STARS OF PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE HONOURED AT GFR ANNUAL AWARDS
FOOTBALL'S stars of the past, present and future were honoured on Friday at Gala Fairydean Rovers' second presentation evening and Hall of Fame awards. More than 200 players, officials and supporters, including former Scotland captain and club ambassador John Collins, packed into the Volunteer Hall. And they were rewarded with a glittering dribble down memory lane as some of Gala Fairydean's and Gala Rovers' greats from down the decades were honoured with induction into the Hall of Fame.
Alan Notman enjoyed an incredible career with Gala Fairydean during the '80s and '90s and appeared in 10 Qualifying Cup finals, winning seven of them, along with four East of Scotland League Championships - two with the Fairydean and two with Vale of Leithen. John Collins told the packed Volunteer Hall of how his father Norrie had taken him to Netherdale as a youngster and told him to watch Notman and how he played. The former Celtic, Everton, Monaco and Scotland star said: "This award is well deserved. "You never gave the ball away Alan, you were a proper football player, brilliant to watch.” The man they call Mr Gala Rovers, Ronnie Renton, was also inducted into the Hall of Fame.
A decade long stint with Gala Rovers in the 1950s and early 60s cemented Ronnie’s place as a legend in local football. He enjoyed a glittering carer with the Rovers winning the Border Amateur League in successive seasons in 1953, 54 and 55. And he also helped the Rovers win the Beveridge Cup in 1953 whilst in 1954 he lifted the South Cup, the Dudley Cup and the Border Medal competition. Ronnie passed away in 2016 and his widow Nancy, along with his sister Mary Strathie, collected his award on the night. Former Queens Park, Ayr United and Berwick Rangers striker Ian Whitehead had played for Gala Rovers at the age of 13 and went onto play for and manage Gala Fairydean in the early 90s. The seven times capped Amateur internationalist had a glittering career as both a player and manager in the East of Scotland Leagues and his Selkirk side won 10 trophies in five sensational years in the mid-1970s.
On receiving his award Ian told the packed hall that he had originally been against the merger of the Fairydean and Rovers back in 2013, but on seeing how big the club had become and its fantastic community programme he had changed his mind. As well as individual inductees, Bobby Kirk and his Gala Fairydean side of 1965/66 were honoured for a season that saw them clinch their fourth successive East of Scotland title along with a number of cups including the King Cup, Scottish Qualifying Cup and the East of Scotland Qualifying Cup. The former Hearts star led the Fairydean through one of the most successful periods in the club’s history. Former members of the team, Tam Cornwall and Jimmy Peacock were in attendance. Cornwall made 63 appearances for the Fairydean scoring an incredible 64 goals including four in one match, five hat tricks and 12 braces. He played two full seasons, 1964-65 and 1965-66 but suffered a leg break in the final match of that season. He came back and played three matches in the following season before breaking his leg again. Peacock played in a Borders select match against the French national team at Netherdale in 1966 prior to the World Cup. Peacock scored against the French side and went on to have a successful career as a physiotherapist with a number of top clubs and the Scottish and Saudi Arabian national teams.
The Gala Rovers “Invincibles” Team of 2000/01 season were also inducted. Ralph Wilson’s side played 22 games and won every one of them in a spectacular season. On collecting the award, Ralph said: "I had an easy job. "I just had to pick a team from a squad of brilliant footballers. "What they achieved was special.” Wilson's Rovers side also won the Waddell Cup and were runners up in the Beveridge Cup that season. For the first time, two volunteers were also inducted into the club's Hall of Fame. Debi Ritchie fulfils a number of roles at Gala Fairydean Rovers as well as chairing and playing for the Ladies team. She is also the club's official photographer and social media manager. The final inductee was Adam McClory. His first game watching the Fairydean was in 1956 and he has hardly missed a game since. Adam was awarded Life Membership of GFR in 2013 for his services as a supporter, volunteer and committee member like his father before him. Gala Fairydean Rovers chairman Kevin Temple told us: "Our Hall of Fame awards is fast becoming one of the highlights of the calendar year for the club. "It is an honour and a privilege for us to be able to recognise the achievements of the past whilst rewarding the current crop of players and volunteers at the club. "We are grateful to all of the volunteers who helped us stage the event and to Trophy Guy for sponsoring the Hall of Fame and Live Borders for supporting our Community Team Awards.”
