In 2016, Airdrie fans in their thousands took part in a series of polls to find the club's greatest ever XI.
And what a line-up it is... from the 1920s glory days to the European heroes of the 1990s, the side is filled with wonderful players from throughout the club's history.
We're delighted to announce that five of the players from the team will be attending tonight's Player of the Year event as special guests of the club.
Here's a reminder of the eleven proud Diamonds that you voted as the greatest ever:
1. JOHN MARTIN
A popular figure with fans, John's playing career stretched across two decades from 1980 until 1999. In that time he became the club record holder making 769 appearances, across eight different competitions. With his 134 Premier League appearances, he became the club's only player to have played in the top league in all of their four seasons there. Records that will never be surpassed.
He is one of the few goalkeepers who has actually scored a goal, but it is his record at saving spot kicks - generally, but more importantly in penalty shootouts - where there are few equals. He was central to the Diamonds wonderful nineties when they reached two Scottish Cup Finals, four League Cup semi-finals, and lifted the Challenge Cup, in addition to making an appearance in European Competition.
Martin had a shutout ratio of around one match in three, an incredible figure given his total appearances, but the notable occasions came in his first appearance at Ibrox in 1980, against Celtic at Broomfield in 1991 in the Skol Cup before excelling in the penalty shoot out, in the Diamonds' final fixture at Broomfield in 1994 and in his last ever appearance in 1999.
He signed for Airdrieonians soon after a Scotland Junior international appearance and he also went on to represent his country at semi-professional level as a consequence of his excellent form which has also led to him pick up player of the year awards by the sackful, while also being inducted into the Hall of Fame. He has also retained his club links through well publicised charitable work. A legend in every aspect.
2. Paul Jonquin
Paul was signed from juvenile side Edinburgh Athletic and made his first team debut for Airdrieonians in February 1962 in a 4-2 Broomfield success against Hibernian. The 18 year old retained the confidence of manager Willie Steel for the remaining league fixtures of the season as the Diamonds collected 14 points from their final ten matches to take their points total to a meagre 25 and avoid relegation. He is one of only two players who have made more than 700 appearances for the club, 708 in total while his goals scoring exploits took off in the seventies when he became something of a penalty and free kick expert relying wholly on power and accuracy. He netted 46 goals but had concentrated on his defensive duties in his earlier years and it was into his seventh season that he actually broke his duck in a 1-1 draw at Firhill on the 30th of December 1967.
He was a local hero, who had not only played alongside Ian McMillan but also had the opportunity of playing under his management. Paul’s superb fitness level incredibly led to him playing in 196 consecutive matches for the Diamonds between April 1967 and September 1971. He was considered by all six managers who were his boss over the time he played with Airdrieonians as a model professional.
He had a high degree of success in his time with the club, playing for two promotion winning sides in 1965/66 as runners to Ayr United and 1973/74 as Champions returning to the top league the season following relegation. He played in the team that lost out to Celtic in the 1966/67 League Cup semi-final. In 1970/71 he played in the side that pushed Celtic to a replay in the Scottish Cup semi-final after a 3-3 draw and the team that were beaten in the final of the competition by Celtic in 1974/75 having also ran the Parkhead side close in the League Cup semi-final earlier in the same season. He was a regular for the Diamonds during their participation in the Texaco Cup in successive seasons 1970/71 and 1971/72 during which the club recorded fantastic victories over Nottingham Forest, Manchester City and Huddersfield Town losing only in the final of their second year in the competition to Brian Clough’s Derby County who also took the English Title in the same season. Alongside several Lanarkshire Cup winner’s medals he won a Spring Cup winners medal in 1976, in the only year the competition was played.
His final playing appearance was in May 1979 in a 1-0 win at Boghead which was also followed by his retirement from football but his much happier bow came in front of the supporters at Broomfield in May 1994 when many of the Diamond heroes of the past took to the field, applauded by the fans as they also said their farewell to the old ground. At the age of just 52, Paul died only some 15 months after that occasion but his memory lived on after he was inducted into the Airdrieonians Hall of Fame in it’s inaugural year of 2002.
3. SANDY STEWART
1989-2000 / 2001-2005
After spells at Hearts and Kilmarnock, Sandy signed for Airdrie at the start of the 1989/90 season. He spent his first two seasons making appearances in various positions in the team including many from the substitutes bench. However in 1991, following Alex MacDonald's appointment as Manager, he quickly became a mainstay of the Airdrie defence.
