Cameron Shanks’ managerial debut could hardly have gone more to plan on Saturday afternoon – a crushing 9-1 victory and the entire family there to see it.
Last week’s Falkirk Herald cover star Cameron (58) was in the dugout for the first time at Carmuirs Park as Camelon Juniors thrashed Craigroyston and he was full of praise for the club, the players and management team as he described “one of the best days” of his life.
Cameron, from Stenhousemuir, was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer just seven weeks ago and has been given six to ten months to live by doctors. With manager Gordon Herd away watching another match in preperation for a cup semi final, Camelon gave Cameron an unprecedented chance to tick one thing of his bucket list – managing a football team.
“I just want to say thank you to everybody,” Cameron said. “The board, the management team and the players for one of the best days I have ever had in my life. It’s a day I will never forget.
“It proves that Camelon is a real community club and they are certainly on the up.I just want to wish everybody at the club all the best for the future.
“Hopefully I will be there to see it next season for the full season, but I just want to wish the board, players and management team all the best and give them a massive thank you for the great gesture.”
Cameron, an ex-police dog handler, is well known in the Falkirk area and his story has touched many. It clearly inspired the Camelon players on Saturday too as they produced their joint biggest victory of the campaign at Carmuirs Park.
In fact, captain Don Morrison even hinted that he wants Cameron to remain in charge!
“It was quite emotional because the players knew why I was there. They’d seen it in The Falkirk Herald.
“I told them a wee bit about my background. My first Camelon game was in 1965 when I went to see them in the junior cup.
“I was telling them I had been back and forward to see them while still supporting Hibs but at the end of last season I had come and seen six or seven games and I was that impressed I was going to follow them everywhere. Then I was struck with the illness.
“But I said to them my friends are here, my neighbours are here – folk that have never seen Camelon Juniors before. Just go out and do what you’ve done all season because you’ve been absolutely outstanding and a joy to watch. Let them see what I’ve been raving about all year.
“I asked them to keep it going from first minute to last minute and they never disappointed. We totally dominated the game and to win 9-1, one of the best results of the season, was just fantastic.
“Every single player made me feel really welcome. They were coming up and giving me hugs and everything. Don Morrison was telling me he wanted me to get the job permanently because it’s the first senior goal he has scored in years! I said ‘I’ll have a word with Herdy and see what we can do’.”
Cameron suggested before the match that he would be backed by about 40 or 50 friends – but he must have underestimated his own popularity as an army of around 150 came to watch him take the hotseat for the first time, in a crowd that totalled 350.
“There were people that I didn’t see that texted me afterwards to say they were there. I would say there was at least 150 folk there that had just come to support me.
“Neighbours, friends, colleagues and my whole family was there. My wife, Clare, my two kids, my two step kids and my grandchild – Emily – that was her first game at four weeks old.
“They went away delighted. My step daughter came all the way up from Essex for it.”
Cameron hopes that his experience can prove to anyone suffering with cancer that you can continue to live life to the very fullest
“It’s 100 per cent to do with positive attitude,” he said. “There’s two ways you can deal with it – you can curl up into a ball and let cancer take over or face it head on.
“I will continue doing what I’m doing until the cancer tells me I can’t.”
After one of the best days of his life at Carmuirs Park – Cameron’s weekend was far from over as he got a tour of Easter Road on Sunday before Hibs versus Hearts and met his favourite Hibee, David Gray, who presented him with a signed shirt.
“If Carlsberg did weekends,” Cameron added, “they’d all be like that!”