John Lambie, former Partick Thistle manager, dies aged 77

John Lambie celebrates winning promotion with Partick Thistle in 2001. Picture: Robert Perry
John Lambie celebrates winning promotion with Partick Thistle in 2001. Picture: Robert Perry
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John Lambie, the former manager of Partick Thistle and Hamilton Academical, has died at the age of 77.

The Jags legend had been battling a long-term illness before his death on Tuesday.

Lambie and Frank McAvennie pictured at Firhill in 1993. Picture: TSPL

Lambie and Frank McAvennie pictured at Firhill in 1993. Picture: TSPL

Lambie took charge of the Firhill side on three separate occasions. He won promotion to the Premier Division with Partick in 1992 during his second spell, and took the reins again in 1999.

With Thistle at risk of relegation to the fourth tier of Scottish football, Lambie turned things around and kept the team up, leading them to successive promotions and a place in the Scottish Premier League.

A statement from the Jags read: “Partick Thistle Football Club is deeply saddened to learn that former manager, hall of fame inductee and Thistle legend John Lambie has today passed away.

“The thoughts of everyone associated with the club are with John’s family and friends at this difficult time.”

With assistant manager Gerry Collins at Firhill in October 1992. Picture: Paul Reid

With assistant manager Gerry Collins at Firhill in October 1992. Picture: Paul Reid

Born in Whitburn in West Lothian, Lambie began his footballing career with the town’s junior team before turning senior with Falkirk in 1958.

Starting his career as an inside forward, he later switched to full back, and spent 11 years with the Bairns, making 199 appearances.

Lambie joined St Johnstone in August 1969 and enjoyed a successful five years with the Saints, reaching the final of the Scottish League Cup, achieving a third place finish in the League and the club’s debut in Europe.

He hung up his boots in 1974 after more than 400 games as a player, and joined the St Johnstone coaching staff.

Lambie braves the elements at Ruchill Park, Glasgow, as his Partick players are put through their paces in February 2002. Picture: Donald MacLeod

Lambie braves the elements at Ruchill Park, Glasgow, as his Partick players are put through their paces in February 2002. Picture: Donald MacLeod

READ MORE - John Lambie - a ‘can-doo’ sort of manager

Lambie had a spell as a coach at Hibernian, serving as part of a five-man management team alongside Bertie Auld, Cecil Graham, Tom McNiven and Pat Quinn, before joining Hamilton as assistant to former Easter Road colleague Auld.

Lambie succeeded Auld in 1984, leading Accies to the First Division title in 1986 and a shock Scottish Cup win over Rangers at Ibrox the following season.

In 1988 Lambie was appointed manager of Partick Thistle, and under his leadership the club was eyeing promotion to the top flight. Despite this he rejoined Hamilton in 1989, before returning to Firhill in 1990.

He led the Jags to the Scottish top flight in 1992, keeping them in the Premier Division for the next three seasons.

Lambie left Thistle in 1995 in search of a new challenge, and took the reins at former club Falkirk, but he left that post in March 1996.

After three years out of the game, amid rumours he had retired, Lambie returned for a third time to manage Partick, who were struggling in the lower leagues after being relegated twice.

With the club in danger of a third relegation to the Third Division, Lambie transformed the club’s fortunes, avoiding the ignominy of a third relegation and eventually guiding them to successive promotions and a return to the top league in 2002.

He retired from management in 2003 and took a seat on the Firhill board, but was tempted back downstairs for a brief spell as caretaker boss in December 2004.

Lambie’s penchant for a bon mot, and love of cigars and pigeon racing - “My pigeons relaxed me”, he revealed last year - made him a popular figure in Scottish football.

His response to being told that concussed Jags striker Colin McGlashan had no idea who he was - “Tell him he’s Pele and get him back on’ - remains one of the Scottish game’s greatest quotes.

READ MORE - Interview: John Lambie on doos, dogs and heid-bangers