Stewart was a savvy, intelligent player who had a great reading of opposition teams and players. Although a very measured player in his approach to the game he was never afraid to roll his sleeves up and battle to a victory always committed to the cause. Whenever in possession of the ball he would welcome the opportunity to push forward, linking well with his team mates.
Stewart played for Airdrie till 2000, leaving to join Partick Thistle. However he re-signed with Airdrie again in 2001 as the club was fighting its losing battle against liquidation. When Airdrie United were given a place in the league the following season it was Sandy Stewart who became manager. He would lead the club over the next five seasons. Since departing the club Sandy has become Owen Coyle's Assistant Manager at various clubs north and south of the border as well as in the MLS in the USA.
In his time at Airdrie, Sandy was part of the 1990/91 Promotion Squad, won the Challenge Cup in 1994 & 2001, played in four League Cup Semi-Finals and two Scottish Cup Finals in 1992 & 1995, captaining the team in the 1992 Final. As Manager with Airdrie United he took the club to the 2003 Challenge Cup Final and most notably won the 2nd Division Title in 2003/04. Sandy was among the first Hall of Fame Inductees in 2002, and has also returned to the club on a number of occasions to take part in fundraising/anniversary events.
4. Jimmy Sandison
Edinburgh born Sandison started his career with Heart of Midlothian in 1983. When Alex MacDonald became Airdrie Manager in 1991, he made Sandison his first signing for around £100,000. He was immediately appointed Captain and would become a pivotal player in the team for the next ten years.
Jimmy was everything a club could look for in a Captain - solid in defence, organising and encouraging his team mates at all times. Playing primarily as a sweeper, Jimmy was very much the last line of defence on many occasions, striking up an excellent understanding with goalkeeper John Martin - much to the dismay of many an opposing attacker.
Jimmy was to Captain the team not only throughout his entire spell at the club but also during the club's most succesful spell since the 1920's. However his first season was to be blighted by controversy and heartbreak, firstly in the League Cup Semi-Final vs Dunfermline and its highly controversial late "penalty" awarded by referee David Syme. Jimmy would then go on to miss out on the chance to Captain the team in the 1992 Scottish Cup Final due to suspension. The fact that he never allowed these personal low points to affect his performances or duties as Captain is a testament to the player.
Sandison would eventually have his chance to Captain the team in a Scottish Cup Final three years later in 1995 vs Celtic. He also played in four League Cup Semi-Finals, won the B&Q Cup in 1994 and Captained the team in both legs of their only appearance in European Football. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008.
5. Jim Black
1962-1969 / 1974-1979
Born in the town on 13th November 1943, Jim was still in his teens when he arrived at Broomfield from East of Scotland youth outfit Lochend Hearts.
His debut came in the league game with Third Lanark at Broomfield on November 10th 1962, but it wasn’t until the following season that he really made his mark as a committed yet polished centre-half. Together with wing halves Sam Goodwin and Derek Whiteford, he would soon form what is still considered one of Airdrieonians’ most celebrated half-back lines. As a proclamation, ‘Goodwin, Black and Whiteford’ would come to roll off the tongue every bit as effortlessly as those other iconic threesomes of Diamonds’ lore, ‘Ewart, Dick and McQueen’ and ‘McMillan, Baird and Welsh’.
Jim’s initial spell with Airdrie stretched until May 1969 by which time he had amassed 184 appearances and developed into one of the most sought after stoppers in the Scottish game. As things unfolded, it was Hibernian, at the time a leading force in the top division, who eventually shelled out a fee of £32,500 to bag the defender. Black appeared for Hibs over 150 times during a rich spell of success that included winning the League Cup in 1972, as well as back-to-back Dryburgh Cups (’72 & ’73) and a Scottish Cup final appearance, also in ’72.
On the eve of season 1974-75, however, Jim made an emotional return to Broomfield featuring for the Diamonds a further 199 times, including 1975’s Scottish Cup final defeat to Celtic and, a year later, silverware at last in that epic Spring Cup final display against Clydebank at Firhill. Leaving Broomfield in 1979, Jim went on to play for and manage Stenhousemuir.
