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Billy Stark retires: His life in football

After more than five decades of involvement in the professional game, Billy Stark will call full-time on his football career. Stark has spent the last six years managing the Scotland U19 side, having previously served as the U21s manager between 2008 and 2014. The Scottish Football Association are in the process of finding Stark’s replacement.

Love Street Love Story

Stark began his playing days with Anniesland Waverley in his native Glasgow, where his talent was spotted by one Alex Ferguson, who took the young midfielder to Paisley to play for St Mirren. His time at Love Street was a roaring success, as Stark established himself as a key part of Ferguson’s Buddies side, offering a creative spark to the midfield. Stark bagged 11 goals as his side won the Scottish First Division title in the 1976-77 campaign, and the eight goals he scored in 1979-80 helped the side to third, their best-ever league finish. After 345 games and 84 goals, Stark had made himself a Buddies legend, and would later gain Hall of Fame status with the club.

Fergie Reunion and Granite Glory

There can’t be many greater compliments for a footballer than being signed twice by one of the game’s greatest-ever managers, and that’s what happened to Billy Stark in 1983 when Ferguson paid £70,000 to take the former to Pittodrie. Aberdeen were fresh off the back of European Cup Winners’ Cup glory when Stark arrived, but clearly benefitted from his playmaking and goalscoring abilities as they won a Scottish Premier Division, Scottish Cup and European Super Cup treble in his first campaign in the Granite City. Stark would hit 20 goals in all competitions the following season as the Dons retained their Premier Division crown and scored against both Edinburgh clubs in finals in the Scottish Cup and Scottish League Cup double-winning season in 1986.

A Grand Old Team and end of playing days

Celtic icon Billy McNeill, then managing the club, signed 31-year-old Stark for a six-figure sum ahead of the club’s centenary year. It was to be a mutually successful season with the experienced Stark netting the winner in his Old Firm debut, whilst he would grab 13 goals in all competitions as the Celts won a league and Scottish Cup double. The club would retain the cup the following season, while Stark would finish his Celtic career in 1990 after 25 goals in 84 appearances. He would finish his career after two spells with Kilmarnock either side of a stint with Hamilton Academical.

Coaching and Scotland U21’s gig

Stark has spent over three decades as a coach, enjoying a longevity most people would dream of. He would assist Tommy Burns at former clubs Kilmarnock and Celtic, the latter of which he would manage in a temporary capacity. The former St Mirren-man would become manager of rivals Greenock Morton in 1997, before enjoying spells with St Johnstone and Queens Park. He would leave the Spiders to manage Scotland’s U21 side, but not before producing a shock cup upset against former side Aberdeen, and would have a profound effect on Scotland’s youth development. Stark gave Andy Robertson his first international recognition by calling him up for the U21 side in 2013, whilst plenty of others in his youth sides like Stuart Armstrong, Ryan Jack, and Callum McGregor would represent their nation. Following the sacking of Craig Levein in 2012, Stark was handed the reins to the senior squad for a friendly against Liechtenstein, guiding the side to a 2-1 victory in his sole outing, courtesy of a Jordan Rhodes brace.

Scotland return

After resigning from his post in 2014, and briefly managing East Kilbride in the 2017-18 season, Stark would return to the Scottish youth setup in 2018 to manage the U19 side. In his tenure, the U19s would not quite reach the full tournament for the European Championships, but would only fail to reach the elite round on one occasion. In this spell, Stark has contributed to the development of Billy Gilmour and Nathan Patterson, two of the national team’s brightest prospects, who went on to feature in UEFA Euro 2020. His latest U19’s side came first in their qualifying group and featured exciting talents like David Watson of Kilmarnock, and Lennon Miller of Motherwell.

It’s been nothing short of an exceptional career in football for Billy Stark, and few can say they’ve had a greater impact as both players and coaches. Whilst he may be calling time on an illustrious career in playing and management, his coaching legacy will live on through many of the promising Scottish gems he has helped develop.

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