Position: Defender (Left Back)
Previous Clubs: Troon Juniors.
Landmarks: Killie debut September 30th 1972 in a 2-1 home win against Rangers. Last match October 29th 1988 in a 0-2 loss to St Johnstone. Scored nine goals for the club. Won promotion with the club in 1973-74 1975/76, 1978/79, 1981/82.
Alan played in 607 matches for Killie, to become Killie's all time appearance leader. Became Killie's youth team coach and in 2004 led us to the Scottish Youth Cup Final, where we beat Rangers 1-0 to lift the cup.
With the appointment of Alan Robertson to the full time position of youth team coach, it is only fitting that we look back on a remarkable career, which spanned seventeen years, from 1972 until 1989. During that time, Alan set a record by making an amazing 607 appearances for the Club.
Alan was born on the 22nd September 1952 in Irvine. His football career began with Eastercraigs Boys Club, before moving to Troon Juniors in May 1971. One year later, Alan joined Killie. Little did he realise at the time, but his first season at the Club would be dramatic. Still in the Killie squad were such famous names from the glory days like Jackie McGrory and Billy Dixon, as well as younger guys like Eddie Morrison, Ian Fleming, Ross Mathie and Jim Cook.
Alan Robertson had a dream debut for Kilmarnock on 30th September 1972. Taking over from the injured Billy Dixon, Alan played his part in an excellent 2-1 home victory against Rangers, with Eddie bagging a brace. The Killie team that day was: Stewart, White, Robertson, Gilmour, Rodman, Maxwell, Stevenson, Smith, Morrison, McSherry, Sheed and Cook. Coincidently, it was also Jim Stewart’s first game for Killie.
Oddly, the Club sold Ally Hunter to Celtic for £40,000 at this time. Soon after, Ross Mathie was sold to Dumbarton for £5,000. The decision returned to haunt Killie, as one month later, the Boghead Battlers beat Killie 4-2 with the boy from Cambuslang scoring twice. Killie struggled through this season of 72/73. Indeed many people still remember, the 2-2 draw with Falkirk at home. This result meant that Killie plunged into the Second Division for the first time in nineteen years. It was only eight years since Killie had won the league.
73-74 Kilmarnock FC
As Killie began life in the Second Division, they still found it difficult to find any consistency. After seven games Killie had won only three times. The final straw was the 3-2 home defeat by Berwick Rangers. This turned out to be Walter McRae’s last game in charge. Walter had been manager for five and a half years and attached to the Club for seventeen years, which of course included being Killie coach when the Club won the Championship in 1965. In the 3-2 home defeat, many fans still remembered the glory days vividly and couldn’t accept the further indignation of the home defeat. Scarfs were thrown onto the pitch as the fans made their feeling known.
Willie Fernie took over the hot seat and no Killie fan will ever forget his first game in charge. Alan Robertson was now a regular and had made the left back position his own with a series of consistent reliable performances. Fernie’s first game in charge against Airdrie set the tone for the season; open attacking football. Eventual champions Airdrie were over run 4-0, with some outstanding individual performances, most notably from Jim McSherry. The Killie team that day was: Stewart, White, Robertson, McSherry, Rodman, Maxwell, Cook, Fleming, Morrison, Sheed and Smith. The goals were scored by Maxwell, Fleming, McSherry and Morrison.
Amazingly, Killie went the next fifteen games unbeaten, winning ten and drawing five with Alan Robertson an ever present. In this run, Killie Hammered Forfar 5-1 and Alloa 8-2! During this spell Killie were still involved in the League Cup. They won their section, which included two 4-0 victories against Hamilton and East Stirling. In the next round they defeated St Johnstone 3-1 after extra time. Killie met Albion Rovers in the quarter finals.
On the 24th November 1973, Alan Robertson scored his first goal for Kilmarnock. Killie came back from a 2-0 first leg defeat to hammer the Lanarkshire outfit 5-2. Eddie and Ian Fleming were also on the score sheet as they continued their amazing prolific partnership. Killie then met Dundee in the twice postponed semi final, before going down to a Tommy Gemmill goal. Dundee would defeat Celtic in the final.
Killie’s fifteen game unbeaten run came to an end with a defeat from Raith Rovers. No other team however, were able to stop the Rugby Park roller coaster hurtling towards the First Division, as Killie remained unbeaten until the end of the season. In the six game period between 27th March and 16th April Killie scored 22 goals, with Ian Fleming scoring two hat-tricks and four braces! On Saturday 27th April 1974, Killie won promotion back to the First Division with a 2-1 victory at home to Stirling Albion. Probably no need to mention that Ian Fleming and Eddie Morrison scored the goals.
So despite getting off to a poor start, Alan and his mates turned the season round in impressive style. Willie Fernie’s men gained a reputation for exciting attacking football. Indeed in the twenty seven league games managed by Willie Fernie in his first season, the team suffered only one defeat. Equally remarkably, the Morrison Fleming double act scored 65 goals between them. Would this open attacking football be found out in the top league?
