Aug 9th 2009: FULSOME tributes have been paid from throughout Scottish football and the Monklands community to former Airdrieonians & Killie star Joe Cairney.
The popular forward, a member of the unique Broomfield side which won the only Spring Cup in 1976, died suddenly following a brain haemorrhage, aged just 52. Joe made 53 appearances for Killie between 1978-81, scoring 11 goals.
Hundreds of mourners packed St Patrick’s Church in Coatbridge for his funeral last Tuesday, with many more standing outside to listen and pay their respects.
Joe was born and brought up in the Sikeside and Greenend areas of Coatbridge as part of a family of five brothers and two sisters.
He attended All Saints Primary and St Mary’s High, and went on to work at the Pye factory in Cairnhill, where he continued to be employed throughout his football career.
Joe’s playing days began at Bargeddie Amateurs, and he then moved on to Wishaw Juniors where his free-scoring form brought him to the attention of Airdrie manager Jackie Stewart.
He enjoyed three seasons with the Diamonds, playing in the team which won the short-lived Spring Cup with a 4-2 extra-time victory over Clydebank at Firhill in May 1976, and later becoming the club’s top scorer.
New manager Bobby Watson then sold the forward to Kilmarnock in 1978, and Joe became an equally popular figure at Rugby Park, delighting fans with his “Cairney Shuffle” – which he later admitted he had learned from Airdrie team mate Kevin McCann.
He moved on after two seasons in Ayrshire, briefly training with Blackpool and then following former Airdrie colleague John McVeigh to Australia, where he spent a decade playing for Brisbane City and Brisbane Lions.
Joe’s brother John said: “His Spring Cup medal was the achievement he was proudest of in his career and he always felt that those players were never really honoured.
“Other players in later years always asked what it was about because the trophy was only played for once and he was very proud to have been part of that team.
“He was prolific at Airdrie and loved playing for the club; he had great times there and was idolised as the local boy.
“When Bobby Watson sold him to Kilmarnock he didn’t want to go, but Joe was fond of Davie Sneddon, who was the manager at Rugby Park, and Davie was at the funeral along with a lot of ex-Airdrie and Kilmarnock players.
“He was famous for the Cairney Shuffle, when he’d have the ball, throw it round a player and then dip his shoulder and go the other way – he was doing that long before Cristiano Ronaldo!
“Then he went on to have a good career in Australia, where his children Angie and Ryan were born.
“Joe was a very good golfer and played off a handicap of four; he used to be a member of Mount Ellen Golf Club and right up until now, played for the Imperial Bar and won trophies on a regular basis.”
He was rushed to Monklands Hospital after collapsing suddenly at a relative’s house, and was later transferred to the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow.
John added: “The surgeons and staff were first-class – they tried everything to save Joe and couldn’t have done more for him or the family.
“He had made the decision that his organs should be donated; we were quite taken aback that he was on the donor register as he had a real phobia of needles and medical things.
“We heard that a couple of people in Newcastle got his kidneys and two babies got his heart valves; he did some good in his life and he certainly lived it to the full and enjoyed it.
“Joe was such an ebullient character and had lots of unique sayings, like cliches and one-liners that only he could have got away with and which many people wrote on the cards with their flowers.
“There were hundreds of people at the funeral, so many that there were people who couldn’t get into the church even though it’s a massive place.
“Lots of his friends from Airdrie, Kilmarnock and throughout his football career were there.
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