Frank Beattie, footballer

Born: 17 October, 1933, in Stirling. Died: 19 November, 2009, in Stirling, aged 76.

FRANK Beattie, who has died after a long illness, will forever be a legend in Kilmarnock, not least from his status as captain of the Rugby Park side which won the Scottish League in 1964-65.

Tall and elegant, he was a one-club man, the first player to make more than 600 appearances in the blue and white stripes. He was a key component in Willie Waddell's great Killie sides of the late 1950s and early 1960s, which, at a time when the pre-Stein Celtic were in decline, battled with Hearts' "Golden Generation" under Tommy Walker to provide the sternest challenge to Scot Symon's Rangers side.

Rangers at that time had some of their greatest players: Ian McColl, Eric Caldow, Jim Baxter, and the Scott, McMillan, Millar, Brand and Wilson forward line. Hearts could call on Dave Mackay, John Cumming, Alex Young, Gordon Smith, Ian Crawford and Johnny Hamilton – but Killie's team, with far fewer internationals, was just as potent: Brown; Richmond, Watson, Beattie, Toner, Kennedy, Stewart, McInally, Kerr, Black and Muir.

This team made finishing second almost an art form, but Waddell and his right-hand man, Walter McCrae, persevered, and on 24 April, 1965, in just about the most-dramatic final in Scottish football history, skipper Beattie led Kilmarnock out at Tynecastle to face Hearts. The Killie team knew any result other than a two-goal Kilmarnock win meant Hearts, who topped the table with a two-point advantage, would take the title.

Killie's nerve held, they did, indeed, win 2-0 and the title was theirs, by 0.04 of a goal on goal average, the method of sorting out sides level on points back then. Waddell, memorably, charged on to the park at the final whistle to embrace skipper Beattie, rightly so; they had been through so much together.

Like Billy Bremner after him, he attended St Modan's High School in Stirling, playing for the school team. From there, as he embarked on working life down the pit, he moved on to juvenile football with Dunipace and Cowie before entering the junior ranks with Bonnybridge.

His time in the juniors was measured in weeks, however, before, in October 1953, the 20-year-old Beattie joined Kilmarnock, where he was to spend the next 19 years. Then he was an inside forward, making his first team debut, at inside right and scoring, in a 2-3 away defeat by St Mirren on 4 September, 1954. Just over a month later he made his league debut at Rugby Park, against Partick Thistle. He scored again – the first Killie player to score in the First Division since relegation in April 1947 – but again he tasted defeat, the Jags winning 2-1.

He was in and out of the team over the next couple of seasons, but by 1955-56 he was a regular; in fact, he was in the last Kilmarnock team to win at Celtic Park, in December 1955.

He didn't play in the losing Scottish Cup Final team of 1957, but the arrival of Waddell as manager later that year saw an upturn in his fortunes. He continued to play inside forward until 1959-60, when Waddell switched him to right half, and he had found his place.

That season was the start of a gilded era around Rugby Park. Hearts pipped Kilmarnock to the league title in 1960, then Rangers beat them in the Scottish Cup final. However, the club represented Scotland in a close-season tournament in the United States, finishing second to Bangu of Brazil.

The next season Killie were again second to Rangers in the League, and lost to the Ibrox men in the League Cup final. The club was fifth in the league in 1962 and second the following year.

That season saw an incident, the scars of which Beattie carried to his grave. Killie saw off Rangers in an epic League Cup semi-final, to face Hearts in the final. With seconds left and Hearts clinging to a 1-0 lead, Beattie "scored" with a header; except the one man in the ground whose opinion mattered, the late Tom "Tiny" Wharton, chalked off the goal for handball. You will not find a Killie supporter alive who was there that day who doesn't believe Beattie and Killie were robbed.

By then Beattie was being touted as a possible Scotland player, in spite of competition from the likes of Paddy Crerand, Jim Baxter and Dave Mackay. He played for the Scottish League against the League of Ireland in a 1-1 Dublin draw in 1961 – but he was destined to remain one of the great uncapped.

In 1963 he succeeded Willie Toner as club captain and if Waddell was the CO, with McCrae as his adjutant, Beattie was the on-field sergeant-major, the heart and engine of the side – and never more so than when his refusal to admit defeat saw Killie come back from four goals down to knock Eintracht Frankfurt out of the Fairs Cities Cup.

If this was the high point of his European experience, leading Killie against Real Madrid in the European Cup in 1965-66 and to the semi-final of the Fairs Cities Cup, and eventual defeat to the Leeds United team of all the talents during Scottish Football's annus mirabilis the following season were not far behind.

Waddell had left after the league win and Killie's long years of decline were about to start. Beattie's career was coming to a close too as the Sixties swung into history.

He was still a fairly regular performer in Kilmarnock's first team and in 1969 he broke "Mattha" Smith's long-standing club appearances record.

On Hogmanay 1969 he lined-up for Killie against Celtic at Celtic Park, but there was no Happy New Year for him as he suffered a horrendous broken right leg in a clash with Jimmy Johnstone. He was 36 years old and it took him 16 months to get back to playing.

Amazingly, Beattie battled back into the Killie first team at the start of the 1971-72 season, making his 602nd and final appearance in a 0-3 Fir Park loss to Motherwell.

At the end of that season, he retired. Killie perhaps missed a trick in not promoting him to the coaching staff. He might have succeeded better there than he did in his two short managerial spells, with Albion Rovers and Stirling Albion.

He also guided his local side, Cambusbarron Rovers, to two Scottish Amateur Cup wins.

Throughout his career he had continued to live in the Stirling area, in his early years, as a part-timer he thought nothing of putting in a full shift down the pit at Plean before taking two trains to Kilmarnock and returning home late at night. By the time he retired, he was making the trip by car, but it was still a 500-miles-a-week commitment in those pre-motorway days.

On retirement from playing, he and Betty, whom he married in 1955, took over her parents' newsagent's shop in Cambusbarron. Frank golfed, then found his real sporting passion in bowls.

Until his death he was an occasional and welcome guest at Rugby Park, where, always immaculately turned out, he was greeted with loud applause by the home fans, even those who had never seen him play.

Legend barely covers the esteem in which he is and always will be held by Rugby Park fans.

Frank Beattie is survived by Betty, daughters Pauline and Karen and five grandchildren.