FORMER Scotland international John Connolly was the latest guest at the Irvine Meadow Wednesday Club.

Connolly entertained the members with a whole host of fascinating and humorous stories of his playing days at St Johnstone, Everton, Birmingham City and Newcastle United.

His time as a striker with St Johnstone coincided with the Perth club’s highest ever league finish, which qualified them to take part in the 1971-72 UEFA Cup.

First round opponents were Hamburger SV, who were massive favourites to reach the next round. But international stars like Uwe Seeler, Willi Schulz and Manni Kaltz didn’t faze the Perth men as they brushed the Germans aside 3-0 in a home win.

Vasas Budapest provided tougher second round opposition and turned nasty when John scored from the spot after a penalty award the Hungarians felt was unjust. Zeljeznicar Sarajevo Sarajevo were next up and proved to be too good for the Scots, winning 5-0 after John had scored in Saints’ 1-0 first leg win.

The drama wasn’t all on the pitch, however.

After the UEFA Cup match in Sarajevo, the aircraft for the return flight froze up on the runway. The pilot chose to try taking off in the snow anyway, but soon realised he couldn’t clear the mountains and would have to crash land. He made a Mayday call and brought the aircraft down for a bumpy landing, narrowly missing some trees.

John’s exploits with St Johnstone tempted Everton into the transfer market and John’s move to Goodison Park saw him converted into a left winger and becoming a fans’ favourite. Soon the terracing chant (based on a TV advert for a gents’ outfitters) “John Connolly, John Connolly, the winger to watch” was coined as John left defender after defender sprawling in his wake.

Already a Scotland Under-23 international from his St Johnstone days, John made his only Scotland appearance in Switzerland in 1973. He was also an unused sub for a friendly with Brazil that same year.

Two sickening double leg breaks marred his time at Everton, leaving John feeling that he was unable to get back to his former level of performance.

A move to Birmingham City was followed two seasons later by a transfer to Newcastle United, where he scored 10 goals in 49 league matches and remembers that scoring for Newcastle in front of 50,000 passionate Geordies at St James’ Park was an “overwhelming” experience. He loved is time in Liverpool and Newcastle once he and the locals could understand each other.

After a spell playing with Hibernian and then English non-league clubs, John turned to management. His managership of Queen of the South saw the Doonhamers win their first silverware since 1951, when the Second Division Championship was won in style.

The following season the Scottish Challenge Cup was added to their trophy cabinet.

One of the most spectacular games during his stewardship came in February, 2002. The goals came thick and fast in an breathtaking opening which produced a half-time score of QoS 6 Morton 3. Morton scored two more after the break but Queens ran out 6-5 winners.

John believes modern football has become too tactical, with too much emphasis placed on prolonged spells of possession. When he played, he wanted the ball so that he could run at defenders, beat them with his skilful left foot and cross the ball into the centre for his strikers.

As a player, John was an entertainer and as the members of Irvine Meadow Wednesday Club will testify, he still knows a thing or two about entertaining an audience.