Time Tunnel - The Class of 1975/76
The previous season we finished joint second in the old Second Division and thus were to take part in the new First Division, which was the new second tier, for the 1975/6 season. There were some big ‘names’ in there so it was going to be a big ‘ask’ for the Mo and I bet not many outside of Links Park would have put money on how the season would pan out for the Mo. Let’s look at the squad first of all because it was they who carried the flag onto the pitch every week. Alex Stuart was Manager and a very ambitious young manager at the time in his first post as the Gaffer. Under his guidance Montrose were unquestionably the shock team of the season not just on the pitch but throughout the media world as well by consistently dragging the best reporters out of their comfort zone to cover the remarkable exploits of this wee club of ours which was, to use the words of one of them ‘away out in the sticks with only smoke signals to use as a means of communication.’ More than once I recall problems, disagreements or whatever with space being in demand from the media in our tiny old grandstand which used to be where the North Terrace is now. To boot there was only one telephone as well – poor things! Hence all the bonfires round the back as their smoke signals were sent in the direction of Glasgow and other centres of civilisation beyond the Montrose Basin.
Yes, for once our wee town was a hive of soccer activity. Alex’s team produced a brand of soccer skill formerly unknown to come out of the old Second Division. So who were these lads who blended into such a formidable team?
In goal was Dave Gorman. He was extremely agile and only his relatively small stature for a ‘keeper was probably the only reason why he did not feature at a higher level at the time. In the back line The Legend Les Barr (pictured right) featured at right back whilst the defence also featured man mountain Denis D’Arcy, a Banks O Dee product and also still a legend in these parts. Tall and bearded he was just the man you needed to put in front of the opposition on a cold winter’s day. He was usually partnered by Billy McNichol and Stewart Markland and to this day I’ll never know how he got in the way of a goal bound shot at the Hampdem semi-final that season. The central midfield were Harry Johnston a PE teacher from Glasgow, Bertie Miller signed from East Fife and Ian Stewart (himself to become a legend) who was an ex Clyde and Forfar player. Up front were Kenny Cameron, Charlie Guthrie, Bobby Livingstone and Jimmy Cant. Kenny was later to become a Montrose Manager as was Bobby Livingstone. Kenny was previously a goal scoring machine at Kilmarnock and Dundee United whilst Charlie was a dangerous and tricky little wing player whilst Bobby was a tall long striding cultured type of player. He was by no means fast but had that canny knack of reading the game and being in the right place. Indeed I can think of no better player at latching on to that all important ‘second ball.’ He played just in behind the main strikers but chipped in with many important goals and his use of space made him a most important outlet for the ball when the defence were stretched and needed to hoof the ball in Bobby’s direction. He would hold up play and use the ball intelligently to set up our own play. Jimmy Cant was more of a midfield player and one of many better signings from Arbroath over the years. He was vastly experienced and his role in that class of 75/6 was in my opinion very much under estimated as he was overshadowed by other prominent ‘stars’ of that era. It was a squad game of course and other lads who were very much part of the team were Malcolm Lowe who went on to be a fixture alongside D’Arcy in defence. Charlie Downie and Derek Daun also featured regularly whilst Walker, Smart, Guyan and Paris made up the remainder of that formidable ‘Class of 75/6.’
So let’s have a brief reminder of just what that squad achieved. Firstly we must look at the league which is the tell tale barometer of success over a full season. We finished in third place which was truly remarkable for a club and town of our size. Just one place outside what is now known as the SPL. In the cup competitions I doubt if we will ever repeat that 1975/6 season. We reached the Hampden semi-final of the League Cup and led League and Cup double Rangers 1-0 well into the second half and we hit the post before Rangers broke away from the rebound to equalise and then go on to win it. Along the way there was the quarter final win over Hibernian in that never to be forgotten game which included the legendary long range winner from Les Barr. We excelled in the Scottish Cup as well that season and eventually lost in a second replay to Hearts in the quarter final after agonising Hearts last gasp equalisers in both the first game at LP and the first replay at Tynecastle.
A truly remarkable season from a truly remarkable squad of players led by an equally remarkable Manager in Alex Stuart. The ‘Class of 1975/6’ are all true Montrose legends.
Steve Doyle (Sassmo)