Jimmy Bonthrone: Footballer, coach and manager

The contrasting worlds of Jimmy Bonthrone and David Beckham were never meant to overlap, but that they did, briefly, only underlines how much football has changed for young men with a talent. Bonthrone's flair for goalscoring remained largely unknown outside his native Fife because it pre-dated television coverage, while Beckham's iconic image symbolises his use of the medium.

Yet, in 1994, Beckham – long before his own global reputation was established – was given a glimpse of Bonthrone's world. The young Manchester United winger was part of a side that paid homage to Bonthrone in a testimonial match arranged by his club, East Fife, to mark 30 years of service, on and off the pitch. Sir Alex Ferguson has his critics but one thing the United manager has never lacked is a sense of history and respect, which is why one of Europe's biggest clubs ended up in the Fife town of Methil playing against a side from the fourth tier of Scottish football.

More than 5,000 people turned out at Bayview Park to see Beckham score twice. Ferguson's act of appreciation for Bonthrone illustrated how highly he valued the knowledge of a man who was one of his first tutors as a coach. The pair both managed Aberdeen in the 1970s, yet Ferguson has revealed that he could actually have been Bonthrone's deputy.

I first met Jimmy when I went for my [Scottish FA] coaching badge in the late 1960s. He was part of a great team of coaches that included Eddie Turnbull and Willie Ormond. Jimmy was going to offer me the job of assistant manager at Aberdeen after he had taken over from Eddie at Pittodrie. But I got sent off playing against Aberdeen when I was a player-coach at Falkirk and I think Jimmy went off the idea then.

Bonthrone had four turbulent years as Aberdeen manager, between 1971 and 1975, but the circles that he moved in illustrate that for him coaching was probably a vocation. Apart from Ferguson, the most successful British manager ever, Ormond took Scotland to the 1974 World Cup finals and when he resigned, he was succeeded by Ally MacLeod, who inherited Bonthrone's role at Pittodrie.

If Aberdeen represented the most visible part of Bonthrone's life in football, it was East Fife that was the cornerstone. His first club had been Partick Thistle, which he joined as a 16-year-old amateur in 1945, but he returned to Fife to join the junior side Kinglassie Colliery. East Fife signed him in 1947, and during his 11-year career as a forward with the Methil side, his venomous shot delivered 112 goals in 282 games. East Fife were a remarkable success story after the Second World War, winning the Scottish League Cup three times between 1947 and 1953, reaching the Scottish Cup final and coming very close to winning the league championship.

The presence of three Scotland internationals in the East Fife side, and his own National Service duties, meant that Bonthrone did not earn his League Cup medal until the third triumph, a 3-2 victory over Partick Thistle. He did not play in a full international but was part of a Scotland XI that beat the British Army 2-1 at Hampden Park in March 1953, and the following week he played for Scotland B in a 2-2 draw with England B at Easter Road. He was then chosen to represent the Scottish League in its match with the English League but had to withdraw because it coincided with his wedding.

Bonthrone remained with East Fife until 1958 when he joined Dundee, where he spent two years, before brief spells with Stirling Albion and Queen of the South prefaced his retirement as a player. East Fife made him their manager in 1963 and his six years in charge at Bayview – supplemented by his role in charge of the Scotland under-23 team – carved out a coaching reputation that saw him lured to Aberdeen in 1969 to become assistant manager to Turnbull.

Success came swiftly. Aberdeen won the Scottish Cup in 1970 and when Turnbull was poached by Hibernian the following summer, Bonthrone was promoted to manager. The club won the 1971 Drybrough Cup, defeating Celtic in the final.

Aberdeen's best players were lured to England, notably Martin Buchan to Manchester United and Joe Harper to Everton. However, it was another big name who sealed Bonthrone's departure from Pittodrie. In September 1975, the Scotland defender Willie Young threw his shirt at Bonthrone after being substituted in a defeat by Dundee. Young was immediately transferred to Tottenham Hotspur by the board but Bonthrone resigned a month later, stating, "I feel I can get no more from the players and Aberdeen deserves a prominent place in the game." Ferguson delivered that success after he took over in 1978.

Bonthrone took a break from football to work in the motor trade, returning to the game to serve as East Fife general manager between 1980 and 1994.

Phil Gordon

Jimmy Bonthrone, footballer and manager: born Kinglassie, Fife 16 June 1929; played for East Fife 1947-58, Dundee 1958-60; manager, East Fife 1963-69, Aberdeen 1971-75; general manager, East Fife 1980-94; married (two sons); died Kirkcaldy, Fife 7 June 2008.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor