Legends - George Cloy

George Cloy gave Queen of the South service that spanned 12 seasons. A massively enthusiastic utility player with a truly boundless love of football, Cloy played 334 first team games for the Doonhamers. A ‘sleeves up and get on with it’ type of player that every club needs, George Cloy regarded it simply as a privilege to be able to cross the white line on to a football pitch, regardless of the occasion. Salt of the earth, happy to let others take the limelight with silky stuff, Cloy’s selfless passion earned him something of a cult status at Palmerston Park. George Cloy eagerly played for Queen of the South in every position on the pitch.

On good form, George Cloy contributed to this feature with interviews on 8th and 9th May, 2009.

"Born in Stranraer, I moved from there when I was three years old. I actually stayed in Kirkcudbright, I was brought up in Kirkcudbright, I went to Kirkcudbright Academy. I moved to Dumfries after I got married.”

His boyhood trip to play football in Norway.

“We went to Norway with Greystone Rovers to play in the 1974 Norway Cup international youth football tournament], we didn’t actually get beat. We got to either the last 16 or the last 32, we got beat on the toss of a coin. We drew I think it was in the last 16 with one team and unfortunately for the guy that was the captain..… It was 50-50, he was distraught the boy, he called the wrong side of heads or tails. Just one of these things.”

Signing for QoS.

“I was playing with Greystone under 17s, and then I left them and went and played a season with Kello, Kello Rovers. I was still 17 then as well, still at the school playing with Kello. I played one season with them, and I had a trial with Hearts when I was there and Kilmarnock were supposed to have been interested in me as well. I ended up, it was Sammy Harkness that actually signed me. Mike Jackson was the manager. I signed in 1976. So when I signed with Queen's I was still staying at ‘home’, I was staying at Kirkcudbright. I started off playing with the reserves, which was basically a local team, did well and progressed from there.”

Cloy then added with affection – “Scoring my first goal was against Celtic at Parkhead in the reserve league. We drew 4-4, they put a good side out that day. We drew 4-4, we were all local boys as well apart from George Dickson and a guy called Davie Rutherford that came and played for a season, and the goalkeeper was Graham MacLean.”

QoS 1st team debut.

“It was against Morton, don’t ask me the date. I came on as a sub against Morton at Morton. I made my full debut, it was against St Johnstone, and St Johnstone were near the top of the league going for promotion because I can remember there was quite a big Palmerston crowd there. It was a draw. It could have been the end of the first season I was there. It could have been the end of that year or it could have been the end of the year after.”

“I remember beating Motherwell, I was 21, in 1980, I remember beating Motherwell 2-0 in the cup at Palmerston, Ian Mitchell and Kevin McCann scored, they were a first division team and we were a second division team. It was a Saturday night I went out because it was my 21st birthday on the Sunday, and we’d beat Motherwell 2-0. Ian’s from Sanquhar. In the next round we played Partick Thistle and got beat 3-1 at home.”

Alan Rough and Colin McAdam played for Partick that day.

"Aye, they beat us 3-1 so that was that.”

The 1980/81 promotion campaign.

“I wasn’t involved in that, I was, but it was roundabout the edges, I wasn’t what you’d call a regular. That was the year we went to Portugal. Big Allan Ball was playing that day [QoS played in a friendly while in Portugal against Vitoria Setubal]. We went to Portugal ‘cause we got promotion and they took us to Portugal for a week. Oh, it was great, aye,” gushed Cloy.

Break through as a first team regular.

“We’d been promoted then we came straight back down. Then Drew Busby came along. Drew was all right,” stated Cloy very positively. “I would have said that he was the best manager there when I was at Palmerston. Drew was a man who, he was straight up, you know, he would tell you what he thought. If he said you were hopeless, you were hopeless. He didn’t hide anything from you and he didn’t go behind your back, he never had any favourites. He picked players on how they were playing, how they were performing and if they were doing a job for him. That was Drew.”

(Drew Busby)

“I more or less played in every game when Drew was there, league, various cup ties and that. Drew Busby was there the year we were near the top of the league. We needed around 6 points from our last 6 games or something like that to get promotion, but we missed out. That was when Drew was there.”

Unlike 80/81, Cloy's involvement in the 85/86 promotion campaign makes it something of a career high point.

“It was aye, we had quite a good team then. Against Dunfermline when we beat Dunfermline 3-1 at home. There was quite a big crowd that day. We beat them at home 3-1. Stewart Cochrane scored, I think it was 2 he got." Kevin Hetherington had scored the QoS opener.

The promotion clincher was at Gayfield.

“I was a substitute that day, big Cocky scored the winning goal, I didn’t get on. Good crowd, good travelling support, it was a good occasion. [Celebrations] started in Arbroath then came back to Dumfries.”

(QoS 1986/87)

Where did the nickname 'Giro' come from?

“I honestly couldn’t tell you. I don’t know whether it came from the fans or whether it came from within the club, I honestly couldn’t tell you. It got picked up on because I worked in the Job Centre, I worked in the Unemployment Benefit office at the time. I think it got picked up on by the supporters, it was probably big Ted McMinn or somebody like that.”

Will 'Giro' be his epitaph?

Cloy replied still laughing away to himself – “Aye, it will be, aye. It just came about from where I worked. Simple as. I still get it now.”

According to QoS historian Ian Black, Cloy played for QoS in every position on the pitch including goalkeeper.

“That’s true, yes. I came on as a substitute in a game after about 10 minutes. Alan Davidson got injured. The manager didn’t want to upset the outfield team. So I said, ‘Well I’ll go in goals’. We played Berwick and I think we won 3-0.”

