For the second year in succession, over 200 people packed out the Volunteer Hall in Galashiels to witness the Gala Fairydean Rovers’ Hall of Fame Awards.
The club used the awards ceremony, sponsored by The Trophy Guy, to recognise sporting heroes from the past, reward the current crop of players at the club and outline their vision for the future.
Two famous teams from the history of the Rovers and Fairydean were recognised, while local footballing legends such as Alan Notman, Ian ‘Chalky’ Whitehead and Ronnie Renton were inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Members of the clubs community engagement programme, Border Amateur Development Squad and Lowland League first team were also recognised for their efforts during the season.
Former Fairydean club secretary John Clayton was presented with a Life Membership Award for his services to football in the town and, for the first time, the Hall of Fame recognised the services of volunteers, with Debi Ritchie and Adam McClory joining its ranks.
Outgoing first team Manager Steven Noble received a special award for his services to the club since 2013.
Club chairman Kevin Temple was once again delighted with the huge turnout for the annual event, declaring: ““Our Hall of Fame Awards is fast becoming one of the highlights of the calendar year for the club. It is an honour and a privilege for us to be able to recognise the achievements of the past while rewarding the current crop of players and volunteers at the club. We are grateful to all of the volunteers who helped us stage the event, to Trophy Guy for sponsoring the Hall of Fame and Live Borders for supporting our Community Team Awards.”
The evening began with awards to members of the club’s Community Engagement Programme. The GFR Walking Football Team kicked off proceedings, rewarding members for an outstanding season that saw it come close to winning the inaugural national Walking Football League.
The GFR Ladies’ section is about to start playing its first friendlies, with games lined up against Hawick United Ladies and Blyth Town Ladies AFC.
Coaches Fred Blackie, Mick McEwan and Stuart Turner presented Player of the Year and Coaches Player of the Year Awards. The ladies’ section was grateful to Mitchell’s Glass for sponsoring new kit.
A special presentation was organised for a member of the GFR Disability Squad to recognise his courage in the face of tremendous adversity. Just after last year’s event, youngster Darren Thomson from the squad suffered a stroke and, at one stage, was given only hours to live. But Darren, described as “a fighter”, was eventually discharged from hospital after six months and two days was eventually discharged form hospital.
Darren, a keen Hibernian fan, received a standing ovation and was delighted to receive his award from John Collins. Host of the event, Graeme McIver, explained Gala FR still considered Darren very much part of the club.
In an emotional speech, Darren’s father Philip thanked GFR for keeping his son involved and for its support during a difficult time for Darren and his family.
The club confirmed that, next season, it will be fielding an Under 20s Development Side into the Lowland Development League, bringing the number of total number of players at the club to well over 300, when member of the club’s junior and youth sections are taken into account. The club is now one of the biggest sporting organisations in the region.
Mike Riddell, manager of the Border Amateur Development side, thanked his young squad and congratulated them on a tremendous season that saw them reach three cup finals and miss out on promotion by a single point.
While the vast majority of the team are teenagers, the player of the year was veteran Welsh Curran, who had picked up the same award 18 years ago when he was still a youngster with Scott Ritchie’s Gala Rovers team.
Steven Noble’s first team successfully completed their fifth season in the Scottish Lowland League and Ross Aitchison was selected as the club’s Player of the Year.
Scott Main picked up the Players’ Player of the Year Award, with Stuart Noble receiving the Top Scorer Award for the fifth season in succession. On-loan Rangers youngster Lewis Muir secured the Young Player of the Year Award, thanks to a fantastic season in goal for the Netherdale club, while youngster Fraser Malcolm received the Goal of the Season Award thanks to a stunning strike in an important victory against Hawick Royal Albert.
Club secretary Graeme McIver paid tribute to the departing Steven Noble, stating that, in his five years at the helm, nobody had worked harder to make the club a success while sticking to his principles of passing and attacking football.
Chairman Kevin Temple presented Steven with a silver salver for his service. He also received an award for services to football in the community from Garry Fraser and Fred Blackie from the GFR Football Academy. Noble will remain on the club’s Board as an advisor on football matters while taking up a coaching role in the Hibernian youth set-up.
Warm tributes were paid to the first Hall of Fame inductee of the night, Alan Notman. ‘Notty’ enjoyed an incredible career with Gala Fairydean during the 80s and 90s and appeared in 10 Qualifying Cup Finals, winning seven of them, along with four East of Scotland League Championships – two with the Fairydean and two with Vale of Leithen.
John Collins spoke of how his father Norrie had taken him to Netherdale as a youngster and told him to watch Notman and how he played. The former Celtic, Everton, Monaco and Scotland star said: “This award is well deserved. You never gave the ball away, Alan. You were a proper football player, brilliant to watch.”
