Obituary: Bill Thomson, Govan-born Canadian soccer coach

Bill Thomson, footballer. Born: 3 April, 1943. Died 9 March, 2017, aged 73

Bill Thomson, who has died aged 73 was a Govan-born and bred footballer who exerted a strong influence on the development of the game in Canada, where he emigrated in 1967. Good enough as a player to represent Scotland at youth level, it was in coaching that he truly made his mark.

He was Canada Soccer’s first full-time Technical Director and Director of Coaching and manager of the national team at the Pan American Games in Mexico City in1975 and the Olympic Games in Montreal in 1976. In 1979 he was coach to the Canadian team at the World Student Games.

He also played an important role in the professional game in Canada as coach to two teams, Ottawa Pioneers and The Intrepid, leading to the Coach of the Year accolade in 1987.

The inaugural chairman of Canada’s National Coaching Institute, he became its full-time director based at the ­University of Victoria, BC. from 1990 to 2008.


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William George Thomson was born in Govan and brought up in Elderpark Street with elder brother John, now in Massachusetts.

Father John was a mechanic while mother Cecelia ran a harmonious household. His love of football began in the local streets where he played with other neighbourhood boys, including Alex Ferguson and his brother Martin.

He attended Greenfield Primary before going to Govan High where he excelled on the football pitch and academically. Playing in defence, he was selected for Scottish schoolboys trials and in 1960 played for Scotland in an under age match. He received the school prize for General Excellence having distinguished himself at Science, English and Maths.

Govan and particularly The Boys’ Brigade were influential and, like Alex Ferguson, he credited the organisation with instilling worthwhile values. An enthusiastic member of the 168th Glasgow company, he immersed himself in football, singing in the choir, playing drums in the pipe band, swimming and being introduced to the Scottish countryside on camping trips.


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Their Captain or ‘Skipper’ was Mr. A. Collins, who was an important mentor. After ­leaving school Bill joined Rolls-Royce to do an engineering apprenticeship but his heart was not in it. He spoke to ‘Skipper’ Collins who suggested he ‘do what he loved and the money would follow ­later.’ He enrolled at the Scottish School of Physical Education at ­Jordanhill to pursue a career in sport, his real love.

After graduating, he taught for two years at Mainholm Academy, Ayr and played for junior team Ardeer Thistle. On Christmas Eve 1966, at Symington Parish Church, he married Adrianne Watt. The couple enjoyed a happy and fulfilling 50 years together.

In 1967, they emigrated to Canada where Bill secured a post in Toronto at a leading boys’ school, Upper Canada College, teaching PE and Maths and coaching football and swimming. He also opened a soccer school which he ran successfully for several years and found time to complete a Masters’ degree. After seven years at U.C.C., during which daughters Justine and Meredith were born, he focused on ­full-time coaching.

Other distinctions included his appointment as a FIFA Soccer Instructor, induction into the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame in 2007 and appointment as a Life Member of ­Canada Soccer in 2012.


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A regular visitor to Scotland, he delighted in showing his daughters his favourite places, once taking them cycling from Glasgow to Inveraray.

In Canada, he was highly regarded for his coaching achievements and personal qualities. A lifelong friend from Jordanhill, Sir Richard Staite, better known to football fans as Dick Staite of Partick Thistle and Clyde, said: “Many lives were immeasurably better through knowing Bill. He was an open,warm guy as straight as they come, held in much affection and respect.”

He is survived by his wife, daughters, brother and grandchildren Jackson, Mackenzie, Will and Rowan.