Iain McChesney has given longer service to Queen of the South as a footballer than any other player in the club’s history. Queen’s enjoyed the benefit of McChesney’s dedication and on field versatility in a playing career lasting 21 years. After hanging up his boots, ‘Ches’ has continued to serve the club in a variety of roles.
Iain McChesney gave the interview below on the date of Queens’ 90th anniversary, 21st March 2009.
Iain McChesney joined Queen of the South in July 1960 when he was but a boy of 16. As McChesney said:- “It was actually Jack Law’s father, he’d started coaching Greystone Rovers, he coached at Palmerston on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and it just continued on from there. He started off with Greystone again and there was, if I remember rightly, about seven or eight of the boys from that team who signed for Queens who played for the reserves. So it was just a continuation. Then when I was 17 I signed professional forms for Queens.”
“I thought you started off at Kello Rovers before you were at Queens?”
“In those days, if you didn’t play junior football you couldn’t go back, you couldn’t get reinstated into junior football if you didn’t make it in the senior game, so you signed for a junior club first. So what happened was I signed for Kello Rovers on the Thursday night and signed for Queens on the Friday”, said McChesney with a smile.
“Possibly the shortest career with one club in history, one day?”
“I never played for them,” laughed McChesney.
“And your full Queens debut in 1961 was against?”
“And you scored how many goals?”
“4 - 1. It was Bobby Black, he laid on my two goals,” said McChesney still chuffed about it all these decades on.
“That team that you played with for Queens in them days, a lot of illustrious names.”
“Ivor Broadis, Jim Patterson, Bobby Black, George Farm. Willie Telfer played that day [of the Morton game]. Ernie Hannigan played that night as well. I played with some good players.”
McChesney enjoyed early success the season after his debut. With Farm as player manager, Queens won promotion to the top division in 1961/62. The jovial McChesney pointed the finger accusingly at himself when asked if he had any particular memories of that promotion season:-
“Aye, missing a goal against Clyde. I was part of the team that won it [promotion], but I only played in the last, I think, four games. We had to play Clyde twice. We played up there and I think Clyde were winning 1-0 and I ran through on goals but put it past the post. If I’d scored it would have been the equaliser. We beat them 3-0 in the second game and we finished second [behind Clyde by 1 point and with a better Queens goal average]."
Favourite memories of top division football:-
“We played Celtic and won 1-0, Johnny Murphy scored the goal. That was great, the best that you could possibly get, beating Celtic away from home.”
“Neil Martin and Ernie Hannigan. Neil was a big gem. It didn’t matter what you did to him, he never got involved. He got kicked stupid but still, he picked himself up and got on with the game and scored goals. I remember him saying to me, ‘That’s the best thing you can do, that’s the best reply of the lot, stick the ball in the net and they can’t do anything about it’. Ernie, Ernie just did his own thing. His skill was unbelievable, the pace he had, great control. Mind you, if you put it on his left he was struggling, but he was a super player. The full back Willie Morrison, Willie was a super player as well.”
After the relegation back to the lower division, Queens missed out on promotion by one place three times in the next six years. McChesney had a somewhat unusual memory of the third of those in 1970.
“I can remember the party I had with the Cowdenbeath players when we missed out. They won promotion. The season had just finished, I went across to Majorca, I was walking down the street and I heard somebody shouting on me, it was the Cowdenbeath players. They were staying in the same hotel. It was a wee bit of a party for the fortnight really.”
“Did they invite you along?”
“Oh Yeah! Because, you’re friendly with a lot of the boys, so you knew them and if you met them again, that was it. There was only one thing wrong, the wife was there with me,” McChesney joked.
McChesney continued, “You never really think that much about the league. You just go out and play the games. If you win, great. When you start to realise that you’re maybe in with a chance, that’s when the pressure starts. It gets a wee bit tighter each game, one silly mistake costs you the points and takes you right out the situation.”
Many people in the UK are familiar today with Metalist Kharkiv, from their UEFA Cup appearances as Ukraine’s third biggest side after Dinamo Kiev and Shaktar Donetsk. However, in Cold War 1970, Ukraine was very much under control of the Soviet empire (even the Soviet president at the time, Leonid Brezhnev, was from Ukraine. Also Brezhnev’s predecessor, Nikita Krushchev, had moved to what is now Donetsk in his teens). The friendly match at Palmerston against Metalist Kharkiv in March 1970 is the only time Queens ever played against a team who were part of the USSR. McChesney spoke well of the opponents from Ukraine in a game in which he scored.
