Morton legend Davie Wylie recently left the club as part of changes to the coaching staff made at the end of the season but will always be held in the highest esteem by everyone at Cappielow.
The Johnstone-born goalkeeper was signed by Allan McGraw from Ferguslie United in the summer 1985 after a successful trial under previous manager Willie McLean.
Wylie made a surprise Ton debut as a teenager in a Division One fixture away at Forfar Athletic on 23 November of that year.
“I remember the game well,” Davie recalled in an interview for the matchday programme. “Allan McGraw used to put a list of players up on the wall at the end of the week, basically a squad list. Not the team itself.
“I was up there with another keeper, whose name escapes me, and I thought this was brilliant. Anyway, the other keeper wasn’t at his pick-up point on the way to Forfar.
“When we arrived the manager said: ‘You’re playing!’ And that was it! I was a bag of nerves. We got beat 2-0 and I did okay. The gaffer thought so anyway.”
It was the beginning of a 13-year footballing love affair that saw the shot-stopper make an incredible 556 appearances for the club. Only former team-mate Derek Collins has turned out for the Ton more.
An agile shot-stopper with incredible reflexes, Wylie established himself as the undisputed No.1 and helped the club clinch two championship titles, the First Division in 1986/87 and the Second Division in 1994/95.
“It was great winning trophies with that team – you are friends for life,” he said. “And obviously some of the important saves stick in the memory. One in particular was when we won the league against Dumbarton in 1995.
“A corner came over to back post, it moved back to the front post, their forward then hit it on the half volley and it was heading for the net but I managed to get my hand to it.
“Another save that sticks in my mind was when we played Ayr United down at Somerset Park. It was 0-0 at the time and Davie Irons came in and bulleted a header from a corner. I saved, and held, it.
“Jim Holmes came up to me, pushed me and said: ‘brilliant save, son.’ For the captain to say that was a massive moment for me, as a 19-year-old boy. We went on to win that game and I felt a million dollars.”
Davie was rewarded with a testimonial match against a Rangers team that included future FIFA World Cup and UEFA Champions League winner Rino Gattuso on Friday 5 September 1997.
The Ibrox outfit won 2-0 thanks to a double from a certain 17-year-old striker, Peter MacDonald, and boss Allan McGraw paid tribute to his long-time player in the match programme.
“David Wylie has been a great servant to this club,” wrote the man known as Mr Morton. “David was my first signing as manager, and is one of the best signings I ever made for this club.
“He has been a very consistent goalkeeper. In fact, I consider him to be one of the best goalkeepers in Scotland. He has been my No.1 for 10 years, and there are not many managers in Scotland who can say that.
“All I can say to David is to thank him for everything he has put into games for Greenock Morton Football Club.”
When asked to pick out Ton team-mates who stood out from his playing days, Jim Hunter was the first name to spring to the 53-year-old’s mind.
And ‘Flipper’ was also a huge admirer of Wylie. “David and I go back quite a years together,” Hunter wrote. “Way back to Under-21 football. Davie with Ferguslie and me with Glentyan Thistle.
“I’m glad he was on my side after that. I had the chance to play alongside a brilliant and reliable goalkeeper over the years. I don’t know how many appearances he made for Morton, but I could count the bad ones on one hand.”
The statistics certainly back up Hunter’s assessment of his colleague’s performances: Davie is out in front at the top of the list of Ton’s record shutout holders with 150 clean sheets – 60 clear of Roy Baines in second!
After leaving Cappielow in September 1998 his career took him to Clyde, Clydebank, Renfrew Juniors, Gretna, and St Mirren before finding his way back to Sinclair Street as part of the coaching staff in 2009.
“It was actually when I was down at Gretna with Rowan Alexander and he asked me if I fancied being his keeper coach,” Davie explained.
“I was also at Dundee for a while, doing match and training analysis. Then, when Davie Irons got the job at Morton, he brought me in as goalkeeper coach here.”
His playing days weren’t quite behind him, however, as he briefly came out of retirement during the 2009/10 campaign aged 43 to twice sit on the bench as back-up during an injury crisis.
He combined the position of goalkeeper coach with a job at Highland Spring for seven seasons before taking up a full-time role with the club for the past two years.
During his decade training club custodians, he worked with the likes of Kevin Cuthbert, Colin Stewart, Alan Combe, Derek Gaston, Nicolas Caraux, Grant Adam, Andy McNeil, Jamie McGowan, and Robby McCrorie.
A dedicated and committed servant, Davie leaves a wonderful legacy. We thank him for his valued contribution over a combined 23 years of distinguished service at Cappielow and wish him the very best for the future.
“On behalf of everyone a Morton, I would like to thank David for the years of dedicated service that he has given to Morton, he has been an outstanding servant to and ambassador for the club,” writes chairman Crawford Rae.
“While David’s playing days will remain in Morton folklore forever, the Cat was not only a magnificent keeper, he has been a great motivator and a wonderful man to have around the dressing room.
“David leaves in the knowledge that he has helped and coached so many young keepers to achieve a higher level and we hope that he gets back into another coaching role very quickly.
“Thank you for your time, my friend, and we would be delighted to welcome you back to Cappielow at any time.”
Image (main): David Bell