Hearts, Everton and Scotland football legend

Born: February 3, 1937;

Died: February 27, 2017

ALEX Young, who has died aged 80, was a Hearts, Everton and Scotland football legend known as the Golden Vision.

Loanhead-born Young was a Hearts' fan from birth almost. Like many of his generation in East Lothian he left school to take up a National Coal Board apprenticeship, and was seemingly set to follow his father into the mining industry. But his real apprenticeship was served with Newtongrange Star in junior football, before joining his beloved Hearts as a 17-year-old.

This was in the last days of the Alfie Conn, Willie Bauld and Jimmy Wardhaugh “Terrible Trio”, so manager Tommy Walker, keen to get the teenager into the team, moved him to the right wing, from where he played his part in taking the Scottish Cup to Tynecastle, for the first time in 50 years, when they bat Celtic 3-1 in front of 132,000 fans, in April, 1956.

Conn departed and Young moved into the inside-right position to help the Gorgie club win the Scottish League in season 1957-58, the club scoring a record 132 goals in the process, Young contributing 20.

There was a second league title in 1959-60, along with a League Cup win, with Young, by now usually wearing Bauld's old number nine shirt, netting 23 goals. That season he achieved a personal ambition, when he teamed up with Gordon Smith, who had crossed the city from Hibs. Young was perhaps a life-long Hearts fan, but he greatly admired Smith.

Young's youthful promise had seen him win the first of an eventual six Scotland Under-23 caps in only the second such match, against England, in February, 1956. He was twice chosen for the Scottish League XI before, on April 9, 1960, he made his full Scotland debut, on the greatest stage of all – in front of a 129,000 Hampden crowd, against England.

Young would win only eight caps, scoring five goals, and ever since, football fans have wondered why he was so poorly appreciated by the SFA selectors who chose the team back then.

Of course, competition was fierce. Bobby Collins and John White both capped before him, were his rivals for the number eight shirt. At centre forward, he was competing against Ian St John and Alan Gilzean, with whom he had played while doing his national service in the Army; while, the Scotland number ten shirt was occupied by a certain Denis Law, and Ralphie Brand was scoring goals for fun with Rangers. Scotland could not pick them all, and Young was one who seemed to suffer particularly badly.

He had joined Everton, alongside Hearts team mate George Thomson, in November, 1960 – the deal valuing Young at £40,000. He had scored 103 goals in 194 games for Hearts.

Initially he struggled to adapt to English football, while he never got on with Everton boss Harry Catterick, who had succeeded Johnny Carey – who had bought Young – as Everton boss. The Goodison Park fans quickly took him to their hearts and his partnership with Roy Vernon was a key weapon in the Everton successes of the 1960s.

Young's midfield scheming was also appreciated. The great Northern Ireland captain Danny Blanchflower, when he branched out into football writing, coined the nickname with which Young would be known when he wrote “the view every Saturday that we have of a more perfect world, a world that has got a pattern and is finite. And that's Alex – the Golden Vision."

Ken Loach used that nickname as the title for a drama-documentary filmed for the BBC's Play for Today series, which featured Young and his family, in 1968. By then, Young's time at Everton was coming to an end. With the club he had won the league championship (now the premiership) in 1962-63 and the FA Cup in 1966. In all, he played 275 games for the Toffees, scoring 89 goals.

Young then had a short and unsuccessful spell as player-manager with Irish League side Glentoran, before returning to Merseyside to play out his career with Stockport County.

In retirement he returned to Scotland, initially to run a pub in West Linton, before he bought into the soft furnishing company of Richard Wyllie Ltd in Loanhead, which is still in the Young family.

Young had married Nancy, who survives him with their children Jane, Alex Jnr and Jason, their grand-children and great-grand-children in 1957. Jason, who was a Scottish schoolboy cap, followed his father into football, mainly with Meadowbank Thistle and Livingston.

Alex Young did indeed have an angelic face, on the field, he certainly had fantastic vision to see a pass or an opportunity. He was always a gentleman, but he had the inner core of steel which sets apart the great players from the merely good.

Hearts, Everton and football has lost an all-time great, who is rightly in both clubs' Halls of Fame. He is also in the English Football League's list of 100 Legends of the 20th century. He is not yet in the Scottish Football Hall of Fame, but, it is only a matter of time before he is – he was that good.