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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention