John Lambie (footballer, born 1941)

John Lambie (19 March 1941 – 10 April 2018) was a Scottish football player and manager. Lambie made over 200 appearances for Falkirk and also had a successful time with St Johnstone.

John Lambie
Lambie as manager of Partick Thistle
Personal information
Date of birth (1941-03-19)19 March 1941
Place of birth Whitburn, Scotland
Date of death 10 April 2018(2018-04-10) (aged 77)
Playing position Full back
Youth career
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1958–1969 Falkirk 199 (16)
1969–1974 St Johnstone 103 (4)
Total 302 (20)
Teams managed
1984–1988 Hamilton Academical
1988–1989 Partick Thistle
1989–1990 Hamilton Academical
1990–1995 Partick Thistle
1995–1996 Falkirk
1999–2003 Partick Thistle
2004–2005 Partick Thistle
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

After retiring as a player, Lambie had four spells as manager of Partick Thistle. In his third spell, he guided them to consecutive promotions and entry to the Scottish Premier League in 2002, while also leading them to the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup in the same year. He also had spells as manager of Hamilton Academical (twice, winning the First Division in 1986) and Falkirk.

Lambie was known for his eccentricity, cigar smoking and fondness for pigeons. An occasion when he instructed for a concussed player to be told he was Pelé and sent back onto the pitch is one of the most famous quotes in British football.[1][2][3][4][5]

Playing career

Born in Whitburn, Lambie played for his hometown junior team Whitburn before signing for Falkirk in 1958, where he turned professional and switched position from inside forward to full back.[2] In August 1969 he joined St Johnstone, where he played in the October 1969 Scottish League Cup Final (1–0 loss to Celtic) and took part in the Perth-based club's first European campaign (reaching the third round of the 1971–72 UEFA Cup).[2]

Coaching career

After retiring as a player in 1974, Lambie joined the St Johnstone coaching staff, and later moved to Hibernian.[2] He became assistant manager at Hamilton Academical to his former Hibs colleague Bertie Auld, and succeeded him as manager in 1984.[2] He led the Accies to the First Division title in 1985–86 and won away at Rangers in the next season's Scottish Cup.[2][6]

In 1988, Lambie was appointed manager for the first time at Partick Thistle, but a year later returned to Hamilton, before going back to Partick in 1990.[2] He led the Jags to promotion to the top flight in 1992 and left in 1995 for his former club Falkirk, but quit his post in March 1996.[2] The Herald wrote in 2002 that "It is odd how, despite Lambie playing over 200 games for Falkirk, and scoring a decent haul of goals as a defender, he is only remembered for his disastrous managerial reign".[7]

Lambie returned for a third spell at Partick in 1999, with the club now in the third tier, and got them into the Scottish Premier League in 2002 via back-to-back promotions.[2] Also in 2002, he guided the club to the Cup semi-finals, where they lost 3–0 to Rangers at Hampden Park.[8] The final stages of the season were chronicled in the BBC Scotland fly on the wall documentary Grasping the Thistle, known for Lambie's use of profanity.[9][10]

In January 2003, Lambie announced that he would retire at the end of the season as he did not agree with new regulations in football; he had attempted to sign Nathan Lowndes and Steven Ferguson on loan from English clubs but was barred by FIFA as they had both recently played in Scotland for other teams.[11] On 17 May 2003 he made his farewell in his last game at Firhill Stadium, a 1–0 loss to Dundee United, having already guaranteed survival in the SPL on a considerably lower budget than their competitors.[12][13] He became a member of the club's board and had a brief fourth spell as manager from December 2004.[2]

Lambie is remembered for his reaction when Partick player Colin McGlashan suffered a concussion; he ordered his assistant Gerry Collins to "Tell him he's Pelé and get him back on".[4][1] A book of football quotes titled Tell Him He's Pelé was released in 2010.[3] He is also remembered for taming Chic Charnley, a player sent off 17 times in his career, whom he signed once for Hamilton and three times for Partick.[1][14]

Personal life and death

Lambie was known for his love of pigeon racing and cigars.[2] He spoke of the importance of his Christian faith in his life.[7] He was a member and activist for the Scottish National Party but said that he was not a suitable candidate to seek elected office.[15]

He was awarded the position of Honorary Vice President of Partick Thistle F.C. in August 2006.[16] He was inducted into the Halls of Fame at both Falkirk and Partick Thistle.[17]

Lambie had three daughters with his wife Mamie, from whom he was separated at the time of his death at the age of 77 on 10 April 2018.[17][18]



Hamilton Academical
Partick Thistle


  1. Young, Chick (10 April 2018). "John Lambie: Partick Thistle and Hamilton benefitted from eccentric management style". BBC. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  2. McPartlin, Patrick (11 April 2018). "John Lambie, former Partick Thistle manager, dies aged 77". The Scotsman. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  3. Redfern, Simon (19 December 2010). "Reviews 'Tell Him He's Pele,' by Phil Shaw". The Independent. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  4. McPartlin, Patrick (8 March 2012). "Five memorable Scottish football quotes". The Scotsman. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  5. Davidson, Jack (17 April 2018). "Obituary: John Lambie, football manager". The Scotsman. Retrieved 16 June 2018.
  6. "31st January – 30th Anniversary of one of our most famous victories". Hamilton Academical F.C. 31 January 2018. Retrieved 3 August 2018.
  7. "Jags, fags and the Lord As John Lambie will testify, his Hampden-bound Partick Thistle are a grand old team to pray for". The Herald. 23 March 2002. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  8. Forsyth, Roddy (24 March 2002). "Nerlinger spoils Partick party". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  9. "John Lambie: Partick Thistle and Hamilton lead tributes for late former manager". BBC Sport. 10 April 2018. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  10. "Foul mouth: When football managers lose the plot on TV.. five moments when the boss turned the airwaves blue". Daily Record. 27 October 2015. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  11. "Lambie to leave Jags". BBC Sport. 31 January 2003. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  12. "Lambie moved by Firhill bow". BBC Sport. 18 May 2003. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  13. "Rise and fall of Thistle". The Herald. 16 April 2005. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  14. Pattullo, Alan (5 August 2017). "Interview: Chic Charnley – the ultimate journeyman". The Scotsman. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  15. Wilson, Fraser (10 April 2018). "Partick Thistle legend John Lambie dies aged 77". Daily Record. Retrieved 11 April 2018. He joined the SNP to help with a council election drive but stopped short of seeking office, stating at the time: "I'm an out-and-out Scot but when it comes to politics I'm thick."
  16. John Lambie appointed as Honorary Vice President Archived 19 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Partick Thistle F.C. official website, 14 August 2006. Retrieved on 21 October 2006
  17. Vallance, Matt (11 April 2018). "Obituary: John Lambie". The Herald. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  18. "John Lambie". Partick Thistle FC. 10 April 2018. Retrieved 10 April 2018.
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