SCOTLAND manager Gordon Strachan led the tributes to former national team doctor Professor Stewart Hillis, who has died at the age of 70 after a short illness.
One of the best known and most popular figures within the Scottish football fraternity, Hillis was awarded an OBE in 2009 for his services to medicine and sport.
He was involved in a remarkable 228 Scotland matches from 1982 to 2010, working at three World Cup finals and two European Championship finals, and also had spells as club doctor for Clydebank and Rangers.
“He was great company and was hugely respected in his job,” said Strachan, who won most of his Scotland caps during Hillis’ time with the national team. “There’s nothing more you can ask of your team doctor but ‘The Prof’ always lit up the room with his personality. As a player you loved having him around and, as a manager, you could always rely on his advice.”
Hillis, who once described himself as “a punter on the bench” in his role alongside eight different Scotland managers, had his professional abilities recognised throughout world football during periods as vice-chairman of Uefa’s Medical Committee and as a medical advisor to Fifa.
“I have had the pleasure of knowing Stewart for almost 40 years and consider him a man of great knowledge, experience and wisdom,” said SFA president Campbell Ogilvie. “He was a medic of the highest standards and we are all fortunate that he brought those standards to the Scottish FA during his time as international team doctor and medical director and advisor.
“As well as his professional capabilities, he was also terrific company and I know that his personality, sense of humour and repartee were as essential to many Scotland national teams under many national coaches as his medical expertise.
“My thoughts go to his family: his wife, Anne, his sons Andrew, Ally, Iain and daughter Sara. He will be sadly missed by his many friends at the Scottish FA and throughout the football world.”
Hillis graduated in medicine at Glasgow University in 1967 and became Consultant Cardiologist in 1977, going on to develop the BSc in Sports Medicine and MSc in Sports and Exercise Medicine at the University. His long-time colleague, Dr John MacLean, succeeded him as international team doctor and also heads the Hampden Park Sports Medicine Centre.
“I have lost a friend and a mentor,” said Dr MacLean. “I have had the privilege of working with him and learning from him, both in my university days and during my own time with the Scottish FA. He was integral to the creation of the Sports Medicine Centre at Hampden Park, which was the first of its kind when the stadium was redeveloped, and he championed hard and successfully for the introduction of anti-doping and heart screening into Scottish football.”
It was Hillis who battled in vain to save the life of legendary manager Jock Stein who died of heart failure at the conclusion of Scotland’s World Cup qualifying match against Wales in Cardiff in 1985. “It’s bad to not be successful in a resuscitation attempt, it’s even worse when it’s someone that you know very well,” Hillis recalled in an interview several years later. “We had what we needed. We had all the equipment. But it was a lost cause. The last thing Jock said to me was, ‘It’s a whole lot better now, doc.’
“I’d known Jock for years. It was often said he had a heart attack in Cardiff, but he didn’t have a heart attack as such. He had heart muscle disease. Normally he would have taken water tablets but, on the day of the game, he hadn’t taken them. He was his own man.”