Kevin McAllister: Crunchie still brings Falkirk fans to feet as Kilmarnock take friendly spoils
The pitch was a couple of miles out of town from Brockville, and plastic rather than grass, but Kevin McAllister’s appearance still brought Falkirk fans to their feet 39 years after his debut.
The 59-year-old former winger, nicknamed Crunchie, was given a guard of honour by his hometown team and friendly opponents Kilmarnock ahead of the 4-1 defeat that marked the opening of his eponymous stand at The Falkirk Stadium. His former manager, Alex Totten, was also in attendance to pay tribute to the ex-Hibs and Chelsea man.
Kilmarnock had beaten him on his big day as a player – the 1997 Scottish Cup Final – but despite another defeat, this night still belonged to McAllister.
His legacy has now permanently carried from Brockville where he plied his trade, to Westfield, after a two-year fan campaign to recognise the club’s Player of the Millennium.
“It was a bit surreal and I was a bit emotional, embarrassed to be honest,” McAllister admitted on hearing the suggestion. “If it was at Brockville it would have been an easy decision as that’s where I grew up.
“I don’t like a fuss, I just wanted to play for the club. Having a stand named after me and all that was never on the agenda but it’s a decent legacy.
“Fair play to the fans who raised the money for this and other charities. It’s been a fantastic effort.”
The man of the moment made his debut for the club in 1983 in a friendly just like this one, facing up to Frankie Gray and Leeds United.
In this match, hamstrung by injuries to new signings including Coll Donaldson and Stephen McGinn, Falkirk boss John McGlynn gave several trialists a similar opportunity – not that many, past or present, possess the trickery, tenacity and talents of McAllister.
Ash Taylor scored the opener after 13 minutes for a strong Kilmarnock line-up that won’t look out of place if named in this season’s Premiership, though Bairns captain Brad McKay responded for the home side 15 minutes later with a similar front-post header.
Substitute Innes Cameron beat goalkeeper PJ Morrison with a diving header to restore Killie’s lead and then added a third before Taylor’s late effort made it 4-1.
The scoreline though was less significant than paying tribute to Falkirk’s hometown hero.
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