THE Helensburgh district’s most famous home-grown footballer of the modern era is Rangers and Scotland striker Derek Parlane.
The Rhu youngster made his Rangers debut in the cauldron atmosphere of a European Cup-Winners Cup semi-final against Bayern Munich at Ibrox — and scored.
Now a sales manager with Jacuzzi UK and living in the Lancashire coastal resort of Lytham St Annes, 55-year-old Derek's football career followed very much in the footsteps of his father, Jimmy, as both played for Rangers, Manchester City and Airdrie.
Born in Helensburgh on May 5 1953, he grew up with older brother Ian, a talented amateur defender who played for Arrochar, and younger brother Nigel, now a policeman in London and also highly thought of as a young footballer.
Derek made his football debut for Rhu Primary School at the Rhu Amateurs ground, Ardenconnel Park, just along the road from his home.
"I well remember a cup final we played there, the only game we ever let my mum attend,” he said. “It was a local derby against Garelochhead Primary, and in those days I was playing right back and was told to stand on the corner of our 18-yard box, even if the ball was in the opposition half.
"Although we won 1-0, my mum really fell out with the Garelochhead janitor who had said something less than complimentary about her wee boy. From that moment she was banned from the touchline by the rest of the family whenever I was playing!"
Jimmy Parlane was a nurseryman who ran the family market garden after his football career was over. He met his wife Margaret when he was on a Rangers tour to Northern Ireland.
"After Rangers came home they kept in touch and eventually my dad went back over to take her back to Scotland to get married,” Derek said.
Educated at Hermitage Academy, he recalls: "Gus MacWilliams, the janitor at the academy was quite influential as he not only taught me discipline, but he got me in the football team and supported my cause.
"I used to play for the academy in the morning and in the afternoon I would go up and play for Dumbarton team, Castle Rock, before Queen's Park came along and asked me to train with them.
"Former Rangers player Harry Davis was one of the trainers at Queen's Park and he taught me a great deal about personal discipline, how to look after myself, and how to behave myself on and off the park.
"I used to get the bus from Rhu to Helensburgh, the train from Helensburgh to Glasgow and the underground from the middle of Glasgow out towards Hampden, and then walk the last few hundred yards to the ground. I suppose for a 14-year old it was a bit of an adventure.
"I got my big break playing for Queen's Park second team at Lesser Hampden against the pick of the Scottish under-17 amateurs. I was only 15, but scored both goals from midfield and was selected to play for Scotland amateurs in the home internationals.
"By this time I was 16 and I scored a hat-trick for Scotland against Northern Ireland at Clydebank's Kilbowie Park. That was when the phone started ringing and all sorts of clubs got in touch with my dad — Middlesbrough, Aberdeen, Arsenal and Rangers.
"My dad's former Ibrox team-mates, Willie Waddell and Willie Thornton, came down to the house one afternoon. I was a bag of nerves on the sofa, and I couldn't really believe these two great men of Scottish football were sitting in my mum and dad's house.
"They wanted me to sign schoolboy forms, but my dad insisted that if I wasn't offered a full-time professional contract I would be going elsewhere. When he said that I almost fell off the seat, but obviously he was doing the right thing, and later that afternoon I signed for Rangers.
“Although I was still at school and technically preparing for my exams, as soon as I knew that I was going to be a professional footballer that was all that was in my head, and the exams were put on the back-burner."
His life was never to be the same again, and at the end of term he started pre-season training, along with the other new recruits, including a 16-year-old Dundonian called Derek Johnstone.
"I found it really strange for a start as there was no distinction between first team, reserves or new lads — we all trained together,” he said.
"Here I was training with these legends. I had posters on my walls of people such as John Greig, Colin Stein, Willie Henderson, Willie Johnston and Ronnie MacKinnon. I must admit for a start I was totally blown away by it all.
"There's no bigger place for mickey-taking than a football dressing-room, but the players, and particularly John Greig, looked after me.
"When I first made it into the first team, Greig was a minder to me. He would always be there for a friendly word of advice, and if I was taking a bit of stick from an opponent, John would soon be there to sort it out in his own way.
"Our reserve team coach, Stan Anderson, who was also the manager of Clyde, was another who helped me, telling me that I had to come out of my shell if I wanted to survive as a full-time footballer.
"I grew up quickly and in season 1972/73 Rangers had a great run in the Cup-Winners Cup. In one of the earlier rounds I was lucky enough to be included in the travelling party which played Rennes in France.
"Willie Waddell was the manager and Jock Wallace the coach at the time, although at the end of the season Jock took over as manager.
"I had been told as I had been doing well in the reserves I had been included in the squad to give me some experience. But I played no further part in that cup run until the semi-final against Bayern Munich.
"We had drawn the first leg in Germany, much against the run of play, as Bayern had great players like Sepp Maier in goal, Franz Beckenbauer at the back and Gerd Muller up front.
"I was in the travelling party, but when the team was announced for the return in Glasgow, I had been pulled into the squad as John Greig was injured. When we were called into the dressingroom an hour and half before the game, I was told I would be wearing the no.4 shirt.
