Billy in action in France
The conversation then shifted onto the issue of player power. As a manager who has 'enjoyed' both sides of the Bosman ruling, BD was quick to point out that "there were pluses and minuses" to the decision. A quick glance through the list of our signings this summer shows that none cost a transfer fee - this is balanced by the forced sale of the Wigan three and the loss of John Spencer. However, despite suffering by the Bosman ruling, BD was adamant that change was necessary. The old practice of clubs holding on to players? registrations was fundamentally unfair and he cited as an example the case of Eddie Forrest. We have tracked him for some time but he has only just managed to leave Airdrie. It should be remembered that the Diamonds almost single handedly ruined the careers of a couple of players in the early 90's when they refused to release their registration papers.
When Billy arrived at the club as a player in the mid 90s we were enjoying our best team for years. With his smooth passing style, BD fitted in immediately and he said it was "a pleasure to go in to work every morning...there was always something different happening." He felt that one of the reasons that side was so successful was because of the "great camaraderie" that developed between the players. He went on to suggest that similar sort of bond was forming in the current squad - and having spent a couple of days in the same hotel as them, FPC can vouch for that!
One of the highlights of BD's time as a player was his goal against Partick Thistle in 1994. He recalled it fondly, remembering the "twenty five passes from our own box [then] I finished it with a curler into the bottom right hand corner". Billy was visibly chuffed when we told him that his strike had come in the top three of an FPC poll for the greatest 'Well goal of all time.
Some people may have thought Billy's sudden switch from player to manager could have been tricky but he said he "didn't find it hard". He doesn't distance himself from the players too much; "they know themselves that a line has to be drawn. There is a time to laugh but there is a time to be serious". Billy was not new to management - he was the U21 coach and had previously coached amateurs and school kids. When he was called into the manager's office shortly after the departure of Kampman, he joked that he thought he was in trouble. As it happened, Pat Nevin and John Boyle were waiting with the offer of the top job.
Under his guidance, the team scraped up to seventh in 1999 but it was his first full season in charge that really set the heather on fire. While some 'Well fans were surprised at our fourth place finish, BD wasn't and felt we were "unlucky" to miss out on Europe, "at Christmas we were ten or twelve points clear of Hearts. They were struggling and spent £1.4m on players which gave them a lift. It would have been nice for us to bring in a couple of new faces but that would have been unfair to the players who had done so well to get us into that position."