|Yashin, Puskas, Matthews and Kinnell?
as a centre half but during his Pittodrie career played in all five defensive
positions as well as the occasional centre forward role. Before his move to Stoke
in November 1963, George was made Aberdeen captain. George Kinnell also played
for Middlesbrough and had a seven-year spell in Australia. He was also the cousin
of the late Jim Baxter. George recently returned to Pittodrie for an interview
with Kevin Stirling and he offered a fascinating insight to his
George Kinnell served Aberdeen between 1959?1963 before joining Stoke
City. Born in Cowdenbeath he signed for the Dons from Crossgates Primrose.
Not many players get the opportunity to play with some of the best in the
world but former Don George Kinnell was in exalted company after his move to
Stoke in 1963. "My first game for Stoke was quite something. We
were up against Benfica in a friendly and I was in direct opposition to Euesbio
the great Portuguese forward. Of course friendly matches in those days were
far more competitive and were treated like any other game - not like these
George had a spell in the Army before he was spotted by Aberdeen playing for
junior side Crossgates Primrose. "George Hamilton came down
to see me after Bobby Calder spotted me, next thing I knew was Davie Shaw turning
up at the house wanting me to sign for Aberdeen. I was happy to do so as Aberdeen
were a big club. I loved playing football and was used to playing for nothing.
To get the chance to play professional was a great opportunity. When I came
up here I loved the place. Davie (Shaw) the manager was funny bloke at times
and I had a good feeling about the whole move."
Dave Shaw had a tough reputation as a trainer, a role that he relished at
Pittodrie. Although it went wrong for him as a manager. "Yes, Davie could
be a tough man but there was a lighter side to him. I remember being back for
training he would have us running out the road up past Potterton. Davie would
always take his push bike and he was always looking for a push which made the
run all the more easier. I would usually volunteer to take a shot of Davie's
bike and put it to good use! We used to train out there (pointing to the Main
Stand car park), and that was what it was built for and the training was very
hard, no doubt about that. Davie was a good coach though and he made sure we
did the right things for the right reasons."
Pittodrie made an immediate
impression on him. "The only grounds I had seen before Pittodrie
was the likes of Central Park at Cowdenbeath, and I got a pleasant surprise
when I came here. Pittodrie was not like it is now - there was only
the Main Stand that was covered, the other three sides were just terracing
that gasometer of course!"
George went straight in to the reserve side
for the rest of that season. "The first team reached the
Cup Final against St Mirren and there was plenty of excitement around the place.
squad went down on the Friday night and stayed at Gleneagles while we went
down on the Saturday." It was to be a huge disappointment , "For
me personally it was a big disappointment. I had been playing regular in the
reserves at right half and Ken Brownlee was at left half. With Ian Burns being
injured for the Final I thought I was in the side but Ken got the nod."
those days squad rotation was unheard of and it was a straight swap for replacements.
"Yes that was the way of it usually, Ken was a bit more experienced than me
was probably why he was picked ahead of me. However it was still a huge thrill
to be there and it made me want some more of that. The Hampden crowd was huge
and it was a marvellous occasion."
Not long after the Dons demise in the 1959 Cup Final Davie Shaw reverted to
his trainers role and Tommy Pearson was appointed Aberdeen manager in a move
that was as swift as it was surprising. "It was all sorted
out beforehand and it was bad for us at the time because Tommy had been writing
for the papers and was highly critical of the team. There was friction between
Davie and Tommy because of that, but they were brought together so we just
had to get on with it."
The tensions between the manager and trainer
had little effect on George. "We just got on with things that
was the way I approached every game. As far as the Dons players were concerned
at the time Fred Martin was still around, Jim Clunie was at centre half and
Archie Glen, Bob Wishart and Jackie Hather were still there as well. Jimmy
Hogg our full back was tremendous player and never really got the recognition
he deserved. We still had the nucleus of a very good side. When I first broke
through in to the side there were a few more experienced guys who brought me
on a lot - always shouting and keeping you right. You don?t see
much of that nowadays. The boys then were not the high paid stars you see today,
we were all on the same wage, I mean look what happens these days, how can
anyone in their right mind justify paying someone £100,000 a week? The
game has lost a lot of passion."
