LIVINGSTON’S newly signed goalkeeper Alan Main could hardly have had a tougher start to his career at the club.
His first match was against Celtic. Now Alan is set to make his home debut this afternoon – where he’s assured a warm welcome from the Livi fans - against the other half of the Old Firm.
But it’s a prospect the experienced keeper relishes, after spending a spell in the First Division with St Johnstone.
Ironically, Alan could have been turning out for the opposition this afternoon. For he was set to sign for Rangers, just before the then manager, Jock Wallace, left the club.
Unlike most keepers, Alan didn’t start his career as a centre-half or a centre-forward then take over in goal one day when someone else didn’t show up.
In fact, Alan can’t remember a time when he didn’t play in goals. And he’s got his two big brothers to thank for that.
“When we played football, because I was the youngest they always put me in goals,” said Alan.
All three Main boys went on to become footballers, with Alan’s brothers turning out for Highland League sides. One is currently the player manager of junior outfit Lossiemouth United.
From kicking about with his brothers at the age of 10, Alan progressed to Elgin Boys’ Club. At the age of 16, Alan played one match for Rothes in the Highland League. “The manager then went to Lossiemouth,” added Alan “and I ended up going there for the remainder of the season.”
Alan was just 16 when he was a first team regular at Lossiemouth. 18 months down the line, he moved to Elgin City, when they were a Highland League side.
Even at this early stage in his career, it was obvious that Alan had a big future ahead of him. And it wasn’t long before the big boys came looking for his signature. “I was on trial with Rangers three times and with Aberdeen.” Alan even went to Belgium with Rangers and got the goalkeeper of the tournament award. But just as it seemed certain he would be offered terms with the Glasgow giants, Jock Wallace lost his job. Alan had previously been offered an ‘S’ form signing at Motherwell when big Jock was the manager there, but turned down the offer on the grounds that it was just a bit too far to travel from Elgin.
The chance then came to go to Aberdeen, where the club had keepers of the calibre of Jim Leighton, Brian Gunn and Michael Watt. “I spent a week there under Alex Ferguson and Archie Knox,” said Alan, but they told me they had enough goalkeepers and I was the same level as them.”
Within two weeks, Alan was heading for Dundee United at the age of 19.
He impressed enough to be offered a contract. Otherwise, Alan may have ended up as a plumber. “My two brother were plumbers and I was a plumber’s mate to one,” he explained.
Alan had a happy childhood, the youngest of three boys and a girl. “There were no computers or anything like that, it was just a matter of playing football, finding the nearest park and getting on with it.
“There are a lot more things for kids to get involved in now, but I think I was fortunate to grow up the way I did. At Christmas time, I got a strip or goalie gloves. I’d get a ball put my strip on and away I would go. It was great.”
At Dundee United, Billy Thomson and Scott Thomson were the men in possession of the goalkeeper jerseys. But within a few months, Alan made his debut against Forfar. “I got off to a great start, saving a penalty in the first 10 minutes. Then they got another penalty, which they stuck by the post. But in all honesty, if it was going in, I was going to save that as well.”
Alan was at United when the club were in their heyday, and had established himself as first-choice keeper by the time he was 24. Having played every game for Scotland in the under-20 World Cup in Chile, Alan was called into Andy Roxburgh’s full Scotland squad. Due to make his debut against Malta.
Alan hurt his back, requiring an operation which kept him out of the game for nine months. “I got back and back into the squad when Craig Brown took charge. I was on the bench twice against Germany and was in a lot of the squads for the European Championships and World Cup qualifiers.”
Alan saw a lot of the world, but disappointingly never saw first team action, with Jim Leighton and Andy Goram in the queue ahead of him.
Like many players from that era at Dundee United, Alan will never forget his time working for Jim Mclean. “It was hard and maybe at times a bit unfair, but it held me in good stead,” he added. After eight successful seasons at United, which included eight European games and a Scottish Cup final place against Motherwell, Alan moved to St Johnstone, a club, he says, that holds many happy memories for him.
“They are a great club with some great prospects. I really enjoyed my time there and wish them well.”
However, the opportunity to get back into the Premierleague with Livingston was one that Alan couldn’t turn down, and he’s looking forward to the latest challenge in his career.
So far, Alan’s been impressed with what he’s seen at the club. “It was pleasing that someone showed a bit of faith in me. After breaking my leg and being out for a year, there’s no doubt you can get forgotten. I felt I had being playing well at St Johnstone, but it’s a totally different atmosphere in the First Division. You come into this league and there is a big, big difference.”
Now Alan, who lives with his wife and kids in Perth, is hoping to impress the Livi fans with a good display this afternoon.
He has one other ambition, though. But he doesn’t know how his news
bosses would react.
“I’d quite like to come down from Perth on my Suzuki 600, but I’m not too sure how it would go down if I walked in with a crash helmet,” joked Livi’s likeable new keeper.
When and where were you born?
Romantic status (ie married, single, available, unavailable)
Married with three boys, Nicholas, Josh and Kristopher
What’s your favourite record?
I listen to a wide range of music, mostly in the car
Who would you want to play you in a film?
What do you like most about West Lothian?
I don’t know much about it, but I like the stadium
What do you like least about West Lothian?
It’s quite windy
If you could be someone else, who would it be?
What do you like most about yourself?
I am quite easy going
What do you like least about yourself?
I can be quite quick-tempered
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I have a 600cc Suzuki motorbike
& used will full permission (in writing) of Livingston FC