Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The Greatest Warriors: 2004 - present.

Colin Cramb: hero, goal machine, psychopath.

Lists, quite rightly, are often dismissed as lazy journalism. When Channel Four have several hours of vacant scheduling on a Saturday night, rather than paying the premium price to screen a recent Hollywood blockbuster or take the time and energy to produce a groundbreaking drama, they often turn to Jimmy Carr to mug the camera while narrating some grim countdown. The greatest films of all time, the greatest children's television shows of all time, the greatest albums of all time... There's really no limit to what the broadcaster will dredge up to fill three hours of television. Likewise, magazine articles featuring the greatest musical icons or the greatest goals ever scored are often derided as unimaginative and obvious. Fuck trying to write an article with genuine insight and intelligence, let's just stick Maradona's goal against England at number one and go home early.

Yet these lists are hugely popular. I find them fascinating and interesting and they're often useful in provoking debate. Amongst friends, it can sometimes provide decent conversation in the pub - You can't have OK Computer as the best album of all time, someone might say. It's not even Radiohead's best album, nevermind the world's! And given that this blog is still in its infancy, what better way to celebrate the first post proper than some sort of list or countdown? There's little to write about at the moment (the new season really cannot come quick enough and until the squad has been completed, there seems little point in commenting on that), we might as well get stuck in and discuss the eleven greatest players to have pulled on that hallowed maroon and white jersey and play for Stenhousemuir since 2004.

The reason for limiting the nominations to the last seven years is simple - these are the players that I'm the most familiar with and the players I feel the most qualified to talk about. Whilst I am sure the majority of the Challenge Cup winning squad or the likes of Kenny Miller and Chris Innes and Neil Alexander are far superior to the majority of the players on this compilation, having only ever seen them play when I was a child or never even having seen them play at all, it would be unfair to even talk about them in such an article. As such, I feel that it's only appropriate that the eleven players can only be selected from the period between Stenhousemuir's relegation to the Third Division in 2004 to the present squad under Davie Irons.

I've arranged the team into a fluid 4-3-3 formation - this is for a handful of reasons. Over the last seven years, there has been a real dearth of quality wide midfielders at the club (as I type, other than perhaps Stevie Murray and Grant Anderson, there have been no wingers that have made a truly significant impact during my years of support) and so any players that would have been nominated for those positions would surely have been involved by default instead of merit. Furthermore, if these players were to have played alongside one another, I'm sure this formation would bring out the best in them. Lastly, by selecting three forwards, it allows me to select the best strikers I've seen play for the club without any omissions. Mark my words, there are goals in this team.

Interestingly enough, most of the defenders in the squad were assembled by John Coughlin while all of the strikers played under Des McKeown. And only one of Campbell Money's signings makes it onto the list. And yes, I know what you're thinking - you can't believe there's even that many either...


Chris McCluskey

Without Chris McCluskey, Stenhousemuir would have been relegated from the Second Division in 2010. While some may think that this is extends into the realms of hyperbole, there is no doubt his goalkeeping was a major factor in staving off relegation. That year, he saved us around ten or twelve points and throughout that season, I can honestly say that some of his goalkeeping was the finest I've ever seen.

Signed from Brechin City where he spent the majority of his tenure as Craig Nelson's deputy, many expected him to play second fiddle to Scott Bennett, himself flushed with confidence after his heroics in the playoff final against Cowdenbeath. But when Crazy Legs reported back to pre-season training with a broken thumb, McCluskey was quickly promoted to first choice goalkeeper. Some fans were dismissive of him ("Get an adult in goals!" was a common shout early on in the season) but McCluskey continued undettered.

Some his performances were genuinely astonishing - witness his heroics throughout this 4-1 win against Alloa at Recreation Park and, even more impressively, this jaw-dropping save in a draw with Arbroath (2:54 into the video). His finest moment of the season, however, came in the 1-1 home draw with Brechin. Deep into the second half, a corner was swung deep into the penalty area, evading everyone and landing six yards from goal at the feet of Rory McAllister. The striker smashed a shot into the roof of the net only for McCluskey to instinctively push the ball over the bar (3:29 into the video). Utterly breathtaking.

