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|Big-hearted Brian||17th January 2005|
Although small in stature, Brian McLaughlin is big in heart as some of his recent displays have proven. No matter how big and strong the opposition the 'wee man' can lead them a merry dance. When he first arrived at Celtic Park as an eight stone 16-year-old, he was hailed as the new Jimmy Johnstone. Although Brian never reached the dizzy heights of 'Jinky' he endeared himself to the 'Parkhead Faithful' with his amazing ball skills and wing wizardry and was to spend eight happy years at Parkhead.
A Bellshill boy, born and bred, he was kicking a football about as soon as he could walk. He played for Corpus Christi Primary and St Patrick's High School and was 'Celtic Daft'. Said Brian "All through my schooldays I supported Celtic and my idol was Charlie Nicholas, so it was 'a dream come true' when Billy McNeill came along and signed me. At that time the star men were John Collins, Paul McStay and Charlie Nicholas himself, who had just re-joined the club. It was like something out of one of those schoolboy comics--wee Brian McLaughlin playing in the same team as his boyhood hero.
"Two matches I'll also remember during my years at Parkhead was my very first 'Old Firm' derby which was some experience, and the final of the Scottish Cup when we beat Airdrie and I still treasure that medal to this day. It was a sad day when I left Celtic for I was only two games away from my 100th appearance. Paul Sturrock signed me for Dundee United, but it was only for a couple of months to see the season out.
"I then moved south of the border to Wigan and played for two years in the English Second Division. I returned to Scotland after that and had a season at Ayr United before John Connolly offered me a contract at Queen of the South. The minute I walked through the dressing room door at Palmerston I was made welcome and I settled down right away. The only reason I moved to St Johnstone was the chance of 'full-time' football and the possibility of playing in the Premier League again. It was Billy Stark who talked me into moving to Perth--I knew Billy well from my days at Celtic but when he was sacked it just wasn't quite the same, so when 'Scotty' asked me to return to Queens I said 'yes'.
"They're a real homely club and there's such a good atmosphere in the dressing room. The fans have also treated me really well which is an added bonus. I'm nearly 31 now and I realise that I can't go on playing football for ever. I'd love to get involved in the coaching side of the game for I must plan ahead for the day I finally 'hang up my boots'. I've spoken to the manager about it and I hope we may be able to work something out in the future".
A real family man, Brian is father to four sons who all want to become footballers like their dad. There's Aidan (10), Connor (7), Ronan (4) and Dylan (2). Only seven more for a football team we joked with Brian. "No way" came his wife Pauline's voice from the kitchen.
There's an old saying that goes 'All the best things come in small packages". And that's certainly true of Brian McLaughlin.