Ex-Toffee hammer Joe aims to hit big time at Glencairn

JOE McALPINE can recall thinking he was on the cusp of something special when he shared a Goodison Park dressing room with Leon Osman and Tony Hibbert.

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Joe McAlpine works in demolition now, but the former Everton man is ready to build something special for Rutherglen Glencairn this season. Picture: James Galloway
Joe McAlpine works in demolition now, but the former Everton man is ready to build something special for Rutherglen Glencairn this season. Picture: James Galloway

This week the skilful midfielder finds himself in a similar mood, this time as Rutherglen Glencairn seek to clinch an Emirates Scottish Junior Cup quarter-final place for the first time in over a decade by beating Pumpherston.

His current ambitions must seem a long way from the grandiose hopes he harboured as a promising young Everton winger 16 years ago.

However, events during his life have taught the Shawlands-based ace never to take anything for granted.

It's not a surprising philosophy for someone who was perilously close to death as a Raith Rovers player back in 2004 after a car crash in Glasgow left him with a horrific catalogue of injuries including a fractured skull, collapsed lung, broken ribs, cheekbone and collarbone on top of breaking a bone in his back.

He was reputed to have died in the accident only to be brought back to life by doctors, the episode undoubtedly proving to be a pivotal moment for Joe with him recovering to make a comeback with Stranraer and Stenhousemuir.

Joe said: "Joe Royle signed me and I played in a terrific youth side coached by another Everton great Colin Harvey, but I never came close to playing at the very top other than being a non-stripped member of the first-team squad three times.

"Upon my release I came back up to Scotland and signed for Airdrie under Gary Mackay, but he was not long in charge before Steve Archibald bought his way into the club and installed himself as boss.

"He rejigged the squad and brought in Spanish signings like David Fernandez, Javier Broto and Antonio Calderon.

"I was not the only player to be squeezed out. But John Connolly enticing me to join Queen of the South proved a great move as we won the league title and Bells Challenge Cup with Andy Goram and big Jim Thomson as mainstays in our team.

"I probably should have stuck it out there but my itchy feet got the better of me and two years down the line I took up the offer of what was to be a defining contract with Raith Rovers."

The closing out of his Senior career at Stranraer saw Joe drop away from football. However, he resurfaced – albeit briefly – with his local Junior side Pollok in 2007.

He said: "Rab Sneddon signed me and I took part in a pre-season tournament down at Annan as well as playing in our Sectional League Cup matches.

"But then Rab dropped the bombshell that he was going to stick by his more established players for the Super Premier Division campaign.

"That was the writing on the wall for my Pollok career and within weeks I was sold on to Renfrew where I was to spend an enjoyable season-and-a-half playing with a close-knit bunch of guys under Colin Clark and Martin Ferry.

"I really would have stayed longer at Western Park but for a hankering for a crack at the very top flight of the Junior game. So, I moved to Vale of Clyde around January 2009 only for them to be relegated just five months later."

Neilston was Joe's next port of call putting in a season-long shift before his playmaking abilities caught the eye of Glens boss Willie Harvey, who snapped him up at the start of last season.

His track record of never spending longer than two years at any of 11 clubs he has played for since departing Everton gives rise to people thinking he will soon be off on his travels again. But the 31-year-old is keen this will not be the case now.

He said: "Coming to Glencairn has been a breath of fresh air for me and I'm loving everything about the club, particularly the way Willie Harvey has strengthened us this season.

"We have a far more talented group of players about the place and there is a healthy competition for just about every jersey which help explains to a large extent why we have been going along so well in the Scottish Cup.

"Andy McLay, for example, is so professional in his outlook and a great guy to have around the dressing room. While others like Stevie Aitchison and Dennis McLaughlin use their experience to keep everyone on their toes.

"Everyone connected with the club is wanting us to get past this Pumpherston hurdle and even my family are more fired up than normal with my nine-year-old son Raymond on tenterhooks because he will be running out as our club mascot on Saturday.

"Hopefully the dream can stay intact but it's going to take a massive performance because Pumpherston clearly deserve our every respect after pulling off a shock by defeating Musselburgh in the last round."

On the managerial front comes word that St Rochs are inviting applications for their Provanmill Park hotseat after the resignation of Dougie McDuff due to personal circumstances.

Secretary Colin McLean, who can be contacted on 07719373914, is seeking to find a replacement for the hard-working McDuff and his quest may be a timely one given former striker Paul McDougall quit as gaffer of Dalry Thistle last night.

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