Willie Callaghan
Willie Callaghan
Willie Callaghan
● Willie Callaghan, 1989 (PAN)

born in Scotland

William Thomas Callaghan was born on Thursday, 23rd March, 1967, in Dunfermline, Fife.

The 5' 10½ (12st 7lbs) forward signed for Tommy Bryce's Thistle on Wednesday, 1st July, 1998, having most recently been with Livingston.

Aged 31, he made his debut appearance on Saturday, 18th July, 1998, in a 3-2 friendly win away to Stranraer.

There were no goals for Willie during his time with Thistle.

He played his last game for the club on Saturday, 21st November, 1998, in a 1-0 defeat away to Arbroath in the SFL Second Division, having appeared as a Jag on 18 occasions.

His club-list included Kelty Hearts, Dunfermline Railway Club, Dunfermline Athletic, Halbeath, Walsall, Portadown, Cowdenbeath, Clyde, Albion Rovers, Inverness Thistle, Montrose, Meadowbank Thistle, Livingston, Partick Thistle, Glenafton Athletic, Camelon and Lochore Welfare.

Willie died on Thursday, 13th April, 2023, aged 56.

Bio Extra

Willie, known as Cal to his pals, started out as a traditional right winger and played his youth football with Hill of Beath Swifts with whom he won the U-14s Scottish Cup. He was excited to sign for Kelty Hearts just before his 17th birthday, a team he'd been fond of as a boy. He played for their under 21 side at that time, and also had a spell at the juvenile grade with Dunfermline Railway Club at the beginning of season 1984-85. Willie signed his first professional contract with Jim Leishman's Dunfermline Athletic shortly afterwards, whilst still only 17. The youngster managed 2 League appearances that season but it soon became apparent that he was not yet ready for the senior grade and he stepped back to the juniors with Halbeath, where he developed as a centre forward over the course of a few seasons.

The 20-year-old Willie re-joined Dunfermline Athletic in January 1988, by that time a Premier League outfit. They were always looking doomed that season though, and Willie had mixed feelings playing 8 games in the top-flight and scoring twice, but being relegated at the end of it. Dunfermline would return as champions by the end of season 1988-89, but Willie played no part of it. Having featured in the Pars League Cup games, he was then farmed out to Walsall, Portadown and Cowdenbeath all in that same season! Loan spells at Clyde and Cowdenbeath (again) followed in 1989-90.

In what was regarded as a major coup, Kelty Hearts persuaded Willie to sign for Kelty Hearts during season 1990/91 and he was part of the team that won the club's first Fife Junior League Championship. To cap off a great season, Willie collected the award for the top goalscorer, with 24 to his credit. After his successful season at Kelty, Willie was looking to step back up to the seniors, and had a brief spell with Albion Rovers on a trial basis. When that didn't work out he headed northwards, landing in the Highland League arena with Inverness Thistle, managed by his old gaffer, Jim Leishman, at the time. In February 1992, Jim Leishman had moved on to Montrose and persuaded Willie to come with him. Willie featured 16 times for the Gable Endies before moving on to Cowdenbeath in September of the same year as part of a player swap deal.

In 1992/93, Cowdenbeath captured Willie on a permanent basis in what was his third spell at the club. They thought him a fast, hard working striker, and he was top scorer in his first two full seasons with the Blue Brazil. He was also Cowden’s player of the year in 1994. Jim Leishman had been keeping tabs on him and was clearly still a big fan, for he signed him yet again in the springtime of 1995, just as his Meadowbank Thistle were about to rebrand as Livingston.

Tommy Bryce brought Willie to Partick Thistle in the close season of 1998. Willie's cousin, Tommy, was also signed at the same time, and these two were set to often play together for Thistle. Depressingly, the Jags had fallen to the third tier of Scottish Football for the very first time, and money was too tight to mention. After the pre-season friendlies were over, Willie made his competitive debut in a League Cup encounter away to East Fife, which Thistle lost by 3 goals to 2 on 1st August 1998. It was an ominous starter. Willie played for Thistle on 14 occasions in all competitions during the autumn and winter of 1998, but failed to find the target in any of them. It would be fair to say the striker was far from a favourite with the Thistle fans, and he accepted the offer of a free transfer half way through the season. Thistle came perilously close to falling to the fourth tier at the end of the season, and the Callaghan cousins took their fair share of the stick.

Willie played out his footballing career in the junior game with Glenafton Athletic, Camelon and Lochore Welfare. It's Cowdenbeath where Willie is most fondly remembered and he's regarded as a bit of a club legend, as the club website put it when recalling some goals which were received ecstatically: “Many were highly memorable including both goals at East End Park in a miraculous 2-0 Cowden victory. These goals cost Dunfermline promotion and ended Cowden’s Barnstoneworth United-like run of 33 league games without a win. He also a year later scored the winner v Arbroath that ended Cowden’s 38 home matches without a win hoodoo.

Willie’s father, of the same name, played for Dunfermline and Scotland in the 60s and 70s, and his Uncle Tommy played for both Dunfermline and Celtic in the same era. Of course, as we know, his cousin Tommy played with Kilmarnock, Livingston and Partick Thistle. Even closer to home, Willie’s own son, Liam, followed in his fathers footsteps, and signed for Cowdenbeath, Arbroath and Montrose, where, by the end of season 2022-23, he has spent several seasons and clocked up well over 100 appearances.


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