This article is part of a series on qosfc.com profiling Dumfries born ex Scotland full internationalists. Related articles as part of that series are Billy Houliston, Bobby Ancell Dominic Matteo and Willie McNaught.
As well as Jamie McAllister we were spoken to by a second player from Saturday’s Preston North End v Bristol City encounter. Introduced as a sub at 2-0 down half way through the second half, Barry Nicholson had the satisfaction of a decent result from his stint at the coalface; he left the pitch with a 2-2 draw at the final whistle.
Perhaps not too surprisingly, he was a man who didn’t find smiles difficult to come by when he spoke with us after the game. Interestingly for an interviewee, he followed up the introductions by asking the first question of the discussion.
Nicholson – “How did they get on today?”
“Stevie Tosh, from Kirkcaldy of course, playing against his home town team, he got sent off before Raith Rovers took the lead. Derek Holmes scored a last minute equaliser for a 1-1 draw. Better than nothing.”
“Which part of Dumfries is it you’re from?”
“I was brought up in Cargenbridge, just outside Dumfries, so I went to Cargenbridge Primary School, and then on to Dumfries Academy.”
“Youth football in Dumfries before you went to Rangers?”
“Youth football, started off at Greystone Rovers very young, and then I went to Georgetown for I think just one season and then most of my youth football was played at Maxwelltown Thistle. Billy Cross was the main man there and he had connections with Rangers and that’s how it all sort of started off.”
“There was a very intriguing article on the BBC website at the time of the Queen of the South v Aberdeen Cup semi final. It said that you were a boyhood Queen of the South fan?”
“Yeah, that’s right. I went to loads of games with my dad. Obviously my local club, it was something I enjoyed doing at the weekend and stuff and obviously the easiest place to get to go and watch professional football. I went from an early age. When I grew up a little bit and went to the high school and stuff, and certainly from when I become more involved with Rangers from 13 onwards, I started going to watch them instead. But certainly from a young age I was a Queen of the South fan.”
“I think the biggest memory was a game we beat Dunfermline 3-1 [Saturday 5th April, 1986]. It was one of the second division games, both teams were going for promotion. Queen of the South won 3-1, I just remember Palmerston looking packed, I don’t know if it was packed but it certainly looked packed, it was brilliant, I just loved it.”
“I was watching round about the era of Stewart Cochrane playing up front, Jimmy Robertson played wide left, players like that, Graeme Robertson played full back, there was a good few, and I always remember the goalkeeper as well, Alan Davidson. It was a good side at the time, I enjoyed watching them. There was that many games that I went to, there was a good few goals.”
“The semi final - I’m not a betting man, but if I was to have put money on one thing in my life it would have been that you would score against Queens that day.”
Nicholson commented, “Something obviously that I want to do, score goals from midfield, and I felt confident going into the game. Obviously speaking to a few mates down in Dumfries, and family and stuff, they were all saying the same, it’s written in the stars that I was going to score. But I would have traded it all in for going through, I would have loved to have not scored and went through 1-0 but fair play to Queen of the South on that day. I think that they were the better team and deserved to go through.”
He added further, “My close family, my mum and dad and that, they were in the Aberdeen end wanting me to do well. But certainly my best mate Robert down in Dumfries, he was in the Queen of the South end, there watching me but obviously delighted that Queen of the South went through. So yeah, there was a little bit of banter leading up to the semi, he was saying they were going to beat us and obviously they did.”
Mystic Robert the soothsayer.
“Who do you think was Queens’ Man of the match?”
“I think Tosher had a big influence, he’s got bags of experience, I thought he helped Queens out. And I thought that the two up front were really good, O’Connor gave our centre halves a right game, and I thought Budgie did well also, John Stewart. I’d probably have given it to Sean O’Connor I think, yeah.”
“I think that Queens got back into the game and then took the foot off the gas a little bit. I think if they’d have kept on going they would probably have won the cup.”
“I’m led to believe, compliments of the club historian, there are five people from Dumfries to have played for Scotland. Of course you’re one of the five, your first game was Poland away in 2001?
“Yeah, I got drafted in late, I was at Dunfermline at the time and I was through in Dunfermline staying at the time. I think it was a Sunday night waiting to go into training on the Monday morning. I got a phone call late on the Sunday night to say that I’d been drafted into the squad and to meet up on the Monday morning with the Scotland squad. So I had to drive back to Glasgow and to make sure I had all my boots and stuff. I quickly met up with them at Firhill, trained on the Monday morning, and flew out on the Monday afternoon / Monday night”.
“I played right wing back, it’s not a position that I was too keen on playing but if you’re playing for your country for the first time you play anywhere. We had a good side and a lot of experience in the side with Christian Dailly playing at the back, Tom Boyd. Callum Davidson played as well [Nicholson’s current club captain at Preston], and a lot of new faces in the squad, Charlie Miller played, Gavin Rae, Scott Booth scored a penalty to make it one each, we were one nil down then Boothy scored. It’s obviously a brilliant feeling to be involved at international level.”
"Latvia, again in 2001."
“That’s right, 2-1, Craig Brown’s last game, got him to leave his post,” laughed Nicholson throwing in a little self deprecating humour, “No, obviously it’s brilliant to be involved at Hampden, a World Cup qualifier. We had a mountain to climb, we had to score six goals and other results had to go our way. But we won the game, Doogie Freedman scored and Davie Weir. It’s what you dream of, playing at Hampden in front of the Scottish fans, it was great.”
"The third game was against Sweden in 2004."
“Yeah: Hammered: 4-1:” stated Nicholson candidly before adding, “I was still at Dunfermline and went through a patch of scoring a few goals. Tommy Burns had just got the care taker job and drafted us in and there were another few injuries when I got there so he drafted us in and I played right away, from the start.”
At Nicholson’s time around the squad there was another player from Dumfries.
“Dominic Matteo, yeah. It was just so quick, at my age, I was a bit younger than him. I didn’t speak to him that much but I think he knew that I was from Dumfries. Its funny how two Dumfries boys were in the squad at the same time.”
“Somebody else that was in the squad at that time, Queen of the South strikers coach…”
The affable Nicholson answered before the question was complete, “Billy Dodds. That’s right. Doddsy played in Poland. I was in the same dressing room at Ibrox as Doddsy and the Scottish boys were pretty close knit, there was a few foreigners at the time so the Scottish boys stuck together. Doddsy’s a character, I can imagine that his coaching and stuff would be excellent for the Queen of the South boys.”
“On a lighter note, try not to laugh at this [Nicholson’s face lit up with gleeful anticipation at the prospect of listening to some utter cobblers]; did anyone ever say to you that you’ve got a look alike on telly?”
“A look alike?” asked Nicholson clearly with some uncertainty.
“Aye. Ever watch Sky Sports News?”
“Ahu?” followed by silence from Nicholson, still none the wiser.
“The young boy who looks about 16? Alex Payne?”
“I take it he’s a news reporter?” asked the curious Nicholson.
“He’s always on Sky Sports news, the sort of 20 minute news report that they roll again and again all day…”
Nicholson smiled widely, “Nobody’s ever said that before. Next time he’s on, I’ll have a wee look and see.”
“Barry Nicholson, thanks very much for your time”
Additional related articles:-
Wales v Scotland - Alexander Jones
World Cup Doonhamers
Dougie McBain and the 1948 Olympics
`Sons of Scotland` - players from the Scotland squad that made it to the 2006 under 19s European Championship final to have since played for Queen of the South