Obituary: Andrew King, footballer

BORN: 23 July, 1942, in Grougar Row, Ayrshire. Died: 23 February, 2015, in Kilmarnock, aged 72.

Footballer who played a key part in Kilmarnock's legendary defeat of Hearts in 1965. Picture: Greg Macvean
Footballer who played a key part in Kilmarnock's legendary defeat of Hearts in 1965. Picture: Greg Macvean

Andy King played in all but one of Kilmarnock’s 60 matches in the club’s iconic 1964-65 season.

He certainly played a part in their dramatic victory over Hearts at Tynecastle, on 24 April. This was a winner-takes-all contest. Hearts needed to merely draw, or avoid defeat by any score other than 2-0 to lift the title.

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For right-back King and his team-mates, only a 2-0 win would do. Under the complicated goal average system of separating teams in use at the time, any other result handed the title to the Edinburgh club.

Killie managed that 2-0 win, to take the title to Rugby Park for the first and so far only time. King and his team-mates became legends.

That win was the highlight in the career of a player who was quiet, unassuming, and seldom made a mistake. He was Mr Reliable in 320 first team games for the club, from his debut, against Ayr United in the 1961 Ayrshire Cup Final, to his last appearance, off the bench, against Motherwell, in January 1972.

For much of the 1960s King was one of the top right backs in Scotland. He won three Under-23 caps in 1964, when he also played for the Scottish League XI against Scotland in a national trial. He was one of five Killie players to appear in that game.

While less able Old Firm players were capped, King and fellow Killie full-back Matt Watson were destined to remain scandalously unrecognised by Hampden.

As a teenager, King had captained the Scotland Youth team, while playing for the well-known Kilmarnock youth nursery of Saxone Amateurs. It was here that the young man, born in the since-demolished Grougar Rows, between Crookedholm and Galston, first caught the eye of Kilmarnock.

He first wore the blue and white hoops as “trialist”, aged 16, in a Reserve League clash with Celtic. The promise was there, but first there was a toughening-up period in the Ayrshire Juniors with Dreghorn, before he arrived at Rugby Park, full-time, in 1960.

At that time, Kilmarnock and Hearts were vying to be Scotland’s second force behind the great Jim Baxter-inspired Rangers team of the day. Every week the Killie team seemed to have a defence of Brown, Richmond and Watson, Beattie, Toner and Kennedy. But on 31 March, 1962, King wore the number two jersey against Aberdeen, in a 3-3 draw at Pittodrie. He went back to understudy duties to Richmond for season 1962-63 and at the start of the following season, 1963-64, he had made the right-back slot his own.

Such was his consistency, Andy missed a mere seven games over the next four seasons. Injury limited him to 20 games in 1967-68, but normal service was resumed in the following two seasons.

Along the way, he set a club record of 21 appearances in Europe, which still stands. He featured in Killie’s legendary revival, from 4-0 down, to beat Eintracht Frankfurt 5-4 in a Fair’s Cup clash in September 1964. He also played in both legs of the European Cup tie with Real Madrid in 1965 and in the famous Rugby Park match against Rangers in February 1967.At the end of the 1971-72 season, Kilmarnock announced they would be reverting to part-time football. Not yet 30, King left the club and retired. He went to work in Glacier Metal’s Kilmarnock factory, before joining a local building firm, where he continued to work until his retirement.

He and wife Agnes, who pre-deceased him in 2006, lived just a long free-kick from Rugby Park. She and two sons, Colin and Niall, survive him, along with his three grandchildren.

Andy was always made welcome by the fans when he attended games at Rugby Park, but his main football interest was his long association with local side Bellfield Amateurs. He also enjoyed fishing and bred and raced pigeons.