Obituary: Campbell Forsyth, Scotland international goalkeeper

Robert Campbell Forsyth, former Scotland international goalkeeper. Born: May 5 1934 in Plean, Stirling. Died: November 15 2020 in Bridge of Allan, aged 86.
Campbell Forsyth was unlucky when it came to injuriesCampbell Forsyth was unlucky when it came to injuries
Campbell Forsyth was unlucky when it came to injuries

Campbell Forsyth is perhaps best remembered for a popular terracing song of the early 1960s. To the tune of Andy Stewart's “Campbeltown Loch”, fans would sing: “Oh Campbell Forsyth, I wish you were Ritchie,” a reference to Rangers goalkeeper Billy Ritchie.

The Plean-born Forsyth was a fine goalkeeper, but his career was marked by a series of ill-timed injuries, which cost him dear in terms of honours. He left school to become a Post Office engineer. He was briefly with Falkirk straight from school, but went into the junior ranks with Shettleston, from where, in 1955, he went upstairs to St Mirren, quickly making his first-team bow for the Buddies on his way to making 150 first-team appearances for the Paisley side.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In February 1957 he was capped by the Scotland Under-23 side against England, at Ibrox. The televised match finished in a 1-1 draw, the first time Scotland had not lost that particular fixture. Forsyth was still working for the Post Office then, indeed, in a Scotsman interview in 2014 he recalled travelling to Ibrox, still in his overalls and with a dirty face, straight from work, to join the team for the match.

In 1959 his injury jinx cost him his first-team place with Saints and he missed their Scottish Cup win over Aberdeen. Unable to reclaim his place, in November 1960 he joined Kilmarnock as the “make-weight” in a deal which took the veteran Jimmy Brown in the opposite direction. His wife Cathie played a part in his decision to move, offering him a choice of full-time work or full-time football, which was on offer at Kilmarnock, but not at St Mirren.

The transfer of Sandy McLaughlin to Sunderland saw Forsyth step up to become Killie's first-choice goalkeeper towards the end of their golden era, under Willie Waddell. He was in the form of his life and, on April 11 1964, more than seven years after his solitary Under-23 cap, he made his full Scotland bow, in the biggest match of all – the Home International against England, at Hampden.

He was one of two Scotland debutantes that day – the other was John Greig. Forsyth was called into action in the fifth minute, brilliantly saving when Roger Hunt was left one-on-one with him. Thereafter, with Jim Baxter and John White running the show in midfield, he had little to do as Alan Gilzean scored the only goal of the game, to give Scotland a hat-trick of wins over the Auld Enemy.

He was due to win his second cap in a Hanover friendly against West Germany in May 1964, but, the imminent arrival of a daughter meant he missed that match, with Hearts' Jim Cruickshank coming in for his debut. However, Forsyth was back as first choice in autumn 1964. winning three caps in the Home Internationals against Wales and Northern Ireland, which book-ended the first match of the 1966 World Cup qualifying campaign, a 3-1 Hampden win over Finland.

The Northern Ireland game was his last for Scotland. By the time of the England game, in April 1965, he had been injured again and had been replaced in the Kilmarnock team by Bobby Ferguson – who was himself a full Scotland cap by November, 1965.

Although he missed the dramatic title-clinching win over Hearts at Tynecastle, Forsyth was still Killie's first-choice keeper. He had back-stopped the team in their dramatic Fairs Cup win over Eintracht Frankfurt, when, trailing 3-0 from the first leg in Germany, they conceded an early goal back at Rugby Park, before storming back with five unanswered goals, to take the tie 5-4.

His 100th and last game for Kilmarnock was against Dundee United, at Tannadice, in March 1965, when he was injured. However, although now back-up to the brilliant Ferguson, he remained with the club until they went out of the European Cup to Real Madrid on 1 December. On his return to Scotland, he was transferred to Southampton for a fee of £10,000. He played a key role in getting Saints promoted to the old English First Division, the first time they had graced the top flight. Eight games into that debut season, however, he broke a leg in a collision with Scottish teammate Denis Hollywood and Liverpool's Ian Callaghan.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He overcame the injury and fought back into the first team; however, he failed to recapture his old form and at the end of the 1967-68 season, after a mere 50 games for Southampton, he hung-up his gloves and returned to Scotland.

After football he spent many years as a brewery representative for Watneys, before spending the remainder of his working life as a corporate host at the Dalmahoy Hotel and Country Club, where he proved extremely popular. He continued to do some scouting for Southampton, while he was also popular at former players days at his two Scottish clubs. In a poll by the Paisley Daily Express, he was confirmed as one of the three best St Mirren goalkeepers, alongside Billy Thomson and Campbell Money.

He named his house in Falkirk “The Dell,” after the old Southampton ground, before he and Cathie, who survives him, moved to Bridge of Allan, where he died at home. In addition to Cathie, he is survived by children Kirsty and Lindsay, grand-children Ryan, Blair, Cameron and Kristie, and great-grandchildren Olivia, Chloe and Arlo.

Blair, whose own father, Stuart Burgess was well-known in Scottish football, followed his grandfather into the Scotland ranks, when he won Scotland Under-19 honours, as a Fulham player. He now plays with Accrington Stanley.


If you have a submission, or suggestion, for the Obituaries section, email [email protected]

A message from the Editor

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.