6. DEREK WHITEFORD
As a youth with Hibernian in the early sixties Derek gained Scotland honours at that level including representing his country in the 1965 tournament in Germany. However when he signed for his local side in June 1967, the Diamonds had themselves an absolute gem. He soon became the figurehead of the club and quickly earned the reputation of a highly influential player and superb skipper who led the club with great distinction. As fate would have it, Derek scored the only goal in the 1968 Scottish win over his former club. He always believed Airdrie had rescued his playing career.
Between 1967 and 1977 he scored 116 goals in 438 appearances, an extraordinary scoring rate for a midfield player. His ability to hang in the air to meet aerial passes was incredible and his well timed runs into the box provided a constant threat that opponents could not handle. His stature across all of Scottish football was akin to Old firm captains McNeill and Greig. He led the club to some of their greatest achievements during that highly successful period. His roll of honour included: 1969 Scottish Cup quarter finalists, 1971 Scottish Cup semi-finalists, 1972 Texaco Cup runners up, 1973 League Cup and Scottish Cup quarter finalists, 1974 Second Division Champions, 1974/75 League Cup semi-finalists and Scottish Cup runners up and the 1976 Spring Cup winners.
In 1977 manager Jackie Stewart foolishly allowed Derek to move, a step he had no wish to take. With Dumbarton Derek outscored all of the Diamonds strikers at that time and the fans could only look on with envy after his new side finished well above Airdrieonians that season. He returned to manage the club for a season in the mid-eighties simply because he wanted to reconnect with the club. His beaming smile as he took the field for the Broomfield farewell in 1994 was met with the one of loudest cheers of the day.
Derek was an instant inductee at the initial Hall of Fame in June 2002 where the profile for him described him as Mr Airdrie, a truly fitting description. In the Herald, five months earlier, the words of the late Bob Crampsey stated ”The early onset of his cruel illness deprived us of one who at the age of 54 still had much to give football”. A true legend.
7. ALAN LAWRENCE
1989-1995 / 1996-1997
Alan started his career with Meadowbank Thistle in 1984 before joining Dundee in 1987. Airdrie Manager Gordon McQueen signed Lawrence in 1989 shortly after watching him score a hat trick against Airdrie whilst on loan back at Meadowbank Thistle. He made his debut on the 1st of April, scoring once against Queen of the South in a 3-0 victory.
The aptly nicknamed "Nipper" soon established himself in the first team, and the fans quickly took to him due to his ability and willingness to run at defences with great pace. In his second season with the club he formed an impressive frontline with Owen Coyle and Graham Harvey. It was this goalscoring trio which went a long way to the club gaining promotion in the following season, with Alan scoring 13 league goals and setting up many for his team mates.
The next two seasons saw Airdrie competing in the Premier League and Nipper was to be the thorn in many of the countries top defences, with top international defenders failing to cope with not only his pace but his quick thinking and inteligent playmaking. Lawrence scored a total of seven league goals in the 1991-92 season including one in each of the first three league games. After playing a further two seasons in the First Division, Lawrence secured a move back to the Premier League at Hearts.
Alan returned to Airdrieonians for one final season in 1996/97 with the club missing out on Promotion back to the Premier League via the play-offs. After spells at Partick, Stenhousemuir, Cowdenbeath and Arbroath, Nipper would once again return to Airdrie in a coaching role. In total he made over 200 appearances for the Diamonds scoring 52 goals. During his time at the club he played in two Scottish Cup Finals, two League Cup Semi-Finalswon the B&Q Cup and represented the club in the European Cup Winners Cup and was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2003.
8. IAN MCMILLAN
1948-1958 / 1964-1966
Airdrieonians’ most celebrated son. Born John Livingstone McMillan on 18th March 1931, ‘Ian’ grew up a stone’s throw away from the Diamonds’ Broomfield Park home. His long association with the club he supported as a boy began in July 1948 when, at the age of 17, he left Airdrie Academy to sign professional forms.
