Bobby Black: Footballer considered unlucky not to be capped by Scotland

 

Bobby Black was a master craftsman who looked after his tools. The goal-scoring winger stuck to the same pair of football boots throughout his entire professional career, opting for repair over replacement whenever the trusty leather showed signs of wear and tear.

It was a policy which paid off for both his clubs, East Fife and Queen of the South. The Fifers enjoyed the most successful period in their history when the tenacious attacker was patrolling their right flank in the first six seasons after the war, then he sparkled for the Doonhamers for nearly a decade from the early 1950s. Black could be considered unfortunate never to win a full cap, particularly after he scored twice for the Scottish League in their 3-1 victory over the League of Ireland in Dublin in 1954.

The teenage Black made a few appearances for Queen of the South, his local Scottish League club, in unofficial wartime competition, and it seemed likely that he would forge a professional future at Palmerston Park. But in 1945 he signed for East Fife, then a force to be reckoned with in Scotland's second tier.

In the spring of 1948, manager Scot Symon, who would go on to untold glories ay Rangers, called Black into an enterprising side which had just won both their divisional championship and the League Cup, and the rookie impressed in the season's last two games. He became a regular for the Methil men as their golden era gathered pace. Black was a key contributor as East Fife finished fourth in the top flight in 1948-49. That was a mammoth achievement for the unfashionable Fifers, but they exceeded it in 1949-50 retaining their top-four berth and winning the League Cup for the second time, beating Rangers 2-0 in the semi-final, then Dunfermline Athletic 3-0 in the final, both at Hampden Park.

Black was was approaching his prime, a gifted ball-player whose twinkling skills were spiced by a feisty edge in the tackle, a shrewd positional sense which brought him plenty of goals and boundless energy. Thus the leg injury which sabotaged his season in 1951-52 was a blow to East Fife, whose third place might have been even better but for his lengthy absence.

The following summer the ebullient 25-year-old returned to his roots with Queen of the South and went on to forge productive links with inside-forwards Jimmy McGill and Wattie Rothera, and centre-forward Jim Patterson. Highlights for Black were his call-up for the Scottish League and a barnstorming effort in 1955-56, when he scored 14 times as the Doonhamers came sixth in the top division.

His 120 goals in 346 games making him the second most prolific marksman in the club's history. Later, he played non-League football for Bath City and Bridgwater Town, while earning his living as an accountant and analyst for a footwear company. He also excelled at bowls, playing for Somerset alongside the many-times world champion David Bryant, helping to lift national titles on several occasions.

Both Black's sons played for a living, Bobby for Queen of the South and Russell for Sheffield United, Dundee and Halifax Town. Next came grandsons Toby and Jamie Paterson, who both turned professional, and then two great-grandsons; Brodie Paterson has been capped for Australia's youth team while Denny Johnstone is on the verge of breaking through at Celtic.

Robert Black, footballer: born Thornhill 1927; played for East Fife 1946-52, Queen of the South 1952-61; married (two sons); died Bristol 4 June 2012

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