Celtic’s Head of their Professional Academy, Tommy McIntyre, is developing players to take part in future Scottish League Cup Finals however, he has a claim to fame that the Parkhead youngsters will do well to match.
In this first part of a two part interview, McIntyre talks about his playing career which included scoring a penalty in the League Cup Final back in October, 1991.
McIntyre, who hails from Motherwell, began his playing days began in the north east of the country at Aberdeen as he explained: “I was only 17 or 18 when Sir Alex Ferguson gave me my debut and whenever I am fortunate enough to meet him nowadays we discuss my time at the Dons. To be there as a young player at a time when the ‘New Firm’ of Aberdeen and Dundee United were doing so well was great.
“The whole shape of my career started there under Sir Alex and Archie Knox. They are two of the greatest coaches football in Scotland has seen and they gave me a great grounding.”
McIntyre added: “They respect they had for youth football at the time epitomised their approach and the way they treated youngsters always stuck with me.”
The now 48-year-old faced incredible competition for a starting place at Pittodrie at that time as he said: “I was originally a centre half but I had a couple of world class defenders in Alex McLeish and Willie Miller as competition. I had to learn all about defending in a full back position and I broke into their first team at both right and left back.”
Even at full back McIntyre faced intense competition as he said: “Stuart Kennedy was an idol of mine up there and a great role model with Stewart McKimmie coming in after him. These guys all encouraged the youngsters to develop, it was great to learn from them and a great time to be involved in football.
“It was a great breeding ground and I loved it at Aberdeen. I was away from home and was homesick for Motherwell a couple of times but I got over that. There was a lot of West of Scotland boys up there, all picked up by the late Bobby Calder. Big Alex came from Barrhead and Willie along with Jim Leighton were west coasters as well. Doug Rougvie came from the east as Aberdeen plundered Scotland for young talent at that time and they were rewarded for it.”
Such was the competition for places McIntyre did not appear in any Finals in red and white and he said: “I was involved in the squads of 16 players for both the Skol Cup Final in 1985 and Scottish Cup Final in 1986 against Hearts but never got stripped. You were only allowed 2 substitutes at that time and whilst I had experience by then it was not enough experience to get on the pitch.”
The following season McIntyre headed to Hibs as he explained: “I actually moved on New Year’s Day of 1987. Ian Porterfield had come in to replace Sir Alex and whilst he was a good manager he had a different style and I was not really featuring.
“I had played in the first team and I wanted more and although Ian asked me to stay he could see the desire in me to play more often. I had been a good servant to Aberdeen in who I had conducted myself and it was a bind to leave, but it was difficult to sit and just play the occasional game.”
January 1 was a busy day at Easter Road as McIntyre explained: “I joined on the same day as Graham Mitchell came in from Hamilton and my former Aberdeen team-mate Dougie Bell came in from Rangers. It was a new start for all of us under Alex Miller.
“Hibs are a big club and we showed that potential in the Skol Cup Final of 1991 against Dunfermline and I was playing this time! Hampden was packed and I still have great memories of that game and the atmosphere that day.”
There was freshness about Hibs at that time with McIntyre explaining: “During the summer there had been a lot of talk of Hearts taking over Hibs and everyone had been up in arms about it. Thankfully there were plenty of people who just focused on the footballing side of things and we also had very passionate supporters who dug in to save the club and that helped us on the pitch that season.
“We were doing well in the league and had a momentum behind us as had lost only once in 16 league games. Every Skol tie had been away from home at Stirling, Kilmarnock and then Ayr United and we came through them to face Rangers at Hampden in the Semi-Final.”
The Edinburgh side won through 1-0 with McIntyre saying: “The Semi-Final was a big occasion and it was a difficult game as any against either half of the Old Firm are in Glasgow, as they have the biggest support. Rangers were expected to win but we were excellent on the night.”
“Keith Wright scored the goal after Micky Weir took the ball away from Andy Goram and crossed for Keith and he headed past the two men they had on the line. Rangers had a few chances and we had a few scares but I still think we merited the win. After what had gone on during the summer we felt we had something to prove and to be fair Rangers were very respectful to us after the game.”
