Malky McDonald

Former Killie and Celtic player Malky McDonald was Killie boss over two spells from 1953-57 and 1965-67, during which time he improved the on-field fortunes of the club greatly.

He spoke with Ross McKenzie before his death and offered some fantastic reminiscences of his time with the club...

When Raymond Montgomerie hoisted the Scottish Cup aloft at a sun drenched, emotion soaked Ibrox on 24th May 1997, there was one man watching from the stands who perhaps felt that after 40 years justice had been done.

Malcolm MacDonald had watched his Kilmarnock side lose 2-1 to Falkirk after a replay back in the '57 final. Now approaching 85 years of age and still living in his adopted Ayrshire, it was a pleasure to meet him and take a stroll down memory lane.

Malky was born in Glasgow on 26th October 1913.

'My father was a wee highland man who was not very worldly and didn't know anything about football. He knew his son played the game, but that was about all. Sometimes he would come and watch me play, but mostly he worked on a Saturday. I was already a schoolboy internationalist when luckily some of the teachers took an interest in me. They were all great Celtic supporters and took me along to Celtic Park for trials and all the rest of it. The thing that impressed me most of all was that I could get into Celtic Park to watch the games without paying. I was still at secondary school when I got word to turn up to play against Partick Thistle at Firhill. I was given a game at outside left, and all the lads accepted me even though I was just a rookie. I can always remember one who would say to me, 'If I have the ball and you want it Malcolm just shout for it and I'll pass, but make sure it's the right bloody shout!''

In other words, only shout for the ball when you know that you can hang onto it and not give it straight back to the opposition.

Malky signed for Kilmarnock on loan in 1940, making his debut against Rangers on the 15th May. In total, he made 34 appearances before leaving to join Brentford in 1946. He has happy memories of his time down south.
'I made very good friends when I went down there. To begin with, I was in digs where I got to know some people who took me out and about. They used to go to the old time dancing and I got roped into that. My wife came down from Scotland to join me and we became very settled there.'

Four years later he returned to Rugby Park as manager.

'The club were languishing in the old 'B' division and expectations were low. I was lucky in that there was nothing great expected of me. We were struggling to find our place in football, let alone challenge for any honours. We had been in the wilderness, but there were some good players at the club, particularly the more senior players.'

The first couple of seasons were tough, with Malky forced to pull on the boots himself. The 1952/53 season saw a good league cup run, beating Rangers in the semi-final only to lose to Dundee in the final. The new manager was slowly, but surely turning the club around and the following season saw Killie win promotion to the 'A' Division.


'There were fixed ideas back then regarding styles of play. Because you were in a lower division you were expected to employ hard men to get you out. I bought a boy called Willie Toner. I had great faith in Willie. Instead of being a 'stopper' centre half, he was a fellow who could come forward with the ball and use it wisely. We would make allowances if he did come forward; someone would fill in behind. I always remember the dictum was, 'if you have the ball, then they haven't got it and if they haven't got the ball, they can't do any damage. My goalkeeper of the time, Jimmy Brown was another character and a right wag. He carried a lot of weight in the dressing room and he would some times manage the rest of the players.'

Around this time Malky was fighting his case for floodlights (the board considered them too expensive). Ultimately it was only the promise of a visit from the mighty Manchester United which settled it.

'Matt Busby was the United manager at the time and I was lucky that I knew him. It gave me a bit of bargaining power in that if the floodlights were purchased, I could persuade Matt to bring his United team up for a game.'

At the end of season 1956/57 after finishing 3rd in the league and reaching the cup final, Malcolm Macdonald was surprisingly allowed to leave Rugby Park. (He never had a contract in all his time at Kilmarnock). He returned south to manage Brentford for a few seasons before finally returning to Rugby Park in the wake of Willie Waddell's departure.

During his second spell as manager he signed Gerry Queen from St. Mirren and in February 1967, he gave a debut to a young 19 year old called Eddie Morrison, not to mention reaching the semi-finals of the Fairs Cup.

Several decades on, Malky still looks back with fondness on his time at Rugby Park

'I was very lucky with the people who were at the club when I was there. To many of the players, I wasn't the manager, I was still Malcolm Macdonald the player. I was fortunate that I made some great friends. I did things that would be frowned upon today, for example socialising with the players. I always remember them saying, 'You cannae dae this Malky or you cannae dae that!'. I did try to promote the club. If a foreign team was coming over to this country to play, we would try to fix up a game with them. If I was proud of anything, it was that I encouraged a lot of foreign teams to come to Rugby Park, opening the club up to new methods and ideas. I had my ups and downs as a player and a manager, but I suppose that you have that in any walk of life.'

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