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Tributes to legendary footballer Bobby Black

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: September 25, 2012

  • Bobby Black

  • Bobby Black, Andy Thomson and Jim Patterson

  • East Fife

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Footballer Bobby Black, who has died, in Bristol, aged 85, played his entire career wearing the same pair of boots.

Black, who became a popular servant of East Fife and Queen of the South before playing non-league football for Bath City and Bridgwater Town, preferred to have his football boots repaired when required rather than to replace them. The boots are on display now in the Queen of the South museum at Palmerston Park, Scotland.

Black was from Thornhill, in Dumfries and Galloway and played for East Fife and Queen of the South and was also capped by the Scottish League. He was considered unlucky not to have been capped by Scotland and later was an all-England bowls champion.

Bobby Black made his debut for East Fife playing in the war time league, scoring in a 6-1 home win against Dundee United. The date was May 12, 1945. Over the next three seasons the teenager played only occasionally for the first team while he still developed.

Black played at East Fife during undoubtedly the best decade in the club's history, when teams who under-estimated them were made to suffer. One of the greatest club managers in Scottish football history, Scot Symon, landed his first managerial appointment in June 1947 at East Fife. The club was immediately transformed. As Black said himself: "There was a time when East Fife had the best winners' record in the League Cup of any team in Scotland."

The Scottish League Cup was started after the Second World War and in 1954 East Fife became the first team to win the trophy three times.

The Methil side also achieved consistent high placed finishes in Scotland's top league. They produced a conveyor belt of internationals who played for Scotland while with the club; Allan Brown (a future team mate of George Farm at Blackpool), Henry Morris, George Aitken, Davie Duncan, Charlie Fleming and Andy Matthew (like Queens' Jim Patterson, Matthew's game for Scotland was against The Army and a full cap was not awarded).

The start of Black's breakthrough to the first team came at the end of Symon's first season in charge. Black played in two league games, both in April, a 4-0 win at home against Stenhousemuir and scoring in a 4-3 win at Stirling. East Fife romped away to win the B Division title by 11 points and were promoted to the top division of Scottish football. East Fife finished 1948/49 in fourth place with Black a first team regular in Scotland's top tier. Black scored in a 3-2 home league win against Celtic and played in the Scottish Cup quarter-final 2-0 win away against Hibernian. He also played in the semi-final defeat to Rangers.

Queen of the South and East Fife both made the 1950 Scottish Cup semi-finals. In a semi against Partick Thistle in front of 42,000 fans, East Fife made it to the final with a 2-1 win. The opponents of the Fifers in the final at Hampden in front of over 118,000 fans were Rangers, semi-final replay conquerors of Queens.

Black said: "When we played in the 1950 Scottish Cup Final against Rangers, we lost the services of our regular goalkeeper, John Niven, and the services of our reserve team goalkeeper on the same Saturday, which is quite unique. The wisdom of the selectors decided that they would play the youth team goalkeeper. He'd never played a senior game of football in his life and he got a Scottish Cup Final medal. He was no match for Rangers in those days. But I believe, and I still believe to this day that had we had our regular or even our second team goalkeeper, we would have beaten Rangers. We had already beaten them that year in the Scottish League Cup." But against depleted East Fife goalkeeping, Rangers ran out 3-0 winners to lift the oldest trophy in world football.

After leaving Queen of the South, Black played non league football for Bath City and Bridgwater Town and lived in Somerset, until he died, in Bristol, on June 4, 2012. He was married and had two sons.

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