Clydesdale's precocious talent create fast-flowing stream

BEFORE Freddy Flintoff's heroics came Clydesdale's 1920s batting colossus Dan Mackay, who struck some gargantuan blows.

Legend has it that in his pomp, Goliath Dan once smacked a ball into England, thrashing it out of the trim Titwood ground whence it landed in a goods train wagon trundling through adjacent Crossmyloof Station. A phone call to the stationmaster saw the ball recovered and returned on the next down train - from Carlisle.

A paltry 11 caps was scant reward for a gentle giant who in 1922 thrashed the Leith Franklin attack at the Links for an unbeaten 257.

The Dale were founded in 1848 by Archie Campbell, an enthusiast from Hawick who set up stumps in the Kinning Park area of south Glasgow, and within three years an 8,000-strong crowd witnessed the 22 men of Scotland vanquish 11 of England in a contest which saw 20 wickets captured by John Wisden, of Cricketers' Almanac fame.

The early Clydesdale sporting pioneers also played football, contesting the first Scottish Cup final against Queen's Park in 1874, before leaving the Kinning Park policies to Rangers, and heading to Pollokshields. Mackay's monumental mantle was assumed by Mure Hart, a Corinthian CB Fry type, who was the Titwood golden boy of the 1930s.

An opening bowler and brilliant cover fielder, an Oxford Blue and Scottish cricket and rugby cap, Hart was a close friend of Dale benefactor Victor Black, whose generosity enabled the club to purchase Titwood. The next generation's local hero was Willie Edward, who gained 41 caps and held the Scottish captaincy in the early 1950s.

Some fine professionals have spearheaded Dale's success, most notably Barbados all-rounder Adzil Holder, New South Wales quickie Mark Clews, long-serving former Essex journeyman Brian Edmeades, and talismanic Pakistani Aamir Hanif. But since the Titwood innovators of 1893 pioneered a junior section for a princely sum of five shillings (25p), youth development has headed the club's agenda above hired assassins, and in July 1979 all 11 of the Clydesdale team who trounced Northumberland by ten wickets at Jesmond in the NCA Cup were products who were nurtured at Alan Robertson's Titwood stable.

A century-maker that day was the club's greatest modern batsman, the prolific Terry Racionzer, who played at Sussex alongside such as Dexter and Snow.

'The Rac' was capped 63 times, his crease persona exuding an air of impregnable authority, and he featured in all six of the club's Scottish Cup triumphs. Rac's comrade in arms, the wily bowler 'Sid' Siddique, surely should have been picked for Scotland. More recently, the imperious Scott Weir, scorer of a century against MCC at Lord's, was another prodigious batting talent, while the recalled Saltires man Ian Stanger, now of Greenock, and the athletic, record-breaking all-rounder Greig Williamson have each accrued more than a century of caps.

"We value our youngsters hugely," says Mike Stanger, Clydesdale's chairman of cricket, who has served as chairman of the Western District Cricket Union junior section for 25 years. "Currently we're enjoying the fruits of a very special, once-in-a-lifetime crop."

Scotland's under-19 captain Kasim Farid, wicketkeeper/batsman Andy Hislop, left-arm spinner Ross Lyons and batsman Qasim Sheikh, who was capped in recent days, are first-team regulars who have progressed through the junior ranks. The men from Titwood are favourites to retain the SNCL Premiership, though skipper Colin Mitchell reflects: "It can be exasperating when our success is attributed largely to Saltires star Yasir Arafat. Sure, Yasir is a special pro, but we're a well-rounded side in which every player has a key job to fulfil. Later-order batting and middle-innings bowling have played every bit as significant a role as top-order pyrotechnics."

Scott Weir, a former captain and something of an RAF icon, once rounded on a Penicuik host, who had the temerity to query why his Dale team were late in arriving at Kirkhill for a Sunday friendly. He declared: "Look, pal, this game starts whenever we arrive - and finishes whenever we've won."

In an earlier era, perhaps Dan Mackay would not have subscribed to such bombast, but he was no less committed to the success ethic, and the winning Titwood tradition shows no sign of abating.