Gala Fairydean striker hangs up his boots

Published: 13 Feb 2012 09:301 comment

HE is regarded by most as the best Borders player never to break into full-time football.

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And many of those same team-mates, managers and pundits will put the reason for this failing down to his regular injuries.

Craig Livingstone finally hung up his boots for good last week - aged just 25.

The flame-haired striker won fans across East of Scotland football for his wonder goals and super skills.

Many a senior club, from both sides of the border, sent scouts to watch the talented fencer from Gordon.

Several offered him trials, and talk of contracts and deals was never far away.

He made the local headlines week after week for all the right reasons - and it looked like a glittering future in football was just round the corner.

But from early in his career, injuries were never far away. Appointments with doctors and physios were regular parts of his seasons. If it wasn't an ankle it was a knee, if it wasn't his shoulder it was his foot.

An innocuous knock during Gala Fairydean's win over Preston Athletic led to his knee swelling up badly yet again last week.

Craig told the Border Telegraph: "If I still want to work when I'm 40 I have to give up, it's as simple as that. You can only ignore the doctor's advice for so long."

Livingstone showed great promise from an early age with Earlston and Dunbar boys clubs. But it was his strike rate with Vale of Leithen Under 19s that caught the attentions of several managers - including Fraser Lothian.

Lothian snapped up the 17-year-old for Selkirk - and he became an instant hit at Yarrow Park. Livingstone continued: "My first ever goal for Selkirk was against Tollcross. The keeper's clearance rebounded off my shins and it went in. Not the best, but I'll always remember it.

"I loved playing at Selkirk although it wasn't great for my education. I was supposed to be sitting my higher business management exam, but I went with the club to Germany instead. What a few days they were.

"I did score a few screamers for Selkirk, but the best memories of all at Yarrow Park were when we won promotion from the First Division and when we won our first trophy. Winning the Image Printer's Cup was fantastic and so was the night that followed - even though it was a Wednesday. I really enjoyed my whole time at Selkirk."

His glorious years at Selkirk were regularly interrupted by injury. And he took a year out of football as the problems persisted - only returning to the game with his home village team of Gordon.

Paul Brownlee coaxed the striker back to Yarrow Park the following season as the team stood on the edge of the relegation drop.

Selkirk captain John Dodds recalls his return: "He scored many an important goal for us but one that I will always remember was when he had left Selkirk but came back to help us out near the end of season. We were desperate on a win to keep us in the league.

"Needless to say Livy stepped up and scored one of the best goals I've seen. It wasn't a surprise - we all knew what he was capable of."

Dodds has played at a higher level with clubs such as Ayr United and Queen of the South. And he believes his former Yarrow Park team-mate was more than good enough to cut it in the pro game. He added: "Livy had great ability. If it wasn't for injuries he could easily have played at a higher level. He'll be a sad loss to the game. I am totally gutted for him."

After manager Lothian left Selkirk and returned to the club where he had made his own name as a player, Gala Fairydean, his main priority was tempting the talisman striker back into East of Scotland football.

And, despite regular interruptions with a dislocated shoulder, groin strains and a swollen knee, the magic was still there. Lothian said: "He had great seasons at Selkirk and it was always my intention to bring him to Gala Fairydean.

"I would certainly put him in the top ten players I've seen at this level. His reading of the game was excellent, his technical ability was second to none and he had a knack of scoring great goals. Barring injury he would certainly have gone on to bigger things. He'll be a big miss at Gala Fairydean."

Livingstone hopes to still have some part in the game despite retiring from playing and will consider coaching over the coming months. But, as his team-mates would admit, much of the striker's skills can't be taught.

Selkirk assistant manager Aaron Biggs believes Livingstone was the best he's seen at local level. Biggs told the Border Telegraph: "Craig is probably the best player I have played with. He took some kicks with the skills he had, but always dusted himself down and would do exactly the same as he'd done to get kicked in the first place.

"When I played, any great player with skill and talent like Livy would get kicked first by the defenders in a hope they would shy away. Not Livi - if anything it made him play even better. "Gala Fairydean will miss him and football will miss him."

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