Ches - “Oh yeah. We won 2-0. I got stuck up front, ’cause when I started off, when I played with Greystone, I played up front. When I started with Queens I was playing midfield. When we had a few injuries , I sometimes got stuck up there, and I always seemed to score,” chuckled McChesney ironically.
“Was there any KGB subterfuge, espionage, talk about defections or any of that sort of carry on?”
“There wasn’t very many of them spoke English, so all you could do was shake hands at the end of the game and that was it. They weren’t a bad team actually. It was quite an enjoyable game. I think they played three or four games and they’d won their first two before they played us. What we heard from, what I think was the Raith Rovers team, they’d said they were a good team and we’d have to watch out. Yet we won quite comfortably.”
“Were they a clean team or did they like to mix it?”
“It was played really cleanly, quite surprised actually, because, you know when you watch games on television you see all the shirt pulling and things like that. Even back in the 70s you still got that but they were fine.”
In season 74/75 Queens finished second but league reshuffle meant Queens weren’t promoted to the top flight.
“We had a couple of games that season that were really tight. That was when the likes of Chopper was there, Tommy O’Hara, Peter Dickson, Jimmy Miller, Crawford Boyd, Iain Reid, Billy McLaren, we had a right decent team at that time. Tommy O’Hara was a super player but probably Reidy was the man who could make a lot of it happen. He could come off, take the pass, hold it up, lay it off, plus he could score goals and he was good in the air. He was probably as good a striker as Queens have had for a wee while.”
There was also the league cup contest against Rangers in September 1975.
“In the game at Ibrox we were denied a stone wall penalty. Tommy Bryce (mark I), he got the ball and went round the keeper. Peter McCloy pulled him down, the referee turned his back. We hung on, we were only beaten 1 nothing. Then when they came down here, 2-1, extra time, and they scored in I think the last three minutes of extra time to go through. It was still enjoyable plus I got a strip that night, Tommy McLean’s. We were coming off the park and he said, ‘Oh here, Ches, you might as well have this, you’ve been pulling at it all night’, so he got it off. I got inside and Jock Wallace came into the dressing room and asked for the strip back”
“I said, ‘hard luck, I’ve gave it away to somebody’, but it wasn’t, I had it in the corner. But I gave it away, it went for auction years later, someone asked me, I think it was the Rotary Club or somebody like that, and they took the strip. They got a few quid for it so all well and good”
There was of course a Scottish Cup classic the following February.
“In the cup, the game against Ayr, 5-4. Who scored the first goal for Ayr [McChesney points the finger at himself, literally]? Who scored the second goal for Ayr? An own goal. I scored the first own goal, then Nobby Clark scored the second own goal [this is a point of some debate as Clark refutes this]. Then Peter Dickson got involved, and his goal from the right hand side facing Terregles St, fantastic. Peter was a natural goal scorer.”
“What about the 2-2 draw at Ayr before that where Allan Ball saved a penalty?”
“Bally saved a penalty, he was injured. He could only move one way! Luckily for us the boy hit the penalty to his good side, so Bally managed to get across and save it and keep us in the cup. It was a fantastic game for us, then winning 5-4. There’ve been quite a few games like that in cup ties. I can remember playing Clydebank and it went to the third game. We drew 1-1 at Palmerston, and then a 2 all draw up at Clydebank and then we had to play them again on the Thursday night and we beat them 1 – 0. Big Jim Kerr scored. That was another eventful tie.”
(Mchesney is the last player on the right of the back row with his 1970s team mates)
Queens enjoyed another good cup run, this time in the 1977/78 League Cup.
“The season we played Dundee at Palmerston and beat them 6 – 0. The club actually got christened the pensioners club because we had a few experienced players playing then but we still managed to stuff Dundee at the time, it was quite good.”
“Gordon Strachan played for Dundee?”
“He got kicked up and down the park slightly.”
“Kicked by who?”
“Mr Dickson. Nah, Chopper didn’t actually kick him that much, he wouldn’t get away with kicking him all the time. He marked him closely and George was good at that, his man marking was superb at times. Gordon Strachan, I’ve spoken to him a couple of times since, he came back with Manchester United [in the benefit game after the Lockerbie air tragedy], and that was the first thing he said, ‘I hope that so and so Dickson’s not around.’”
