The Legend of Big Tam

Big Tam – aka Neil Love from the Airdre team – lost his long fight against cancer in the early hours of 28th November 2009. He had been fighting it for almost two years, and kept going when many others would have thrown in the towel.

Tam personified all that the IFA is about and Dougy Alsop from Airdrie shared this tribute at the time..

Big Tam lived and breathed football, obviously Airdrie and Scotland in particular, and despite being bed ridden for the last 5 or 6 months, still managed to get to a couple of games this year against the advice of nurses and doctors.

He had been with the Swally pretty much since we formed 9 years ago, and was everything that the IFA is about. Like many Saturday morning players, he came with a chequered history (!), and was always prone to the odd scrap or too, but would always come away smiling and shaking hands. Grammy from Ayr, Paul Karlsen from his Dumbarton days, and Kaino from Aberdeen will all remember him fondly I’m sure.

From my point of view as team organiser, he would be a rock when I was getting fed up and struggling to get responses from folk. I was easily ignorable, but at 6ft4, big Tam seemed to get responses from most folk. In saying that, he was always late – despite always telling everyone else to get there on time to get organised. This always caused havoc and meant we kicked off late…..not because he was an invaluable team member, but at 6ft4, he was the only one who could put the nets up!

I remember the 1st game he played for us, away at Ayr. We had a minibus that day and were all steaming on the way back. We stopped in Eaglesham in a relatively swanky hotel, where we were a tad boisterous. The owner eventually came over to us and said if we didnt calm down we would be asked to leave. Tam immediately downed his pint and left the pub without saying anything. We couldnt believe he had gone so quietly, but two minutes later, he arrived back in the pub with a drum which he had taken to the game and proceeded to belt the songs out even louder. The owner just shook his head and left us to it.

Many games he couldnt get anyone to look after his 8 year old son, Scott, so the wee man would end up coming down to watch. He was right noisy wee thing, and I can remember a game against Aberdeen when one of their guys said ‘is someone going to shut that noisy wee f*cker up!’. Unfortunately for him, 6ft4 Tam was standing right behind him and said ‘thats ma laddie!’. The poor guy nearly shat himself, but Tam was only kidding, and knew what a noisy nuisance wee Scott could be.

So sad to think that he wont have his daddy anymore.

I have never seen anyone live for Leeds and Worldnet as much as he did. He was always the 1st to pay as soon as we got back, and would talk about it every week of the year leading up to it. He was our choirmaster in the halls on a Friday night, and without him the last two years we’ve been lost. Always had the biggest carryout on the bus down, never went to his bed, but was always up for the games in the morning. The wardens knew him by his 1st name, and every year they would turn up to give him a row at 4am, but then end up sitting having a beer with him.

Other memories include him scoring with his balls against Brentford a few years ago; and throwing the ball off of 4 QPR heads from 20 feet away as they did a pre match huddle against us one year when we didnt even have any balls to warm up with; and constantly losing his false tooth in the Boddy bar on the Friday night when trying to start songs.

He would have absolutely loved the Vets tournament….I am gutted he never ever managed to make it the last two years for it.

I know I am rambling on a bit – apologies. Am tired and completely gutted and just wanted those of you who didnt know him what a great guy he was. A great Airdrie fan, a great believer in the IFA, a great team mate, a great dad, and a great friend.

RIP Big Tam.