John Thomson

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 5:25 pm on 8th December 2005.

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Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour 5:25 pm, 8th December 2005

I, too, congratulate Helen Eadie on the motion. When I read and signed it, I recalled my father talking to me about the brave young goalie John Thomson. It was the view of my father, among many others, that John Thomson would have been Scotland's goalkeeper for at least another 10 years. That was certainly the opinion of the sportswriter John Rafferty, who said of that young man:

"A great player, who came to the game as a boy and left it still a boy; he had no predecessor, no successor. He was unique."

Few, if any, would dispute that opinion.

John Rafferty later taught me at school and talked a lot about Celtic, Rangers, football in general and boxing, and he talked a lot about John Thomson in particular. Indeed, if he had talked as much about my schooling, I would have passed my qually, but I was too interested in listening to the football stories that he had to tell.

John Thomson was unique, certainly when compared with some of today's football heroes. In those days, earnings were not as they are now. Players had to have another job, so he worked in a gents retailers in Renfield Street in Glasgow. He knew that he would not play football for ever and needed something to fall back on. A quiet, unassuming young man, he was walking out with a young Glasgow girl, who was at the match the day he died. Because of his football talent, he avoided a lifetime down the mines. He loved football. The future looked good.

As Bruce Crawford said, John Thomson was discovered by the Celtic scout Stevie Callaghan. I declare an interest because, although Stevie Callaghan was a bit old for me, I had a notion for his grandson, who was in my class at school; I am afraid that I did not get very far with that. Stevie and my father used to say that John Thomson always went for the ball. He was fearless in front of his goal. One moment he was flying through the air like a ballet dancer, the next he was in the middle of a scrum, his hands and body wrapped round the ball, while at the same time trying to hold on to his bunnet.

Speaking as a lifelong football supporter—many members know that on a winter's night I run from here, get all my thermals on and run to watch a football game—I add my voice to those of others who have supported Helen Eadie's powerful case for this young player's memory to be honoured in the SFA hall of fame. There are few now who can recall seeing this gifted goalie play for Celtic and Scotland—they would need to be in their late 80s or their 90s to have seen him play. However, John Thomson is an abiding figure in Scotland's footballing history—a decent, modest young man who enjoyed the love and affection of his family and the respect and admiration of scores of thousands of Scots. Today, we would describe him as an exemplary role model for youngsters.

Helen Eadie is right when she says that even though many of those who knew John Thomson are themselves no longer with us, his memory should be honoured by his inclusion in the SFA hall of fame. I hope that those with the authority to make that decision will heed the sincere request from Fifers and those of us from other parts of Scotland to honour in that way the memory of young John Thomson—a truly remarkable Scottish football player.