Tam Gourlay
Tam Gourlay
Tam Gourlay
● Tam Gourlay, 1971 (SP)

probably born in Scotland

Thomas Gourlay was born on Monday, 25th September, 1950, in Springburn, Glasgow.

The 6' 0 (11st 8lbs) goalkeepr signed for Davie McParland's Thistle on Tuesday, 7th November 1972, having most recently been with Airdrieonians.

Aged 22, he made his sole appearance on Monday, 6th August, 1973, in a 2-1 friendly win away to Stenhousemuir.

His club-list included Ashfield, Airdrieonians, Partick Thistle, East Stirlingshire and Petershill.

Tam died on Monday, 12th February, 2024, in Falkirk, aged 73.

Bio Extra

With Alan Rough being such an immovable object between the sticks, a shot at the first team was a near impossibility for Tam, and a solitary friendly appearance at Ochilview in August 1973 was all the chance he was given. Also making his debut that night (we think) was Alan Hansen. For the first 30 minutes it was all Stenhousemuir, and two fine last-ditch tackles by Nobby Clark saved the day. Thistle finally got into the game and Tommy Rae shot home (30) followed by Alan Munro (32) with a fine solo run and finish. Stenhousemuir's goal came after half-time from the penalty spot, and Tam became the 12th Thistle 'keeper in history to face a penalty on his debut!

Like Kenny Dalglish, Tam was brought up in the Milton area of Glasgow and went to train with Celtic twice a week. They farmed him out to Ashfield and, after only 6 games for the junior side, Ralph Collins signed him to professional terms at Airdrie in May, 1970. Tam played around 20 times for Airdrie over the course of the next two seasons, although he was second-in-line to Roddy McKenzie. In February 1971, Tam saved a penalty against Tommy Gemmell in a League match at Celtic Park and secretly hoped he might get the nod for the Scottish Cup semi final against them 5 weeks later, but it wasn't to be.

Davie McParland brought him to Firhill in November 1972 as back-up for Alan Rough. Tam very much enjoyed his two seasons with Thistle, even if his appearances were confined to the reserves eleven, citing the tour of Denmark and Germany in May 1973 as a memorable highlight.

In July 1974, the 32-year-old Alex Ferguson, newly appointed as manager of East Stirlingshire, was a man on a mission to establish himself in that realm. He had a £2,000 budget and, being without a goalie, Tam became his first target. Bertie Auld sanctioned a free transfer deal. The 'keeper was impressed by Ferguson and £850 direct to Tam secured the transfer. "he cost £850 and weighed about the same" quipped Fergie later, although our stats don't back that up; perhaps he'd put on the beef a wee bit since our quoted weigh-in! Thistle's Jim Mullin also made the move to Firs Park at the time, as did former Jag George Adams.

The big season opener for the Shire, a League Cup game, was played in front of a crowd of 700 up at Forfar Athletic in August 1974. Alex Ferguson’s competitive debut as a manager did not start well. His side were three-nil down at half-time, with his first ever signing, goalkeeper Tam Gourlay, culpable for each goal. Bobby McCulley recalled the half-time team talk:


It looked as though we were out – but the boss had other ideas. We traipsed in at half-time and were expecting both barrels. We knew what he was like and were ready for the worst. Everyone was looking down, not wanting to catch his eye. I think I tied my bootlaces six times. But instead of ripping into us, he told us we were playing great. He filled us with confidence and a belief that we were not beaten yet.

Fergie’s team talk worked wonders. The Shire rattled in three goals in six minutes to rescue a point and an unlikely 3-3 draw. A special journey began that day. Ferguson wasn’t at East Stirlingshire for very long. He left for St Mirren just 4 months later, and then moved to Aberdeen. The rest is history.

For the first time in his career, Tam was a permanent fixture at East Stirlingshire, racking up around 80 competitive appearances in his two seasons there. He retired to the juniors with Petershill in 1976 and was a top performer at that level, setting a club-record of 22 shut-outs in his first season.

Throughout his football career he worked as a cooper, and later became a lorry driver. Later in life, diabetes took a severe grip of him, so much so that both of his legs had to be amputated. When he first lost a leg in 2008, Fergie sent him a letter wishing him all the best. Said Tam, "That's the type of person he is. Those who don't know him might think he can be quite harsh, but he always has time for those he has met over the years." That he would receive such a letter, and that he would respond with such grace, says much for Tam, clearly one of the good guys.


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