"I was 18 and had been at the club a year and a half, and here I was about to make my Rangers debut in the semi-final of a European competition against one of the best sides in the world.
"My dad later told me he was in the stand when the Rangers team was read out over the tannoy and he had to ask someone sitting close by if the announcer really did say I was playing at no.4.
"It came as much of a surprise to them. I was told to go out and mark Munich's Franz Roth, who was built like a brick outbuilding and was their playmaker.
"Sandy Jardine scored in the first five minutes to put us 1-0 up. After 22 minutes their goalkeeper punched the ball out from a corner to the edge of the 18-yard box. I caught it on the half volley and it rocketed into the top corner of the net to give us a 2-0 win and take us into the final."
However he was confined to the subs bench as Rangers defeated Moscow Dynamo 3-2 in the famous final in Barcelona.
"The next season Colin Stein was transferred to Coventry City. I was amazed when Jock Wallace called me into his office during the 1973-74 pre-season build-up and told me he felt I could fill Stein's no.9 shirt, and threw it to me — I never looked back,” he recalled.
"I scored more than 30 goals that season and ended up leading scorer as I was a bit of an unknown quantity, although I did have pace, was pretty good in the air, and had a powerful shot.
"At the end of my first season we played Celtic in the 1973 Centenary Cup final. We beat them 3-2 and I scored one of the goals on my 20th birthday, so May 5, 1973, will live long in my memory."
After ten seasons at Ibrox, Derek left in March 1980 and joined Leeds United at Elland Road for £160,000. The move was not a success.
He said: "Leeds were still living on past glories. I was bought by ex-Burnley legend Jimmy Adamson, an old-style manager, and the fans too were living in the past as the Don Revie days had long gone.
"I made my debut for Leeds at home against an experienced Southampton side which included Peter Shilton, Alan Ball and Mick Channon. The fans displayed banners calling for Adamson's resignation, but we won 2-0 and I scored the second.
"We finished mid-table that season, but it went from bad to worse for me the season after, as I missed most of it with a broken ankle and the club wast relegated.
"Adamson had been sacked two or three months into my Leeds career and former striker Allan Clarke took over as manager. He bought Peter Barnes from Manchester City for £1million and promised he would win us the league — we ended up getting relegated.
"Clarke was sacked and former player Eddie Gray got the job, and I actually went on loan to a club in Hong Kong called Bulova, a club owned by a watch company, to help me recover from my broken ankle and build up a bit of confidence by scoring some goals.
"As I had done so well, my three-month loan period was extended until the end of their season and I loved every minute of it and scored a load of goals before coming back to join Manchester City in 1983.
"I scored 21 goals in my first season at Maine Road and we just missed out on promotion with Billy McNeill as the manager. I enjoyed that season, but halfway through my second season I joined Swansea on loan under ex-Norwich City manager John Bond."
After his loan spell at the Vetch Field ended, Derek had another short spell in Hong Kong with South China, and then a brief period with a Belgian team called Racing Jet, before coming back to the UK and joining Rochdale.
"It may not be everyone's idea of a fun football club, but under chairman Tommy Cannon, one half of Cannon and Ball, I had a great time there,” he said.
"Eddie Gray was the manager and I have to say my time at Rochdale was as happy as any I experienced in 18 years in professional football, even although we were mid-table in the old fourth division.
"We had a great set of fans, a great manager in Eddie Gray and with Tommy Cannon as chairman, the social side was fantastic.
"Latterly, I went up to play for Gordon McQueen at Airdrie for a couple of seasons before returning south of the border and finishing my career in the Conference with Macclesfield Town in 1990."
Derek earned 12 caps for Scotland, but endured a less than memorable debut.
He recalls: "My first Scottish cap was in a home international in Wales. I broke my ankle in the first half when Mike England, the former Tottenham Hotspur centre half, clattered me, and Colin Stein who, funnily enough, I had replaced at Rangers, came on to replace me.
"Although the injury was a bad one it didn't finish my international career, although my appearances were limited because of a certain duo called Jordan and Dalglish up front.
"I scored one goal for Scotland, the night I partnered Kenny Dalglish up front against Northern Ireland in a home international at Hampden.
"I went part-time with Macclesfield in 1988 and when a friend of mine from those days in Hong Kong, who was a sportswear manufacturer, phoned me up, I kind of stumbled into selling sportswear for Reebok."
He added: "All those years ago, when I was about to sign for Rangers, if you had told me then what I would enjoy and achieve in the game, I would never have believed you."
A Tribute Dinner for Derek is to be held in the Thistle Glasgow Hotel in Cambridge Street on Friday October 1 2010 when his ten years at Ibrox will be celebrated. Tickets are now on sale, price £70, and the event will include a three course dinner with guest speakers including former SFA chief executive Gordon Smith, VIP lounge, and fantastic auction items.
Derek said: “I'm looking forward to what I'm sure will be a fantastic night. It will be great to see old friends and former playing colleagues once again.”
For further information about the dinner, visit his website.
■ This article is based on one which appeared in the Aberdeen Press and Journal, and material from the original is reproduced with the kind permission of the editor, Derek Tucker.