Stewart Petrie has wandered far across Scotland, Australia and Singapore during his football career and he is now putting roots down at Arbroath as Paul Sheerin’s Assistant Manager. However, such has been the good times that he has had in his native land that the first question he asks after a game is, “How did Forfar, Dunfermline and Ross County get on?”
Petrie’s love of his former clubs began at Forfar Athletic’s Station Park, who signed him as a youngster, as he explained: “I played amateur football for a year before Bobby Glennie took me to Forfar. They farmed me out to Junior side Dundee East Craigie and then took me back in when I was a bit more experienced.
“Forfar were a great family club and I loved being there. Paul Hegarty and Tommy Campbell had a spell managing there as well.
“We faced teams like Kilmarnock in the old First Division and I remember they brought a huge support to Station Park.”
Petrie added: “It is ironic that my former Dunfermline Manager, Dick Campbell, is now their Manager and I do like to follow their results every week.”
Campbell was, of course, Assistant Manager at Petrie’s next stop in his career at Dunfermline Athletic’s East End Park and the attacking midfielder was to enjoy nearly a decade in Fife.
“Forfar had spent a season in what was then the bottom division and I had just started my second season in what was then the Second Division.
“I scored a hat-trick at Hampden against Queen’s Park at the start of the season and not long after that, I got the chance to go to Dunfermline.
“Bert Paton was the Manager and I have to thank both Paul and Tommy as they spoke highly of me when Bert was doing his background checks.”
Petrie joined the Pars in August 1993 and he describes the next ten seasons as “Great! Fabulous times where the vast, vast majority was spent with good footballing people and I feel privileged to have been there.”
Dunfermline did well out of the relationship as well with Petrie scoring the goal that turned the 1995/96 First Division Championship race on its head. Dundee United, Morton and the Pars were locked in a three way fight for the title however, if the Tannadice men won on the penultimate Saturday of the season, at home against Dunfermline, they would be crowned Champions.
It did not work out that way as Petrie explained: “We knew the trophy was there to be handed over to Dundee United if they won but I scored the game’s only goal. I was later sent off but still remember that day really fondly.”
The following week, Dunfermline were in the driving seat and with United facing Morton at Cappielow, they knew that a point would see them lift the title. Petrie could not take the field as he was suspended following his red card the previous week but he kicked every ball.
“That was a really nervy game,” said Petrie before adding: “And I certainly was not a good spectator!
“We were losing 1-0 but thankfully, the boys were fantastic and a Mark Millar penalty and a goal from Andy Smith gave us a 2-1 victory.
“Morton and Dundee United drew 2-2 and there was a massive crowd there to celebrate and it was great to pick up a Championship medal.”
Four months later, the Champagne corks were not popping as loudly as Petrie advised: “We played Rangers in our first game in the Premier Division and they beat us 5-2 so that was a nice welcome to the top division!”
Dunfermline recovered to survive that first season in the top flight however, they were relegated in May 1999. Petrie and his colleagues bounced straight back up as they finished second to St. Mirren to begin a seven season stay in the higher echelons.
Petrie’s time in Fife ended in 2003 just four months after he enjoyed a Testimonial to mark his ten seasons of service to the black and white striped side. He remains grateful for the honour saying, “I had a great night back in January 2003 when Dunfermline took on Dunfermline All-Stars with the likes of Istvan Kozma and Andy Rhodes coming back to East End Park.
“I also like to hear about Dunfermline doing well.”
The next stop in Petrie’s career became a longer than anticipated stay Down Under as a three month busman’s holiday in Australia ended up in a four year stay.
“My wife, kids and I decided to try Australia for three months,” said Petrie before adding: “I took my boots thinking I would play some games and that we would enjoy the weather for a wee while.
“That break became a four year stay as I played there for longer than I anticipated and that included a spell in Singapore.
“When the A-League was being formed, there was something like an 11 month break so I popped over to Singapore and kept myself fit by playing there.”
In 2007, it was time to head home with Petrie saying: “Basically, my contract ran out and as clubs were only allowed five players with visa’s by that time, I had to come home.”
Dick Campbell had also moved about during this time as he managed Brechin City, Partick Thistle before moving to Ross County in 2007 and he quickly arranged to bring Petrie in as a Player/Coach during their stay in the Second Division.
The Manager was not at Victoria Park long however, Petrie hung around long enough to earn another Championship medal as he explained: “I went there and things changed a bit however, I played enough games to get a medal and it was great to do so, some 12 years after my first one.
“I was a coach only under Derek Adams for the next season and we reached The ALBA Challenge Cup Final although Airdrie United beat us in a penalty shoot-out in November 2008.
“Again, a great family club to play at where I was made to feel welcome from day one and another ex-club I like to see do well.”
Two months after the McDiarmid Park showdown, Petrie and the family were on their travels again as former Dunfermline team-mate and former Clyde, St. Mirren and Rangers midfielder, Ian Ferguson, asked if he would join him back in Australia.
Petrie explained: “I had been a player at a club in Australia where Ian was the Assistant Manager and our relationship grew from there. He was appointed Head Coach at North Queensland Fury and asked me to help him out.
“It was a big challenge to move again for the family however, it was too good an opportunity to turn down and with a three year contract in place, they would allow the children to finish school without moving again.
“It never turned out that way,” Petrie adds ruefully.
“On the football side, things were going well but just over a year after starting, there were severe money problems at the club. Basically, all the players and management team had their contracts cancelled. It was not a nice time.”
The Petrie family stayed in Australia for a while but returned home almost a year ago with the 40-year-old saying: “I came back and started applying for jobs but there was not much happening. Paul got the Arbroath job and Dick as well as Tommy Campbell recommended that we get together for a chat.
“I am delighted they did as we hit it off straight away and I am really lucky to be at Arbroath as there a lot of coaches out of work in Scotland.”
The Red Lichties’ results at the start of the season were ‘indifferent’ according to Petrie who added: “We were building a squad and we were a bit up and down but we have hit some good form recently.
“There is a long way to go but we are in line with our objective which is to be in the top half of the table just now.”
Arbroath are actually ahead of their objective as they sit top of the table and the chemistry between the management team is key.
Petrie said: “Paul is still playing so he leaves a lot of things to me. We have discussions before the game and at half-time or when there are breaks in the game.
“We like football to be played the same way so I can make decisions if required during a game without shouting across to the left wing.
“We have clicked together well and it helps as there are a good number of senior professionals at the club as well.”
The League leaders visit Hampden this weekend and a visit to the National Stadium always excites Petrie and not just because he scored a hat-trick there seventeen and a half years ago.
He explained: “It is always great to go to Hampden and to coach there is an honour as well.
“I was away from Dunfermline by the time they got to Scottish Cup and League Cup Finals and also away from Ross County on their great Scottish Cup run so visiting there is always a privilege. You can never get enough chances to be at Hampden.
“Queen’s Park are a decent side that play good football and gave us a bit of a going over the last time we were there.
“I noticed Andy Millen is playing for them now so I will be having a word with Paul to see if I can get on as we have had some tussles over the years!”
Come 5.00 p.m. on Saturday, Petrie will have tracked down the scores of his three former clubs as he confirmed: “I loved my times at Forfar Athletic, Dunfermline Athletic, who were backed by incredibly passionate fans, and Ross County, who were really welcoming to me and my family.
“I have been really lucky as all the clubs I have been at have been great clubs to be at.
“Arbroath has that same feel of being a great wee club and I hope I can repay them and Paul by being involved in the title run-in throughout April and May.”