John Lambie: Partick Thistle and Hamilton benefitted from eccentric management style

By Chick YoungBBC Scotland
John Lambie
John Lambie had a penchant for cigars - and pigeons

You will have more chance of seeing wee boys being sent up chimneys again than you will of seeing the likes of John Lambie in football management in days still to come.

He was a wonderfully eccentric gaffer whose ways would trigger fainting among the politically correct.

But they worked - in simpler times.

John Lambie tributes as former Partick Thistle and Hamilton boss dies

He has passed away at the age of 77, sadly never having quite made his peace with some old friends. Lambie loved pigeons, but he was capable of ruffling everybody's feathers.

Me? I was more or less his vintage and therefore was more embracing of his ways.

'Tell him he's Pele and get him back on'

John couldn't complete a subjunctive clause without laying grievous bodily harm to the English language and famously they once made a documentary in which they filmed his dressing-room motivational speech. It featured so many beeps you would have thought the story was being told in Morse code.

His finest moment was in the wake of an injury to Colin McGlashan that had Lambie's assistant, Gerry Collins - in their heyday, the Morecambe and Wise of Scottish football - reporting that the severity of the player's head knock meant that he didn't even know who he was.

"Tell him he's Pele and get him back on," said yer man.

John Lambie and Gerry Collins
Lambie and Gerry Collins were an entertaining management double act

Lambie was an uncompromising full-back with Falkirk and St Johnstone, but it was as a coach, bouncing between a Bermuda triangle of Hamilton Academical, Partick Thistle and Falkirk, that he made his indelible mark on the Scottish game.

John and the Jags were made for one another. His mad ways seemed to work a marriage made in heaven, or Maryhill as it is sometimes known - and the elastic wouldn't snap until he had left them for the fourth time.

When you went to interview him and got them to lower the drawbridge into the fortress that was Firhill you still had a mission to locate him through the fog of cigar smoke. At times, it was hard to believe that this was the workplace of athletes.

He had a golden way about him, though, particularly with the waifs and strays of the game. He alone tamed midfielder Chic Charnley, who once, at training, engaged, with a traffic cone, a local ned bearing a Samurai sword. Such events, you felt, could only happen with the Magyars of Maryhill.

John Lambie and Chic Charnley
Lambie was able to harness the abilities of some wayward talents, like Chic Charnley

John never quite forgave me for tagging Thistle the cuddly toy of Scottish football and, right enough, it seemed incongruous that they should embrace a manager who should have carried a government health warning.

But he was a maestro of man management and a genius at recycling players who thought they were destined to be the flotsam and jetsam of the game.

He was equally proficient at lighting up rooms as he was those little cheroot cigars.

His passing means another absentee from the old school and the Scottish game is a less colourful place for his departure.

I swear it is. You can take it as read that John would too.

John Lambie with the First Division trophy
Lambie won two titles with Partick Thistle and two with Hamilton


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