The grounded Strachan remembers the game well, commenting in his auto-biography: “Dundee were on the wrong end of an embarrassing hammering in a second leg League Cup game at Queen of the South – in what proved to be my last match for the club. I often refer to that match when talking to players about the importance of never allowing their heads to drop, and how this can provide seemingly unlikely defining moments in their careers.” Queens manager Mike Jackson was friendly with then Aberdeen manager Billy McNeill from their days at Celtic together. When McNeill asked Jackson the day after how Strachan had played he was told, “Not great, but unlike one or two others the wee man worked his socks off.” McNeill offered Strachan a contract at Aberdeen.
With Dundee added to the earlier round scalps of Hibs and Brechin, next for Queens was the quarter final.
“We played Forfar in the League Cup to get to the semi final. We drew here [3-3] and then got beaten up there 1 nothing and threw it away. That’s a game I remember, I was a wee bit annoyed at the time.”
McChesney was still at the club for season 1980/81 as were Ball and Clark. Among the relative newcomers to the side were Jimmy Robertson and Rowan Alexander. Queens won promotion:-
“We finished second. Any season where you’re successful, or you’ve got decent runs in the cup, or you do well in the league cup, or a good league run, you’re sitting there at the top fighting for promotion; every game, they all just seem to fall on top of you. You just pick yourself up, try and win that game, go to the next game and start thinking about that. You can’t look ahead and say, ‘hopefully we’ll win the next 8 or 9 games’. You just take one game at a time, it’s the usual old cliché. We kept going, battling through trying for each game."
"Allan Ball said that you played in every outfield position during your Queen of the South career, he said you played everywhere except in goals. Is that true?”
“Nah, I didn’t play centre half, but apart from that I did.”
“After you stopped playing for Queens did you play for anyone else?”
“But you remained at Queens in a number of capacities.”
“To start off I was coaching, then taking the training and that, then just generally worked away with Queens, with the first team and the reserve team, and then when Billy McLaren came back; I had left the club for a year, he phoned me up and asked me to do a report on the players on the last game of the season – who I would keep and who I wouldn’t. I said, ‘I’ve arranged to play golf actually Billy, I’m not going to be able to make it’. He said, ‘If you finish golf come across and I’ll leave you a ticket’, so I come across and I wrote a list out for him, and I’d written down six players and he had written down seven, and the six of mine were on his list. So he asked me to come back and I said, ‘Nah, I’m enjoying playing golf too much’. He said, ‘Just come and take the boys for the pre season. If you start enjoying it, fine’. So I started training the boys for pre season and that was me started again, so basically that was it. Then I worked with Billy for as long as he was here. Then he left and went to Hamilton. At that time we had quite a good team, but that’s football.”
(McChesney in his coaching days is on the far left of this QoS 1988/89 team photo)
“You’re still involved with Queens to this day.”
“I go away and do match reports. Whoever they are playing next week, I’ll go and watch them this week, write a report for the manager, hopefully it helps. Plus you meet a lot of old friends on the road.”
Iain McChesney is a qualified electrician. This has given him views of Palmerston that only few have enjoyed.
“You’re also involved in the maintenance of the highest free standing floodlights in Scotland?”
“Oh yeah, I occasionally go up and down them. But since they put the new lights up, you don’t really need anybody to go up. They’re right up to date so they don’t take as much maintenance. Everything’s smaller now as well. I mean, at one time the lamps would be about 18 inches long. Now they’re much smaller. They last longer since they aren’t heating up as much. So, it’s decent. Good lights, good park, we just need to try and get a wee bit of luck and get into the top league.”
Iain McChesney played in 615 games for Queen of the South placing him behind only ex team mate Allan Ball in the club’s all time appearances list. 79 goals put McChesney in 11th place in the QoS scoring chart ahead of Rowan Alexander by one goal. However, it is in the duration of McChesney’s Queens playing career where he is unsurpassed. To put this into context, when Iain McChesney signed for Queens in July 1960, this was only 4 months after Elvis Presley had been signing autographs at Prestwick Airport on the way home from his army service in West Germany. When McChesney hung up his boots, the swinging sixties and flower power had long since come and gone, as had the 70s of glam rock and punk. In 1960 Puskás and Di Stefano scored all of Real Madrid’s goals at Hampden as they won the European Cup 7-3. Aston Villa including Ken McNaught were European club champions in 1982, McChesney’s last season giving him 21 years in Queens’ first team;- 21 years that spanned seven Prime Ministerial terms in the UK (and in Kharkiv, two Soviet Presidencies). McChesney’s commitment to Queen of the South was rewarded in 1971 with a testimonial against Ayr United.
On 1st January 2013 McChesney was announced as being a 2013 inductee into the Queen of the South Hall of Fame.
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