Fond farewell to Clachnacuddin youth coach after 17 years service
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HE helped nurture, improve and inspire generations of young footballers in Inverness, from former Caley Thistle captain Mark McCulloch to present-day first team prospect Cameron Harper.
It is fair to say Alan Gillies (78) leaves a fine legacy in local youth coaching as he hangs up his boots after 50 years’ dedicated involvement on the training ground.
Some 17 years of that volunteer career was spent with Clachnacuddin at every age group from under 15s down, with the club recognising his contribution with the presentation of a commemorative plaque.
The Drakies resident, a retired insurance broker, also previously held the post of head of youth for the Lilywhites and was honoured by the Highland League side’s current holder of that position, Bobby Beckwith.
“It was very much unexpected, but a lovely gesture from Clach,” Gillies said.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my years helping the younger players and it has been nice to see so many progress and improve and, in some cases, eventually go onto better things in their career, whether in the Highland League or with senior clubs.
“We’re all volunteers you’ve got to give up a lot of your home life to do it but, fortunately, I’ve got a very understanding and long-suffering wife, Sandra.
“You develop your own way of doing things, but I picked up a lot over the years by watching other coaches. I learned a lot from the late John Beaton, watching what he and other coaches did.
“I’ve reached the age now – I’m 79 in October – where the old bones don’t stand up to it quite the same in the middle of winter!
“But I’ve said if they are ever stuck for any of the age groups, I can step in to help.”
The lifetime’s labour of love started around half a century ago in Kirkintilloch and, on moving to Inverness, Gillies spent the best part of 30 years coaching in the Inverness Street League and at Drakies Primary School.
Invited to join Clach in 2004, he became a familiar face and influence to many talented kids passing through the Merkinch club’s cub ranks.
Beckwith, who stepped down as Clach’s women’s coach last year, is full of admiration for the service given to the club by the retiring coach.
“Like all the coaches at Clach, he’s a volunteer and there are not enough good words to commend Alan,” he said. “He’s been a great servant to the club with the incredible number hours put in, two nights a week and weekends, over 17 years.”