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Aberdeen legend of the 50's Alec Young passes away


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It was with great sadness that the club learned of the passing of former player Alec Young. Alec is a major part of AFC history as he played a pivotal role in the Dons first championship success in 1955. Young was the central figure in the famed Aberdeen half back line of Allister, Young and Glen of that period that formed a formidable defensive and midfield combination.


Born in Glasgow on 20th October 1925, Alec was a late developer in senior terms having played his formative years in the tough Glasgow Junior leagues. After success with Kilsyth Rangers and Blantyre Victoria, it was not until he was 24 that he signed professional forms for Aberdeen. Alec became well known for his famed sliding tackle which he developed to almost art form with his own unique style. After making 168 appearances for Aberdeen between 1950-58, Alec joined Ross County as his career came to a close. After retiring Alec set up a grocery business in Fortrose where he settled after his football career was over. Alec was one of the founding inductees into the Aberdeen FC Hall of Fame in 2004. Our condolences go to Alec's wife, daughter Vicky and family.


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AFC Club Historian Kevin Stirling looks back at his career....


Alec Young; Never too Late...


"Nobody would take a chance on him; he was seen as far too small as a centre half in the senior grade. When I first watched him I could see all the qualities I needed. I made up my mind within a few minutes that he was the type of player that I wanted at Aberdeen." The words of former Aberdeen manager Dave Halliday as he watched Alec Young playing for Glasgow junior side Blantyre Vics in 1950. Legendary Aberdeen scout Bobby Calder was alerted to Young some time before the Dons boss went to see him and Calder was also keen to take Young to Pittodrie. "After one game with Blantyre I was walking off the pitch when Bobby Calder approached me and asked me to sign for Aberdeen. Bobby knew my father well and I was not told that Bobby was watching me that night. I was also approached to sign for Celtic as well, but I thought that Aberdeen was the better option for me. For a young Glasgow lad it was a big move back then."


Alec had been brought up in a rugby-playing school in Abbotsford so playing football was curtailed and often he was left to play in the street like many others of that generation. "I used to go to watch Rangers as it was handy from where we lived, at the age of 15 I got the chance to play for Kilsyth Rangers but I got fed up and packed it in after a few weeks. I went on to work as a boilermaker in the Glasgow shipyards in Govan, the very same one as Alex Ferguson served his apprenticeship some years later. It was hard but rewarding work; I remember the Queen Elizabeth was launched across the water in Clydebank as we got the day off to celebrate. I was working there when the war broke out and I recall one of the German bombs did drop down the funnel of one of the ships which was getting repaired."


Alec later recovered his appetite for the game as he joined Blantyre who went on to win the Scottish Junior Cup in 1950 beating Cumnock 3-1 at Hampden. Young also had the distinction of being captain of the Scotland Junior side against Northern Ireland, Wales and Ireland. It was at that point that Aberdeen came in for him to take him to Pittodrie. "Ralph McKenzie and Willie Roy had been battling it out for the centre half position in the first team and I know Dave Halliday was keen to test me. After one game in the reserves I was thrown into the side to face Rangers at Ibrox! I was still working in the shipyards when I received a telegram telling me that I was in the team. I used to watch rangers as a youngster so it was a great thrill for me at the time. That game was to shape my whole career. I was up against Willie Thornton who was a legend at Ibrox but I never gave him a kick all afternoon and we ended up winning 2-1. It was a great feeling to have played so well and it was the start of eight fantastic years at Aberdeen." Alec still had to face his shipyard workmates on the Monday; "It was a strange experience as I was playing for Aberdeen against Rangers at Ibrox in front of a huge crowd and two days later I was going to work and getting all kinds of stick from my workmates who were mainly Rangers supporters.


As Alec established himself in the Aberdeen first team, under Dave Halliday and trainer Dave Shaw, a new side was emerging; a side that would go on to claim the Dons first league title in 1955. Alec formed part of the formidable half back line of Allister, Young and Glen. Jackie Allister was signed from Chelsea for £7,500 in 1952 and Archie Glen was already there as a promising defender. The three went on to form the foundations of that great side that also reached the Scottish Cup finals in 1953 and 1954. "The three of us had a great understanding. I became good friends with Jackie after he arrived and that bond helped us on the park. Archie took over from Tony Harris in the side and we had a great understanding. Winning the league was fantastic; the first Aberdeen side to achieve that. Winning against Clyde to clinch the title was a great feeling; they were a tough side back then. On the down side losing consecutive cup finals was hard to take. The 1954 final was a bad one for me personally as it was my own goal that proved decisive. Jackie (Allister) miss-judged the ball and it deflected off my foot past Fred Martin. I was so upset that I could not hold back the tears and I lay on the ground at full time totally dejected. We thought that we would win the cup that year after we had hammered Rangers 6-0 in the semi final."


While the disappointments at losing consecutive cup finals was hard to take, the Dons had gained a reputation of being a side with a strong cup tradition, it was in the league that Aberdeen had failed to build on back then, but was to change in 1955. "We had some real quality back then; Paddy Buckley was a real handful for any side; he had that bit of cheek about him as well, and he was the joker in our side; on and off the park. Up in Cairnfield Place in Aberdeen where the club owned some houses, we stayed there along with the likes of Fred Martin and Joe O'Neil. It was a right little Aberdeen commune up there! In those days were playing in front of huge crowds and I remember the Beach End being covered when I was there. We would always meet up at the Caley Hotel in Union Terrace before any game at Pittodrie for a light lunch and a discussion about the game. We would then walk down to the ground; get changed and on to the park. Dave Halliday would wish us all the best and that was that back then."


There was no doubt that Alec was a late developer in football terms; as a centre half he was seen as too small by many. Halliday and Calder never shared that view and Alec was well aware of that; "It was no real disadvantage although some of the forwards I faced were tall lads. It was more about timing and if I got that right I found I could compete with most." While his heading ability was one of his attributes, it was his sliding tackles that he will be best remembered for; "As a young lad on the cinder pitches in Glasgow, it would never have been an option to slide tackle anyone. Later in my career it was something I developed and after hours of practice I thought I had mastered the art pretty well; I would usually come away with the ball if I did go in for a sliding tackle. It was handy if an opponent was quicker than me."


At the age of 33, Alec left Aberdeen in 1958 to take up an offer to join Ross County as player/manager. "County director Frank Thompson knew my wife and that was how the move came about. I decided to give it a go although I did have several other offers at the time. I had a wonderful spell at Aberdeen but it was time to move on. Ross County made me a good offer and the whole family moved to Fortrose and we have been there ever since. We could not buy a business and a house at that time but we did manage to buy the only newsagents in the Black isle which helped us settle. I really enjoyed my six years at Victoria Park; we trained two nights a week and after six years I decided to call it a day as I had a good career as a player."


In 2003 Alec returned to Pittodrie along with seven of the Aberdeen side that helped win the league title in 1955. They were all guests of the club for the day in a game against Dunfermline. Alec was a guest in the dining area where he caught up with the likes of Bob Wishart, Dave Caldwell, Reggie Morrison and Jimmy Mitchell. It was a very emotional occasion as almost 50 years on since that success; many of the players had not seen each other. "It was wonderful to see so many old faces. We really enjoyed each other's company and to take the field at half time was fantastic. To hear the cheers of the Aberdeen support again was a great feeling. Even after all of these years, the Dons result is the first one I look out for."

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