Junior football legend Andy Whiteford was the centre of attention as fans paid tribute to their player-turned-manager Andy Whiteford. Friends, family and team-mates also turned out in their numbers at the Brig O’Lea Stadium on Saturday to honour Whiteford as a Neilston XI took on a Juniors Select side. The sun shone brightly and, although a few drops of rain fell later on, it failed to dampen the spirits of the supporters who came out to support the Neilston stalwart’s testimonial.
Before the match kicked off Andy, along with his young sons Ben, 7, and Ross, 4, were piped onto the field of play by the Neilston Pipe Band, amidst rapturous applause by the two sets of teams, who lined up to give the Neilston man a guard of honour. And, when the game did get under way, the spectators were handed a match worthy of the day. In the end, Andy was the star turn, but the real winner was the Brightest Star charity, as the proceeds of the day will go towards the organisation.
After four minutes, the Neilston XI made the breakthrough when James Canning fired home from inside the penalty box on the right-hand side. That lead was extended in 12 minutes when deadly forward Alan Waddell flicked home James McGuire’s cross from six yards out. Neilston XI made it 3-0 after 28 minutes as Canning once again found himself in space and rounded the keeper to score.
The Juniors Select pulled a goal back two minutes later, though, when Stewart Maxwell provided a lovely finish on the half volley to a cross from the right-hand side. Minutes before the break, Waddell waltzed past three defenders to place a shot past the goalkeeper to make the score 4-1 to the Neilston XI.
Four minutes into the second half, the goal spree continued and this time is was Mark Ferris who was in the right place at the right time to send a lovely well-placed header in off the crossbar to reduce the deficit. After 73 minutes, the Juniors Select made it 4-3 following a spot-kick decision from man-in-the-middle Kenny Clark. Up stepped, of all people, Jon Connolly – the Select goalkeeper– to reduce the score to 4-3.
But the day belonged to Andy’s Neilston XI as former Sectional League Cup Final winner James McGuire fired home a cross from Joe Bryers.
Former Arthurlie manager Mark Cameron, who recently left the club to join Albion Rovers, said: “It was a fantastic day and great to see some of the players that I played with too. It was also for a fantastic cause and great for a club servant such as Andy.”
And co-manager at Renfrew Martin Ferry said: “I have known Andy for a long time and it’s great to come up and join in his testimonial. It’s been a while since I played a full game but I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
Junior Select squad: Jon Connolly, James McKenna, Mark Cameron, Roland Fabiani, Kevin O’Neil, Mark Ferris, Paul Ferris, Steven Mallan, Stephen Connolly, Robert Downs, Andy Essler, Derek Rhodden Stephen Maxwell, Stephen Gallacher, Sahil Jaidka.
Neilston squad: Brian Hewitt, Gavin Duncan, Lee Martin, Robert Anderson, Dennis Connaghan, David Wilson, Joe Bryers, Gordon Cochrane, Danny Goodwin, Michael Fallan, Kevin Lee, James Cannon, Tam Murdoch, Alan Waddle, Kevin Fraser, Tam Anderson, James McGuire, Derek Kennedy, Andy Whiteford.
Man of the match : Joe Bryers.
Referee: Kenny Clark, assistants: Graham Vance and John Welsh.