finish runners-up to Rangers in the League Cup final in 1949.

The partnership of Young, Harry Colville and Andy Leigh in the early part of the 1950s, and latterly the even more famous Young, McNaught and Leigh trio, were to serve Raith well in an era when the Kirkcaldy club were one of Scotland's leading lights, and the half-back line revered throughout the country.

During a discussion about his career and the game in general in the 1950s, Young said: "There wasn't much by way of tactics or changing positions during a match. If things weren't going right, no-one thought about how they might change the formation or anything like that. You were picked for your ability to play in a certain position, and you went out and played as well as you could.

"There can be little doubt that the three wing halves, myself, McNaught and Leigh, would have won many caps for Scotland had we played for a more fashionable team. Andy Leigh got a representative cap against the Army at Newcastle, and McNaught got a handful of caps, but I got no further than being a reserve. We were as good a defensive unit as there was in the game at the time but never got the international recognition we deserved.

"I often wondered why I was never picked. I watched as players were selected who were no quicker than me and certainly not as good all-round footballers. I could score goals, and others who were picked couldn't."

The highlight of the 1950s golden era was undoubtedly the 5-1 destruction of Rangers at Stark's Park in December 1956. It was the peak of the greatest Raith Rovers team in 30 years and, for a while, they looked genuine championship contenders, eventually finishing in fourth place, their highest position since 1922 and one that has not been bettered since.

In all, Young played 611 times for Raith Rovers, his last appearance being a Fife Cup tie against Dunfermline Athletic in May 1960. Only Willie McNaught has played more games for Raith, while Young scored an incredible 141 goals. Not bad for someone who would nowadays be called a defensive midfielder.

Although he had a three-year stint as manager of Fife junior club Lochore Welfare, it was talent-spotting that Andy loved more than anything else in his post-playing days. As manager at Lochore, he won three Fife Championships and launched the careers of Willie Johnston (Rangers, West Brom, Hearts and Scotland), Ian Porterfield (Raith and Sunderland, then manager of Aberdeen and Chelsea), Arthur Mann (Hearts), Tommy Callaghan (Celtic), Willie Renton (Dunfermline) and Jocky Richardson (Raith Rovers).

He also scouted for Celtic and Dunfermline Athletic and it is down to Young that Jim Leishman was given his first break in Scottish football.

Later, he would join his great friend Don Revie at Leeds United, and it was Young who was responsible for Gordon McQueen moving from St Mirren to Elland Road. While on the payroll at Leeds, Young was a guest at the 1973 FA Cup final against Sunderland. It was ironic that one of his protgs – Porterfield – should score the winning goal for Sunderland.

Young retired from football in 1994, having resisted Jimmy Nicholl's attempts to lure him back to Raith Rovers in a scouting role. He did return to Stark's Park many times as a member of the newly formed Raith Rovers Former Players Association, in which he held the post of honorary president. Lauded by fans young and old, he made his last appearance at the home game with Airdrie United on 20 October, 2007.

Away from football, Young was a popular resident of Lochgelly, where he and his wife, Jessie, lived in the same house since 1951. He is survived by Jessie, their son, Ian, daughter-in-law, Marilyn, and granddaughter, Gemma.