NOSTALGIA: “I think I’ve found player” - The story of a Falkirk's Caribbean cult hero Collin Samuel

Colin Samuel in action for FalkirkColin Samuel in action for Falkirk
Colin Samuel in action for Falkirk | jpimedia
One of the most amazing stories of player recruitment is that of Collin Samuel.

It all started with a Back the Bairns committee meeting when a phone call came in from Bairns fan Simon Lindsay who was working in the Caribbean at the time.

He spent a lot of time watching local football and had been impressed by the standard of some of the players he had watched.

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Two in particular had caught his eye, they were Devon Mitchell and Collin Samuel.

To be fair, most of his fellow committee members were highly sceptical of Simon’s assessment and questioned the relative standards of the game in Trinidad and Scotland.

He persisted, and each succeeding phone call started to convince the doubters that it might be worth a chance to bring the players over.

Funds were raised and allocated to the project.

It was costing Falkirk FC nothing to have a look at the players, as all monies had been raised by Back the Bairns with assistance from BP. Manager Alex Totten had his doubts when the scheme was first mooted and remained to be convinced.

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Gradually, despite a lot of red tape, the scheme came to fruition, and the arrival of two young lads from the sun-kissed island of Trinidad added a real excitement to a forthcoming friendly clash with Dunfermline in 2001.

Mitchell and Samuel came on with 30 minutes to play in the game and Dunfermline were leading 1-0 through a McDonald goal.

The goal had come against the run of play on the half-hour mark, when McDonald rose unchallenged to head home a McLeish right-wing corner.

Falkirk had chances to draw level and John Henry in particular was very unlucky not to score.

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Debutants Paul Wright and Steve Watson looked useful acquisitions, but the game came to life with the introduction of Mitchell and Samuel.

The latter made an immediate impact on the game-and on Pars keeper Scott Thomson.

Chasing a left-wing cross, he threw himself at the ball and flattened the keeper, who needed lengthy attention.

The two Trinidadians combined well, and Mitchell scored twice to earn a morale-boosting win.

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His first came from a great Wright pass and he held off his man to beat Thomson from the edge of the box.

The goal that clinched the win came within a minute of the restart, when Mitchell scored after a Watson header came back off the post.

The buzz around the ground, and the subsequent standing ovation were clear indications that Simon Lindsay’s assessment was a good one, but there were many obstacles to be overcome before the players could be able to play in League football.

Work permits were to prove problematic, and it was to be some time before Collin Samuel could return to Falkirk.

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Return he did and in time for one of the most remarkable seasons seen for a long, long time.

After the relegation- and- reprieve of season 2001/02, Falkirk emerged from the depths to build a great side under Ian McCall.

They were an attacking side and had a useful blend of experience and youth.

The backbone of McCall’s Airdrie side were signed and Falkirk took the league by storm.

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Samuel was a sensation, and defences found his pace hard to handle.

Those who doubted the wisdom of bringing a player from Trinidad to Scotland were soon silenced and he performed at a high level during the challenges of a Scottish winter.

He hit a purple patch with a double at Palmerston and a hat-trick at Gayfield in a 4-1 win over Arbroath.

The Scottish Cup had paired Falkirk with Hearts, and some thought there could be an upset.

BBC cameras were there to capture all the action.

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Hearts had taken a mid-season beak to prepare for the cup tie at Brockville. Nothing could have prepared them for what happened next.

John Hughes had said after the Arbroath game, “Samuel’s pace would give anyone a problem-folk are frightened of pace.”

Hearts weren’t frightened-they were petrified.

Brockville was bouncing, as text messages were flashed to absent friends and relatives who must have queried their accuracy when Samuel made it 3-0 after 16 minutes the home support were rubbing their eyes in disbelief.

Samuel was replaced by McSween with six minutes left for play, the score 4-0.

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He had had his finest game as a Bairn and had confounded all those who said he wouldn’t make it.

It was a proud day to be a Falkirk supporter, and the pubs and clubs of the town had a night to remember.

Back the Bairns had brought the young man across from Trinidad and on this day, he had paid them back in style.

It was incredible to think that a Falkirk fan, Simon Lindsay, had spotted him playing in Trinidad and that Falkirk fans had paid for his travel and accommodation.

The Collin Samuel story was right out of the pages of a boy’s comic.

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