Professional footballer; Born July 19, 1932; Died January 12, 2008.

CHARLIE Aitken, who has died aged 75, was a true one-club footballer and as a wing-half was one of the greatest players ever to wear the claret-and-amber of Motherwell Football Club.

Born in Gorebridge, Midlothian, he was one of a family of nine, with seven brothers and one sister. He played for Gorebridge Victoria before graduating to the Junior ranks with Arniston Rangers, where he attracted the attention of Motherwell, and at the age of 17 he signed for another legendary Fir Parker, manager George Stevenson, in 1949.

He scored in his first two games for the club - against Celtic at Parkhead on April 25, 1951, in a 3-1 defeat and against Raith Rovers in a 3-2 win. A promising career was interrupted as Aitken undertook a two-year spell of national service, but he returned in 1954 and a last-minute headed equaliser from a Willie Kilmarnock free-kick in a Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic at Hampden was his big break. He had been back on civvy street for less than a fortnight.

He was a key member of the great Motherwell side of the late fifties and early sixties under manager Bobby Ancell. Originally an inside-forward, he found his true calling at wing-half. He could read the game and was skilful in passing, and among his teammates in that side he was rated as the finest footballer of a superb footballing squad, and a fierce but fair tackler, his blond hair and his long stride as well as his ability setting him apart. He was a great header of the ball, hovering in the air as he rose to meet a crossed ball.

Legendary Rangers defender George Young once paid this tribute: "The penalty box was always my kingdom and no-one, I thought, could match me in the air - until a young Charlie Aitken came along."

The half-back line of Aitken, John Martis and Bert McCann ably supported a skilful inside-forward trio of Pat Quinn, Ian St John and Willie Hunter that had few peers. In 1959-60 he was a member of the Motherwell side that defeated Rangers four times out of four - an Ibrox side, indeed, that would win the Scottish Cup that season and reach the semi-finals of the European Cup.

The following season 90,000 astonished onlookers (with thousands more locked outside) saw the Ancell Babes overwhelm Rangers 5-2 in a Scottish Cup replay at Ibrox - a night that was perhaps the finest of them all for a very fine team, even if the iconic Jim Baxter was absent for the Light Blues.

Aitken had played in the 1954-55 League Cup final against Hearts (2-4), and would be denied a winners' medal until the twilight of his career, playing in the 1965 Summer Cup win over Dundee United.

He never earned a Scotland call-up, despite being one of the best players of his generation. He played, of course, in a golden age for Scottish football, with outstanding players of the ilk of Dave Mackay and John Cumming in his position, but few could have argued with the assertion that Aitken should have been a full internationalist.

He earned the respect of team mates and opponents alike and was booked just once in his career (by the legendary Tiny Wharton, whom Aitken maintained had always got it wrong). Player of the Year in 1957 and 1958, he received the Scottish Players' Union Award for services to football in 1966.

An injured knee forced retirement in 1966 after more than 400 appearances for the club, and he was awarded a testimonial the following year, something of a rarity back then, in recognition of his 17 years of service. Among the internationalists who guested against Rangers were Dave Mackay of Tottenham Hotspur together with Billy Stevenson and Ian St John of Liverpool.

He was a true sportsman, a quiet unassuming gentleman of whom no-one ever said a bad word. By Robert McElroy