FORMER Gala Fairydean, Selkirk, and Hawick Royal Albert footballer Tom Fairgrieve has died from cancer at the age of 57, writes John Slorance.
From Stow, Tom was a member of the Selkirk side that had such golden success, winning almost everything that was going in the mid-seventies seasons.
Once on the books of Hearts, Tom was an above average player in East of Scotland footballing circles.
He was indeed a class act.
A player of great skill, style and flair, Tom was held in high regard by those who played alongside him, the opposition who faced him, and by those who watched him – including myself, who had the pleasure of writing about the cultured performances of Tom in the many games I witnessed him playing.
Ian ‘Chalkie’ Whitehead, Selkirk player-manager during the Souters’ glory days, told TheSouthern: “I bribed Tom to leave Gala Fairydean for a pair of boots. I made a few good signings in my time; he was one of the best.
“Tom was a bit different from the rest of us, as he went to Daniel Stewart’s school. He was an educated footballer.
“Tom was indeed a player before his time. When he first joined Selkirk he was a midfield player. I felt he would make a good sweeper, though, and he turned out to be the very best. Tom had a real football brain, and could really read a game. He never booted the ball up the park. He would bring it down, and stroke and pass it about.
“Tom played behind big Kenny ‘Rud’ Rutherford, the Selkirk centre half. They were chalk and cheese as players, as Rud took no prisoners through his style of play. But they both knew what each other was doing, and it worked perfectly.”
Although a defender, Tom averaged about 15 goals a season for Selkirk, which all came from set pieces.
With a smile, Whitehead told us: “It is a well-known fact, and is still spoken about today, that Tom never got his shorts dirty, even on the muddiest of days. He never slid in for the ball or anything like that. He did standing up tackles, and believe me, they worked.
“Tom ended up player-coach for me at Selkirk. At half-time if things were not going right I’d be ranting and raving, doing all sorts of daft things, while Tom would be calming things down by speaking quietly to players. That’s the way it was.
“When I became manager at Hawick Royal Albert, Tom joined me, and the Albert went on to win the Scottish Qualifying Cup. Tom was a great player, as well as a gentleman.”
Tom, who lived in the Kirkcaldy area for the past few years, is survived by his wife, Jan, and three children.