George placed a high priority on team
spirit. "That was crucial, it helped all of the first team being
on the same wage, we felt we were a team and all in it together both in playing
and socialising." As far as the Shaw-Pearson regime was concerned there
were marked differences to their approach - "I would have to say
that Tommy was more tactical than Davie. Tommy would discuss the opposition
before games but of course it all depended on who we were playing. As I say
the manager can tell you anything he likes, but once you are out there you
were on your own. The manager's influence in those days was not near
as important as it is now?there was little he could do sitting in the
dug out. Any changes during a game were down to the captain. Archie (Glen)
was my first skipper and he was a real leader. His role was far more involved
than just spinning a coin before the start. Far more important than these days,
things could happen during a game and Archie would have to make a judgement
call for the good of the team."
While there was a serious side to the
game there were also plenty of jokers in the pack. "Hughie
Baird was something else, a right comedian. He was that bit older and always
all kinds of stuff. Tommy Ring the ex-Clyde winger was another. We used to
have to run around the park and we were always lagging behind, Hughie, Jimmy
Hogg and I. Little Tommy was always out in front and he was well known for
liking a drink - you could smell him a mile away; he was some player though."
As far as games against the Old Firm were concerned they held few fears.
loved going down to Ibrox and Parkhead, the big crowds and all that - I
loved playing against them. A lot of people seemed to hate going down there.
Reggie (Morrison) used to shake like a leaf going down there - he had
to get his boot laces tied once or twice! Once he got on the park he was fine
- like I say we used to love going into battle against them. The crowd would
to you but we responded to that. The ball would go in to the 'jungle' at
Parkhead and I would just front them out, no problem. There was no fear although
the crowd were hard on away teams. We would gee ourselves up for those games
and after all it was just eleven against eleven - they were nothing special.
It is different now. I remember Ebbe Skovdahl not so long ago stating that
a five-goal defeat was acceptable down there. Why? It is down to the players
on the park and the last thing they want to hear is stuff like that. If they
have not got the heart then why bother?"
As far as George is concerned there were no real bogey teams or difficult
grounds, an honest approach that stood him well in his career. "I
never really gave that a second thought, we would go out do our best no matter
was. We would always catch the 9am train from Aberdeen on the Saturday morning
and it was always a rush to catch the 5.30pm connection after the game. The
only time I recall going down on the Friday night was to Clyde for a cup-tie
and we drew 2-2 at Shawfield and the directors, manager and players got slaughtered
in the press for it. That lasted right up until the replay on the Tuesday night.
James Forbes wrote in the Evening Express criticising the manager and I pulled
him up about it and had a go at him for his criticism of the manager. I told
him it was down to us and he was well out of order. We responded in the best
possible fashion by hitting Clyde for ten in the replay - that soon shut
George played in several positions for the Dons and his versatility
also saw him enjoy the occasional striking role "I scored a fair
share of goals during my time. I loved it up there - I remember two hat
tricks against Partick and Le Harve in particular. I knew how defenders played
and that helped me a lot as a forward. I also scored a few penalties as well?always
placed to my right and aimed for the stanchion and always hit hard. I remember
when Kilmarnock were representing Scotland in a tournament in New York and
it was a regular thing. Partick were lined up in their place one year but that
soon changed after I scored three against them and Kilmarnock went in their
George admitted to feeling additional pressure playing for the Dons during
a difficult period for the club."Yes it was a problem that
said we played without fear but felt that additional burden as we were struggling
near the foot of the table. We would still be able to put in a good performance,
especially against the Old Firm. We still managed to go to Ibrox and do them
though, the big crowds helped even though they did not like us much. I also
remember hammering Rangers 6-1 at Pittodrie; it made no difference that we
were playing at home as there was usually a big crowd behind us at Pittodrie
for those games. What does the ground hold now? 23,000? Back then it was more
than 50,000 and almost all standing. I read in the paper the other day there
could be 21,000 in here soon, is that because Elton John is coming?"
Contrary to what many believe, George never asked away from the Dons as
his transfer to Stoke came about in 1963. "I was up in Rosemount
Viaduct sitting having a drink in the bar below the Silver Slipper. My girlfriend
working in the hairdresser next door and I was taking her to the pictures later
on. It was a Monday night and my girlfriend came running in to the bar telling
me that Pittodrie was on the phone and that I had to speak to them urgently.
I was with Ron Main of the Daily Express and Jimmy Forbes. When I answered
the phone it was Tommy Pearson telling me that Stoke City were phoning back
in half an hour and that they wanted to sign me. I went straight down to Pittodrie
and spoke further with Tommy. I asked about the fee involved and what I would
be getting out of the deal. He told me all I would get would be the usual £750
loyalty payment that all Aberdeen players received after five years at the
club. I then decided to speak to Davie Shaw who was still out there training
the part time players in the evening. Davie told me to stick it out and get
a decent deal. Eventually I told Tommy he had better get Dick Donald down here
because I was not accepting the offer. We would usually get around 5% from
any transfer deal and we eventually agreed on a deal."
