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Andy Paton

Footballer and manager

Footballer and manager

Born: January 2, 1923; Died: February 8, 2014, aged 91

Andy Paton, who has died aged 91, was the oldest-surviving Scottish football internationalist and a legendary defender at Motherwell - in 2006, he was voted the club's greatest ever player. He played for the national side three times, winning the first of his international caps in Scotland's first post-Second World War international, a 2-2 draw with Belgium, at Hampden, on 23 January, 1946.

Born in Dreghorn in Ayrshire, he left school to work with his family in the building trade, and served his football apprenticeship in that hardest of schools, the Western (later Ayrshire) League, firstly with Irvine Meadow, then with Kello Rovers, the "foreign" side in the Ayrshrie juniors, based as they are in Kirkconnel, Dumfriesshire.

Motherwell, then managed by the legendary "Sailor" Hunter, gave him his entry to the senior game in 1942 and he went on to serve the Fir Park side for 16 years, making more than 500 appearances in claret and amber and forming a memorable back three with his fellow Ayrshireman, Willie Kilmarnock, the right back and captain and the legendary left back Archibald "Baldie" Shaw.

That Hampden debut was not the start of a great Scotland career for Paton. He was immediately dropped and it was another six years before he won his second and third caps. He had to watch as Frank Brennan of Airdrie then the Rangers pair of Willie Woodburn and George Young filled the centre-half shirt for the national team in the immediate post-war years.

However, during this spell he enjoyed some success at club level, standing in as skipper for the League Cup success over Hibs in 1951. The next season, he was one of the Motherwell heroes who beat Dundee 4-0 in the 1952 final to take the Scottish Cup to Motherwell for the first time.

That success brought him back into the thoughts of the SFA's selection committee and, with Woodburn missing, he was capped against Denmark and Sweden at the end of the 1952 season, although, he had to wait more than 50 years before being presented with his actual cap - the eligibility protocols of those days meant, if you did not play in the Home Internationals, you did not actually get a cap.

In 1958, with Motherwell embarking on a youth policy, and with John Martis, who would also be capped by Scotland, developing, Paton was allowed to leave, making the short trip to Douglas Park to join Lanarkshire rivals Hamilton Academical.

He played for Accies for one season, then hung up his boots to become manager of the club. He held this post for nine years; only Willie McAndrew, between the two World Wars, held the job for longer.

His was a typical managerial spell with a provincial club, promotions and relegations - including a return to the top-flight in 1965; some good years, a few bad ones, but his time with the club is well-regarded by the older Accies fans. Paton resigned during the close season of 1968.

He was known as a maverick player. Centre-halves of that immediate post-war era were not expected to indulge in fancy football.

Indeed, it was said, in fact still is, that the modus operandi of centre-halves, particularly those schooled in the Ayrshire juniors, was: "If it moves, kick it; if it doesn't move, kick it till it does." This was not Paton's style.

He tended to leave the role of enforcer to Shaw; Paton often had Motherwell fans closing their eyes with his own style of defending.

Having won the ball, he would, instead of adhering to fashion and putting the ball into Row Z, set off on a mazy run, dribbling the ball away from the danger zone before passing to a team mate to start a counter-attack.

To be fair, Woodburn, his nemesis when it came to Scotland caps, could also turn on the finesse when required, but, he did not do it as often as Paton and, being a Rangers player, was always the more likely to get the Scotland call.

The Motherwell teams in which he played, managed as they were by the great George Stevenson, did try to play football, so that style suited Paton.

Their cup successes were, however, not always matched in the day-to-day grind of the league campaigns: the Scottish Cup win of 1952 was followed by relegation the following season, immediate promotion back to the top flight, then, at the end of 1954-55, the club was saved from a straight return to the second tier by league reorganisation.

After leaving Hamilton, Paton retrained as a sports masseur and he and May, his wife of nearly 67 years, ran a sports injuries chiropody and chiropractor clinic in their native Irvine for many years, before, eight years ago, moving to Markinch, Fife, to be closer to their only daughter Joan and their grand-daughters. He is survived by his wife, daughter and grandchildren.

At the time of his passing, Andy Bobby Brown, another of the nine international debutants in that 1946 match, now takes over from Paton as the oldest-living Scotland cap.

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