Dunfermline had defeated Airdrieonians on penalties the night before to secure their place in the Final and Miller and his players had to work hard in keeping expectations of a Cup success at a sensible level.
McIntyre explained: “People started talking about us having won the Final before the Final and also we had beaten Dunfermline fairly comprehensively 3-0 in a league game just 3 weeks before Hampden.
“There was a danger of complacency as fans were thinking, well you have beaten them recently, you have beaten Rangers so let’s go and have a party but football rarely works out that way. We were underdogs against Rangers but were favourites for this one and that puts a bit more pressure on you.”
The opening 45 minutes ended goalless with McIntyre saying: “We were a bit nervous in the first half and the manager told us at half time to ensure that we did not leave Hampden with any regrets. He told us that some great players never get the chance to win anything but we had the chance to do that.
“That really hit home to me as I would describe myself as a hardworking average player but one that had the chance to win a medal. I looked after myself well as a professional, respected the game and I was now looking at the Final as my reward for that approach.”
Just 4 minutes into the second half McIntyre got the chance to put one hand on the League Cup trophy as Hibs were awarded a penalty.
“I was the designated penalty kick taker that season,” said the defender before adding, “But scoring in a Cup Final was not something I had really thought about as a defenders job is defending. We had good strikers in Keith Wright and Gareth Evans and Murdo MacLeod and Pat McGinlay could get goals from midfield so I had not given any thought to being a Cup Final goalscorer.”
McIntyre continued: “At the time I thought it was a stonewall penalty, however now I am not so sure. I did score 9 or 10 goals from Hibs and that included a few penalties so I was quite confident when it was awarded.
“Andy Rhodes was the goalkeeper for Dunfermline and he was a character that would get the crowd involved in putting you off whilst also trying to do that himself. I made up my mind where I was going to put the ball and stuck to it.”
The Pars’ Semi-Final penalty kick success came back to bite them as McIntyre explained: “I had studied the video of that shoot-out and noticed Andy had a favoured side for diving. When I ran up I told myself to stick to where I wanted it to go in the first place as I did not want to have any regrets about changing my mind.
“You are a favourite with a penalty but there is still an art to it especially with pressure on you. You have to blank everything out and focus. Andy went one way and the ball went the other with a good strike behind it and I knew it was in.”
Hampden erupted with capital voices with McIntyre saying: “It was a great relief to the team and I had taken it at the Celtic end where the Hibs fans were so there was a sea of green and white as soon as it went in. It was a great moment in my career.
“Scoring is a great feeling and even better for a defender in a Cup Final at the National Stadium. My mum and dad ran a bus of family members to be there so it was a great day.”
Keith Wright killed the game just before the end with McIntyre saying: “It was a typical Keith goal as he beat the offside trap and shot home. Dunfermline were an experienced side with David Moyes, Istvan Kozma, Billy Davies, Ian McCall and Scott Leith in their ranks so it was no easy win.”
It took a while for celebrations to begin after the final whistle as McIntyre explained: “Everything was held up as Micky could not produce a urine sample afterwards. He was teetotal and despite the water he took on board it took him an age to provide what was required.”
Eventually Hibs headed along the M8 to let the party get started with McIntyre saying: “We got to Corstorphine and changed into an open top bus and fans lined the streets all the way from there to Princess Street. It was a family occasion for us and the fans and even the Sir Walter Scott monument had a scarf on it.
“It was fairy-tale stuff when you consider where the club had been only a few months before.”
If the Hibs coach had been impressed by the welcome on the streets their reception at their Easter Road ground was even more passionate as McIntyre said: “The ground was amazing that night and you have to remember that was 3 or 4 hours after the game had finished. It was packed to the rafters and we came out of the tunnel to the biggest crowd of the season.
“Our families were there and half of Edinburgh was there. A great day.”
McIntyre moved on from the Edinburgh club in the summer of 1994 before retiring from the game in 1996 aged 33.
One half of his football career was over but another was beginning…………….