It had been in a cupboard in a house in Falkirk for more than 30 years until a chance phone call re-united East Stirlingshire with one of the club’s long-lost possessions.
The item is a Scotland international jersey donated by legendary Shire player Eddie McCreadie. For years fans, officials and amateur historians had questioned its whereabouts. They had all drawn a blank until a remarkable piece of old-fashioned honesty.
The top was worn by McCreadie in his first-ever Scotland game; a benefit match for the family of former Falkirk midfielder, John White, who died in 1964 after being struck by lightning on a golf course.
The ex-Shire man, who had transferred to Chelsea in 1962, made a special trip back to Falkirk to present the top to his former club. It went on display at the Shire Social Club until it shut down. Then it seemed lost forever.
Current Shire secretary, Tadek Kopszywa, takes up the story.
“Every Shire fan old enough and with an interest in the club’s story knows about the Eddie McCreadie top,” he said. “Likewise, no amount sleuthing over the past few decades could help find it. Then, earlier this year, I got a phone call from a friend who said they had met a person who claimed to have it in their house.
“A meeting was set up, the jersey was compared with old photos that proved without doubt it was indeed the McCreadie jersey,” he said.
The answer to many of the questions over its whereabouts for so many years were soon to be provided by 30-year-old Falkirk-based graphic designer, Allie Shanks. Her mother had worked as the manager of the Shire Social Club just prior to its closure.
“I was told the story that when the club was shutting down people were just taking anything they could get their hands on,” said Allie. “So my mum took the top basically to stop just anyone making off with it, maybe a stranger or someone who didn’t know or understand what it was.”
There seemed to be little interest from the people running the football club at the time to make sure such items were safeguarded, and Allie’s in no doubt her family, all Shire fans, were helping protect it from falling into the wrong hands.
That said, she admits they were probably at a loss what to do next with a piece of genuine football history.
“It basically sat in a cupboard for about 30 years,” she said. “My dad enjoyed taking it out and having a look at it. The top would fall off the rail and my mum would hang it back up again but over the years it just got pushed into a corner with other clothes.”
But when Allie inherited the top she made up her mind that a corner of a clothes cupboard was no place for it any longer.
“I was moving house and I looked at the top and felt so sorry for it being stuck in a cupboard and I just felt it was time to leave and be shown off somewhere. I’m not really clued up on football but I just knew it had to go where other people could appreciate it,” she said.
After making contact with the club it was agreed there was only one place that should be; the National Football Museum at Hampden Park.
“When Allie brought us the top we didn’t really have anywhere to put it either,” said Tadek. “The club doesn’t own a stadium and framing it and putting it on the wall of the club offices didn’t really do it justice either.
“We made contact with the museum and they were delighted with the find and are now examining ways to help us look after it properly and put it on display.”
And there will be other additions to the growing East Stirlingshire archive. Ex-Shire keeper George Wood recently donated one of his Scotland tops to the club and it could go to Hampden as well.
“George was an enthusiastic supporter of our plans to set up a Shire Former Players Association,” said the club secretary. “He had planned to attend the launch but couldn’t make it. We were delighted, and a bit astounded, when he then sent us the jersey he wore in the Scotland Argentina game at Hampden in 1979.
“It now means the club has international jerseys worn by the only two living people to have played for the Shire and Scotland,” said Tadek.
Now the club is drawing up plans to have every single piece of its history they can locate moved to a temporary home at the National Football Museum. Discussions are in the preliminary stages with the curators there. Shire officials are now hoping club-related items in cupboards and lofts across the area could also find their way into the collection.
“Allie’s honesty in all of this has been refreshing and we are very grateful to her. We have been tracing down and collecting as many pieces of the Shire history as we can, but this was a big find. We would certainly like to find more,” said Tadek.