Over the next decade, the unassuming yet enthusiastic teenager blossomed into possibly the greatest talent ever to grace the famous ‘Diamond’. From a lightning football brain that enabled him to pick out precise defence-splitting passes at will to his brilliant dribbling style, Ian quite simply had everything. His skill at orchestrating the entire flow of a game (allied to the fact that he shared his surname with the country’s incumbent prime minister) quickly earned him the nickname of “Wee Prime Minister”. Far from being merely an individual, however, Ian was also known as a superb team player, this by virtue principally of his highly creative attacking partnership with fellow inside-forward Jimmy Welsh and free-scoring centre Hughie Baird.
Local hero status already cemented, Ian’s renown beyond the town broadened when, in April 1952, he gained his first of five full Scotland caps as a Diamond. A crowd of over 134,000 packed into Hampden Park to watch Scotland lose 2-1 to England while, later the same month, Ian shrugged off that debut disappointment to net a brace in the 6-0 defeat of the U.S.A. Unsurprisingly, as his glowing spell at Broomfield approached the ten-year mark, Ian began to attract serious interest on the transfer market. Rangers eventually won the race for his signature and, in October 1958, he moved to Ibrox in a deal worth £10,300. His maturity as an inside forward of real quality continued to blossom and during the six years he remained with the Glasgow giants, the honours, including three league championship, three Scottish Cup and two League Cup winners’ medals as well as an appearance in the 1961 European Cup-winners’ Cup final, stacked up lavishly. He also added a further Scotland cap to the five gained with Airdrie as well as picking up other ‘B’ and League honours.
In December 1964, however, there would be a much-celebrated homecoming when Airdrie paid £5,000 to bring him back to Broomfield. Unfortunately, it was to be a short-lived return with persistent injury problems forcing his retiral from the playing side during the summer of 1967. Returning to successfully manage the Diamonds between 1970 and 1976, Ian then joined the board as vice-chairman. In 2002, he was named Honorary President, a distinction thoroughly merited in recognition of a truly outstanding career.
9. OWEN COYLE
1990-1993 / 2001-2002 / 2003-2005
When Owen Coyle signed for Airdrie in 1990 for £175,000 he was 24 years old and already attracting attention from a number of top teams in the country, having scored 69 goals in 166 games whilst playing for Dumbarton and Clydebank. He would make his debut for the Diamonds in a 6-0 victory over Ayr United, with Coyle scoring the first of his eight hat tricks for the club. Despite only making ten starts for the club by the end of the 89/90 season, Coyle would finish top League goalscorer for the season with ten goals.
The 1990/91 campaign is a season most Airdrie fans will never forget with the club winning promotion to the Premier League, but also because of the start Owen would personally make that season. In the first seven league games of the season he would score an incredible 17 goals. By the time he scored all four goals in a 4-1 win over Clyde he was regularly making appearances on the back pages of the nations newspapers due to his "Roy of the Rovers" style exploits. Tragically Coyle's season looked to be in doubt after suffering a broken leg in October with the club having sat top of the First Division for most of the season. By the time Coyle made a speedy recovery to the team in late January, the club had slipped to third in the league. Coyle perhaps unsurprisingly never found his earlier form but did score another three times to help the club to promotion and see him finish Scotland's top league goalscorer with 20 goals.
Coyle was seldom the scorer of what could be described as "wonder" goals, but this was mainly due to the fact he didn't have to. He always seemed to know where to be on the pitch to give himself goal-scoring opportunities. His finishing was clinical and made him the envy of many opposition managers, he had an uncanny ability to simply place or pass the ball beyond goalkeepers. He would play the next two seasons in the Premier League, finishing the club's top goalscorer on both occasions, and again attracting the attention of other clubs. When Airdrie were relegated in 1993 he would eventually join Bolton Wanderers in the English First Division for £250,000. He would go on to help them gain promotion to the English Premier League, scoring in the play-off Final against Reading at Wembley.
Coyle would return to play in Airdrie not once but twice, firstly in 2001 with the club in administration and struggling to field a team he would help the club avoid relegation, scoring six goals in the final ten games of the season. The following season would see the club challenging for promotion and winning the Challenge Cup Final, with Coyle scoring 27 goals in all competitions. With the club declared bankrupt at the end of season he would go on to join Falkirk. Aged 37 Coyle returned to Airdrie United in 2003, his experience proving invaluable as he helped the club to win the Second Division Title. He would play one final season in the First Division, scoring regularly as well as helping youngsters like Alan Gow and Willie McLaren with his experience and knowledge. He left to become player/manager at St.Johnstone and has continued in management in England and currently the MLS in America. In his time at Airdrie, Coyle finished top goalscorer in seven of the eight seasons he played. He won promotion to the Premier League, played in the 1992 Scottish Cup Final, League Cup Semi-Final, played in both legs of the European Cup Winners Cup matches, won the Challenge Cup in 2001 and the 2nd Division Title in 2004. He was inducted into the inaugural Hall of Fame in 2002.
