Tom Forsyth, footballer

Born: January 23, 1949;

Died: August 14, 2020.

TOM Forsyth, who has died at the age of 71, was a footballer who gave sterling, wholehearted service to both of the senior clubs he played for – namely Motherwell and Rangers – as well as being honoured at full international level for Scotland.

Thomas Forsyth was born in Glasgow in 1949 alongside twin brother Robert into a family based in the rural Lanarkshire village of Stonehouse. Theirs was a family with strong links to the land - a maternal grandfather had farmed in South Lanarkshire, and Tom’s father worked in the bustling livestock market in Paisley.

After leaving school Tom began as an apprentice joiner, and he played football with Glenavon Amateurs. A trip to London in April 1967 saw Glenavon defeat Crystal Palace Colts 5-1 at Selhurst Park; he scored the opening goal before, the next day, seeing Wembley’s Twin Towers for the first time as Scotland defeated the world champions, England, 3-2. Ten years later he would play in the same fixture, resulting in a 2-1 win for the Scots.

The junior ranks with Stonehouse Violet beckoned, but it was not long before there was interest from senior clubs, notably Dundee United and Motherwell, both of whom offered him trials. It was Bobby Howitt who brought him to the latter’s Fir Park in 1967.

Tragedy struck the family when his father passed away soon afterwards; it would be to Tom’s everlasting regret that his father had not lived to see him play for Scotland.

Forsyth made his first-team debut in a 3-1 defeat of Stirling Albion on October 14, 1967. ‘Well were relegated that season but came straight back to the top division as Champions one year later with Tom playing in midfield, netting 17 goals. He quickly established himself in the Motherwell ranks and would go on to play 150 League games for the ‘Steelmen’ over the next five years as well as featuring in a run to the semi-finals of the Texaco Cup, eliminating both Stoke City and Tottenham Hotspur, with an estimated 22,000 packing Fir Park for the visit of the London club.

International recognition followed, firstly at Under-23 level on February 24, 1971, in a 2-2 draw with England at Hampden, then less than four months later, at full international level, in a 0-1 defeat to Denmark in Copenhagen.

Forsyth signed for Rangers in October 1972 in a £40,000 transfer. Ironically, his debut for his new club came at Fir Park, in a 2-0 win for the visitors. He quickly became a favourite with the Ibrox legions. He played 27 domestic games in that first season under manager Jock Wallace, principally in central defence, and not once did Rangers suffer defeat during an unbeaten run from the turn of the year that failed by just a solitary point to win the title.

The season would however end in Scottish Cup success for Rangers in a thrilling 3-2 final victory over Celtic, with Forsyth netting the winning goal from point-blank range after Derek Johnstone’s header from a Tommy McLean free-kick had struck both posts. It was his first goal for the club, and it went down in Ibrox folklore.

A powerful, hard-tackling defender, Forsyth would play for Rangers for ten years, a key member of the Wallace side that would win two Trebles. His 326 competitive appearances yielded six goals, three League Championship, four Scottish Cup and two League Cup Winners’ Medals, his final triumph coming in the 1981 Scottish Cup Final Replay win over Dundee United.

If he is primarily remembered for his winning goal in 1973, arguably his finest game in Light Blue came in another Cup Final appearance against Celtic, in the 1975-76 League Cup Final when he nullified the threat of Kenny Dalglish in a 1-0 Rangers victory.

Forsyth made a further 21 appearances for Scotland, captaining the side in a 1-0 defeat of Switzerland in April 1976. Five weeks later his last-minute tackle on Mike Channon ensured a 2-1 defeat of England at Hampden to clinch the Home International Championships for Willie Ormond’s men. He played all three games in the ill-fated appearance in the 1978 World Cup Finals in Argentina.

His later years at Ibrox were beset with injury problems, and on March 13 1982 his retirement on medical grounds was announced.

Appointed Dunfermline Athletic manager in September 1982, he moved on within a year, to become assistant manager at Morton under Tommy McLean before both moved on to Motherwell between 1984 and 1994, leading the ‘Steelmen’ to Scottish Cup success in 1991, into Europe, and to third place in the Premier Division before he went on to Hearts.

In later years Tom opened a nursery whilst assisting his wife in her florist’s shop. He was never far away from football, coaching youngsters at the local school whilst acting as a matchday host in the hospitality suites at Ibrox whilst always finding time to indulge his love of bowling, gardening and golf.

Recently he did voluntary work at his former club Motherwell in the ‘Remember ‘Well’ group, offering reminiscence therapy to those suffering from dementia.

Linda died in March 2019; Tom Forsyth passed away following a long illness bravely borne. They are survived by son David and daughters Karen and Julie.

Robert McElroy