Although McCluskey is far from the most dominating of keepers (his height still remains a contentious issue within some quarters of the Warriors support), there is absolutely no doubt that, in terms of pure shot stopping, he is arguably the best in the lower leagues and certainly the best I've seen at Stenhousemuir.

Alan Reid
Left Fullback

Picture the scene. Alan Reid. Home. Alone. Sitting in his rocking chair, sitting by the phone, waiting, hoping, praying that it rings and someone, somewhere offers him full-time football. Currently without a club, Alan Reid is an enigma. After spells with Hibernian and St Mirren, Reid failed to secure a professional contract elsewhere and drifted out of the game for eighteen months. With a genuine (and perhaps deluded) belief that he would be eventually return to full-time football, he rejected all advances from semi-professional clubs and, with it, a regular income. It was only his friendship with Craig Molloy (the two played together at Love Street) that saw him join Stenhousemuir for three months as "a favour".

Reid played in a variety of positions - across the midfield, right fullback - but was preferred at left fullback where he caught the eye with a series of superb performances in the promotion run-in. Composed on the ball and tidy in possession, it was very obvious that Reid brought a wealth of experience from the highest level in Scotland. His finest game came in the playoff final against Cowdenbeath where his level-headedness and authority drove the team forward. He scored one of the decisive penalties in the shootout against the Fifers but during the resultant celebrations, he looked strangely detatched from the whole affair.

John Coughlin offered Reid an attractive package to sign on for the 2009-2010 season (a lucrative wage and a coaching position) but he opted to join Greenock Morton in the First Divison instead. Coughlin, meanwile, offset this loss by bringing in Stephen Thomson from Montrose... Reid was released after a playing in a handful of games for the Renfrewshire club and, as a favour once more, played in two games for the Warriors on trial. Once again, he refused to sign a contract with Stenhousemuir believing that he would return to full-time football.

Reid has not played for anyone since. People may critcise his sheer bloody-mindedness and unwillingness to compromise, but you certainly cannot deny his unwavering sense of self-belief.

Willie Lyle
Right Fullback

Dire! Abject! Awful! These are just some of the milder adjectives that were slung at Willie Lyle during his first season with Stenhousemuir. Joining the club in 2007 after spells at Raith Rovers and Stranraer, it would not be unfair to say that he looked utterly hopeless. Bereft of confidence and low on ability, the fullback appeared error-prone and, at times, quite scared of the football. Commenting on our new signings for the season, Rovers supporters described him as one of the worst players they'd ever seen at their club (and this even includes Claude Anelka's signings). And for a while, there appeared to be little dissention from the Ochilview contingent.

However, once Campbell Money was replced by John Coughlin, Lyle excelled and has quietly emerged as one of the team's most consistent performers. Undoubtedly the fittest player in the team, his fluidity in moving from defence into attack has been quite eye-catching over the last year. With the recently departed Grant Anderson playing in front of him, Lyle provided both excellent cover and a fine option on the overlap. In a small squad, he has also filled in at left fullback and in midfield - in a draw against Brechin last year, Lyle man-marked Charlie King out of the game. Having agreed terms for the new season, he is now the club's longest serving player.

Admittedly, there have been few outstanding candidates for the right fullback position over the last few years. At one point, it looked as though Michael "Marcel" Renwick might have found himself on this list, but since Coughlin's arrival at the club, Lyle has developed into a fine performer. Once rash and hot-headed, he now appears composed and even-tempered. Once clumsy and uncoordinated, he now appears assured and confident.

Lyle fully deserved his Player of the Year accolade at the recent award ceremony and only a handful of belligerents would debate Davie Irons' decision to promote him to the role of club captain since Jordan Smith's release. Few are the players who have made as a dramatic a turnaround.

