Ian Paul talks to the man who brings a Trojan work ethic to Scotland's

Corinthian senior football club.

TO SAY that Eddie Hunter is an enthusiast is a bit like suggesting

that Patrick Moore likes the dark. The only unpaid manager in the

professional game, although Queen's Park prefer to call him

coach, Hunter is obsessed by football. Queen's Park, he says, are his


He tells you this perhaps in mitigation for sins of omission which he

recalls during an adulthood spent as a son of Hampden; like missing his

sister's wedding, missing his brother's wedding and last week missing

his grandson's first birthday, all because of Queen's involvement.

Talking to Hunter is a little like going two rounds with a verbal Sumo

wrestler. It is necessary to have a lie-down afterwards. No one, paid or

otherwise, cares more about the game, his club or his players. If they

might find this difficult to believe when he harangues them from dug-out

or dressing room, most of them grow to know that the rough diamond image

is accurate enough.

Even if it did mean being marked absent at one-year-old Craig's

birthday, Hunter could not have been expected to miss the celebration

dinner for the amateur club's 125th anniversary.

If anyone mirrors the courage to survive and devotion to principle

which have been the mainstays of this extraordinary team's longevity, he

is the man. He demonstrated his own strength of character even before he

began this association, which has now lasted 34 years. As a 14-year-old,

Hunter spent nine months in hospital suffering from pleurisy and TB but

the no-football ban when he was released proved impossible to obey. Soon

he was a regular Saturday afternoon player without his parents'


He joined Queen's when he was 16 and, at 50, is still there. Not that

he has been short of offers to try elsewhere as a manager. Even the best

of them all, Jock Stein, was frustrated by Hunter's dithering when it

came to moving to a professional position.

''He got mad at me once or twice when he had set up chances for me to

get good jobs in the game. I just wasn't sure I could handle all the

transfer and contract stuff. He gave me some stick but I would say: how

come you didn't tell me you were behind it?'' One offer, not to do with

Stein, came from Rangers, to join the coaching staff, but he preferred

to be his own man at Hampden.

''Don't get me wrong. I have tremendous admiration for all these guys,

and you can ask them how often I talk to them about the game. But I

don't envy them. They are under tremendous pressure. They are OK when

things are going well but next week it might be their turn not to be

going well. Nobody sympathises with Tommy McLean, for instance, more

than I do. That man has worked an inch off his height for Motherwell

Football Club and people have the cheek to say his job is at risk. Don't

they think he is working harder at the game now than when they won the

Scottish Cup?''

Hunter, who considered himself an honest but unexceptional player, had

to give up the playing at 29 because of a knee injury. He moved into the

coaching side with the third team and eventually became the man in

charge. He won international amateur caps but cannot tell you how many,

since his home was burgled five years ago and mementos stolen.

He is much more animated when he talks about winning promotion from

the second division as the team coach. ''We stayed there for two years.

It took the club 25 years to get out of the second division the first

time. I did in three years. And I kept them in there for two years but

during that time I lost 13 players to other clubs.'' Yet he will confess

he missed the enjoyment of winning promotion. ''I was too worried, too

busy making sure we did to enjoy it. It was only afterwards that I

appreciated it. I might not have got my name in the history books as a

player but they can't take this away from me.'' He has seen more than

one generation of young men pass through the Hampden school of football,

among them the one he would consider the best player he has helped along

the way, former Liverpool and Rangers player John McGregor. ''He was a

gem, but we had a love-hate relationship. Still, I made him a better


A COUPLE of the aspects of the Hunter persona have become legendary, a

fierce insistence on good discipline and an outstanding command of the

alternative language through which all worthy managers transmit their

messages. He concedes the first but denies the second. ''I have this

reputation for colourful language but it has got out of hand. Maybe in

the dressing room I have said some things but I have to deal with people

in business inside and outside of the club and don't have any


The discipline and demands on players, he maintains, are vital. Yet it

occasionally has an off-putting effect, as he will tell you himself.

There was Ian Durrant, for instance, who lasted two nights at what the

coach calls the ''Eddie Hunter Finishing School''. Teenager Durrant, now

a star with Rangers and Scotland, turned up for training at Hampden. ''I

was put off for a start because he was wearing tennis shoes. But I

should tell you the background to that wee training session. We had

people in at the time resurfacing the park and putting in drainage. I

asked them, instead of laying the sand in one huge pile, to put in

eight-foot hurdles around the track, like imitations of the dunes Jock

Wallace liked.

''I then had the players running up and down these sand hurdles . . .

'' He stops to laugh at the thought, then gets back to Durrant. ''I also

liked to make my players run the length of the terracing, which is not

easy going.

''But Ian was not too keen on this sergeant-major stuff. To be honest

I think he turned away and thought: sod this for a game of soldiers. He

went through the revolving door. I am still claiming fame that he

started his career here.

''He was at Hampden two nights, the second to say cheerio.'' The

Hunter style inevitably has had him up before the stewards, or QP

committee. ''I have had my moments. I have heard a few bangs on the

table. But our committee men are truly Queen's Park orientated. If I go

out the door tomorrow, nobody will hold them in greater respect than me.

I have had my differences and been over the top a few times. I have been

sat down and told the story of the three bears. But I tell you this, I

have told them before and again recently that if they want a change I

will accept that. But I have also said that nobody will need to tell

Eddie Hunter when he is not doing his job properly. I will know that

before anybody.''

Hunter, whose wife died five years ago, will not seek a committee

place, either, when he does give up the coaching spot. ''I don't think

it would be fair to the new man to have me sitting in judgment.'' Hunter

believes deeply that Queen's will have to compromise sometime in the

future to survive. The amateur status is as sacrosanct to him as it is

to the members of the oldest club in the country, but he can see the day

arriving when reinstated professionals will be allowed to wear the

Spiders colours. And maybe even sooner the time when players paid by big

clubs like the Old Firm will be permitted to learn the trade with the

amateurs. ''I know a lot of Queen's people would find that too much but

I honestly believe it may have to be the way forward into the next

century.'' He also foresees the time when smaller teams will play their

games either on Fridays or as pipe-openers for bigger matches.

A plumber in a business close to Parkhead, Hunter gives the adamant

lie to all the old tales about hidden payments to Queen's players. ''Not

one ha'penny has been passed to me in all the time I have been here.''

The man born in the Gorbals (''it was the posh end, they called it

Oatlands'') does recall with that infectious chuckle one of his early

games for the reserves.

''At that time you used to get your boots cleaned and polished (I

don't believe in it, players look after their own boots here). I was

only about 17. I saw one of the older players, Sandy Turpie, go into his

boot and take out a fiver. There was me and another young lad in the

dressing room. A fiver was a helluva lot of money in those days. He

watched us slink into the toe of our boots and then there was a huge

blast of laughter from the others who were watching. He was winding us

up. My boots have always fitted me.'' Proof, if any is needed, that he

is not money orientated was in evidence when one club chairman wrote out

a #5000 cheque and left it on the table. ''If you take the job, take the

cheque as you go out. If not, rip it up.'' It was torn up.

He maintains that Queen's Park are and always will be unique. We might

be tempted to say the same thing about him.