Tribute to an all-time Gala great

Alfie Conn Snr with Gala Fairydean
Alfie Conn Snr with Gala Fairydean

Gala Fairydean Rovers will help pay tribute to a footballing legend next week when Hearts send a team down the A7 to play at Netherdale in a pre-season friendly.

The Alfie Conn Memorial Cup is due to be contested at 3pm on Saturday, June 25 at the 3G Arena when Gala FR take on a Hearts XI.

Alfie Conn, who passed away in 2009, was a legendary figure at the Tynecastle club during the 1940s and ‘50s where, along with Willie Bauld and Jimmy Wardhaugh, he formed the ‘Terrible Trio’ – the most famous forward line in the Edinburgh club’s illustrious history.

He played in the Hearts teams that won the 1954 League Cup and 1956 Scottish Cup and was part of the club’s League winning squad in 1957-58. He received a Scottish cap against Austria in 1956.

Following a spell with Raith Rovers and a brief sojourn in South Africa, Alfie Snr moved to Netherdale in 1960 to become player manager at Gala Fairydean and went on to enjoy great success in the two seasons he spent at the club.

This year marks the 90th anniversary of Alfie’s birth in Prestonpans, East Lothian, and the Fairydean Rovers wanted to mark the occasion and the links between the clubs.

Hearts are expected to send a strong youth side to the game, many of whom played in the SFA Youth Cup Final at Hampden in April.

Alfie Snr was player-manager of Gala Fairydean in season 1960-61, during which he made 25 appearances and scored 21 goals, including two hat-tricks, as he finished as the club’s top scorer that season.

The Fairydean finished runners-up in the East of Scotland League to Berwick Rangers ‘A’ by a single point, won the King Cup, and were runners up in the East of Scotland Qualifying Cup.

A photo of Alfie with the King Cup can be seen in the clubrooms at Netherdale.

In season 1960-61, Conn hung up his boots, stuck to the dug-out, and steered his side to an unprecedented four trophies.

He tendered his resignation at Netherdale with the club requiring a single point to be certain of the East of Scotland league title, which they comfortably won, with Peebles Rovers finishing six points adrift, and Fairydean scoring 138 league goals en route to the title. They also won the Scottish Qualifying Cup (South), the East of Scotland Qualifying Cup, and defeated Berwick Rangers in the final of the City Cup, one week after Alfie resigned from his post.

Conn’s son, also Alfie, went on to enjoy a successful career in top-flight football too, playing for both halves of the Old Firm, Tottenham Hotspur, Derby County, Hearts and Scotland.

Graeme McIver, the secretary of Gala Fairydean Roverss said: “I was delighted to receive a phone call earlier this week from Alfie Conn Jnr to confirm the family would give its blessing to the match going ahead, and that some of them would also be in attendance.

“Alfie has fond memories of travelling to Gala with his dad when he was a young boy in the early ‘60s and we look forward to welcoming him back to Netherdale.

“We are honoured that we can play a part in recognising a true giant of the game who had links to both clubs.”

A Hearts spokesman said: “The club is happy to be part of a match that will honour such a legendary figure in Alfie Conn. Alfie made a huge impact at both Heart of Midlothian and Gala Fairydean, so this meeting of the two sides is a fitting tribute, and we look forward to our visit to Netherdale.”

The club will be issuing a special souvenir programme on the day and prices are set at £7 for adults, £3 for concessions, with children under 5 free. A limited number of hospitality packages will be available on the day, with details to follow.