Obituary: Frank Mooney, talented footballer who fulfilled ambition to become teacher in later life

Frank Mooney, footballer. Born: 1 January, 1932 in Fauldhouse. Died: 23 May, 2021 in Fauldhouse, aged 89

Frank Mooney made 59 appearances in the colours of Blackburn Rovers
Frank Mooney made 59 appearances in the colours of Blackburn Rovers

Frank Mooney was a talented footballer who represented Scotland several times in Youth Internationals before going on to enjoy a professional career mostly in England where he played almost 200 league games.

After joining Manchester United as an 18-year-old in 1950 he found it difficult breaking into the first team and later moved on to Blackburn Rovers, Carlisle United and finally Berwick Rangers where he played a handful of games before retiring in 1960.

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Although not a household name north of the Border he was one of many highly regarded Scots then playing in lower English leagues. Mostly fielded as a winger and occasionally at centre forward, he was pacy and a good crosser of the ball with an eye for goal. Later in life he fulfilled a long-held ambition to become a teacher and latterly taught at Harrysmuir primary school in Livingston.

Frank was the second youngest of six children born to John, a miner and Mary née Regan. He was brought up in Fauldhouse where he attended St John’s primary school before going to St Mary’s Academy, Bathgate. An elder brother, John, also became a professional footballer, with Doncaster Rovers, and they played against each other in England.

At St Mary’s Frank was both academically bright and a gifted sportsman, starring for the football team and winning County Schools’ sprint titles.

His form on the football pitch attracted national attention and in October 1948 at Aberdeen he made a winning debut for Scotland in a Youth International against England, whose team included future celebrated cricketer Brian Close. Then he represented Scottish Schools against the A.T.C. and played in further Youth Internationals against Wales, Ireland and in an international tournament in Holland. Teammates included Ronnie Simpson the famous goalkeeper, and Tom Sutherland of Rangers whose kidnap in Beirut in 1985 and subsequent six years as a hostage was widely publicised. Proud of his Scotland appearances, Frank insisted on keeping his last international jersey, unwashed, as a memento.

Matt Busby invited him to Old Trafford for a month’s training in the summer of 1949 and by summer 1950 he was a signed professional at United where he would remain till early 1954.

Given his youth, competition for places and the interruption of two years’ National Service in the RAF in Rhodesia, it was not wholly surprising Frank did not make the first team but he thoroughly enjoyed the experience and remained a fan of the club. Teammates then included later well known names such as Mark Jones and Roger Byrne both victims in the 1958 Munich air disaster. He also shared ‘digs’ at one time with another three Munich victims, David Pegg, Liam Whelan and Eddie Colman.

Frank did play in a first team friendly in February 1953 which was significant as not only did he score a hat trick but his captain was United legend Johnny Carey who made Frank his first signing on becoming manager of Blackburn Rovers.

On 13 February 1954 Frank played the first of 59 games for Rovers against Oldham in the old Second Division and helped the team to second place in the league in 1954/55, memorably notching a hat trick in Rovers’ 9-0 demolition of Middlesbrough.

He was a regular first team player but their poor start the next season combined with the emergence of international right winger Bryan Douglas limited his appearances and he played his last game in March 1956, against Port Vale. During his time at Ewood Park, Frank played in good company, alongside Ally McLeod and internationals Ronnie Clayton and Bill Eckersley in front of average crowds of 27,000.

He next joined Carlisle United then in the old Third Division [North] where he remained till 1960, playing some 125 games, alongside English international Ivor Broadis and latterly under former Scotland manager Andy Beattie. After nine games for Berwick Rangers in the old Scottish Second Division, he drew a line under his career as family life took priority.

In 1960 at St. John the Baptist Church in Fauldhouse Frank married Mary Warrington and the couple enjoyed nearly 40 years of happy marriage till Mary’s death in 1999. They had two children, a daughter Susan and son Francis. The couple had known each other since schooldays and while Frank was involved in football, Mary spent time in Canada as a midwife. On her return she worked as a District Nurse and they began married life in Bathgate before moving to Fauldhouse, where they remained.

Frank was employed at Plessey’s Bathgate factory where he became Production Control Manager.

Having always valued education highly, he fulfilled his ambition of becoming a teacher, attending Callendar Park Teacher College at Falkirk and graduating with distinction in 1982. After an initial spell in Fauldhouse, he taught at Harrysmuir Primary in Livingston till retirement in 1996, which he thoroughly enjoyed.

Then he enjoyed a family holiday to Los Angeles visiting son Francis at home there while he and Mary used to enjoy going on trips throughout Scotland.

He was very involved as President of Fauldhouse Miners’ Youth Band and oversaw their rise from Grade IV to Grade I, including competing at the National Championships in London. Religion was important to him and he was a regular attender at his local St John Baptist Church.

Family was uppermost in his life, doting on grandson Michael, while football was an abiding interest.

A modest kindly individual with a good sense of humour, who always looked out for people, he was widely considered a complete gentleman. He is survived by his children and grandson.

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