It seemed that
Aberdeen were happy enough to let their captain go. "Well
it was good business for the club as they got me for £200 and sold me
It seemed to be a habit at the time, Doug Fraser was sold to West Brom and
Charlie Cooke was allowed to leave for Dundee. That all happened when 'Tu'penny
Tam' (Tommy Pearson) as I called him was in charge. I was still disappointed
to leave the Dons but Stoke were a big club in English football then and it
was a great challenge for me. They still had Stanley Matthews in their side.
The transfer was completed quickly and I was on the 6.30am flight the next
morning to get to Stoke and have a look around the place. I did not know that
much about them but they had good players like Denis Violet and Maurice Setters.
My first game was against Benfica and it was a great experience and soon I
was playing against some top sides. During my time at the Victoria Ground I
played in Stan Matthew's testimonial and it was England against a Rest
of the World XI. I was in the select side along with the likes of Lev Yashin
and Ferenc Puskas. It was a marvellous experience." George was never
intimidated to be in amongst some of the greatest players in the world - "To
be honest I just treated it like any other game and enjoyed the occasion."
Two years later George was on his travels again but there was nothing so
clear cut about his eventual switch to Sunderland. "I was
at Stoke for a couple of years before I went to Oldham. Sunderland had wanted
were not keen in selling me to one of their main rivals. Jimmy McIlroy was
manager at Oldham and I had played with him at Stoke - the move was manipulated
so I could go to Poker Park, no doubt about that. Ian McColl, the former Scotland
manager was in charge at Sunderland and he wanted to bolster his Scottish contingent
at the club. Charlie Hurley was injured and I was brought in to replace him.
Tony Waddington the Stoke boss tried to 'do' me over the move but
I stood my ground with him and sorted it. With no agents at that time you did
any deals yourself. Roker Park was a great place to play football with a great
atmosphere?they were a passionate lot. We had a number of Scots
there - Jim Baxter, George Mulhall, Neil Martin and John O?Hare.
There was also a difference between the game down there as there was a bit
more quality. With no wage cap in place there was also a lot of good Scottish
players playing in England. Every top club had at least two or three in their
side. Of course there was a lot of banter between the Scots and English lads
but never nothing nasty."
Full international honours eluded George during his career and although
he would not admit it from a personal perspective, he clearly felt there was
shown towards selection. "I was selected to play for the
Scottish League against Northern Ireland in Belfast. I was playing quite well
time and I was honoured to represent my country. However because I was not
wearing blue or green my chances were limited."
While George may not
bear any grudges it was still a sore point that any player outside of the Old
Firm would have to do something special to get recognition - "It
was the power of the press in full flow. The newspapers in Glasgow had a huge
bearing on the national side. The Scottish team was picked by a group of selectors
and they had been influenced by what they read every day. If you played in
the blue and white of Rangers or the green and white of Celtic your Scotland
chances improved dramatically -no doubt about it. A lot of good players
never got the honours they deserved. The best uncapped full back in Britain
was Aberdeen's Jimmy Hogg."
At the age of 31, Middlesbrough was the last stop for George. "When
I was released I had the chance to go to Australia and it was a good offer.
With two young children it was a chance I felt I had to take. So I went there
and played with Juventus of Melbourne. The standard over there was not that
good but it has improved dramatically in recent years. Of course Aussie Rules
football is the major attraction over there. That Zdrilic who is here at Pittodrie
now - what is he cold for? He should put himself about a bit more if he
is that cold! I did some coaching in Australia and my time there lasted seven
years and it was a great experience."
George Kinnell remains a regular visitor to Pittodrie these days. "I
settled back in this area in 1978 and I have been coming to Pittodrie for years
although I stopped when Ian Porterfield was here. Nothing personal as I actually
played with Ian at Sunderland but the Dons team under him was as laid back
as he was!"
And what of the present Aberdeen side? "I think some of them need to
mature a lot and quickly. Russell Anderson is a good player but he has to take
the responsibility to organise his defence better. He is the captain and with
that should come more organisation. That is down to him on the pitch. I think
he has to do that - you don't lose a goal, you don't lose
the game, you must start from the back and work your way forward. Young Diamond
needs some encouragement and I reckon he could become a great Aberdeen player."
George Kinnell was talking to Kevin Stirling at Pittodrie on 12th March 2004.