As the triumphant Killie team prepared for life in the First Division, they did so realising if they didn’t finish in the top ten, they’d again find themselves out of the top league. Scottish football, by way of cutting out ‘meaningless matches’, decided to set up an elite and highly competitive top league of ten teams.
In this season of 74/75, Alan Robertson, who had assisted in many of Killie’s Second Division victories with his lung-bursting overlapping runs, played in every game bar one, an excellent record of consistency. Killie bounced back after a heavy opening day defeat at Parkhead to stuff the Honest Men 3-0 at Rugby Park. Killie would go on to hold their own, finishing mid table. Alas it was not enough to gain entry into the elite league. Killie had to defeat Jim McLean’s Dundee United at Rugby Park in the last game of the season to have any chance of qualifying.
Killie couldn’t live with Paul Sturrock and Co. Killie finished the season in twelfth position. Killie were in effect relegated to the middle ‘league’ or First Division. One of the most memorable games from this season was probably the 3-3 League Cup televised draw with Hibs. The Killie team that September evening was: Stewart, Maxwell, Robertson, I.McCulloch, Rodman, McDicken, McSherry, Fleming, Eddie, Sheed and Smith.
At the AGM in early 1975, chairman Bob Thyne announced the Club had finished the promotion winning season £13,000 in the black. To stay in the black, Killie would need to get out of the First Division, and fast! In Killie’s first season in the new set up, Alan Robertson was again a model of consistency. This was vindicated by the fact that he played in every game of season 75/76. He played an amazing 42 League, League Cup, Scottish Cup and Spring Cup matches. It was of course a successful campaign with Killie finishing second to Partick Thistle.
The biggest game in this season was the Scottish Cup quarter-final against Dumbarton at Boghead. The Sons beat Killie 2-1 with John Bourke scoring one of the goals. Ian Fallis scored the Killie goal. A few months earlier Willie Fernie had done the unthinkable and sold Eddie Morrison to Morton for a small fee. Eddie’s last Killie goal was against Morton on December 27th 1975. Ian Fleming was sold to Aberdeen for £15,000! Stewart McLean though, who had joined Killie the previous season, became Alan’s full back partner. Big D began the season as centre half, before giving way to Paul Clarke, as the manager tried to find Brian Rodman’s central defensive partner. We would need to wait a few seasons before Paul and Derrick joined Alan Robertson and Stewart McLean as Killie’s legendary back four line up.
The chairman was determined to keep Killie in the black in our first season in the Premier Division. £30,000 was spent upgrading the floodlights. Brian Rodman was sold to Ayr United for £10,000, with Frank Welsh taking over the central defensive role. Ground admission was increased by 40% to 70p. Killie though would find it hard going in the Premier League. Willie Fernie always said that part time football was too big a handicap for Premier League survival. Killie’s first ever Premier League fixture was against Motherwell at Rugby Park on the 4th September 1976, watched by 5,163. The Killie team that day was; Stewart, McLean, Robertson, Murdoch, Clarke, Welsh, Provan, McCulloch, Fallis, Sheed and Smith. Killie drew 1-1 with Paul Clarke scoring Killie’s first ever Premier League goal.
At the end of the season Killie would be relegated with only four league victories. There were though a few high points from the campaign, most notably the 6-1 annihilation of Ayr United! Ian Fallis scored a hat-trick. Alan Robertson scored two league goals in this season, one in a 2-1 victory against Hearts and the other in a fine 1-0 victory at home against Rangers, watched by 8,037. Other high points was Alan Robertson playing in every Killie game of this season 76/77. Jim Stewart made his debut for Scotland in this season.
Season 77/78 would be remembered for being both disappointing and extremely sad. The popular Ian Fallis was tragically killed in a car crash. A benefit match was arranged with Rangers. The Ibrox club was extremely helpful, sending Colin Stein on loan. Killie finished the season in sixth place. The ‘Gordon Smith Affair’ occurred in August 77. The selling of top Killie players continued to disappoint the fans as Cowboy McCulloch was sold to Notts County for £80,000 and a few months later Jim Stewart to Middlesborough for £100,000.
On December 10th 1977, Alan missed his first Killie game since Willie Fernie’s first game in charge on October 6th 1973! That’s 144 consecutive league games spanning five seasons! Willie Fernie had been sacked after a midweek home defeat by St Johnstone. Davie Sneddon took over in a caretaker role, before the appointment was made permanent, although the appointment was part time. In Willie Fernie’s 185 first class games in charge, Alan Robertson would play in all of them, except one, the 2-2 home draw with Arbroath on 30th November 1974. In the fixture congested season of 76/77 he played in every game, all 47 of them.
Season 78/79 was the first season the legendary back four of McLean, Robertson, Clarke and McDicken would line up together for a consistent number of games. With Alan McCulloch recalled from his loan spell with Alex Ferguson's St Mirren, the stage was set for a long and successful season. Killie would return to the Premier League as runners up to Tommy Gemmil’s Dundee. Of the forty-four games played in this season, the Killie left back would miss only two of them.
