Footballer with Kilmarnock, Morton and Rangers

Born: August 17, 1940;

Died: September 26, 2019

JOE Mason, who has died aged 79, was an accomplished footballer whose skilful play was widely admired, especially by teammates.

In a 13-year career beginning in 1960, he played more than 270 games and scored over 100 goals for Kilmarnock, Morton and, briefly, Rangers, where he later coached. His name would doubtless have resonated more had he not been a contemporary of some of Scotland’s best ever players such as Mackay, Bremner, Baxter, and Law, to name a few.

His career began at local club Kilmarnock for whom he played 55 times before joining Morton in 1966, registering some 200 appearances for the Greenock club over six seasons. Then aged 32 came a surprise move to Rangers.

In the 1960s Kilmarnock were an outstanding team under manager Willie Waddell who memorably led them to the old 1st Division League title in 1965, after four runner-up finishes. Although Mason understandably found it difficult to be a regular first team player he did manage four appearances in the league-winning side and built a reputation as a smart, insightful player with an eye for goal, scoring 23. He felt privileged to represent his hometown team but had to move to secure top team football.

At Morton he soon earned first team status as an attacking midfielder whose ability at holding up the ball and creating opportunities for others made him a valued member of a strong Cappielow outfit under the inimitable Hal Stewart.

He appeared in one League Cup and two Scottish Cup semi finals while also sampling European football in the old Fair Cities’ Cup in 1968, against Chelsea, scoring a goal in an epic home tie. He also played against West Bromwich Albion and Wolves in Texaco Cup fixtures, and in total netted 90 goals, including a record-breaking 44 in his first season in winning the old 2nd Division title.

In 1972 Rangers’ manager Willie Waddell, who knew him from Kilmarnock, surprisingly bought him for £10,000.

Their difficult start to the season had not been improved by a home draw with Morton when Mason had an outstanding game. Afterwards he was met outside the changing room by opposing winger Tommy McLean. In true cloak and dagger fashion, McLean pressed a piece of paper into his hand and instructed him, “Phone this number tonight!”

Mason did and was delighted to find Waddell on the other end who quickly persuaded him to join Rangers. Despite being 32, Waddell made it clear that Mason brought skill, craft and experience and expected him to build the team’s confidence with measured play. A winning debut against Motherwell was followed by another 17 games that season, acquitting himself well as his influence helped them finish one point behind Celtic in the league and win the Scottish Cup.

Two games early the next season brought the curtain down on his playing career and in October 1973 he was appointed Rangers’ coach, going on to make an important contribution to the successful spell under Jock Wallace which claimed consecutive Trebles. After John Greig’s appointment as manager in 1978 yielded less success, he was replaced in 1983 by Wallace who brought in new backroom staff, spelling the end of Mason’s Ibrox career. It caused him considerable disappointment but with the passage of time he grew to accept it.

Joseph Paul Smith Mason was born in Kilmarnock where he was brought up with siblings Alex and Marjory in Townholm by parents Alex and Esther. He attended James Hamilton Academy after which he worked in the local brickworks. He showed potential at football playing for teams in the area including Saxone and Dreghorn. While later playing for junior side Lugar Boswell Thistle in the notoriously competitive Ayrshire Juniors he was spotted by Kilmarnock for whom he signed in 1960.

In March 1964 in Kilmarnock he married local girl Veronica Bryson whom he met through friends. They lived their whole married life in Kilmarnock initially in Bonnyton area, latterly in Linfern. They enjoyed a happy and rewarding 53 years together till Veronica’s death two years ago; they had two sons, Gary and Bryan.

After leaving Ibrox Joe had no formal involvement with football. He and his wife started a fast food takeaway business in Kilmarnock, building it up from scratch to a successful enterprise by dint of hard work and long hours. He set high standards for himself and expected the same from others.

Joe maintained his interest in football mostly watching games on television with his expert knowledge regularly enabling him to foresee when a goal was about to be scored, impressing his sons considerably. He encouraged them in their interest in the game while his good values inspired both of them to successful careers. Outwith family and work he had little free time although he enjoyed occasional socialising.

A popular individual with teammates, thanks to his skilful, unselfish contribution, he was considered a player’s player, a high accolade among footballers. He is survived by his sister, sons and grandchildren Natalie, Nicholas, Gillian, Brogan, Kristopher, Finlay and great grandchildren Isabella and Ava.

JACK DAVIDSON