In the Tunnel is the one and only BRIAN THIRD
In writing this column it has given me enormous pleasure to re-trace and contact many of those who have served this great football club of ours in various capacities over the years.
It has been much easier to trace those who were involved in more recent years but the further you go back in time the harder it gets – obviously. There was one person in particular I wanted to trace because he left his mark in the history of Montrose FC in a manner which it is unlikely any other player in the future will ever do. He scored 33 goals in a season, 28 in the league and another 5 in the cup competitions. The other reason was that Brian Third is a man who gave me, as a Mo fanatic, a particular all time moment to savour as he blasted his sixth goal of the game into the Stranraer net at Stair Park on 23rd September 1972.
I had been trying to locate Brian for several years because to me he was one of the best players Montrose ever had even to this day. I had written to newspapers in the Peterhead area as I knew he finished his footballing career there – Peterhead even printed an appeal in their programme for anyone who knew him. I knew he was about the same vintage as me but little did I know that he was living in a quiet street close to Fraserburgh football ground when we played there in November. I got to know the Fraserburgh FC Chairman when we played them in the Cup earlier this season and we exchanged Emails afterwards. I happened to ask him if he had ever heard of Brian Third and lo and behold he knew Brian’s step daughter. He asked her to get in touch with me, she did and that’s how I finally phoned Brian and we had a fantastic chat all about MFC. His step daughter said Brian would be delighted to talk about anything to do with Montrose and she described him as ‘ a wonderful man’ and added that she hoped he and her mum would marry as it was about time they did! So, get on with it Brian.
Brian will probably hold the record for most Montrose goals in a season at a total of 33, for ever. He was at Links Park from 1971 to 1974 having signed from Peterhead for a sum of £2000 so becoming a vital part of the very successful Alex Stuart managing era. These days, some 40 years later there are not many of us left who saw Brian playing and who remember him and that was probably a reason why he did not get voted into the Hall of Fame 10 years ago. I hope we can put that right at some point.
Brian is by trade a painter and decorator and continued until he retired not long ago although he still does some work. In fact he is presently decorating a house to move into with his partner Margaret with whom he has been living with in his home town of Fraserburgh .
This is how Brian recalled his days at Montrose FC and although he does not get to Links Park much these days I could sense the pride and pleasure oozing out of him as we recalled those glory days of 40 or so years ago :-
Outline your career in Senior football.
Started off at my home town club Fraserburgh and played Centre Forward but didn’t get on well with everybody there at the time and after half a season I moved to local Junior club Invercairn United who were based only 3 miles away and played in the North East Amateur League. Deveronvale of the Highland League and based in Banff then offered me a trial. I must have done alright as they signed me and I played for them for a season as a full back. Elgin City then came in for me and I played for them as a full back but I didn’t enjoy it there although we won the league and the FA Qualifying Cup as well. I then had another short spell at Deveronvale before signing for Peterhead again still as a full back. Peterhead were short of a centre forward one week though and asked if I’d give it a go. First game was against, would you believe, Fraserburgh and I scored four. The next game was also against Fraserburgh and I scored another three. That was it – I was then a centre forward. Peterhead wanted me to sign as a full time professional so they could ask a bigger fee for me as there was interest from SFL clubs. Montrose and Manager Alex Stuart came in and paid £2000 so off I went to Links Park and enjoyed every minute of it there – as a centre forward. Finally after about three seasons Montrose sold me to St Mirren for £15,000 and I was there for two years before returning to Peterhead in the Highland League where a back injury ended my playing career and my final involvement in football was a short time as Manager of the Junior side Fraserburgh United. By far the best times I had were at Montrose where in one season I scored 33 league and cup goals at a time when the whole team were scoring goals for fun – and it was fun.
Are you fully retired now and what are you doing these days?
I’m mainly retired but I still do some painting and decorating. When I was younger I had a job as a painter and maintenance man at one of the Fraserburgh fishing companies – but I certainly didn’t go out in a boat! At present I’m doing up a house for me and my partner Margaret to move into from one area of Fraserburgh to another. I also spend quite a chunk of each year in Spain as we have a wee place there as well. I enjoy a bit of golf when I can.
You scored 33 goals for Montrose in a single season. What do you remember about that season?
We had a fantastic team. It was the 1972/3 season which was my second but full season at Links Park under Alex Stuart. He knew how to treat his players to get the best out of them. We had lads like Les Barr, big Dennis D’Arcy, Malcolm Lowe, Harry Johnston, Gordon Crammond, Charlie Guthrie and Bobby Livingstone. We didn’t need a goalkeeper in those days, but we had two in George Whisker and Davie Gollan. We scored goals for fun and a hat trick was not unusual but me scoring six in an away game at Stranraer was special. I still have the match ball. (Ed: he only scored 5 with that ball as he skied the first ball out of the ground – but we’ll forgive him for missing that one!).
Tell us a bit more about that game at Stranraer.
