The beginning of one of Scotland’s famous amateur football teams starts with a Cambridge graduate and high-powered businessman whose family owned one of Clydeside’s most beautiful estates on Ardmore peninsula, near Cardross.
The man with the vision to construct one of the best amateur teams in the country was a Mr Douglas Smith, an inspirational pioneer in boys’ club football, introducing to the youth grade a level of organization, vision and dedication more than many associated with the professional game. As a hobby, he founded the club as a Boys’ Brigade team, and their original strips, donated by the Clydebank Singer factory, were the Celtic colours of green and white hoops. Smith reasoned it was unlikely there would be a colour clash with other west of Scotland Boys’ Brigade sides. Eventually settling at Duntocher, they changed to become Drumchapel Amateurs.
He officially established Drumchapel Amateurs in 1950 – having transformed a Boys’ Brigade team that had never won a match – and steered the club unerringly towards excellence in every aspect of the sport. Ultimately the club emerged as the best known Scottish amateur side other than Queen’s Park, and earned an international reputation, regularly representing Scotland in tournaments throughout Europe – setting up matches against the youths of AC Milan and Barcelona – picking up the odd win or two.
But Smith’s legacy and belief in football ran deeper than caps, titles and medals. Under his tutelage, Drumchapel players were no ordinary footballers; they were always instilled with universal qualities such as self-discipline, self-belief and respect for others, which prepared them as much for life outside the game as it did on the football pitch. Hundreds of boys were transformed into respectable young men with values thanks to Mr Smith’s strong beliefs of manners and sportsmanship.
Everything was done in a professional manner. Itineraries were sent to each player, receiving a time-table for the following Saturday informing them who they were playing, where they were to meet and who would collect them if they needed a lift after playing for their schools in the morning. If you represented ‘The Drum’, you wouldn’t dare let the club or Douglas Smith down.
Under Smith’s guidance, many young players progressed to become professional footballers, and some even achieved international status, including Sir Alex Ferguson as Aberdeen, Scotland and Manchester United manager, and players such as Archie Gemmill, Asa Hartford, David Moyes, John Wark, Andy Gray, Alex Willoughby and Mo Johnston to name a few. In Fact, more than 300 players came through the ranks of this unique amateur team. At least 4-5 professional club scouts would observe Drumchapel’s matches.
The most famous ex-Drummie is indeed the former manager of Manchester United, who is always happy to acknowledge the grounding given to him by the club and, above all, Mr Smith. As Sir Alex would testify, Douglas Smith’s benign influence continued on at Old Trafford, Goodison Park and many other football places.
In January 2003 Smith finally handed over the reins of the club he had run for more than half a century. Shortly after, Smith stated: “I only feel two or three years older than the boys I work with. That’s what working with youngsters does for you. They’re my life and I’ve been a very fortunate man.”
Douglas Smith sadly passed away in February 2004. A portrait of Mr Smith hangs in our museum in recognition of his contribution to the club and the development of young footballers. It was unveiled in 2014 by former Drumchapel player, Sir Alex Ferguson.
‘The Drum’ Roll of Honour
Asa Hartford (West Brom, Everton & Man City)
Archie Gemmill (Derby & Nottingham Forest)
John Wark (Ipswich & Liverpool)
John Robertson (Nottingham Forest)
Eddie McCreadie (Chelsea)
Pat Crerand (Celtic & Man Utd)
Mo Johnston (Watford, Nantes, Celtic & Rangers)
John O’Hare (Derby)
Alan Brazil (Ipswich, Tottenham, Man Utd)
Bobby Hope (West Brom)
Jim Forrest (Rangers)
Jim Cruikshank (Hearts)
George McLean (Dundee)
Ally Hunter (Celtic)
Iain Munro (St Mirren)
Tony Green (Blackpool & Newcastle)
Tommy Craig (Sheffield Wed & Newcastle)
Andy Gray (Aston Villa, Wolves, Everton)
Jim Kennedy (Celtic)
Paul Wilson (Celtic)
Francis Munro (Wolves)
Frank McAvennie (West Ham & Celtic)
Ally Dawson (Rangers)