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John Lambie – Obituary

The club were saddened to learn of the death of former Manager, across two spells, John Lambie at the age of 77 on Tuesday morning (10th April).

We knew from others that John had not kept in the best of health over the past year, however our thoughts are very much with his family and friends at this time.

John is best known at Accies, his first Managerial appointment, for leading us to the First Division Championship twice in three seasons, as well as that famous victory over Rangers in the Scottish Cup in 1987.

He would go on to have three spells as manager of Partick Thistle (with a famous period of 1988-1990 when he twice switched between the clubs) and would later become Manager at Falkirk as well (teaming up with former Accies Chairman George Fulston).

As a player John was a full back, making over 300 league appearances at Falkirk and St Johnstone. He later became a coach at Hibs, under Bertie Auld. Bertie took over as Accies Manager in June 1983 (having been managerial consultant to John Blackley the previous season), and brought John from Easter Road as his first team coach. John took over as manager after Bertie’s departure in January 1984, and it was a Thursday night Scottish Cup tie at home to Alloa (3-1 for Accies) that saw John’s first match as a Manager.

John was famous for, amongst many other things, his quick and frequent turnover in players, and this was the days long before transfer windows! He specialised in bringing the best out of players, his man management skills were incredible, and he got by far the best out of players at particular periods in their careers.

At this time we were perennial 7th place finishers (and occasionally 5th!) in the middle division of the then three Scottish Football Leagues. We were the only team not to have been promoted nor relegated from the First Division – then John came along, and he enjoyed a great relationship with then Chairman, the late Jan Stepek, and then Secretary Alan Dick, along with a very supportive Board. The squad saw many changes and full time football started. A youth scheme started, long before we had youth academies – and amongst the first batch of the new young team was Allan Ferguson (who would go on to play well over 300 times for us, the most by any player in the past 30 years), current Forfar Manager Jim Weir, and current Kilmarnock Head of Youth Paul McDonald.

A superb squad, ably lead by skipper Graham Mitchell, and the legendary goalscoring feats of John Brogan, took the leadership of the First Division after a 5-4 win at Alloa in December 1985, and we never looked back. We went on to win the championship and take our place in the Premier Division for the first time since league reorganisation in 1975, and our return to the top flight for the first time since 1965-66. Alas, with the smallest squad and budget in the top flight (times don’t change), we got off to a bad start, losing 1-0 at home to Clydebank in the opening game at Douglas Park, and it took until the end of November, with a 3-1 win at Easter Road, before we registered our first victory. December and January saw an increase in form though, notwithstanding a 7-0 defeat at Tynecastle, but some amazing results followed in the next few weeks – amongst them a superb 4-2 New Years Day win over Motherwell (Albert Craig scoring all four), followed just two days later by an 8-3 defeat at Celtic in which Albert scored again for five goals in two days and a Kevin McKee shot which hit both posts and didn’t go in. Bobby Barr then suffered a leg break at Ibrox as Rangers had two players sent off against us, we then won at St Mirren, before a return to Ibrox the following week and THAT victory.

Relegation followed though, and the following season we lead the league from Day 1 to Day 44 and won the Championship for a second time in three seasons. Players like Gerry Collins excelled under John’s managership, and many others would go on to play well for us like Alex Hamill, Stevie Clarke, Joe Reid, Gerry McCabe, John Pelosi, Gerry Phillips, Kevin McKee and many others. Danny McGrain also came in and Chic Charnley too. But, after an 8-0 home defeat by Celtic in November 1988, John received an offer from Partick Thistle to go there.

Jim Dempsey, John’s assistant, was appointed Manager, but Jim departed after eleven months and John returned from Firhill for his second spell. However, and amazingly, this lasted just under seven months, before John received a second calling from Firhill and he returned to Partick for a second time.

He would later have successful spells at Partick Thistle then went to Falkirk too.

Famed for his love of pigeon racing, the Whitburn Juniors Social Club (for some reason this became a regular dropping off, and dropping in, spot for the Accies team bus en route home from matches in the east!), club trips to Blackpool (he once suffered a broken rib after the players threw him in the sea!) (club trips to Blackpool seemed to coincide with pigeon conventions), as well as an eventful mid season trip to Spain one time as well. John also enjoyed great banter with our supporter ‘Fergie’, and the story of John bringing him onto the team bus at Montrose, and promptly putting him off at Arbroath, is perfectly true! Another time when John  was Manager at Firhill Fergie was pleading with him outside his office for a free ticket, John duly obliged, then once Fergie had the prized brief in his hand, out came Fergie’s usual torrent.

John was unique, a one off as a Manager, and a great Man Manager, was certainly ‘old school’, and whether he could have coped with today’s technical areas and transfer windows is another story. He entered Accies Hall of Fame (alongside Adrian Sprott and Bobby Shearer) in 2001 (and would also enter Partick Thistle’s hall of fame too).

Some comments…
Adrian Sprott – I am still in Spain and just read about John, so sad.  I don’t have any other contact email addresses.  If you can, please pass on my condolences and thoughts to everyone involved, particularly John’s family.
Allan Ferguson – RIP Gaffer, Old school, top Manager. Guys like this are no longer in the game. Thanks for giving me my chance in the game…You will be sadly missed.
Jim Weir – He scared us! But was an amazing gaffer. Great times and great memories

Update** John’s funeral will be on Tuesday 17th April, 1245pm at Brucefield Church in Whitburn

Scott Struthers

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