Greig Denham
Central Defender

There are few players that can instigate fights with their teammates, complain about the club and their manager to a national newspaper and become the subject of a vote within the dressing room as to whether or not they're allowed to play with the team again and still make it onto such a list, but the sheer quality of Greig Denham as a footballer has rarely been in doubt.

Before he joined Stenhousemuir, Denham spent the majority of his career in the SPL with Motherwell and Falkirk. Suffering from chronic injuries, he was almost forced him into retirement but re-emerged as Dennis Newell's assistant at East Stirlingshire. Despite the Firs Park club finishing bottom of the Third Division, Denham's quality and authority brought him to the attention of Des McKeown in 2005. While there were slight concerns remaining about the defender's fitness, the manager offset this by signing the defender on a contract with a small basic wage and a large appearance fee. With the high calibre of player being assembled around him, Denham sensed that this squad could actually win the Championship.

Alongside John "BC" McKeown, Denham provided the team with a strong and steadfast defence. Dominating in the air and hardy on the ground, when watching his commanding performances, it seemed hard to believe that his career had been so bedevilled by injuries. Denham had intelligence and an ability to read the game that's rarely seen by defenders at Stenhousemuir. While players like Cramb, Mercer and McGrillen performed heroics in front of goal, Denham's headers, blocks and organisation in the backline were crucial to the club's the excellent start to the season.

Although Stenhousemuir were performing successfully on the pitch, a dark undercurrent whirled around off it. Denham and Colin Cramb mutally loathed one another. Denham disliked what he perceived as a lax attitude from the striker and with the club on the cusp on winning their first Championship, he was dismayed that Des McKeown appeared over-friendly with some of the senior squad and was, essentially, letting them away with murder.

Matters came to a head shortly afterwards. In a 2-1 home defeat to Queen's Park (the game that effectively ended our hopes of winning the Championship), Denham was culpable for Stevie Canning's last minute winning goal. After the match, there was an angry exchange between Denham and Cramb and a fist-fight broke in the showers (amusingly, Denham recalled how he was naked as the pair brawled). Frustrated, the defender turned to his friend and journalist Gordon Park. Several days later, the Daily Record ran an article where the captain accused his players of drinking on the eve of crucial matches and the how the lack of harmony within the squad had cost them the Championship. Furious, McKeown suspended him from training and called a meeting with the rest of the squad - does anyone else think that Greig Denham should play for the club again? The result was unanimous. Denham was transfer listed and moved onto Linlithgow Rose.

Denham briefly returned to the club as a youth coach last season but since his departure in a playing capacity in 2006, there have been few defenders that can match him for his intelligence, organisation and determination.

Gordon Lennon: arguably the best defender to have emerged from
the lower leagues in recent years.

Gordon Lennon
Central Defence

Defenders in the Second and Third Division cannot play football. This is a fact that can be backed up with statistics. And while I don't have these statistics to hand, you'll have seen enough of them to agree with me. Barrell-chested defenders, burly and built like fridge-freezer combos, the lower league defender will only function as a blocker and often possess little skill and even less finesse. They will regularly journey from club to club before dropping into the Juniors, and then into ignominity.

Gordon Lennon was the first defender I saw that was the complete opposite to anything described above. He broke through with Albion Rovers where he thrilled and captivated audiences with his all-action style of play. Rather than "empty" and lug the ball into touch as soon as it came into his field of vision, Lennon possessed an inert ability to pick it up short, dribble with it out of defence then shuttle it into midfield and into the forwards. He was rarely fazed in possession and would often fool and surprise oncoming attackers with a deft feint or drop of the shoulder before finding a teammate in space. Lennon was an intelligent player and read the game expertly, blocking runs with his deft timing and rarely diving into tackles. Regularly celebrated as one of the best players in the Third Divison, it was little surprise when he earned a move into full-time football with Partick Thistle in the summer of 2007.

