Motherwell FC is today devastated to learn of the death of the clubs’ Greatest Ever Player, Andy Paton, aged 91.
Paton was born into a footballing family on January 2nd, 1923 in the little Ayrshire village of Dreghorn. His three uncles had already played professional for clubs such as Newcastle, Derby, Spurs and Swansea, so it was almost inevitable Andy too would follow in those footsteps.
In 1937, aged just 14, the young defender was making a name for himself in the blue and white of Irvine Meadow.
Five years later, aged 19 and a little and into the 1942/3 season, Paton decided to take the plunge and leave Kello Rovers, accepting a trial invitation from then Motherwell manager, John ‘Sailor’ Hunter who eventually signed him.
Sixteen years later, including skippering the club for their first ever trophy success in the 1950 League Cup Final, beating the all-conquering Hibs 3-0 at Hampden Park.
Andy, who’d played in all ten League Cup ties, and had been part of the 1945 beaten finalists (war time), beamed with pride as he lifted the silverware high into the grey Glasgow sky.
Moments before he himself was lifted, shoulder high by his jubilant teammates, displaying the gleaming trophy to the adoring fans that had travelled to Mount Florida from Lanarkshire.
Even greater success would follow the next season with one of the clubs’ greatest ever achievements.
Having disposed of Forfar, St. Mirren, Dunfermline, Rangers and Hearts, Stevenson’s men took their place opposite Dundee in the Scottish Cup Final in April 1952.
With the weather blustery and overcast, the Taysiders, with the wind at their backs, dominated proceedings with ‘Well Captain Willie Kilmarnock forced to clear off his own goal line no less than three times!
After the teams changed round, it was Motherwell who took advantage of the conditions, scoring four without reply to secure the Scottish Cup for the first time in the Clubs history.
Less than a month later, Paton was rightly rewarded for his football style, when at last he achieved two (official) Scotland caps, away to Denmark and Sweden, to add to his previous three War time caps.
Sadly and somewhat inexplicably, this would be the first and last time Andy would represent his country.
Come the summer of 1958, Paton bid a fond and sad farewell to Fir Park on a free transfer and joined Hamilton Accies who he would later manage.
With over 500 (official and unofficial) appearances over fifteen seasons for Motherwell Football Club, there can be little doubt the impact this Ayrshire man had on the clubs’ history.
Speak to fans of a certain generation, and Andy will be spoken of in almost reverential terms. The kind of player who had you on the edge of your seat, the kind of player you would pay money to watch.
In 2006, the club rewarded him after being voted the ‘Greatest Ever Player’ by supporters at a ceremony at Fir Park. Andy, a true gentleman, was on hand to accept the award with a humble grace that typified his personality.
It’s unlikely Motherwell, and maybe even football, will see such a talented, and at times maverick, defender ever again.
May he forever rest in peace, firmly etched in Motherwell FC history as the Greatest Ever Steelman.
Words: Eddie Ferguson (GLF)