Who better qualified to pick a Juniors dream team than John Gibson, whose career has come full circle since he started out as a teenage midfield protege with Blantyre Vics?

Nowadays the proud manager of his hometown team, Gibby can lay claim to having encountered a veritable array of the very best footballing talents as a player with the likes of Hamilton Accies, Alloa, Stenhousemuir and Auchinleck Talbot as well as in various dugout roles at Talbot, Lanark United, Bellshill Athletic, Shotts Bon Accord and of course Castle Park.

Asking him to put his thoughts down in an actual 4-4-2 line-up was always going to be a task fraught with all manner of difficulties and one not made any easier by barring him from picking any of his current Vics side.

GOALKEEPER: Gibby was a great admirer of former Arthurlie and Pollok No.1 Kris Robertson but feels even his terrific shotstopping qualities are bettered by one time Auchinleck and Junior Scotland custodian Stuart McIntosh.

He recalled: “I was privileged to play in the same team as Tosh as well as working with him as assistant manager under Tam McDonald and his sheer consistency marked him out as extra special at a time when Talbot were not as all-conquering as nowadays.

“That said, the stand-out goalkeeper in my recollections has to be the current Rutherglen Glencairn goalkeeper Garry Whyte, whom I remember signing for Shotts as a raw 19-year-old released by St Mirren.

“Garry was nothing short of phenomenal during his time at Hannah Park and the only criticism I can make of him is that he underachieved big style in moving to Shettleston instead of going on to play at a higher level of the game because someone of his abilities deserved no less.”

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RIGHT-BACK: Gibby believes current Auchinleck skipper Willie Lyle’s value to the Ayrshiremen is often underrated and he similarly speaks highly of the outstanding defensive contribution made by Beechwood legend Gavin Duncan however he has plumped for Tam Hanlon to protect his dream team’s right flank.

He insisted: "Tam can be his own worst enemy particularly when it comes to giving referees a piece of his mind but what an asset he is to any team.

“He’s probably better known for his latter-day spell spent with Pollok yet I think his finest days were as a player with Lanark United, where we deployed him either at sweeper or right-back because he was superb in either role.

“Competitive to a fault, making him not unlike my former Vics team-mate Andy Galt in that respect, Tam also had a turn of pace for recovery and was a dead-ball expert whose deliveries brought us many goals so I would always have him as one of my first picks.”

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LEFT-BACK: Often a problem position for managers but Gibby feels blessed to have worked with Paul Burns (Shotts) when he was at his peak as well as the similarly accomplished Kevin McBride.

He mused: “Both were great passers of the ball coming out of defence with Paul probably better going forward and Kevin more dependable in and around his own penalty box so both are outstanding candidates.

“But instead of someone from yesteryear I cannot see past the current Darvel captain Daryll Meggatt to fill the role as he’s probably the most impressive defender I’ve seen in recent seasons.

“Mick Kennedy alternates between using him as a central defender but I just feel his solidity and ball-winning qualities would shore up any threat of danger down the left side.”

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CENTRAL DEFENDERS: Coming up with the right combination is far more difficult than simply picking out the best individuals according to Gibby who waxed lyrically about  great exponents of an old-school “they shall not pass” attitude, such as his Vics No.2 Paul McAnenay (Auchinleck), Bryan Wharton (Shotts) and former Blantyre team-mate Tommy Langlands (now sadly deceased).

He insisted: “You would happily go into battle with any of those three by your side and another competitive type cut from the same cloth is Peter McMahon who was a revelation at Shotts until he was forced to quit the game prematurely.

“Eventually I narrowed my many choices down to another Shotts stalwart who hung up the boots far too early for my liking, Chris “Giant” Walker, someone not blessed with great pace or skill on the ball but you could trust him to go and attack any ball fired into the penalty box and know he would more often than not come up trumps.

“Giant's physicality is the perfect blend for my other central defender, Kevin McDonald who was a midfielder at Bellshill Athletic until I took him aside one training night to spell out a few home truths.

“I told Kev he didn’t have a burst of pace to get away from opponents, wasn’t the best user of the ball under pressure and didn’t score enough goals so we wanted to try him out in a sweeper role and the rest, as they say, is history.

“His ability to read the game so well made him a natural in the position and it was no surprise he moved on to become the cornerstone of very successful Irvine Meadow and Beith sides over a number of years as well as earning Junior Scotland recognition.”


MIDFIELD: Getting the right balance across a team’s engine room was arguably the most difficult job for Gibby even though he had played in there himself to great effect.

He owned up to being in awe of the playmaking skills of ex-Maryhill and Pollok legend Martin Nelson while he also salivated over the box-to–box qualities of another pair of former Newlandsfield aces, Raymond Logan and David McGowan.

The 53-year-old insisted: “They were wonderful players, as was Craig Stark whom we had at Lanark United and was equally at home playing in a midfield sitting role to protect his backline or getting onto the end of crosses in the other penalty box.

“Starky was just an outstanding Junior and the very same description applies to Taz (Paul Mckenzie) whose energy and drive has been a huge factor in Hurlford United’s emergence as a force in the game over the past decade.

“Taz would play down the right side in my dream team while the other flank would have the former Lanark United winger Paul Woods, so technically gifted and always likely to create in one-to-one situations.

“Pulling all the strings would be the mercurial Davie Anderson (Kilbirnie Ladeside) probably the best midfielder I have ever seen at Junior level and that’s not something I say lightly given the guys I’ve previously mentioned.

“Beside him I simply cannot overlook the merits of my own former Vics player Ross Caldwell whose grounding as a Hibs player made him crucial to our promotion-winning side last season.

“Unfortunately he was lured away by Darvel and though not best pleased over the manner of his departure, I must give credit where credit is due and admit he has few peers as an attacking midfielder and deserves all the plaudits going (as well as a place in my dream team) for his displays at the Vics."

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STRIKERS: Choosing his favoured pairing caused few difficulties for Gibby even though he professed to having come across so many top-notch frontmen during his career.

He has abiding memories of the Bryan Dingwall/Robert Downs partnership at Pollok and has fond memories of playing in the same Stenhousemuir team as Martin McLauchlan (Pollok) while he admits to reluctantly relegating legendary Auchinleck Talbot ace John Boyle, one of the game’s outstanding finishers, to a mere place on the bench but thinks he had no other choice.

That’s because Gibby reckons the forward who ticks all the boxes for him is former Lanark United star turn Dougie Imrie who went on to forge a wonderful senior career for himself after fronting the Yowes to Evening Times Cup glory in 2005.

Gibby said: “That season, Dougie scored over 40 goals for us and I gave Badger (Hamilton Accies boss Billy Reid) the heads up that we had a special talent on our hands but he scoffed and said any decent striker could net 40 goals at Junior level.

“Graham Roberts then signed Dougie for Clyde and he subsequently joined Inverness Caley before Badger forked out a near £40K sum to land him for the Accies and I never let him forget he could have got him for nothing.

"To partner Dougie, I would have a player I took to Lanark  United, after I first spotted  him scoring five goals in a Sunday  amateur game in Blantyre - Stefan McLuskey.

“He was sensational as a Lanark player and arguably even better after moving to Shotts where he was a key part of their Scottish Cup-winning side.”

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Gibby’s dream team, which he firmly believes will take some beating,  therefore reads as: Whyte, Hanlon, Walker, McDonald, Meggatt, McKenzie, Anderson, Caldwell, Woods, McLuskey, Imrie. Substitutes: Wharton, Nelson, Boyle, McLauchlan, McIntosh.