Despite the Thistle manager Ian McCall predicting that Lennon would make an impact at Firhill, he never played a first-team game for the club. Indeed, when Stenhousemuir played them during a pre-season friendly, rather than in the central defensive berth that earned him the move, Lennon was shunted out to right fullback and looked awkward and uncomfortable. He was loaned out to the Warriors and although he only played a handful of games, his performances were so impressive that he thoroughly deserves his place on this list. All of Lennon's qualities were on display in his ten games with Stenhousemuir - the timely blocks, the command across the backline and, most eye-catchingly, his trademark dribbles out of defence.

Lennon was released from Partick Thistle after only six months and, while Stenhousemuir attempted to sign him on a permanent basis, he opted to reunite with his mentor Jim Chapman at Dumbarton. Under his captaincy, he led them to the Third Division Championship in 2008-2009. Tragically, on the 7th of June 2009 whilst holidaying in the north of Scotland, Lennon was killed after being electrocuted following an off-road car accident. His inclusion on this list is not out sympathy, nor is it for sentimental reasons - those that saw him play will attest to his abilities as a footballer.

Craig Molloy
Central Midfield

While many players in the lower leagues offer dig and spirit but little by the way of technical ability, Craig Molloy combined tenacity and industry with a clean and economic range of passing and a keen eye for goal. Originally signed on loan from St Mirren, Molloy provided a steeliness to Stenhousemuir's midfield and his performances were crucial in securing promotion in 2009.

Molloy showed a level of fitness and drive rarely seen in the Third Division. After one game, he spent twenty minutes doing laps around the pitch as he felt he hadn't run as much as he should have throughout the ninety minutes. This energy and determination was key to snuffing out opposition attacks and Molloy would often be found snapping around their midfielders, closing down space and performing important blocks. This is not to say that Molloy was simply a midfield clogger - don't let that description of his play do him a disservice. When in possession, he would perform with dilligence and knock simple passes around the midfield, rarely losing the ball. He also had a canny knack of scoring and finished the season high on the club's scoring charts.

While Molloy was one of the few midfielders to emerge with any credit from our first season in the Second Division, rather than reward his performances, John Coughlin only saw fit to offer him the same terms for the 2010-2011 season, apparently on the same wage as Pat Scullion. While Scullion gleefully agreed a new contract, Molloy left the club for Brechin and a rumoured additional fifty quid a week. His assured and combative performances over the last season have drawn admiring glances from suitors in the SPL and First Division with Kilmarnock and Falkirk reported to have shown an interest in him. Although he's contracted to City for another season, I believe that Molloy has the ability and ambition to play at a higher level than the Second Division.

Scullion, meanwhile, was swiftly dropped from the first team after his form dipped dramatically before being loaned out to Clyde. He is now training with the North Lanarkshire club in a bid to win a contract for the new season.

Cheers for that one, John.

John Paul McBride
Central Midfield

Without a doubt, John Paul McBride is the most talented individual I've seen playing with Stenhousemuir. Once dubbed "the new Paul McStay" when on the books of Celtic, he was technically superior to every player I've seen at the Warriors and, on his day, the finest midfielder in the division by some distance.

While never the most consistent of performers, when he was in the mood, McBride could out-think and out-perform every other player on the pitch. His range of passing was outstanding and his abilty from set-pieces a constant threat. In the 2005-2006 season, his midfield partnership with Paul Murphy was crucial to Stenhousemuir's ascent through the league. The highlight of their season was a show-stopping performance in the 2-0 victory at home to Cowdenbeath - McBride dominated the game and provided two assits. It may have been the finest individual performance I've seen from a player in a Stenhousemuir shirt. The following season in a home match against Elgin, he capped an astonishing game with a thrilling lob from just inside the opposition half in the final minute.

