George Farm

Blackpool and Scotland goalkeeper
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The Independent Online

George Neil Farm, footballer: born Edinburgh 17 July 1924; played for Edinburgh Hibernian 1945-48, Blackpool 1948-58, Queen of the South 1958- 60; capped 10 times for Scotland 1952-59; managed Queen of the South 1958-64, Raith Rovers 1964-67, 1971-74, Dunfermline Athletic 1967-70; married (one son, one daughter); died Edinburgh 18 July 2004.

Perhaps the most legendary and thrilling of all Wembley Cup finals was the "Matthews final" of 1953, when Blackpool beat Bolton Wanderers by four goals to three, the ageing Stanley Matthews proving that he was still the Wizard of the Dribble.

Other Blackpool names of that era, Stanley Mortensen, Jackie Mudie, Ernie Taylor, Harry Johnston, Jimmy Armfield and Bill Perry, resonate in football lore. Half a century ago the Seasiders were mighty in the old First Division. But their goalkeeper, George Farm, ever forthright, would say that the 1953 Cup Final was the occasion of his worst ever performance between the posts.

The fact was that both the first two Bolton goals could and should have been saved. When, after the match, the Birmingham and England keeper of the day, Gil Merrick, endeavoured to console him, praising the skill of the Bolton Wanderers centre-forward Nat Lofthouse and declaring that Farm was unlucky, Farm responded frankly, "Nothing of the kind. I just made a mess of them."

Had it not been for the fact that Stan Hanson, the Bolton goalkeeper, let in two even softer goals I doubt if Farm would ever have forgiven himself for depriving Blackpool of victory and Stanley Matthews of his only cup-winning medal.

Jimmy Armfield, the former Blackpool full-back and England captain, recalls:

George went on after that final to be a really great goalkeeper. He was the most meticulous player I ever met. He took real pride in his appearance. He manicured his nails, hands and toenails and so important was it for him to look smart that he was the last to be ready in the dressing room.

During a Derby match against Preston North End, he chipped his elbow and had to play centre-

forward while I went in goal. He scored a goal with a header. He was a superb and enormously popular team player.

George Farm was born into a family of foundrymen working for the most part in the Atlas steel plant in Armadale, West Lothian. These were the men who had produced the heavy armour for the Dreadnoughts at the Battle of Jutland, from its huge furnaces.

Farm was lucky in that the Headmaster of the Armadale Primary School, John Millar, was a football fanatic and a good coach; he was even luckier that Millar's younger brother, Eddie Millar, who was a chemistry teacher at Farm's secondary school, the Lindsay High School in Bathgate, took him under his wing and ensured that he would play representative boys' football.

After a short spell on leaving school with Armadale Thistle, where as a goalkeeper he had won many local friends among the crowd at Volunteer Park, he was recommended following service in the Army to Edinburgh Hibernian. This was the best Edinburgh side of the last century with the famous five forwards Gordon Smith, Bobby Johnstone, Lawrie Reilly, Eddie Turnbull, and Willie Ormond. As a boy I used to sway in crowds of 55,000.

More relevantly for Farm his full-backs were the Scottish internationals Jock Govan and David Shaw. Govan later told me that Farm was then the bravest goalkeeper with whom he had ever played.

On a visit to Edinburgh Joe Smith, the Blackpool manager, decided to pay £2,700 for his transfer from Hibernian. After 10 years of excellent service to the club Blackpool got £3,000 when Farm left Bloomfield Road, Blackpool's home, to be transferred to Queen of the South, the Dumfries club. He played for four years at Palmerston Park. Within months he became player-manager at Dumfries and then went to Stark's Park, the home ground of the Kirkcaldy club Raith Rovers, as manager and then to the neighbouring Fife club Dunfermline Athletic.

At Dunfermline's East End Park he proved a huge managerial success, leading a relatively small town club to win the Scottish Cup in 1968, defeating Heart of Midlothian in the final by three goals to one. However the difficulties of maintaining success on a shoestring were enormous and Farm left the club in 1970. After a second stint at Raith Rovers, he gave up management in 1974, to do sports presenting for Radio Forth and work in the lighthouse service.

George Farm won 10 caps for Scotland, the last four being five years after he had won the first six. However it will be as a role model for youngsters that he will be remembered above all.

Tam Dalyell