Obituary: Freddie Jardine, Scottish footballer who racked up more than 200 appearances for Luton Town

'Football daft' Freddie Jardine has died at the age of 78
'Football daft' Freddie Jardine has died at the age of 78
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Freddie Jardine, footballer. Born: 27 September, 1941. Died: 7 October 2019

Freddie Jardine, who has died aged 78, was a Scottish footballer who like a number of his compatriots at the time enjoyed a successful career in the English lower leagues throughout the 1960s and was one of a fairly select band that played more than 200 games for the one club.

Between 1961 and 1970 he played mostly as an attacking left back with Luton Town for whom he made 243 appearances in all divisions other than the top tier, a highlight being as a member of the team which won the old Fourth Division championship with a record points total in season 1967/8, when his consistently good performances meant he was a virtual ever-present with 41 appearances.

Before joining “The Hatters” he was with Dundee for three seasons while after Luton he finished his career with Fourth Division Torquay United. Being “football daft”, as he admitted in a 2010 interview, he then played non-league with Ampthill Town before settling for “pub” football till into his 40s.

Frederick Jardine was born in Edinburgh to Frederick, a railwayman, and Jean née Blain. With elder brother James he was brought up in Kirkliston where the family lived in a small housing estate, Almondside. He attended the village primary school before going on to Winchburgh Secondary, playing organised football there for the first time, having previously enjoyed village kickabout matches with jackets for goalposts.

A fast natural athlete, he was sports champion at the local Gala Day and soon was playing left winger for the well known Edinburgh Boys’ Club, United Crossroads, a nursery for many famous footballers including John Greig, Pat Stanton and Sandy Jardine. There he came under the tutelage of the legendary Eric Gardner, an inspiring figure and major influence.

Next he moved into juvenile football with another leading Edinburgh side, Edina Hearts, who for Freddie had the added attraction of playing in maroon, like his idols Hearts. Such was his enthusiasm that as a youngster he used to cycle from home to the hotel in Corstorphine, a 10-mile round trip, where Hearts would lunch before games just to catch a glimpse of his heroes. One unforgettable Saturday captain Bobby Parker invited him in to meet the players including his favourite, Willie Bauld, whose autograph he prized and whose photo he carried in his wallet throughout his life. Another memorable experience was as a 14-year-old attending the Scottish Cup Final in 1956 to see Hearts defeat Celtic to claim the trophy, something he later described as “bloody brilliant!”.

While working as an apprentice engineer, his excellent displays for Edina were attracting scouts’ attention and he was thrilled when coach David Johnstone arranged a trial for Hearts in 1958 in a reserve match against Dundee. However it was Dundee who offered him terms, manager Willie Thornton appearing at his house with £200 in cash as signing on fee, a sizeable sum then, and Freddie duly signed. The following day Hearts manager Tommy Walker arrived at his house hoping to sign him but by then it was too late.

During his time at Dens Park, he only managed six top team games with his debut aged 17, ironically against Hearts, Willie Bauld and all, on 7 February 1959 at Tynecastle in front of 18,000. Dundee were a very strong team then with players like Alan Gilzean, Ian Ure, Alex. Hamilton, Bobby Cox etc and at outside left, Scottish international Hugh Robertson. Establishing himself was difficult and would become more so given Dundee went on to win the League and almost reach the European Cup final.

After trials with Leeds United, Wolves and Huddersfield, Luton Town manager Sam Bartram moved quickly to sign him in 1961, when the team was in the old second division. He made his debut months later against Walsall on Christmas Eve and after several matches at outside left, moved to left back. Over the next ten seasons he established himself as a fans’ favourite at Kenilworth Road thanks to his “surging overlapping runs and perfectly executed sliding tackles” as Luton enjoyed mixed fortunes, dropping down the leagues before climbing back up to the second tier. During his time there he played with some exalted company including Bruce Rioch, Malcolm Macdonald and David Pleat and against some, including West Ham’s triple World Cup winners Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst in a testimonial match. Scots teammates included John Moore from Harthill and Max Dougan from Stoneyburn, the three nicknamed “The White Heather Club” by the others. In that 2010 interview he stated, “Luton was a great place to play and the people were really nice.”

Once his playing career finished, he remained there working in several jobs, including many years in a gents’ outfitters. He married local girl Anne Lawson, an air hostess, with whom he had a daughter Karen but they later separated.

At the recent match against Bristol City his memory was honoured with a minute’s enthusiastic applause and a feature in the programme. Many tributes have appeared attesting to his popularity, sense of humour and kindness to young fans, including from TV presenter Nick Owen: “[I] really enjoyed watching him haring down the wing on the overlap”. Bobby Moncur, ex-captain of Scotland and Newcastle United, who was brought up near Freddie in Kirkliston though slightly younger, recalled him fondly: “He was an idol for me as I was just starting my pro career, great memories.”

Freddie fulfilled his boyhood dream of playing football professionally and did so with distinction, etching himself in the grateful memories of many not only for his classy play but also his gentlemanly humorous nature. He is survived by his daughter, nephew James and grandchildren Christian, Kirsty, Andrew and Lucy.

JACK DAVIDSON