McBride left the Warriors and spent a season with Stirling Albion before dropping out of the senior game. While dark stories about McBride have circled over the last few years, there is little doubt in my mind that if his attitude and application had matched his extraordinary talent, he would have been a fully capped Scottish international.

Eric Paton: the only man I've ever seen put swerve on a
pass using the inside of his foot.

Eric Paton
Central Midfield

After about an hour into his debut against Airdrie United, I turned to my friend sitting next to me and said, I'll tell you what, this guy's the best midfielder I've seen at Stenhousemuir since JP McBride. Before Eric Paton, Stenhousemuir had assembled a series of central midfielders who, although willing, looked far more comfortable without the ball than they did with it. We often struggled to break down teams and looked bereft of creativity and intelligence. Before Eric Paton, our central defenders would lump hopeful balls "into the mixer" which, more often than not, were easily dealt with their burly counterparts. Since Eric Paton's signing, we have the best midfielder in the Second Division. We have a player who can create space and find his teammates. We have a player that drops deep to collect the ball from the defence before expertly spraying passes into the channels or threading neat balls into the feet of the strikers. We have a player that can make things happen.

Signed after his release from Dundee, like McCluskey the season before, Paton's performances were a major factor in keeping Stenhousemuir in the Second Division. With the team lacking in inspiration or confidence, through sheer force of will, Paton dragged his side through games. Often playing using painkilling injections, what impressed so much about his play was his willingness to look for the ball and take responsibility. While not the most mobile or defensively minded of players, Paton exudes a cool authority through the midfield and leads by example. He provided numerous assists for the team - it was from his freekick in the final moments against Ayr United that found Michael Devlin unmarked in the box - but, crucially, it's been his goals that have been his most important contribution. It was his goal that put Alloa to the sword in the vital 2-1 win at Recreation Park in April (5:05 into the video) and his freekick that put the game beyond Peterhead in the final game of the season. Without him, we would have been staring into the abyss...

Unquestionably the best player that Davie Irons has brought into the club, Paton recently signed on a two-year contract and will be surely be central to any success Stenhousemuir have over the coming season.

Paul McGrillen

He used to play for Falkirk and he played for Motherwell. He's going to score a hat-trick and he'll give you ruddy hell. He's number eleven, he's Paul McGrillen. AKABUSI! OOH-OOH-OOH! AWLRIGHT!

One of the most popular strikers to have played with the club, Paul McGrillen's record over his three year spell was enviable. He scored approximately over a goal every two games, a return that no one has come close to emulating since.

McGrillen's name was a familar to me when I returned to watch the club in 2004. I remember needing "Paul McGrillen in action" to complete the Motherwell section of a sticker album at primary school and although his career was in its twilight at Stenhousemuir, he still showed the tenacity and energy that characterised his successful spell in the SPL. A natural goalscorer, McGrillen's talent lay in his expert positioning and his ability to find space within the penalty area. His finishing was often deft and clinical.

While he had a habit of scoring crucial goals (last minute winners in away matches at Queen's Park and Elgin in 2005 will always stick out in my mind), the man nicknamed Mowgli undoubtedly reserved his finest performances for East Stirlingshire. In nine games against the Shire, he scored a remarkable eleven goals, including three hat-tricks. The undisputed highlight was an eighty-eitghth minute winner in a 3-2 victory, his cute header creeping over the line and sending the home support into rapture. His celebration in front of the travelling support was hugely endearing too. The Shire supporters enjoy painting themselves as a bunch of easy-going lads but some of the expletives volleyed at him after that particular little jig would have made a whore blush. McGrillen departed for Stranraer in 2006 and since then, Stenhousemuir have struggled to find a player as prolific as him.

On the 29th of July 2009, without explanation, McGrillen took his own life. Graham Speirs paid tribute to him in an article on the Times website (I cannot locate the original article but this link features a copied and pasted edition of the text). A sad and troubling end for a bright and successful man.

