Obituary: Tom Cargill, talented footballer who was proud to play for hometown club Arbroath FC

Tom Cargill
Tom Cargill
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Tom Cargill, footballer. Born: 15 December 1944 in Arbroath. Died: 10 May 2019 in Dundee, aged 74

Tom Cargill, who has died aged 74, was a talented and well-known footballer whose name will always be associated with hometown team Arbroath FC, for whom he played a record number of almost 500 games, including 445 League fixtures. One of the club’s first inductees to their Hall of Fame in 2015 along with legendary former manager Albert Henderson and 19th-century international goalkeeper Ned Doig, Cargill was a model professional who excelled in the sweeper role in central defence and occasionally in midfield.

Throughout his 15 seasons with the club from 1966 onwards, he was “Mr Consistency,” a byword for reliability who seldom missed a match. Although powerfully built and 6ft tall, he was not the archetypical physically aggressive defender but a cultured player who read the game well, was adept at building up attacks and comfortable with the ball at his feet.

During his long career he played against a Who’s Who of Scottish football, including future knights of the realm Kenny Dalglish and Alex Ferguson, while on one occasion he was a teammate of George Best.

After being spotted playing for Arbroath Lads’ Club, he was signed in 1965 for Dundee by manager Bobby Ancell, who lent him out for a spell to Arbroath. There he came under the wing of manager Albert Henderson, with his displays leading to a permanent transfer in 1966. For virtually the rest of his career Cargill would play under him as Henderson went on to become the UK’s longest serving one-club manager.

This period is sometimes referred to as the Red Lichties “golden era,” featuring four seasons in the top flight and two Scottish Cup quarter finals among other notable achievements for a part-time club. Cargill made his “official” debut before a crowd of 2,600 on 24 August 1966 in a League match in the old 2nd Division away to Clydebank, scoring in a 3-0 victory, and played in almost every game thereafter till hanging up his boots in 1981.

Although never a prolific scorer, he did manage to notch 22 goals in his time at Gayfield, respectable for a defender.

His debut season saw Arbroath miss out on promotion by a single point but the following year they finished runners up to St Mirren to secure promotion to the top flight. Although they only stayed up for one season they returned three years later as runners up on goal average to 2nd Division champions Dumbarton, and remained for three seasons, Cargill, Jim Cant and Eric Sellars being the only survivors from the previous elevation.

As part-timers they were really punching above their weight in the top league, one fan’s recollection illustrating the gap in standing between them and top clubs.

On a midweek evening before a game at Gayfield against Celtic, he recalled seeing Cargill cycling through the town en route to the match after a day’s work, not the ideal build up to a big game! However, Arbroath enjoyed several highlights, including a first-ever success against Rangers at Ibrox and two wins against Hearts, while in cup competitions they earned a draw at Parkhead against Celtic in the League Cup and reached the quarter final of the Scottish Cup in 1975, losing to eventual finalists Airdrie after a replay.

A further Scottish Cup quarter final was reached in 1977 against Dundee, for whom Gordon Strachan opened the scoring.

In March 1980 his services were recognised with a testimonial match against Alex Ferguson’s Aberdeen featuring several of their players who won the European Cup Winners’ Cup three years later, Leighton, McLeish, Miller, Strachan, McGhee and Bell among others. Two years later he dusted down the boots to play for junior side Arbroath Vics in their centenary match against Arbroath, lining up alongside special guest player George Best whose two penalty goals helped seal a win.

Tom Cargill was born in Arbroath, where he lived all his life, and was brought up with elder sisters Isobel and Betty and younger brother James by parents David and Betsy. Their father ran his own joinery business where Tom also worked after leaving Arbroath High School, combining his trade with his football. In 1968 he married Doreen, whom he knew locally, and the couple enjoyed a long and happy marriage during which they had three sons, Craig, Stuart and Grant.

After his father retired from the family business, Tom became a Clerk of Works for several Tayside organisations until he himself retired aged 65. An all-round sports enthusiast, he enjoyed playing badminton and was a low handicap golfer at the Arbroath Artisans’ club, good enough to win the annual Arbroath Open tournament on one occasion.

When he stopped playing football professionally he helped coach local teams including Arbroath Lads’ Club, where he had started out. He continued to watch games at Gayfield where he was always a welcome figure, often in the directors’ box and in the boardroom afterwards.

Proud of having played with distinction for his hometown team alongside other local lads such as Allan Kennedy, Ian Stirling, Jim Cant and Jimmy Jack, he also supported the club’s Football Memories sessions at Gayfield, helping dementia sufferers.

A popular and respected figure in the community, he was much admired for his unassuming gentlemanly nature and was someone who always found time for a friendly chat.

He and his wife enjoyed caravan holidays together while another interest was the Edinburgh Fringe, which he attended regularly, taking in a variety of shows.

A devoted family man, their interests always came first and he supported them in all activities, especially the education of his sons, who all obtained university degrees.

He is survived by his wife, sons, sisters, brother and grandchildren Ellie, Rosie and Thomas.

JACK DAVIDSON