10. HUGHIE GALLACHER
Hughie Gallacher is not just an Airdrieonians Great, he is one of Scotland’s Greatest ever players. He was one of the first Scottish footballers in the nation's Hall of Fame in 2004. He was also entered into Airdrieonians' Hall of Fame in its first year. Bob McPhail described him as a superb centre forward with a superb sense of getting himself into the right position, never caught off balance and capable of shielding the ball probably better than any other player he had seen. One of the best footballers in the world at the time.
Born in Bellshill in 1903, he signed for Airdrieonians in May 1921 from Queen of the South. His scoring record was fantastic, netting 100 goals for the club in 129 appearances. During the same period he also gained five Scotland caps and three other international honours, scoring 16 goals when playing for his country. His time with Airdrieonians saw the side winning the Scottish Cup and finishing second on four occasions in the top league.
He remained with the club until December 1925 when a £6,500 fee took him to Newcastle. He went on to break all sorts of records that most players could only dream about. He scored five goals on six occasions in his career, once for a Scotland B side and once for a Scottish League side, both while with Airdrieonians. He held the position of third in world football with a scoring ratio of 24 goals in 20 games. He also attained legendary status for his country through being a "Wembley Wizard".
English football had Sir Stanley Matthews, Scotland had Hughie Gallacher. And isn’t it wonderful to know he was a Diamond.
11. billy wilson
Billy Wilson arrived at Broomfield in May 1967 as a Scottish Junior Cup winner with Kilsyth Rangers. He had been part of the side that had beaten Rutherglen Glencairn in front of 22,000 spectators and alongside Drew Jarvie and Jimmy Green, he signed for the Diamonds. Wilson and Jarvie made an immediate impact, becoming first team automatic selections.
In just over a decade he made over 400 appearances (taking friendlies into account) scoring 64 times. It was to be more as a supplier of goals that Billy would make his name, sometimes on the right but more from the left. In only his second season as a professional, as the Diamonds were building an excellent side, he provided Marshall and McPheat with the chances that took Ralph Collins’ side to an unbelievable seventh place finish in the top league. Wee Billy was a mainstay at Airdrie throughout the successful years that followed.
He played in the Airdrie side that went all the way to the 1971 Scottish Cup semi-final, scoring in a fabulous 3-3 draw against a multi talented Celtic side at the same venue as his Junior Cup success. They lost out in the replay to the eventual winners. One of his finest games came as Airdrie chased and earned a Dryborough Cup place, weighing in with goals himself but setting up chance after chance for his team-mates as they ran up seven goals defeating Fergie’s Falkirk. He tormented the Bairns rearguard who were happy to hear the final whistle. His talents were at the heart of the Texaco Cup success the club enjoyed, and while even though he saw team-mates Goodwin, Jarvie and Busby earn big moves in the early seventies, Billy remained to play a critical part in Airdrie's 1974 Championship winning success after their relegation. He was into double figures in goals that season, but there were no statistics kept of the assists in a season when Ian McMillan’s side scored over a hundred league goals. Season 1974/75 saw another return to Hampden for a Scottish Cup final date and defeat by Celtic. Just before that final, at Ibrox when Rangers were celebrating winning the league for the first time in ten years, big Peter McCloy was rolling the ball inside his penalty area, unaware wee Billy had come back on to the park behind him - Billy collected the ball and put it into the net to spoil the party. Season 1975/76 brought Spring Cup success, while Billy’s experience was of great value to the club in his remaining couple of seasons, educating the youngsters in the same way as he had enjoyed in 1967.
His departure in 1978/89 also led to his retiring from playing. Those who watched him play were always very vocal in letting other club’s fans know ”We’ve got Billy, Billy, Billy, Billy Wilson ON THE WING, ON THE WING!”
There was no greater sight in the sixties and seventies than when this one-club man graced the Diamond.