LEADING Scottish football figures yesterday mourned the death of Bill Dickie, a former president of the Scottish football Association and current vice-chairman of Motherwell.
Dickie served as president for four years in the mid-Nineties and held this position when Scotland reached the finals of Euro 96, under manager Craig Brown. Dickie was also instrumental in bringing Brown to Fir Park, originally on a temporary basis, in 2009, following the sacking of then manager Jim Gannon.
Brown proved such a success that he stayed on for a year, until leaving to join Aberdeen last winter. Dickie was also on the board at Fir Park during Brown’s first spell at Motherwell as assistant manager to Willie McLean in the mid-Seventies. He was one of the longest serving directors in Scottish football with over 30 years of service.
“He had this ritual of coming down to the tunnel at half-time and at the end of the game,” remembered Brown. “As the players came off he was always there with a pat on the shoulder and a smile. Whenever a game was televised, you’d be able to see him there, welcoming the troops as they came in.”
While Brown’s professional relationship with Dickie stretches back to the Seventies he really got to know the man during their days together with Scotland. “I got on well with him, he was always courteous,” he recalled. “He was always straight up and down, as he was at Motherwell. You couldn’t fault him.”
Jack McGinn, the former Celtic chairman, served as vice-president under Dickie at the SFA and was in his company as recently as Saturday, having been invited to Fir Park as his guest for the Scottish Cup fourth-round tie between Motherwell and Queen’s Park. McGinn’s grandson, Paul, plays for the Glasgow amateurs and so McGinn watched Motherwell win 4-0 in the seat next to Dickie. “The news is particularly shattering for me in the circumstances,” said McGinn.
“He was a very able and likeable man,” he added. “He would chair meetings in a quiet but strong manner. He had a strong personality but was very personable. The thing that strikes me is that I also don’t remember him ever being ill.”
There is dispute about Dickie’s age, although it is understood he was in his eighties. However, no-one at Motherwell was able to confirm the exact age. “He was always coy about that,” said a club spokesman.
Among Dickie’s tasks in his capacity as chairman of Motherwell, a position he held between 2003 and 2008, was making public the death of Phil O’Donnell, following the skipper’s collapse during a match at Fir Park against Dundee United. Dickie could be said to be in with the bricks at Fir Park. An architect by trade, Dickie helped design both the two-tier South stand at the ground and also the Davie Cooper stand. His office was a few minutes’ walk from the club.
Motherwell struggled to come to terms with his death yesterday. “Everyone is absolutely devastated by Bill’s sudden passing,” said Leeann Dempster, the club’s chief executive. “He was one of those characters that was so bright and bubbly; it has come as a great shock to everyone at Fir Park.
“Indeed, just last Saturday he was in and around the club for the Scottish Cup clash with Queen’s Park being his usual self. He was being very positive about the team and the future of the club in his own unique style.
“It goes without saying that we would like to pass on our deepest condolences to Bill’s family and close friends at this very sad time.”
Sieb Dykstra, the former Motherwell goalkeeper, paid his own tribute. “A true gentleman who was a very influential person inside Motherwell,” he said. Current player Steven Saunders said he had been left “devastated” by the news. “He will be missed by all,” he added.
Campbell Ogilvie, the current SFA president, extended his deepest sympathies to the Dickie family and everyone at Motherwell on behalf of the board of directors and staff at the SFA. “We are all shocked and saddened to learn of Bill’s death,” he said. “It was sudden and unexpected, especially as he was both very active within the club, as vice-chairman, and in his personal life. He will indeed be much missed by all who knew him.
“He was a tremendously passionate and committed administrator of the game,” he added. “More importantly, he was a lover of Scottish football and a man who was respected by all for his integrity and professionalism.
“Bill served on the Scottish FA Council for many years and became president from season 1993/94 to 1996/97. His involvement with the Scottish FA continued well beyond his period of presidency and his support of the Scotland national team was much appreciated. He was very highly thought of here at Hampden Park and his passing will be a great loss to Scottish football.”
Motherwell plan to hold a tribute to Dickie at this weekend’s Scottish Premier League match against Inverness Caledonian Thistle. The players will wear black armbands and there will be a minute’s applause.