Colin Cramb

As long as I'm the manager of this football club, said Des McKeown at his Meet the Manager session, Colin Cramb will never play for Stenhousemuir again. Let me tell you this, I will actually pay his wages from my own pocket to buy out the rest of his contract. He will never play for this team again.

McKeown was speaking in the summer of 2006 and at the time, it was hard to believe that he was speaking about a player who, just six months previously, was one of the most lethal forwards in Britain. Afterall, certainly during my time watching the Warrriors anyway, Cramb was by some distance the most clinical striker to have played for the club. Between July and December 2005, everytime he picked up the ball, something happened. There are few players whose very presence can draw you that bit closer to the edge of your seat, but Cramb possessed an unnatural talent and ability to entertain. Pacey, physical, direct and predatory, his first six months at the club were utterly sensational. There is no need for hyperbole here: during this time, when he played for Stenhousemuir it was as if his world was turning on some other axis.

Before Christmas, Cramb's record was obscene. Braces against Elgin City and East Fife; a crucial last minute header to beat Queen's Park at home; a thumping volley against Arbroath - Colin Cramb scored an incredible volume of stunning goals. Inarguably, his finest moment in a Stenhousemuir shirt came during a Scottish Cup tie against East Stirlingshire at Ochilview. The home side raced to a two goal lead after eight minutes through Jim Mercer and Tommy Sinclair but after the first half dismissals of McGrillen and Denham, struggled and with a two-man advantage, The Shire drew level. With around twenty minutes to go, McBride's quick throw-in found Joe McAlpine deep on the left flank. The fullback strode forward, took a touch, then swung in a cross - the Rolls Royce of crosses - into the penalty area. OHYA FUCKER, YOUS ARE OUT!, cried Cramb before crashing a sensational volley over Derek Jackson and into the roof of the net. Without a doubt, the goal was the finest I've ever seen at a live football match.

At one point, the Warriors were thirteen points clear at the top of the Third Division but, alas, the good times could not last. There was a reason why Cramb had played for fifteen football clubs in the previous thirteen seasons. After undergoing surgery on a troublesome knee over the Christmas period, Des McKeown opted to offer the forward a new contract rather than waiting until the end of the season in May. All too predictably, this coincided with his chronic slump in form and - more sinisterly - unpleasant rumours of dressing room unrest. Cramb also began to develop a phantom hamstring problem - if the match appeared to be turning against his team, he would begin to clutch at the back of his leg, shake his head, then leave the field of play.

Cramb scored a handful of goals in unconvincing performances against fodder such as Montrose and East Stirlingshire, but, in the crucial double-header against Cowdenbeath and Berwick in April, he performed lamentably as Stenhousemuir lost both ties. The nadir came in the latter of the two games down at Shielfield Park. Removed midway through the first half (citing his bothersome hamstring once again), rather than watching the remainder of the game in the stand, he nipped across to the local social club to watch the Grand National instead. A club director reported this to McKeown: Cramb was told never to return to the club.

While some fans tend to describe Cramb as an arsehole and cite him as the key factor in our failure to win promotion to the Second Division in 2006, there is absolutely no doubt about the unadulterated brilliance of his first six months. Colin Cramb's sole season with Stenhousemuir perhaps emblemises Des McKeown's reign as manager - ultimately futile, but for the best part, utterly thrilling.

Arise, Sir Colin!

David Templeton: where were you on 12/11/2005?

David Templeton

Where were you on the 12th of November, 2005? Shopping? In the garden? Seeing your elderly parents? I'll tell you where I was, shall I? On that grey Saturday afternoon, I was on a bus trundling through Fife on the way to New Bayview. As my friends and I chatted about alchopops and women we've never slept with, we were accosted at the back of the bus by Auld Donald. Such is his authority on all things Stenhousemuir, when he speaks, the world stops turning and everyone listens. We've signed this young lad, he told us. Name's Templeton. Released by Aberdeen, Calderwood said he was too wee. Campbell's picked him up. Great wee player. In the first team today. Saw him playing the other night, the best player I've seen since Jinky Johnstone, he hectored before shuffling back down to his seat.

Before the game, we sat in the bar that looks out onto the pitch and watched the players warm up. As they performed their drills across the width of the pitch, at the end of the line was this skinny, waif-like teen. That's him there, pointed Donald, emerging from behind me. Wait til you see this kid play.

Stenhousemuir's performance for the best part of the game was utterly abject. Lacking in penetration and invention, they wilted as East Fife scored two fine goals either side of half time. With under thirty minutes remaining, McKeown withdrew the ineffectual Tommy Sinclair and Jim Mercer and replaced them with Paul Murphy and the young Templeton. And why not? What is there to lose? Within minutes of his introduction, Templeton's cute ball control drew a foul on the edge of the area and Cramb nodded home the resultant set-piece. The visitors rallied and McGrillen drew them level through a sublime volley from close range. As the game drew to a close, Templeton, enjoying a free role behind the forwards, latched onto a pass out on the left touchline, skipped past his marker and cut inside before clipping a neat shot beyond the East Fife keeper... Only to watch the ball bounce off the inside of the post and back into the keeper's arms. The supporters resigned themselves to a draw - we've come back from two goals behind, that's surely a cause for celebration, no? No. With the match drawing to a close, once again Templeton picked up the ball on the left flank and once again he beat the fullback before coming inside. Once again, he poked a the ball goalwards... Only this time for the shot nestle gently into the net. The crowd erupted. I celebrated so hard I nearly passed out. Templeton's father (a legend with Ayr United, by all accounts) was in the stand with a tear in his eye. Quite simply, that 3-2 victory over East Fife remains the greatest game of football I've ever seen.

The sixteen year-old continued his fine form and offered some remarkable performances against Montrose, East Fife again (where, once more, he proved to be their arch-nemesis by scoring two goals in stoppage time) and East Stirlingshire (in front of Iain Durrant and John Greig of Rangers, who were esrtwhile suitors). Whilst the 2005-2006 season will ultimately be remembered as a failure, Templeton's contribution can only be considered as an unqualified success.

In January 2007, Templeton joined Heart of Midlothian and after a slow start, broke into the first team and capped a series of impressive performances with this superb solo goal against Hibs in 2010. A Scotland cap surely beckons, but anyone who was at New Bayview that day could have told you that anyway.


In this 4-3-3 system, Denham would act as the "number one" defender while Lennon would sweep behind him, winning any loose balls and breaking into the middle of the park. Paton, meanwhile would sit in front of the defence and come deep to get the ball before swinging passes around the pitch. McBride would provide the killer penetration, Molloy would give him the platform to do it. McGrillen would play out on the left of the front three, Templeton on the right and Colin Cramb in the middle, while Reid and Lyle would offer support and options on the flanks. Phrases like "chocolate football" and "we're playing like Ajax in the seventies" are banded around a little too often these days but there is no doubt that if this side was playing today, they would, at the very least, a be a solid First Division club.

But just who would manage this team? Who would be the man to lead this talented, yet flawed band of superstars? Just who would be the manager to mould this team in his own image? There are few candidates: Money would be hopeless; Coughlin, although the most successful manager over the last seven years, would be too cautious and shackle such a talented squad; Irons, meanwhile, hasn't had enough time to make his mark on the team. No. The only candidate can be Des McKeown. He made a few mistakes during his time at Ochilview: dismissing sections of the Stenhousemuir support as "eighteen year old half-wits"; offering contracts to senior players as early in the season as January; the "Berwick 5" debacle; attempting to coax Andy Brown back to Ochilview; claiming that the 5-0 defeat to the Shire was more humiliating to him because he had a "professional pride" and as supporters, we couldn't understand what that was like... Des made mistakes, sure. But there is certainly one thing you could never accuse him of - it would certainly never be dull.

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