Colin McAdam’s aggressive, barrelling style and long, shaggy hair led to his being branded “The Beast” by followers of Rangers, with whom the 6ft 1in, 13st Glaswegian achieved the highest profile in a Scottish League career spanning nearly 20 years.
There were no holds barred in his battles with younger brother Tom – a forward who had converted to defence, whereas Colin made the opposite switch – in Rangers’ Old Firm tussles with Celtic. Yet away from the game, he was an urbane, educated character whose death, after a heart attack at the age of 61, shocked all who knew him as a fit, healthy teetotaller.
At his first club, Dumbarton, McAdam was dubbed “Hoof”. After making his debut in 1969 he was primarily a defender, although current chief executive, Gilbert Lawrie, who watched from the terraces at their quaintly named ground, Boghead, recalled early evidence of attacking intent. “He shot from the halfway line and the ball bounced on the only dry patch on the pitch, leaving the Arbroath keeper floundering as it sailed into the net.”
In 1975 McAdam moved to Motherwell, where he spent three seasons and was re-branded “Tony” after the tiger in the Frosties TV advert. Three years later, Partick Thistle, managed by former Celtic European Cup winner Bertie Auld, paid £25,000 to bring him back to Glasgow. “He can operate at centre-half, full-back, midfield or up front,” purred Auld, “so we’ve got a few players in one.”
In the event he became a fully fledged striker, enjoying success in tandem with Jim Melrose, who would later flourish with Leicester and Charlton. McAdam’s run-through-a-brick wall approach earned selection for the Scottish League XI and alerted Rangers’ manager John Greig. In 1980, in the first Scottish transfer to be decided by an independent tribunal, he switched to Ibrox for a fee of £165,000.
He scored in his second appearance, against Partick, the first of his 21 goals in 1980-81. The next season, with Greig favouring players such as Derek Johnstone and Gordon Smith, he tended to be used at centre-back. Ally McCoist’s arrival from Sunderland in 1983 pushed him further down the pecking order. McCoist, referring to McAdam affectionately as “Big Beastie”, said after his death: “He was fearless. I always tried to make sure I got on his team in the training five-a-sides.”
Rangers consistently under-achieved – this was the era when the New Firm of Aberdeen and Dundee United put Rangers and Celtic on the back foot – and when Greig was replaced by Jock Wallace, McAdam was marginalised even more. Leaving after 32 goals in 99 games and one winners’ medal, from the 1984 Scottish League Cup final against Celtic and brother “Tam”, he briefly served Adelaide City and Hearts. Rejoining Partick, his 87th-minute header rescued a point against Forfar on his second debut.
Having retired in 1989, he played “junior” football and coached the Clydebank Boys Club team while resuming the teaching career he had put on hold as his reputation in football burgeoned.
Colin McAdam, footballer and teacher: born Glasgow 28 August 1951; played for Dumbarton 1969-75, Motherwell 1975-78, Partick Thistle 1978-80, Rangers 1980-84, Adelaide City 1984, Heart of Midlothian 1985-86, Partick Thistle 1986-88; married first Myra (marriage dissolved, two sons, one daughter); second Celia (one daughter); died Glasgow 1 August 2013.
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