Former Largs News editor Drew Cochrane recently opened the new Junior Football exhibition at the North Ayrshire Heritage Centre in Saltcoats last week alongside Bobby Lennox. 

Drew, the author of The History of Ayrshire Junior Football recalled that it was as a cub reporter with the Ardrossan Herald that he researched his book on the game.

As a Stevenston lad he had the options of watching Ardeer Thistle at Ardchoille Park in the Hayocks, and Ardeer Recreation at the surviving park in the town centre which used to house all of the big finals of the 60s and 70s.

He watched as Bobby Lennox scored a lot of goals for the Rec' before being signed by Jock Stein to become a Lisbon Lion winning the European Cup in '67. 

"Mind you, Bobby was outshone by Ardeer Thistle centre forward Tommy Duffy who scored an incredible 97 goals in one season.  Top scorers used to get a watch but Stevenston should have given him the town clock."

Saltcoats coal merchant, Alan Bruce who was chairman of Saltcoats Victoria persuaded Radio Clyde to take Drew on as the first Junior football broadcaster in the 70s. "I had a face for radio" quipped Drew who was Britain's longest serving editor at the Largs & Millport Weekly News.

He told the audience at the opening of the Junior Football exhibition that Saltcoats used to have the edge on signing players because they built a prefab at Campbell Park and could offer new players a week's holiday  by the seaside.

Largs Thistle would often seal the signing of a new player by giving them a pair of boots and a fish supper from Nardinis.

The Ayrshire Juniors Association began in 1889 with Saltcoats, Largs Thistle, Beith Thistle and a team called Irvine Rangers as original members.By the time the first Ayrshire league was set up in 1902 the founder clubs included Kilbirnie Ladeside and Irvine Meadow.   Kilwinning Rangers followed fairly quickly and became the first Ayshire team to win the 'Holy Grail' of the Scottish Junior Cup in 1909. Saltcoats Victoria, Irvine Meadow, Kilbirnie Ladeside, Beith and Largs have all won the Scottish for North Ayrshire.

He added: "I think the secret of the lasting success of junior football down the decades has been the local derbies" and he recounted some funny stories from such matches.

"There's another book to be written about the last 30 years but I've no time because I'm retired!  However I reiterate what the late great Scotsport commentator, Arthur Montford, wrote in my foreword all those years ago...junior football is about enthusiasm, dedication and the love of the game."

Bobby Lennox joined Drew as they opened the display which will run until July 4 in the North Ayrshire Heritage Centre in Saltcoats.