The end of an era as Willie passes away

Willie Finlay
Willie Finlay

The last surviving member of East Fife’s famous League Cup winning teams, Willie Finlay, has passed away.

The news was broken to fans ahead of the weekend’s Fife Cup tie with Dunfermline.

Finlay, a central defender who was born in Auchterderran in 1926, played in all three of East Fife’s League Cup wins in 1947-48, 1949-50 and 1953-54.

East Fife fan Stephen Mill reckons that Finlay should quite rightly be remembered as a Bayview all time great.

He said: “1947-48 will go down in the history books as the season that the Fifers became a force to be reckoned with in Scottish football.

“Finlay turned out 49 times, a figure unequalled before or since by any East Fife player, as the side romped to the B Division title.

“More significantly the Methil men found themselves appearing at Hampden Park in the League Cup final having disposed of Hearts and Aberdeen in the quarter and semi finals respectively.

“Astonishingly the men from Methil repeated their feat of ten years earlier when they had become the first, and to date only lower division team to win the Scottish Cup.

“On this occasion East Fife saw off the challenge of Falkirk, winning 4-1 after a replay to lift the trophy.”

East Fife added another League Cup with a 3-0 win over Dunfermline, Finlay again a rock in the middle of the park before a period of transition took place at Bayview.

“The departures of Allan Brown and Finlay’s half back partner George Aitken in addition to the limited first team appearances of 36 year old Jimmy Philp meant a case of rebuilding was required for manager Scot Symon,” added Stephen.

“Frank Christie was purchased from Liverpool and the promotion of Aitken’s deputy Danny McLennan soon had the Fifers challenging for honours again.

“Successive third placed league finishes in 1951-52 and 1952-53 were achieved, the latter campaign, with Finlay again ever present, saw the Fifers fall agonisingly short in the final furlong after topping the table for most of the season.”

New boss Jerry Dawson guided East Fife to another League Cup success in October 1953, beating Partick Thistle 3-2 in the Hampden final after impressive win over Hibernian in the semi final.

The club accepted a bid of £3000 from Clyde for Finlay in 1956.

Finlay spent seven years at Clyde making 182 league appearances and scoring three goals.

He returned to Fife in 1963, turning out for Raith Rovers before hanging up his boots.

“Willie Finlay will be remembered as an accomplished, dependable centre-half during the most successful period in East Fife’s history,” added Stephen

“During his ten years at Bayview he made a total of 388 appearances in all competitions for the club.

“Only Dave Clarke, Sammy Stewart and Phil Weir have worn the black and gold on more occasions.

“In August 2008 he was back in Methil together Johnny Niven to raise the Third Division championship flag.

“Later that year, in a fitting and deserved accolade, he was voted into the club’s all time greats team.”