Next up was ‘Mr Gala Rovers’, Ronnie Renton. He played a handful of games for Gala Fairydean but it was a decade-long stint with Gala Rovers in the 1950s and early ‘60s that cemented Ronnie’s place as a legend in local football in the town.
Ronnie enjoyed a glittering carer with the Rovers, winning the Border Amateur League in successive seasons in 1953, 1954 and 1955. He won the Beveridge Cup in 1953, while in ‘54 he lifted the South Cup, the Dudley Cup and the Border Medal competition. He was part of the all-conquering Rovers side that remained unbeaten throughout the historic 1953-54 season and lost only two league games in a sensational three-year period. Ronnie passed away in 2016 and his widow Nancy, and sister Mary Strathie, were there to pick up his award on the night.
Ian ‘Chalky’ Whitehead was next up. The former Queen’s Park, Ayr United and Berwick Rangers striker had played for Gala Rovers at the age of 13 and went on to play for and manage Gala Fairydean in the early 1990s. The seven-times capped Amateur Internationalist had a glittering career as both a player and manager in the East of Scotland Leagues and his Selkirk side won 10 trophies in five sensational years in the mid-1970s.
On receiving his award, Ian told the packed hall he had originally been against the merger of the Fairydean and Rovers back in 2013 but, on seeing how big the club had become, and its fantastic community programme, he had changed his mind. He has pledged to visit Netherdale more regularly from now on.
Bobby Kirk and his Gala Fairydean side of 1965-66 were honoured for a season that saw them clinch their fourth successive East of Scotland title, along with a number of cups, including the King Cup, Scottish Qualifying Cup and the East of Scotland Qualifying Cup.
The former Hearts star led the Fairydean through one of the most successful periods in the club’s history. Former members of the team, Tam Cornwall and Jimmy Peacock, were in attendance. Cornwall made 63 appearances for the Fairydean scoring an incredible 64 goals including four in one match, five hat-tricks and 12 doubles. He played two full seasons, 1964-65 and 1965-66, but suffered a leg break in the final match of that season. He came back and played three matches in the following season before breaking his leg again. Jimmy Peacock played in a Borders select match against the French National Team at Netherdale in 1966 prior to the World Cup. Peacock scored against the French side and went on to have a successful career as a physiotherapist with a number of top clubs and the Scottish and Saudi Arabian national teams.
The Gala Rovers ‘Invincibles’ Team of 2000-01 were next to be inducted. Ralph Wilson’s side played 22 games and won every one of them in a spectacular season. He paid a warm tribute to the squad as they all received special awards. “I had an easy job,” he said. “I just had to pick a team from a squad of brilliant footballers. What they achieved was special.”
The Rovers side also won the Waddell Cup and were runners up in the Beveridge Cup that season.
The final two inductees received huge ovations for their services to football in Galashiels. Both became the first volunteers to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Dave Scott, the campaign director of Nil by Mouth, the anti-sectarian charity which is in a community partnership with the club, spoke warmly of Debi Ritchie, who fulfils a number of roles at Gala Fairydean Rovers. Along with chairing and playing for the GFR Ladies team, Debi is the clubs official photographer and social media manager, who has spent a lifetime supporting and volunteering, first for Gala Rovers and now GFR.
The final inductee was Adam McClory. His first game watching the Fairydean was in 1956 and he has hardly missed a game since. Adam was awarded Life Membership of GFR in 2013 for his services as a supporter, volunteer and committee member like his father before him.
List of 2018 Award Winners:
Gala Fairydean Rovers Walking Football Team
Player of the Year: John Dodds
Young Player of the Year: Jim Mclaren
Gala Fairydean Rovers Borders Disability Squad
Special Award to Darren Thomson
Presented by John Collins
Gala Fairydean Rovers Women’s Team
Player’s Player of the Year: Rebbeca Wood
Coaches Player of the Year: Abby Wilson
Gala Fairydean Rovers Borders Amateur Team
Player of the Year: Welsh Curran
Player’s Player of the Year: Andrew Callow
Young Player of the Year: Luke Meissner
Goal of the Season: Lewis Swaney
Top Scorer: Andrew Crawford
Gala Fairydean Rovers Lowland Team
Player of the Year: Ross Aitchison
Player’s Player of the Year: Scott Main
Young Player of the Year: Lewis Muir
Goal of the Season: Fraser Malcolm
Top Scorer: Stuart Noble
Award for Services as Manager: Steven Noble
Award for Services to Football in the Community: Steven Noble
Life Membership Award
Hall of Fame Inductees
Ian ‘Chalky’ Whitehead
Gala Fairydean 1965-66 and Manager Bobby Kirk
Gala Rovers 2000-01 and Manager Ralph Wilson