Ronnie Hamilton

In Aug of 2010 our KFCSA site interviewed Ronnie..... “I was a naturally gifted player but maybe not the best of trainers”.

Ronnie Hamilton made his debut while still at school and was just twenty years old when he shot Kilmarnock to league glory as top scorer with 15. Indeed, a career total of 43 goals in 74 games tells its own story. A fast centre forward, Ronnie made a brief but telling contribution to the history of the club over three and a half seasons as a player. In addition to his crucial league goals he scored two on the famous night against Frankfurt.

Despite his impressive strike rate Ronnie was sold during the 1965-66 season to St Mirren before moving on to Queen of the South.

Ronnie’s distinguished service to Kilmarnock did not end there. He returned in a coaching capacity in 1975. Appointed to the board in 1985 he was later to become Chairman in the 1994-95 season and was in office in 1997 when the Scottish Cup returned to Rugby Park.


Press Article & Interview March 2007: Not many have ticked the box marked "lifetime ambition" by the age of 16. Fewer still have gone on to use it as a platform for a lifetime of success. They broke the mould when they made Ronnie Hamilton, protagonist of one of Scottish football's great untold stories. 

 
On September 18, 1961, aged 16 years and 52 days, Hamilton made his debut for his beloved Kilmarnock against St Mirren at Rugby Park. 
 
In doing so, he became the then youngest post-war outfield player to appear in the top flight of Scottish football, an accolade erroneously attributed to current Hibs fledgling Jamie McCluskey in January 2004. From there, things just got better and he watched his career and life unfold like a Victor cartoon strip. 
 
If ever a story embodied the values of a provincial club it is Hamilton's. Born and bred in the Ayrshire town, he starred in the great Rugby Park side who won the league title in 1965 before going on to coach, scout and later become club chairman when they lifted the Scottish Cup in 1997. 
 
Now 61 and retired from football, as well as his career as a successful chartered accountant, he has time to reflect on "the rollercoaster ride" which made him into the ultimate local hero. 
 
Hamilton's forensic memory makes his own tentative steps into senior football seem like yesterday. Back then, he was still a pupil at Kilmarnock Academy but that did not stop him making an early impact. "I was still going to school in my short trousers when I made my debut in front of 12,000 at Rugby Park," he recalls. 
 
"I went on to score two goals that day in a 4-3 win. But playing in the first team could be a disadvantage, though, because if I had a bad game then I heard all about it on a Monday morning. You were mince on Saturday, Ronnie,' they'd shout." 
 
Hamilton's talents were complemented by an impeccable sense of timing. Scottish football's achievements in the 1960s may have become synonymous with Celtic, but Jock Stein's side were at the peak of a pyramid of talent including Willie Waddell's Kilmarnock. During that decade, the Ayrshire club won the league championship for the first and last time in their history, reached three Cup finals and finished runners-up on two other occasions. 
 
"Waddell probably took that Kilmarnock team to a level of fitness which was unknown in football in that era," explains Hamilton. "Plus we had guys like Frank Beattie who was a wonderful team player, Brian McIlroy, who played on the left wing and Davie Sneddon inside him. Jackie McInally was a wonderful footballer too. 
 
"I reckon he was a better player than his son Alan, formerly Celtic and Bayern Munich. I was the leading goalscorer in the year we won the league and I probably only scored about 15 or 16 goals. 
 
We didn't score a lot of goals but we were a very good team." 
 
But the sparks which illuminate his career and still fire the 61-year-old's imagination are the European nights at Rugby Park. 
 
The visit of Eintracht Frankfurt in a Fairs Cup preliminary tie in 1964 is a particular highlight, not least because the 18-year-old Hamilton had missed the first away leg with the prosaic distraction of an accountancy exam. 3-0 down from the first leg in Germany, the home return was to prove one of the greatest comebacks in the history of Scottish football. 
 
"They Eintracht still carried an aura because they had been the opposition to Real Madrid in that great European Cup final of 1960," says Hamilton, who also played against the legendary Spanish side, including Puskas, Gento and Santa Maria, in 1965. 
 
"After two minutes one of their players nearly burst the net to make it 4-0 on aggregate. There's a lovely story about a great Kilmarnock supporter who was coming through the turnstiles when he heard this roar. 
 
"He shouted up, What's that?' and word got back to him that Eintracht had scored. So he said, Oh, for god's sake, I'm not hanging about for that'. In doing so he missed one of the best ever comebacks in the history of Scottish football because we ended up beating them 5-1." 
 
Modesty does not permit him to mention that a double from a certain R Hamilton, including an 88th-minute winner, proved decisive. Despite receiving full-time offers from "most clubs apart from Manchester United", including Arsenal and Scot Symon's Rangers, he decided to remain part-time in football and pursue a career in chartered accountancy. 
 
He soon climbed the ranks at a local company, where he eventually became senior partner, while his football career took him to St Mirren, Queen of the South and then back to Kilmarnock. 
 
His involvement with the club he loves continued when he became Sneddon's assistant manager, and later fulfilled scouting and coaching roles throughout the lean years during which they slipped into the second division. Fittingly, the return of the good times under then chairman Bobby Fleeting in the 90s saw Hamilton's ascent to boardroom level, where he played the cautious accountant to Fleeting's heady ambitions. 
 
"I'd be saying no, I don't think you should be spending this much, Bobby'. But he pushed forward and in the end we were one of the first clubs to develop our stadium. If football directors were all like me then we would be in a better state financially, but there wouldn't be the same buzz. There needs to be a balance." 
 
By the time he became chairman in December 1996, that balance had irretrievably swung towards agents and players, and Hamilton began to detect the seeds of future financial decay in the game. 
 
"The whole thing was just going crazy and there was an element of greed creeping in." In the end, he bowed out as chairman after just 10 months. A lucky escape, perhaps, with the current financial climate enough to make any accountant weep. Nowadays, he is glad to be on the sidelines. 
 
"I don't have the highs and lows of being involved in football but life for me is much more enjoyable now," he smiled.


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