Killie continued its selling policy when Davie Provan was sold to Celtic for £125,000. Davie Sneddon was given money to spend though and he spent wisely. Killie fan Jim Clark arrived from Stirling Albion and with John Bourke arriving from Dundee United, Killie proved too good for their First Division opponents. Remarkably, in Killie’s return to the Premier League, Paul Clarke would again score in Killie’s opening fixture, this time in a 2-2 draw with St Mirren at Love Street.
From 29th December 1979 until April 5th 1980, Alan suffered his first long term injury. He did however play in the epic 5-5 agg. (aet) draw with Greenock Morton in the League Cup quarter final on the 24th November 1979. In this season Alan played in the two home victories against Rangers. The team set a record when they successfully maintained their Premier League status, an excellent feat considering the Club was part time. The Club wouldn’t repeat the feat for 13 years.
The following season Killie’s part time status would again prove too big a handicap. Coupled with a lengthening injury list survival was too tall an order. Indeed Killie never won a home game until 20th January 1981. Alan’s name was added to the injury list on 29th November and he played no further part in the season. Davie Sneddon was replaced as manager by Jim Clunie.
In the new manager’s first season in charge, Killie would return to the Premier League again for the third time in six years, finishing second to Motherwell. Alan Robertson would play his part, playing in all 39 league matches. Killie would enter the last game of the season one place below second placed Hearts and they needed to win by five clear goals, if Hearts drew to win promotion. Killie won their game 6-0 against QOS, with Hearts losing 1-0 to champions Motherwell.
Although entering the Premier League with confidence, the Premier League’s elite clubs were arguably at their strongest, with Aberdeen, Dundee United and the Old Firm all making an impact in Europe. Killie, again ravaged by injuries, would only win three games all season, Alan, also injured, would only play in one third of the league programme. Despite being such a consistent performer, Killie was a part-time club and could hold no real Premier ambitions unless they took the giant step forward to full-time football. With little money, the Club continued to hold its own until the fateful season of 88/89.
In October '84 Alan, in his eleventh year with Club, played under his fifth manager when Eddie Morrison took over from Jim Clunie. He had now played in one successful old Second Division and three successful First Division promotion campaigns, totalling 321 games. On the 20th September 1986, in a league fixture against Brechin City at Glebe Park, Alan broke through the Frank Beattie league appearance record when he made his 422nd starting league appearance for the Club in a 2-2 draw.
Killie though began to struggle in the First Division. After only three games of the 87/88 season, Alan’s testimonial year, there were demonstration against the board. The board however had no money and welcomed financial assistance if anyone was interested. A meeting was arranged with supporters that attracted over 300 fans. Robert Maxwell was approached but wasn’t interested (thankfully). Alan played in 27 of the 44 game league programme. He missed the last match with Partick Thistle, with Killie winning 1-0 to avoid the dreaded drop to Division Two. Alan using his wealth of experience, helped out as coach from May until December 88.
In August 88, Alan, one month short of his 36th birthday, had his thoroughly deserved testimonial match. An excellent attendance of 9,649 turned out to pay tribute to a loyal servant. Killie played a full strength Rangers side who won 3-1. An excellent testimonial sum of £25,000 was raised. In the fateful season 88/89, Alan had a new manager, his sixth, with Jim Fleeting taking over from Eddie Morrison. Alan’s last match for Killie was on the 29th November 1988, in a league match against St Johnstone. Shortly after he was freed. After an amazing 607 appearances, four relegations, four promotions, nine goals, six managers, record league appearance holder, covering seventeen years, Alan decided to hang up his boots.
The big man was an extremely reliable performer, who could play in either full back position or central defence. He had excellent anticipation in the tackle, always tackling strongly but fairly. He was always ready to go on the overlap, providing Killie’s predatory strikers, especially in the Fleming Morrison era, with lots of chances from his inch perfect crosses. Many supporters always maintain that if the 79/80 side of McCulloch, McLean, Robertson, Clark, Clarke, McDicken, Maxwell, Gibson, Bourke, Mauchlen and Street had the benefit of all the advantages that full time football brings, Killie may have consolidated its Premier League position. It wasn’t to be, but the era did provide some outstanding servants, none more so than Alan Robertson.
Dec 14th 2012 Kenny Shiels on Alan Robertson & Killie's Youth Development Program... “ When Michael Johnston gave me the manager’s job we never spoke about the youth development aspect. But I’ve always been mindful of it in my coaching career. Good management is leaving behind stability and a legacy of players coming through. That’s exactly what I want for Kilmarnock. So when I get fired, or whatever else happens to me, the next man coming in inheriting something good. Alan’s done a magnificent job with the youths. He’s been given more of a key role while also being involved closer with the first team players. I need to utilise Alan’s skills. I don’t know if that’s been done in the past. But he’s a good judge of a player and also has a good knowledge of the game. Alan, of course, is also a great Kilmarnock man. His association with this club as player and coach speaks for itself. He has massive integrity in how he works with young players - and for me that’s a great attribute. I know he is someone I can trust and that’s the key to any successful youth programme. We have to manage our young players in a way that makes them feel wanted. If they feel wanted then they express themselves much more freely. And these boys are expressing themselves at the minute.”