Warriors wordsmith Arthur hangs up his notepad and phone

Arthur's seat for many years at Ochilview has been in the back row at Ochilview. Picture Michael Gillen.
Arthur's seat for many years at Ochilview has been in the back row at Ochilview. Picture Michael Gillen.

After 32 years, six sports editors, countless managers and copydesk calls in their thousands, Arthur McTague has put the lid on his pen, and his Stenhousemuir match reports.

One, of course, sticks out for the Warriors writer– one he wrote a decade after picking up the pen for the Herald and then sports editor David McCarthy.

Arthur McTague.

Arthur McTague.

Arthur rates the 1995 Stenhousemuir side which lifted the Challenge Cup and knocked Aberdeen out of the Scottish Cup as the best he’s seen at Ochilview.

“We had players like Graeme ‘Louis’ Armstrong, Eamonn Bannon, Adrian Sprott George McGeachie and Roddy McKenzie,” he recalled. “The cupwin was the highlight, it was absolutely amazing – but no fluke. They were seasoned pros and had already beaten Aberdeen that year.

“That team was built by Terry Christie – an absolute professional – and a team full of players he trusted and knew he could rely on.

“In the Challenge Cup semi-final replay, the Warriors totally trounced St Johnstone by four goals. It was the best Terry Christie had seen, and the best I’d seen.

Arthur presented many Starshot trophies over the years including here to Chris McCluskey

Arthur presented many Starshot trophies over the years including here to Chris McCluskey

“The final wasn’t much of a game but Roddy McKenzie made a save better than Gordon Banks. He was the Herald’s Starshot winner that year.

“I came back down on the team bus and we went out to the Plough. The village hadn’t seen anything like it. It had emptied for the final. We’d never seen the like!

“Eamonn Bannon had won all sorts and played in huge games at Chelsea – but the joy he got from that day was incredible.”

Nowadays that glory is more of a memory but Arthur insists that the team should always be remembered. “I’ve got on well with all the managers over the years. With the Herald, they’ve always been appreciative of the more in-depth coverage than they get in the nationals.

Willie Lyle Starshot

Willie Lyle Starshot

“There wasn’t ever any point in knocking them. They’ve not got money to buy big players. You can’t expect players at that level to play like top players. It happens and it’s a total pleasure to see, but I’ve always tried to be fair without being sycophantic.”

The best player Arthur has seen at Ochilview wasn’t Colin Cramb, though he comes close. It’s David Templeton, a player he first spotted as a raw teenager.

“I thought Stenhousemuir protected him. If it had been me I’d have played him every week and put him in the shop window.

“They got money for him in the end, but I had told Campbell Money I thought he was worth a quarter of a million. He thought I was mad!

Arthur McTague and Jimmy Henderson

Arthur McTague and Jimmy Henderson

“I’ve seen a lot of deals too, never for a quarter of a million mind you, but one for a stair carpet!”

And as much as his match reports have been appreciated by the Ochilview fans, so too have his opinions been valued by managers.

Indeed he was asked for an opinion of Warriors legend Lloyd Haddow before he arrived at Ochilview and long before he scored the decisive penalty in that famous cup win.

“I was asked about the striker at Fauldhouse. I’d been at their game with Camelon, I said to Dennis Lawson the manager – I couldn’t tell you as he was sent off after about ten minutes! But Lloyd signed and scored that winning kick that put him and the team in the club records by confidently walking up and beating Ally Maxwell.”

He even played a role in Falkirk’s Player of the Millennium’s career.

“I’d seen Kevin McAllister playing at Stirling boys club and he controlled the midfield despite being 14 and the smallest man on the park. He had balance and ball control.

Arthur McTague. Picture by Michael Gillen.

Arthur McTague. Picture by Michael Gillen.

“I told George Miller who I’d scouted for. I arranged a meeting and met him at Hope Street and he was there with his Falkirk scarf, not the size of a pip.

“He got invited in for training, but wasn’t signed then. He was only 14 but Falkirk were aware of him. Then of course he was signed and went on to become the Crunchie we know.

“Templeton is the best I’ve seen at Stenhousemuir - he had the best raw talent I’ve seen since Kevin.”

That’s saying a lot in a journalistic career lasting over three decades.

Arthur began writing aged 14, selling his first story to Scots Magazine. Originally from Maddiston, where he grew up beside Hibs great Hugh Maxwell, he worked locally at Stein’s but moved into writing with Falkirk Museum. He became well-known as the Herald’s district correspondent for Stenhousemuir and his hometown, as well as on the Warriors beat locally and nationally.

“It was 1985 and I’d been doing bits and pieces with Glasgow Sports Agency and spoke to David [McCarthy] who was sports editor at the time. I suggested expanding the coverage - at that time it was just summaries of the games and Falkirk reports.So I suggested I’d do Stenny for him and he ran it past Ken Waddell the editor.”

The rest, is history, and Arthur has liased with David McCarthy, Stuart Barber, Stuart Anderson, James Friel, Julian Peck and the present incumbent locally, and many more sports editors, and editors nationally covering, mostly Stenhousemuir but Falkirk and The Shire as well.

“The first team I watched had Harry Erwin and Harry Cairney - wonderful stalwarts.

“In the early days I was stringing and the first editions went out at 6pm or 6.30pm, so you had to call the copy through and react to what was happening on the park as you spoke.

“It was hectic, but I loved it – working on the seat of your pants.But the Herald report was always more in depth. I’ve enjoyed it all.

“I got to the stage last season, at 73, that I was wearing more skins than an onion – and still feeling the cold. A lot of the work is done on a Saturday night so you weren’t able to go out either. Every season I’d be glad of a break, then after fortnight of the close season I couldn’t wait for football to be back.

“I’ve not missed it yet but if the weather’s like it has been recently, I’ll be down there again soon. That wee bar is a great asset to the club with its camaraderie.

“And despite the troubles the club is in just now, there’s enough good people at Ochilview to get them through it.”

Stenhousemuir's Bryan Hodge was Arthur's choice for Starshot player of the year in 2012-13. Picture Alan Murray

Stenhousemuir's Bryan Hodge was Arthur's choice for Starshot player of the year in 2012-13. Picture Alan Murray