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Tributes to former Inverness and Nairn footballer Brian Derby following his death aged 75

By Val Sweeney

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Tribute has been paid to former Nairn County player Brian Derby who has died aged 75.
Tribute has been paid to former Nairn County player Brian Derby who has died aged 75.

Fond tribute has been paid to a former guitar-playing Highland football player who has died at his home in New Zealand, aged 75.

Brian Derby, who played in central defence for Nairn County and Caledonian FC in the 1970s and early 1980s and later became a coach, was well known for his sense of humour.

Those paying tribute included former Caledonian striker Raymond MacKintosh who also lives in New Zealand and recalled his former footballing colleague as one of the “best performers when it mattered most”.

Mr Derby, who leaves a wife, Susan, two children and four grandchildren, was also regarded as “a fun loving prankster who adored his family and had a life long passion for football and music”.

His funeral, which will be held in New Zealand tomorrow afternoon, will be live-streamed at www.jasonmorrison.co.nz/tributes.

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In a post on social media, Nairn County FC said everyone at the club was saddened to learn of the passing of the legendary championship-winning defender,

It stated: “Brian played a huge role in our only Highland League championship success in season 1975/76 as a regular in manager Innes MacDonald's team.

“Indeed, he was one of Innes's first signings as manager when he joined the club in the summer of 1973 and after two years of steady improvement, the County team was ready for a tilt at the championship ahead of the 1975/76 season.”

In the opening game, he scored the only goal in a 1-0 away win against Ross County and also scored two goals in a crucial 5-3 away win over league leaders, Caledonian on October 18.

After playing in the Inverness Cup final when Nairn County lost in a 3-2 extra time defeat to Inverness Thistle, he then missed out on a championship-winning playoff against Fraserburgh in bizarre circumstances after moving to Jersey for work.

The post relates: “Despite frantic attempts by Innes MacDonald and others to track down Brian, including going through the Jersey Police, it was not to be and the team went into the match without him, eventually taking the title home thanks to goals from Alex Gordon and an extra time winner by Peter Robertson.

“Brian was back in the area in time for the next season, though, and any disappointment in missing out on the playoff match was put to one side as he captained us to our next trophy success.

“Not only did he lead the team out on the night of the 1977 Inverness Cup final against Clachnacuddin at Kingsmills on March 16th, Brian struck the opening goal as we went on to take the trophy back to Nairn for the one and only time in a 3-1 win.”

Following a six-year association with Nairn County, he transferred to Caledonian in 1979 and later went on to coaching roles in Leeds, Barnsley and New Zealand.

Former colleague and friend Raymond MacKintosh, who had moved to New Zealand to coach football in 1987, recalled his former colleague also moving there in 2004.

“We both kept in touch with each other during that time and visited each other on several occasions,” he said.

“On my last visit to him, he insisted in giving me three brand new footballs to take back and give to my three daughters who all play football.”

He said Mr Derby would do anything for his family and gave the best he could.

“Brian was a generous, kind and loving man and an excellent football player and coach,” he said.

“I had the privilege of both playing with Brian at Inverness Caledonian FC and playing against Brian at Nairn County FC.

“Consistency was a cornerstone of Brian’s football career. Consistent, reliable, dependable, trustworthy and honest, he was one of our best performers when it mattered most.

“Brian was also a terrific coach. Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts forever.

“A great coach is hard to find but impossible to forget. This was Brian.

“Let us remember the laughter, love and joy he brought in tour life.

“May these memories continue to inspire and uplift us as we navigate this without him.”

Others posting tributes online included Donald Wilson who recalled his other interests.

“Brian was also a very talented musician singing in a local band with George Macleod and Scottie McPherson,” he said. “On occasions, he took his guitar out at the Canteen and gave a song to team mates.”

Ian Finlayson reflected: “A legend and now immortal. Thank you Brian for what you and your teammates did for our club. Never forgotten”.

Richard Konczak said: “Not only was Brian a brilliant footballer but he was the team joker, minstrel and a wonderful friend to us all.”

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