Clean sheet to Giro the cat.

“Clean sheet and all, aye” smiled Cloy amused. “I remember coming off and the crowd were quite happy.”

Saves that stick out?

“Just one. It was a free kick and it was going one way and it got deflected and I managed to get myself back and scramble it round the post. Apart from that I never had a lot to do. In the likes of the South Challenge Cup and that, if they were short of a goalkeeper I’d also go in goals.”

"And I played right back, left back, centre back, sweeper, every position in midfield, and both up front. I finished top goal scorer one season along with Stewart Cochrane. I was playing left back at the time. Me and Stewart Cochrane were on 12 goals and in the very last game of the season I took a penalty against Stirling Albion to finish top scorer and I missed it.”

Favourite goals?

"Oh, now? Maybe my first one, that was against Arbroath, the very first goal that I scored that wasn’t a penalty. It was at home. I played a one-two with I think it was Jimmy Miller on the edge of the box and I just went in, kind of on the angle, and it went through the goalkeepers legs, it wasn’t an absolute belter like. Maybe the goalkeeper should have saved it, but it went in the net.”

Best players played alongside:

“Wee Tommy was a good player, Tommy Bryce. Big Jimmy Robertson. Jimmy Robertson was the kind of player that you gave the ball to if you were under the cosh, you gave the ball to him and he just took it away and kept it for about 10 minutes, nobody could get it off him. Big Ted obviously. Bobby Parker. Bobby Parker was a good player, ex Carlisle United, and the best passer of a ball I’ve seen at Palmerston was Chris Balderstone when he was there. He was absolutely different class. Different class, you could see he’d played at a higher level than most of us who were there. He played in the first division with Carlisle when it was the top division down South [The talented Balderstone also played cricket for England]. And big Bally was good. Big Bally looked after the youngsters, he kept an eye on the youngsters when they first they came into the team, made sure they were OK.”

Giro then added some interesting insight into another player from a by gone age; someone better associated with administering spontaneous on the pitch orthopaedic adjustment.

“Going back, a good player to play beside when I first went was George Dickson, big Chopper. Chopper was excellent with the youngsters, ‘cause he was in the reserves when it was basically a local team when I first went, and he just looked after us, he was really good.”

Next Cloy was asked about someone who briefly passed through Palmerston in the 80s with two first team games before playing in England’s top tier and being selected by Ireland for their Italia 90 squad - Bernie Slaven.

“I remember Bernie, aye. I just remember him being at Palmerston, he didn’t get a regular game and he went somewhere else after Palmerston [Albion Rovers from when the goals quickly started to flow]. Aye, he wasn’t playing regular at all. So it was quite a surprise that he went on and did so well, but, that was one of these things. He was just a man who liked playing football. He’s on the radio now. Playing full time at Middlesbrough and being more involved maybe brought him out of his shell a wee bit.”

Brought him out of his shell? Tony Cascarino wrote in his autobiography that when he shared a room with Slaven on international duty, Bernie would phone his dog every night and howl into the phone ’Woof, woof, aru, aru, woof’, kissing the receiver, ’Hello, lovey dovey’ to his dog.

Cloy continued, “From what I can recollect of him he was a nice enough guy but he wasn’t one of the more rowdy ones.”

Rowdy ones?

“Oh well, Mr Dickson springs to mind, Peter.”

Then recounting an episode that would have had lesser mortals claiming genius, the unassuming Cloy saw the funny side:

“The 6-4 game in the cup, scoring a goal at Stranraer and they all knew I was born down there so they didn’t really like me. It was right in front of the main stand, I scored from just at the dug outs. It was a cross into the box and the wind caught it and the keeper came out and it went flying over the top of his head. I was right in front of the dug outs so it was quite a distance. I just turned to acclaim the crowd and the next thing, the pies and sausage rolls came flying across from the Stranraer supporters. I just wish I’d eaten one to annoy them but at the time I was just trying to dodge them. At the time I should have grabbed one and started eating it, but I never did. It was snowing, it was very, very cold that day.”

“I scored quite a few penalties. I was on the ITV sport program that used to be on telly on a Saturday afternoon that had a penalty kick competition. I won the one in Carlisle, I took penalties against big Bally, that must have been when I was about 14, 15. I won the heat at Carlisle for Border television, then I went to Stoke and took penalties against Gordon Banks. I got six out of 10, I picked up a groin strain taking penalties. Half way through I had to change, I’d actually strained my groin at Carlisle, ended up taking them with my left foot. Then I took them with my left foot down the road at Stoke, I did my left groin in and I had to switch back to taking them with my right.”

After QoS:

“I played with Kello for 2 seasons, and then I played with Dalbeattie Star with Dick Shaw. And since then I’ve played with the Crichton, I’ve played with Dumfries High School FPs, I’ve played with Threave Rovers, I ended up lastly playing football with Terregles. I’m at Abbey Vale the now. I ruptured the cruciate ligament in my knee five years ago, so I can’t play. I finished playing when I was 46. I’d still like to play now but I need a knee replacement, the surgeon at the hospital says I’m too young to get one.”

George Cloy’s time at Palmerston Park covered 12 seasons during which he recovered and came back from a year out with a broken leg. Among his 334 games were 41 goals in his 290 league appearances. He is 18th in the club's all time appearances chart as at August 2020. Giro’s commitment to QoS was recognised with a testimonial v Carlisle United in 1989.

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