The last of the World Cup timed articles on Doonhamers involved at major international football tournaments.
Douglas M. McBain was born in Blantyre on 22nd September 1924 and was schooled at Hamilton Academy, leaving aged 17. With his 18th birthday arriving in the middle of World War 2, he commemorated the day by following his brother into the RAF. McBain was commissioned as a flying officer air gunner and was posted to India. However he spent most of the war as part of an exhibition football team that toured Asia playing in front of allied troops. The team was managed by Hearts and Chelsea legend, Tommy Walker.
After the war he played two seasons in Scotland`s top division with amateur club, Queens Park. McBain supported this by working as a tax officer with the Inland revenue. A powerful right-half, his performances were recognised by Matt Busby. As well being manager of Manchester United, it was Busby who was tasked with managing the Great Britain side at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London. To join the Olympic squad McBain had to take six weeks unpaid leave from the Inland Revenue.
The man who ended up the most distinguished of McBain’s Olympic team mates, without question, was McBain’s teenage goal keeper from Queens Park. Ronnie Simpson went on to win two F.A. Cups with Newcastle United and a clutch of Scottish domestic trophies with Celtic but most notably he was part of the 1967 European Cup winning side. McBain’s other team mates achieved more modest accomplishments in the game.
Bob Hardisty played most of his career with non league Bishop Auckland, the side who offered players to Busby in the aftermath of the Munich air disaster. Despite never playing for Man U in his spell there, Hardisty later worked beside Busby as a coach. Eric Lee had a long career as a regular with home town club Chester City. John Boyd had eight seasons as a fringe player at Aberdeen. Peter Kippax played 32 league games for Burnley and one for Liverpool. Eric Fright played non-league football for Bromley and gets a mention for having a fine name for any defender that would sit well along with Argentinian Daniel Killer and Scotsman Alan Dinnie.
McBain’s first game of the Olympics was on 31st July against Netherlands before 21,000 supporters at Highbury. The fruitily sounding Bram Appel put the Dutch ahead in the 20th minute only for McBain to equalise two minutes later. The goals continued resulting in a 3-3 draw, taking the game to extra time, when a Harold McIlveney goal ended the Dutch involvement in the competition. Changed days.
McBain’s opponents in the second round were France. Again McBain progressed - this time in a 1-0 win in front of 25,000 fans at Craven Cottage, with Hardisty scoring his second goal of the tournament.
This put McBain into a semi-final tie against Yugoslavia at Wembley. With the professional game having flourished in the 12 years since the previous Olympics (1936 in Berlin), the number of players eligible to play in the then amateur Olympics had severely reduced. This thus marked the emergence of the success of the communist bloc nations in Olympic football. The Yugoslavs went through to the final, thanks to a 3-1 win before 40,000 supporters.
This, though did not mark the end of the competition for Busby’s side, with the bronze medal to play for. The opponents in the game for the bronze were Denmark, semi final losers in a Scandinavian derby against Sweden. The Danes packed plenty of fire power. John Hansen scored four of his sides five goals in an earlier tie against Italy, prompting a subsequent move to 6 highly successful seasons with Juventus - he scored 124 goals in 187 Juventus games in Serie A. He was joined at Juventus by two of his Olympic team mates, Karl Hansen & Karl Aage Præst. The Danes rattled in five goals in the bronze medal game, with John Hansen and Præst each hitting doubles, The GB side scored three in return to finish the tournament in fourth place. McBain, however, didn’t play against the Danes.
As impressive as the C.V.s of the three Danish stars are, they are not the most distinguished players to emerge from the tournament. Sweden beat the Yugoslavs in the final, the last time the gold medal didn’t go to a communist bloc country until the Soviet Union led a communist boycott of the 1984 games in Los Angeles. Playing for the Swedes were arguably the three greatest players in Swedish football history and three genuine greats of European football. The January after the Olympics Gunnar Nordahl joined Milan and scored 210 goals in 257 Serie A games before moving to Roma in 1956. To put some perspective on this, Andriy Shevchenko has a tally of 127 goals in a similar time window at Milan. Nordahl remains the second highest goal scorer in Serie A history. Providing the ammo for Nordahl was midfield schemer and Olympic team mate, Nils Liedholm, who stayed at Milan until 1961. Gunnar Gren also played in the 1948 Olympic team and with the other two has gone down in Milan folklore as being the third member of Gre-No-Li, the formidable attacking force provided by the three men combined. At the 1958 World Cup in Sweden Liedholm and Gren played in the final despite both being nearer 40 than 30.
McBain was offered a number of professional contracts in the Summer of 1948. Immediately after the Olympics, the club he signed on the dotted line for was Queen of the South preferring the Doonhamers ahead of Rangers. He replaced the ageing Pat Fitzsimmons in the Queens line up and spent seven seasons at Palmerston. McBain played allongside some of the greatest names in QoS historyt; Roy Henderson, Dougie Sharpe, Jimmy Binning, Bobby Black, Jim Patterson, Billy Houliston and Jackie Oakes to name some. His debut was a 9-2 pummelling of Partick Thistle and he played in some of the finest moments of the club. McBain scored the second goal in the 1950 Scottish Cup quarter-final comeback from 3-0 down, to earn a replay in Aberdeen with a 3-3 draw. McBain however was injured in the first minute of the semi final 1 – 1 draw against Rangers at Hampden Park. In McBain’s time Queens won the 1951 B Division championship and made it to a League Cup semi final against Hibs. From 1951 McBain’s half back partner was the stylish Jimmy Greenock. Queens topped the Scottish football pyramid on Hogmanay of 1953, racking up wins against each of the Old Firm en route. Top division top 10 finishes were achieved in each of 1949, 52, 53 and 54.
There was a second Queens Park player in the 1948 GB Olympic squad who like McBain moved to Queen of the South in that Olympic Summer. The player was Jimmy McColl, a full back, who played in two of the games at the Olympics, namely against France and Yugoslavia. McColl stayed two seasons at Palmerston playing 26 league games. He then moved to spend a season at each of Falkirk and then Cowdenbeath.
After a contractual disagreement with the then chairman, Mr Steele, Doug McBain left Palmerston in 1955 and retired from professional football at the age of only 30. In his 148 league games for QoS he scored three goals.
McBain instead ran the post office business in Locharbriggs for 11 years. The war had deprived him of the opportunity of tertiary education. However the sale of his business was used to fund his way through Edinburgh University. After bagging his degree he remained in the academic world, becoming a lecturer in economics and business studies at Telford College in Edinburgh. He then retired aged 58 and became secretary of Barberton Golf Club and worked part time for Scotbec.
Shortly after celebrating his diamond wedding anniversary, Dougie McBain died on 1st February 2008, aged 83. Having played an important part in Queens’ making it to the Scottish Cup semi-finals for the only time in the 20th century, the Queens side of 2008 qualified for the same feat five weeks after McBain’s death. McBain`s daughter Catherine married a footballer just as her had mother done, Catherine tied the knot with Jim Brown, the defender who spent most of the 70s at Hearts followed by short spells at Hibernian and Dunfermline.
Many thanks to Bruce Wright for contributing to this article.
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