Tributes have poured in for local football coach Alex Watters who has died. He was 84.
The veteran was still passing on his expertise well into his ninth decade with prominent local club Gairdoch, for whom he was synonymous.
Latterly he was coach of the club’s under-nines and landed a Scottish Football Association Grassroots award for his service to the club and area’s football in 2015.
When collecting his award he said: “For me it isn’t about receiving awards, though it is greatly received, but making sure young footballers at Gairdoch United get the opportunity.
“I want to thank everyone involved with the football club, without their hard work and determination the club wouldn’t be where it is today.”
Current Scotland international team manager Alex McLeish presented him at the time and said: “Alex is an incredible inspiration to the community that he supports through Gairdoch United.
“He has been involved with the club for decades and has contributed no end to ensure growth and success at the club. Alex is an extraordinary grassroots volunteer who goes above and beyond for his club. He deserves all the recognition we can give.”
Having played junior football growing up for Benburb and Govan Britannia in Glasgow, he moved to central Scotland and joined Tulliallan Thistle before joining the Army football team aged 18.
However it was in coaching he achieved the greatest success, and caught the coaching bug early on – at the opening of the SFA’s world-renown Largs facility for training coaches and managers of the future.
He worked in shipyards around the country before settling back in the local area and coached Grangemouth FC and Gairdoch, plus Stenhousemuir’s primary school team.
In 2009 he was given a lifetime honourary membership of the Scottish Youth Football Association.
He also professed the secret behind his coaching – to players and coaches of the future who have looked to him for tutelage.
He said: All I can say to these guys is I hope they enjoy the game as much as I do, and take the enjoyment out of it for many many years, because you can’t beat it.”
After his death over the weekend the club’s social media accounts paid tribute. A statement on Facebook said: “Gairdoch United FC are devastated to announce the passing of legendary coach Alec Watters.
“Alec was a three times Scottish Cup winning coach with a character, sense of humour, personality and coaching style that’s unlikely to be seen again.
“A fantastic man, human being, coach, friend, colleague and a true gentleman who loved this football club. He will be very very sadly missed by everyone who had the privilege of meeting, playing for or knowing the man - Gairdoch United FC is very much poorer without him. A true Gairdoch and Scottish Youth football legend.”
Among the players to have been coached by Watters are James Fowler, the current Sunderland assistant manager, Gary Gillespie, the Liverpool legend and European Cup winner, Hearts forward John Colqhoun and Milton Keynes Dons midfielder Conor McGrandles.
Among the tributes paid were those from former players and those across the football spectrum.
Paul Cairney: “I played for Alex in the 90’s. Between him and his sidekick Ian Trail they had a massive influence on me and many others. The word Gentleman will be used hundreds of times in here but couldn’t fit a man better. RIP Auld yin.”
Former Bo’ness United boss Allan Mcgonigal: “One of our own and one of a kind.if one word could some him up WINNER! My thoughts to all the family.”
Johnstone Hunter: “Sorry to hear this sad news. I was privileged to know and work at Gairdoch with the legend. He will be a loss to the sport and community and everyone that knew him.”
Former Stenhousemuir boss and local youth footballer Brown Ferguson added: “Has done so much for so many young footballers in the local area. A true gentleman with a great passion for the game. Will be sadly missed.”