Law lord who held court at Spartans FC

STILL playing football for the Scottish bar side, the Faculty Phantoms, Lord Kingarth, a member of the first Spartans team to win the East of Scotland title in the early Seventies, reckons the success of the current players, who meet St Mirren at Love Street in a Tennent's Scottish Cup fourth-round replay tonight, far outstrips anything accomplished in his heyday.

A supreme court judge since 2001, Lord Kingarth, 56, was better known as Derek Emslie when, in his twenties, he flitted between playing scrum-half for Edinburgh Wanderers and midfield for Spartans. Once the dynamic hub of the Edinburgh amateurs' championship-winning side in 1972, the law lord is now a season-ticket holder at Easter Road who retains an enduring affection for his old club.

"I was very fit and was picked in those days because I ran around a lot," he recalled before presiding at the High Court in Dunfermline yesterday. "We played a 4-3-3 formation which became all the rage after England won the World Cup in 1966 with that system. It needed someone in midfield to get all over the pitch and that was my brief.

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"I've always loved the game and felt quite fortunate to play at that level. I still turn out today in defence for the bar team and am looking forward to taking part in the European Lawyers Championship, which is being held in Salzburg in May. Fortunately, there are some young legs beside me."

The son of a Third Lanark supporter, the late Lord President and Lord Justice-General, Lord Emslie, Derek's brother Nigel, now the present Lord Emslie, also played in attack for Spartans. According to Dave Tait, a defensive team-mate of the Emslie brothers, what was most impressive about Derek's game was "his tremendous fitness and energy. He never seemed to stop and from the perspective of a slightly less fit full-back, this was a huge bonus and major contribution to the success of the team. In terms of the effect of lifestyle on fitness, Derek was years ahead of his time. He instinctively realised the inverse relationship between amount of beer consumed and level of fitness."

Although winning the league with Spartans was a notable accomplishment for amateurs competing against semi-pros, perhaps the individual highlight of Lord Kingarth's sporting career came when he twice played at Wembley. Not only did he score for Cambridge against Oxford in the Varsity match, but also relished the honour of becoming the first footballer to see his name flashed on the electronic scoreboard.

"By sheer coincidence, my name was the first to go up in lights at Wembley," he recalled. "It was decided to use the game between the universities to try out the new scoreboard for the first time. I didn't score too many goals, but I did get one on that occasion. The FA took the match quite seriously at that time and the attendance was over 30,000. I remember the following day in the Guardian, Frank Keating wrote an article which lamented the fact the first name to go up in lights at Wembley was not George Best or Bobby Charlton, or Pele, but a hitherto complete unknown."

The esteemed sportswriter would have been impressed to learn how the young Scot went on to graduate from the Universities of Cambridge (BA, Gonville and Caius College) and Edinburgh (LLB) before being admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1974 and appointed Queen's Counsel in 1987. From 1979 to 1987 he was Standing Junior Counsel to the Department of Health and Social Security, and was an Advocate Depute from 1985 to 1988. He's served as chairman of the Pension Appeal Tribunal and the Medical Appeal Tribunal. He was Vice Dean of the Faculty of Advocates from 1995 to 1997. Lord Kingarth was appointed a judge in 1997, and a supreme court judge in 2001.

As for his love of football, Derek Emslie was taken to see Gordon Smith as a five-year-old and says he's "suffered with Hibs ever since". He regards the current Spartans side as "extremely able - the whole club is run far more professionally today. When we won the league, we were very much a group of graduates and I think shocked a lot of people. Prior to that, Spartans were regarded as a bit of a joke team."