I didn’t drive and still don’t so my day started at 6.00am when I started my journey to Links Park by bus to catch the team bus. The journey to Stair Park Stranraer seemed to take all day but what was to happen was unexpected. They had started the season by losing all but one of their games and we won only a couple by then, late September but we were playing well and we were going to give some team a hiding. It was Stranraer that day. I scored all six of our goals and should have got more but two were with my head and that was not my strong point. I was very quick though. Anyway, by the time we arrived back at Montrose it was too late for the bus so the club paid for a taxi back to Fraserburgh and I arrived home at 2.00am on Sunday morning. Later that Sunday I went to the local paper shop and everybody was talking about me. I was all over the Sunday papers and that ‘fame’ lasted about a week until normal service resumed (Ed; meaning he was back to scoring just one or two a game).
Was that Stranraer game your proudest moment?
There were so many great moments and several hat-tricks but, yes I’d say the 6 goals at Stranraer take some beating. Incidentally said Brian, the Stranraer centre half that day was called John Heap – and I left him in a heap!
What other games spring to mind?
There were many – it was great but Clyde away in the Cup springs to mind. I got a last gasp equaliser to take it to a replay at Links Park. We won that and then beat Hamilton to take us to a quarter-final tie at home to Dundee in front of the record ever crowd at Links Park. Great times.
Can you recall missing any sitters?
I once missed two penalties at Hamilton. The first hit the bar and the second was straight at the goalie but apart from that there were no real howlers I can remember.
What was your favourite ground apart from Links Park?
Always great to play at Hampden but Starks Park, Raith Rovers was a favourite as well.
Your career ended abruptly with a back injury, how did it happen?
Still don’t know. I must have twisted awkwardly or something but I suddenly had a sharp pain and sank to the ground. Nobody was near me so it wasn’t a bad tackle or anything like that. Anyway that was it. I never got back playing seriously again. It happened in an away game at Brora and by the time I got home I knew it was bad.
Have you been back to Links Park to watch a game?
Not since the Willie Johnston days when he invited me down to see him again. Would love to come but I still don’t drive and it’s a long way.
Tell us how you came to sign for Montrose and how you came to leave.
I knew and Peterhead knew there was interest in me but one day Ronnie Cross from Montrose turned up, we all agreed terms, Mo paid £2000 and I signed on. Leaving was more difficult because I really enjoyed my time at Montrose, scored a load of goals and made loads of friends there. But, goalscorers were highly sought after and St Mirren came along waving a cheque for £15,000 at Montrose who let me go to further my career. I moved to live in Erskine and one of the staff there got me a job as a painter. I didn’t enjoy it to be honest because I was miles away from home but St Mirren got promoted to the top division and the thought of playing top flight football appealed. It never happened though as the gaffer at the time was none other than Alex Ferguson, yes, that Alex Ferguson and he refused to give me even a small salary rise. I wasn’t asking for a lot, had scored goals for them and we were promoted. I was point blank refused so I left and went back up to the North East.
Describe your typical day when it was a home game at Links Park.
Got a bus from Fraserburgh to Aberdeen to join up with the other Aberdeen based players and we all went to Montrose from there by car, Bob Livingston usually drove and that’s what happened usually when we trained or had a midweek game. For Saturday games I left Fraserburgh at 10.00am and we had to be at Links Park by 2.00pm latest. After the game we did the same in reverse, we were always sharp away and I caught the 6.15 bus from Aberdeen to be home by about 7.30pm.
And your typical away game day?
It depended where it was of course but if it was Stranraer or Queen of the South then I left Fraserburgh at about 6.00am sometimes by bus or sometimes by pre-arranged taxi. Most times though the team bus actually started at Aberdeen and picked up along the way via places such as Stonehaven, Montrose, Arbroath and Dundee. On the way back the Aberdeen lads and me often got dropped off at Stirling railway station to catch a direct train to Aberdeen and that was good. The day I scored 6 goals at Stranraer though it was 2.00 am by the time a taxi finally dropped me off at home in Fraserburgh – what a day!
It would have been nice to play top flight football for a while and who knows where that might have taken me. No real regrets though as I enjoyed my footballing days and consider myself fortunate to have done that.
Anything else you want to say about your time at Montrose?
I want to say just everything about it there, great times. Everything from the Directors to the playing squad to the fans were great. I’ll always treasure that.
And will you bring that famous 6 goal Stranraer match ball to Links Park soon?
(Ed: Brian was at the match and attended the 135th Anniversary dinner in April 2014. He’s stayed over that night and had THAT match ball with him. I reckon he still sleeps with it!)
Brian Third, what a player, what a man, what a friend and personally I’m so pleased to be able to say that after the passing of so many years. It was a long time ago when we first ‘touched base’ as they say but the memories will never disappear even if they might fade or exaggerate a tad. This football club must not and will not ever forget what Brian Third did for us older fans and we can only hope that our football club can in the future unearth another similar gem of a player. See you soon Brian.
Steve Doyle (Sassmo)