Alex Linwood has died aged 83. With his passing goes another of the fast-dwindling band of pre-war footballers.
His birthplace was the hamlet of Drumsmudden on the Ayrshire-Lanarkshire border. Like most lads from that district, he went down the pit and he played football. Strong, stocky, but curiously elegant, his footballing ability soon brought the attention of the senior clubs. St Mirren secured his signature in October 1938. He made the transition easily and, in what was left of that last pre-war season, he established his right to a first-team place.
As he was a miner, Linwood was not called to the services. Work in the pits was compulsory. Wartime football, with its scope for using guest players, suited St Mirren and they had a very successful summer cup in 1943. In the semi-final they defeated a Morton side bolstered by the acquisition for the day of Stanley Matthews and Tommy Lawton. The home-spun Paisley side prevailed, however, and topped this performance by scoring the only goal in the final against Rangers; the scorer of the goal was Linwood.
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Even in wartime there were international matches but Linwood's first venture into this field was catastrophic. He was part of the thrown-together Scotland side that was humiliated 8-0 by England at Maine Road, Manchester, in 1943. The great George Young, making his debut, survived this debacle and so, too, to a lesser degree did Linwood. Throughout the war he would benefit from playing alongside good English guest players.
When peacetime football resumed, Middlesbrough came in with an offer for (pounds) 10,000, which was accepted by the Love Street board. He did not settle at Ayrsome Park, though. Good distributor and keen finisher that he was he lacked that extra yard needed to succeed in top grade English football. Hibernian took him back to Scotland for the same money but, after a bright start, he was not quite able to fight off the emergence of the young Lawrie Reilly. Interestingly, though, Clyde were also prepared to go to five figures. He was part of the Clyde side that lost the 1949 Scottish Cup final, although the award of two doubtful penalties to the Ibrox side was thought to have greatly contributed to a 4-1 winning score.
Linwood was not merely a dasher. In an old-fashioned way he led the line and, against Wales in 1950, he was given another international chance. He was paired with John McPhail of Celtic, another player whose brain moved quicker than his legs. Scotland won 2-0 against a very strong Welsh side, which included Ray Daniel, Ronnie Burgess, Trevor Ford, and Ivor Allchurch. McPhail and Linwood each scored. Most sensible followers of the game would have deemed this experiment a striking success but it was never repeated. The number nine vote went to Reilly and also waiting in readiness were such fine players as Willie Bauld, Willie Thornton, and Paddy Buckley.
At club level, he remained a most useful player for Clyde until 1951. In particular he formed a very dangerous alliance with the South Africans Davis and Ackerman. He then moved down river to Greenock where he was by no means outshone in a very good forward line that contained the veteran Tommy Orr and the young Neilly Mochan.
In his latter years he was sometimes to be seen at Love Street. He retained a strong affection for his first senior club and, living in Renfrew, he was handily placed for keeping an eye on his cherished Saints. He was a mine of information on the players of his day and a most courteous man.
Alexander Bryce Linwood, footballer; born 1920, died October 23, 2003