The teams who all play under the Gala Fairydean Rovers banner all used Friday's bash to make their own presentations. The GFR Walking Football Team kicked off proceedings, rewarding members for an outstanding season that saw them come close to winning the inaugural national Walking Football Football League. The GFR Ladies section is about to start playing their first friendlies with games lined up against Hawick United Ladies and Blyth Town Ladies AFC. Coaches Fred Blackie, Mick McEwan and Stuart Turner presented Player of the Year and Coaches Player of the Year Awards.
A special presentation was organised for a member of the GFR Disability Squad to recognise his courage in the face of tremendous adversity. Just after last year’s event, youngster Darren Thomson from the squad suffered a stroke and at one stage was given only hours to live. But Darren is a fighter and after sic months was eventually discharged form hospital. Darren, a keen Hibs fan, received a standing ovation and was delighted to receive his award form John Collins.
During the evening, the club confirmed that next season they will be fielding an Under 20s Development Side into the Lowland Development League bringing the number of total number of players at the club to well over 300 when member of the club’s junior and youth sections are taken into account. Mike Riddell, Manager of the Border Amateur development side thanked his young squad and congratulated them on a tremendous season that saw them reach three cup finals and miss out on promotion by a single point.
Whilst the vast majority of the team are teenagers, the player of the Year was veteran Welsh Curran who had picked up the same award 18 years ago when he was still a youngster with Scott Ritchie’s Gala Rovers team. Departing first-team manager Steven Noble was presented with a silver salver for his five years of service to the club. He also received an award for services to football in the community from Garry Fraser and Fred Blackie from the GFR Football Academy. Noble will remain on the club’s Board as an advisor on football matters whilst taking up a coaching role in the Hibernian Youth set-up. Club secretary Graeme McIver paid tribute to the departing manager stating that in his five years at the helm nobody had worked harder to make the club a success whilst sticking to his principles of passing and attacking football.
It was left to Noble to announce his Lowland League award winners. Ross Aitchison was selected as the club’s Player of the Year, Scott Main picked up the Players' Player of the Year Award with Stuart Noble receiving the Top Scorer Award for the fifth season in succession. On-loan Rangers youngster Lewis Muir secured the Young Player of the Year Award whilst youngster Fraser Malcolm received the Goal of the Season Award thanks to a stunning strike in an important victory against Hawick Royal Albert.
Chairman Kevin Temple finished the event by thanking all those in attendance along with a number of local businesses including the club’s main sponsor 5 Star Taxis, major club sponsors Ostles Tyres, Zest Blinds and Border Pharmacy, event sponsor Trophy Guy, sponsors of the Community Awards Live Borders, Qube, Carlsberg, Montessori at Home, Border Handyman Services Def Con 4 Entertainment, MD Weddings and Events, The Auld Mill and a number of other local companies who had helped in preparations for the evening.
2018 Award Winners:
Gala Fairydean Rovers Walking Football Team
Player of the Year: John Dodds
Young Player of the Year: Jim Mclaren
Gala Fairydean Rovers Borders Disability Squad
Special Award to Darren Thomson
Presented by John Collins
Gala Fairydean Rovers Women’s Team
Player’s Player of the Year: Rebbeca Wood
Coaches Player of the Year: Abby Wilson
Gala Fairydean Rovers Borders Amateur Team
Player of the Year: Welsh Curran
Player’s Player of the Year: Andrew Callow
Young Player of the Year: Luke Meissner
Goal of the Season: Lewis Swaney
Top Scorer: Andrew Crawford
Gala Fairydean Rovers Lowland Team
Player of the Year: Ross Aitchison
Player’s Player of the Year: Scott Main
Young Player of the Year: Lewis Muir
Goal of the Season: Fraser Malcolm
Top Scorer: Stuart Noble
Award for Services as Manager
Award for Services to Football in the Community
Life Membership Award
Hall of Fame Inductees
Ian “Chalky” Whitehead
Gala Fairydean 1965/66 and Manager Bobby Kirk
Gala Rovers 2000/01 and Manager Ralph Wilson