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  • Looking back 25 years 

    25 August 2012 03:08:28

    The start of season 2012/13 marks exactly 25 years since the arrival at the Recs of one of the most popular Alloa players.

    Keith McCulloch signed in 1987 from Cowdenbeath, the young defender delighted to take up manager Dom Sullivan's offer due to a lack of first team opportunities at Central Park. Keith was actually signed as a right back but he quickly found a home in the centre of the Alloa defence, a position he was to retain for over a decade. Alongside Keith in central defence at that time was Andy Millen, another fine defender who would go on to play in the top tier of Scottish football. Keith also has fond memories of "a chubby wee right back - but he could play, he was quick on the ground and a good striker of the ball".Who else but Larry Haggart. The goalkeeper of the time - and in the opinion of many one of the finest Alloa keepers of any era - was Ronnie Lowrie. For a young player like Keith, Ronnie was an experienced head and a steadying and helpful influence.

    Alas the Dom Sullivan era did not last but the Alloa team that followed - under the management of Gregor Abel - was one which is still very highly regarded by Alloa fans, and by Keith McCulloch.

    "Andy Millen, Robert Lee, Iain Lee, John Gibson, Spider, Charlie Lytwn up front, Peter Lamont - who was quite mobile at that point - that was the best team I ever played in. They were so sharp and comfortable on the ball. There were players there who really wanted to do well".

    After a mixed start to the campaign the Wasps found their form and climbed the table - and advanced to the Scottish Cup quarter final where they took on Hibs at Easter Road.

    "That was the ultimate game for me as a Hibee, playing against the likes of Stevie Archibald and with a big support and a great crowd from Alloa," says Keith. Alloa acquitted themselves very well indeed on the big day with Ronnie Lowrie making some great saves in the Alloa goal. Just one goal decided the match. "Unfortunately our mate Spider wasn't marking at the back post against Paul Kane and he managed to score. We didn't talk to Spider for weeks after that!".
    The team quickly put the disappointment of the cup exit behind them by going on to clinch promotion behind Albion Rovers, a team they defeated in the closing weeks with Keith scoring. "I managed to score from outside the box and by that game I really felt we had a really good team. As the season went on we just got stronger and stronger and more confident". Alloa fans will also a recall a rousing 4-0 victory over Stirling Albion in a game in which John Gibson in particular excelled, and of course the promotion clinching 2-0 success at Boghead.

    The following season was not so successful with the team being immediately relegated back to Division 2. The season was particularly disappointing for Keith who missed a chunk of the campaign through injury, and indeed he feels injuries were key in Alloa' s failure to stay up.

    Alloa' s lowly position also cost manager Gregor Abel his job, a decision which upset Keith. "He brought players in from junior football and boys club football - guys like Spider, Robert Lee, John Gibson and Iain Lee - what finds these guys were, to bring them into the Second Division and then get into the First Division. He spotted the potential and brought them on". Having built an attractive and successful Alloa team on a modest budget it's hard not to agree with Keith - Gregor Abel was indeed very unfortunate to lose his job.

    Hugh McCann was next to take over at the Recs. McCann came close to taking the Wasps back up to Division 1, with the famous end of season clash against Cowdenbeath in front of more than 5000 fans, but Keith felt that the quality of player at the time was inferior to those of the Gregor Abel era. Hugh McCann went on to take up an offer from Hearts, although he was of course to return to Alloa as head of youth development, a position he held for many years.

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