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‘One of the best’ – tributes paid to former Scotland keeper Billy Thomson

Billy Thomson has died at the age of 64 (Jeff Holmes/PA)
Billy Thomson has died at the age of 64 (Jeff Holmes/PA)

Tributes have been paid to former Dundee United, Rangers and Scotland goalkeeper Billy Thomson following his death at the age of 64.

Thomson started his career with Partick Thistle before moving to St Mirren, where he won his seven international caps.

The Linwood-born keeper played in the 1987 UEFA Cup final for Dundee United after helping Jim McLean’s men beat Barcelona home and away and later moved to Motherwell, where he was in goal for the club’s first European game in 1991.

Thomson signed for Rangers in 1994 and spent two years at Ibrox before joining Dundee, where he both finished his playing career and started his coaching career.

Billy Thomson
Billy Thomson in action for Rangers (Steve Morton/EMPICS Sport)

He returned to Rangers in 2001 and joined Kilmarnock in 2007 for a lengthy coaching spell with the Ayrshire club, and was Stranraer’s goalkeeping coach over the past 18 months.

Thomson’s former clubs expressed their sadness at the news and passed on their condolences to his family.

Thistle wrote: “Signed by Bertie Auld, Billy arrived at Firhill from Glasgow United as a teenager, faced with the unenviable task of displacing Alan Rough as the number one goalkeeper.

“Billy was a very talented young goalkeeper and for a time, Thistle could boast having the Scotland international goalkeeper and Scotland Under-21 goalkeeper on the books at Firhill.

“After just a handful of appearances in the Jags first team, with a 100 per cent record in his only league appearance in red and yellow, Billy was transferred to St Mirren for £50,000.”

The Paisley side wrote: “Billy joined St Mirren in August 1978 after being signed from Partick Thistle by Jim Clunie.

“The goalkeeper would make 284 appearances in the Black and White and was a part of our memorable Anglo Scottish Cup winning side of 1980 before departing the club for Dundee United in 1984.

“Billy – alongside Iain Munro – holds the record for most senior Scottish caps while a St Mirren player, having represented Scotland on seven occasions.

“In May 2022, Billy took his rightful place in the St Mirren Hall of Fame.”

United wrote: “Joining in 1984, Billy faced the unenviable task of taking over the gloves from Hamish McAlpine.

“A first-team regular until 1991, the goalkeeper made over 200 appearances for United, including being part of the squad that went all the way to the UEFA Cup final in ’87.”

Motherwell wrote: “Thomson signed from Dundee United for a fee of £50,000 as he battled it out with Sieb Dijkstra for the number one jersey at the club.

“Capped seven times for his country, he would move onto pastures new with Rangers in 1994 becoming the back-up keeper behind the late, great Andy Goram.”

Billy Thomson with Walter Smith
Billy Thomson with former Rangers manager Walter Smith (Danny Lawson/PA)

Rangers wrote: “He was in the Rangers squad in the seasons 1994/95 and 1995/96, where he made seven appearances.

“He returned to Rangers as goalkeeping coach in the early 2000s, and worked with Stefan Klos and current goalkeeper Allan McGregor.”

Thomson also coached former Scotland goalkeeper Rab Douglas at Dundee. He wrote on Twitter: “Absolutely devastated to hear of the passing of Billy Thomson. A total gentleman and top coach, one of football’s best without a doubt.

“Thinking about Louise and the family. Rest easy coach, I will have a malt tonight for you. Sad times indeed.”

Former Dundee goalkeeper Jamie Langfield also wrote he was “absolutely devastated” at the news.

The St Mirren coach added: “He was one of the best I’ve ever had the privilege to work with and get to know in my life. He was a massive influence on my football career and pathed the way for many a talented goalkeeper in Scottish football.

“He is solely the reason I wanted to be a goalkeeping coach with the way he was as a person and also a coach, he managed to combine both to not only make you feel better as a goalkeeper but also a person.”

Thomson served under 10 Kilmarnock managers during his 14-year spell at Rugby Park.

The Ayrshire club wrote: “During this period, Kilmarnock would complete their quest to claim the elusive League Cup trophy in 2012 – which rounded off a haul of all three major national titles since being established – thanks to a man-of-the-match performance from Cammy Bell who was under Billy’s mentorship at the time.

“Responsible for the nurturing and development of numerous first-team and academy goalkeepers, Billy also worked alongside the likes of Alan Combe, Jamie MacDonald and more recently Daniel Bachmann who played a starring role as Kilmarnock secured European football under the guidance of Steve Clarke in 2019.

Billy Thomson, right
Dan Bachmann is saluted by Billy Thomson, right (Jeff Holmes/PA)

“Clarke subsequently called upon his trusted colleague to join the coaching staff for his initial matches in charge of the Scotland National Team.”

Killie kit man Kevin McNeill added: “Thommo was a wonderful man whose jokes could always be heard echoing across the corridors of Rugby Park.

“If anyone was having a bad day, or if the team required picking up after a defeat, Thommo was the person that would be called upon.

“He has been a tremendous friend to so many people around the club and he’ll be missed dearly.”

A Scottish Football Association statement read: “We are deeply saddened to learn of the death of former Scotland goalkeeper, Billy Thomson.

“Billy won seven caps for Scotland across a decorated domestic career and was part of Steve Clarke’s backroom staff with Scotland & Kilmarnock. Our thoughts are with his loved ones.”

Stranraer added: “Over the past two seasons, Thommo has left an indelible mark on Stranraer FC; imparting a significant amount of knowledge as coach to our young goalkeepers and the rest of the club, as well as entertaining all behind the scenes with his witty sense of humour and pleasant conversations.”