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Saturday, 25 October 2014

Alex Parker

Alex Parker made a considerable mark in life, both on the football field at club and international level and in the licensed trade in Carlisle and Gretna.

His playing career began in Scotland and continued in England, where he made more than 200 appearances for Everton FC, and when he eventually retired from the game that he loved, he did what so many other former footballers have done – began a new career as a landlord. Here again, he made a success of what he did.

His footballing career saw him play for Scotland at under 23 and full international levels and, during National Service, play for the British Army.

He then spent seven years becoming a favourite at Everton and then, with his career winding down, joined Southport FC for a while before taking the job of player/manager with a club in Northern Ireland. A spell in the Irish Republic followed and then he decided that the time had come for a career change and he became a publican, firstly in Cheshire and then in Gretna and Carlisle.

He came to Gretna in 1987 after selling-up in Cheshire and he retained his love of football, becoming a regular spectator at Gretna FC’s matches and also following the fortunes of Annan Athletic. He even gave two of his old Scottish international jerseys to the clubs.

For several years he was the well-known and popular landlord at the Crossways Inn, before moving just a few miles south of the Border where he and his wife ran the Coach and Horses Inn on Kingstown Road, Carlisle, for 13 years until he retired in 1997, During those years he also became a Carlisle United supporter.

Mr Parker, who has died aged 74, hailed from Irvine and his footballing career began with Kello Rovers, in the Ayrshire Junior League, when he was spotted by Falkirk FC’s talent scouts. He went on to make 151 appearances for Falkirk, the first when he was only 17 and a scant three years later he was selected to play for Scotland, at right back – the position in which he played in nine out of his 10 full international appearances.

However, one of the highlights in his career was at club rather than international level when Falkirk defeated Kilmarnock 2-1 in the replayed Scottish Cup final at Hampden Park in 1957.

He won 15 full and under-23 caps for Scotland and he was in the side that lost 2-3 to Paraguay in the 1958 World Cup competition. This result, although close, was seen by many as a disaster and someone had to be blamed.

Several players in that game were never again selected to play for Scotland – and he was one of them.

However, it was in that year that he joined Everton and the club thought so highly of him that they paid the then considerable sum of £18,000 to take him down to Liverpool at the end of the season.

National Service intervened before he could play for his new club and he was posted to Cyprus, to serve with the Royal Scots Fusiliers There he was selected for the British Army team which contained other players of international status and which was, in effect, a Great Britain Under-23 side.

Once released from the forces, he went on to make more than 200 appearances for Everton over the next seven years and he played in 33 of the 42 games that saw his club become the 1963 Football League champions.

Then, in 1965, he joined another Merseyside area club, Southport and remained there for three years before moving to Northern Ireland and becoming player-manager at Ballymena. A short while later he moved to Drumcondra, who played in the League of Ireland, before returning to Southport as a trainer-coach and, then, manager.

There he stayed for just one season before retiring from the game to become a landlord, taking over at The Swinging Sporran in the Cheshire town of Runcorn in 1971.

Sixteen years later he and his wife sold the pub and moved back to Scotland – just – to take over at the Crossways Inn, a quarter of a mile north of the Border and then, in 1994, they took charge at the Coach and Horses, in Carlisle.

Mr Parker, who had been in poor health for some months, had his left leg amputated in April and appeared to be recovering from the operation when he died following a heart attack.

He leaves Irene, his Irish born wife of 40 years, a son and daughter.

His funeral took place at All Saints’ Church, Gretna.

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