Lothian Thistle football club to mark 50 year anniversary with original founder
Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale FC will celebrate its 50 year anniversary today, with present and former members travelling from far and wide to attend.
The event, hosted at the Victoria Park Hotel on Ferry Road from 6.30pm, is welcome to all committee members and ex players.
Current chairman Tom Allison, who founded the club in 1969, hopes to see as many people as possible there.
He has seen almost all of the club’s fixtures in its 50-year journey from an employee football team of Lloyds Finance in 1969 to official member of the Scottish Football Association (SFA), accredited in 2018.
“That was a long time coming,” he says of the SFA membership decision.
Mr Allison, now 73, remembers a few memorable wins over the years, including beating Bo’ness 5-4 to win the East of Scotland Amateur Cup in 1986.
While he was often required to substitute, his role has been as organiser rather than player.
“I was the one standing in the wings,” he said, “putting up nets, the corner flag, making sure everything was there and ready before the game," he said.
He also remembers on occasion when the club was losing 5-3 with ten minutes to go in the final of the Lothian Amateur League, and the chairman went get the medals ready to award to the other team.
“When he got to the dressing room it was 5-4, he turned around and it was 5-5, and by the time he got back to the pitch we had won 5-6,” Mr Allison said.
“If there is a best way to win, that must be it!”
Mr Allison also remembers the manager of another team calling him to tell him the pitch, which at that stage around 1975 was a local park, was covered in snow.
“We just scraped lines in the snow and played anyway,” he said.
“We wouldn’t do that nowadays, but back then the most important thing was to get the game played.”
Mr Allison said he ‘just liked football’, so it was an ‘easy decision’ to set up the club.
He didn’t think he was good enough at football to play for any of the existing clubs, so preferred to set up his own, with like-minded colleagues.
The club originally played in the lower divisions of the Lothian Amateur League under the name Lloyds & Scottish.
At that stage there were ‘never enough players’, so Mr Allison as manager was often called upon to substitute.
But at the end of the club’s opening season Mr Allison decided to leave his office work at Lloyds.
In the end he decided to take his football club with him, re-inventing it with the same players, plus some from Wardie AFC, and a new name: Lothian Thistle Football Club.
Matches were played on various council pitches with no particular home.
After the most successful season in 20 years the team won the Lothian Amateur Premier Division for the first time in 1988/89.
The club went professional in 1995/96 and joined the East of Scotland league, moving to its current home at Saughton Enclosure in 1999.
At this point the club began a long struggle to gain entry to the Scottish Football Association, which would continue until 2018.
Mr Allison remembers that in the beginning the amateur club was more social than competitive.
“We played for the enjoyment of it, and the friendship,” he said, I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.
But he is proud of the club’s development over the last half-century, which has made it more organised, with a higher quality of players.
“It’s not just me, a lot of work has been done by many others to get where we are today,” he said.
Tom Gillan, Stewart Lindsay, Ken Smith and Bruce Jeffrey are all players who joined the committee after retirement and who, Mr Allison said, should be recognised for their contribution.