Footballer, coach, manager and cult figure at St Johnstone

Born: September 27, 1948;

Died: March 4, 2018

ALEXANDER Duncan Rennie, who has died of cancer aged 69, was a footballer who became an excellent coach and manager with several Scottish clubs, principally St Johnstone.

The Falkirk-born midfielder or defender, noted for his shock of blond hair, first came to prominence as a school-boy and youth player in a very good Gairdoch United team. The side, based at Carronshore on the Forth, included future Scotland cap John Blackley of Hibs and the Falkirk stalwart Wilson Hoggan, as well as Rennie.

He was signed by Rangers, but he failed to break through at Ibrox and went to Stirling Albion for a short spell, before joining St Johnstone, for whom he played over 200 games. He then went to Dundee United, where an eye injury caused his premature retirement and his switch into coaching.

As a St Johnstone player he was part of the very good side which Willie Ormond built, finishing third in the old Division 1 in 1970-71 Saints' highest finish, to bring European football to Perth and a good run in the UEFA Cup the following season. Of that side, John Connolly and Alex MacDonald would move on to win full caps, Henry Hall and Rennie stayed to be Saints' cult heroes, while John Lambie, like Rennie and MacDonald would go on to enjoy a legendary managerial career.

He began his coaching and managerial career at Hearts, under his former Saints gaffer, Willie Ormond – indeed, when Ormond was sensationally sacked by the Tynecastle club in January, 1980, at the time topping the First Division, Rennie took over as caretaker, prior to Bobby Moncur's installation as manager.

Rennie's success as Tynecastle – he kept the club at the top of the table, being unbeaten in his six games as caretaker boss until Moncur came in to lead them to promotion – earned him a return to Muirton.

He arrived back at lowly St Johnstone in April, 1980, towards the end of a season in which they finished 11th of the 14 clubs in Scottish football's second tier. He immediately began to change things, introducing some younger players among whom was a teenaged midfielder, who he converted to a striker, then sold to Sunderland for big money – a club record fee of £400,000, a certain Alistair McCoist.

In season 1980-81, his first as a fully fledged manager, Rennie took Saints to third in the table; they fell to fifth in 1981-82, but, recharged, he led them to the First Division title in 1982-83, and the picture of the white-suited Rennie, clutching the trophy and surrounded by his players is an iconic one for Saints' fans.

Sadly, the team struggled in the top-flight, being relegated after one season. Worse was to follow in 1984-5 as they tumbled to the foot of the First Division and were relegated to the then bottom level of senior football. After two successive relegations, Rennie and Saints parted company.

But when, as they inevitably do with Scottish provincial sides, the good days gave way to bad, Rennie quit full-time football, although he would later do his bit for the local club, by helping out on a part-time basis at lowly Stenhousemuir, his final hands-on involvement in the game.

He and Carolyn, his partner for 52 years and wife for almost 48, bought and ran the Blackmills Inn, near their Falkirk home, although, as Carolyn remembers, after a while being indoors got to Rennie, who left her to run the pub, while he worked as a driving instructor.

This ended when he was diagnosed with throat cancer. He beat that disease, although he was then diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus, and this one he could not beat, in spite of his best efforts.

Former striker and friend John Connolly paid tribute to Rennie. “It is very sad news," he said. “Alex had been battling cancer for a few years and missed our annual re-union last year.

“He was one of the game’s good guys. As a player he was always reliable and quietly effective, operating either in central midfield or at the back.

“Alex was an integral part of the team wee Willie Ormond put together and took into Europe. He will be sadly missed at our get-togethers.”

Away from football, Alex Rennie, who died in the early hours of a Sunday morning, enjoyed the occasional game of golf with son Mark.

He is survived by Carolyn, Mark, daughter Dawn and his four grand-children, Olivia, Georgia, Zac and Abi – two pairs of twins.