Willie Toner 1954-62
All clubs have players that are fondly remembered as 'stalwarts'. As far as Kilmarnock F.C are concerned, Willie Toner is certainly one of these. Every year when the press feature Killie's shocking run of results at Parkhead, this man gets to say his piece. He played that day, the last time a Killie team won at Celtic Park, but he should be remembered for much more than that. He was a truly great player for Killie and a Scottish internationalist. Here Willie Toner reflects on his life and his time spent at Rugby Park.
What were your earliest footballing memories?
Being lifted over the turnstile at five years of age to watch Shettleston Juniors play, the ground faced my house so I always wanted to play for the 'town' which I eventually did as a seventeen year old.
When did you arrive at Killie and how did the move come around?
I came home from Sheffield United in 1954 to get married to Annette, a local girl, when Malky McDonald asked me to sign for Kilmarnock. He so impressed me that I signed.
What was the clubs stature in those days?
They had just won promotion to the first division and their aim was to stay there. Kilmarnock were and still are a major player in Scottish football.
What were the people at the club like at that time?
The playing staff were great to get along with. So were physio Walter McCrae, coach Ernie Nash and of course Malky McDonald the manager. (right)
Any favourite league matches you can recall?
Hard question but their was a season (I can't remember the year!) we went twenty one games without defeat, they were all good games.
What about the 1957 cup run?
They were all hard games, we drew Celtic in the Semi-Final which I missed through injury but I did return for the replay which we won 3-1.
And the final?
We were favourites to win the cup because Falkirk were fighting relegation at the time. In the first match which we drew 1-1 I gave away a penalty, the only time I had done so all season. We lost the replay 2-1 on the Wednesday night after extra time, even worse was the fact that it was televised.
When and why did you leave Kilmarnock F.C.?
In 1962 a young player called Jackie McGrory was taking my role in the team. Walter Galbraith of Hibs asked me to sign for them as he wanted some experience to help them in their fight against relegation. I'm glad to say that his idea worked out as Hibs stayed in the first division that year.
What is your greatest memory of your time at Killie?
I have good memories of all my time at Kilmarnock especially the three cup finals but I'll never forget season 1957-58 when the Kilmarnock supporters chose me as their first ever player of the year. In 1960-61 I was voted Scotland's player of the year as well, not bad for a Killie player!
Do you feel that you achieved all you wanted in football?
I won two full caps and five league international caps while playing for Killie and I was also the team captain I consider that a major achievement. I do regret not getting a winners medal from the three cup finals I played in though.
How would you describe Willie Toner as a player?
I would like to be known as a footballing centre half not just a stopper as they were called in my time.
Did you enjoy your day at the recent cup final?
It was one of the greatest days of my life meeting Malky McDonald, Frank Beattie, Jimmy Brown, Jerry Mays, Ralph Collins, Matt Watson etc. after 40 years. We were wined and dined before and after the game and of course the 1-0 scoreline was the icing on the cake.
Your are famed for the love of your local team, Shettleston.
Yes, I was born and bred a 'town's' supporter and for the last fourteen years I have been on the committee and I hardly miss a game, but I still follow the fortunes of the Killie. So much so that at half time and full time the committee keep me informed of the score.
Your son is an up and coming 'top' referee do you ever go and see him officiate?
I have only seen him in two games, in fact I don't usually go to any senior games at all, Shettleston take up all my time.
How do you spend your time now?
Due to my illness at the moment I spend most of my time at home with my family and grandchildren. I enjoy listening out for the Killie results as well as that of 'the town'.
Interview By Donny Muir
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