The Scottish Connection

Tommy Docherty -- Willie Cunningham -- Bobby Beattie -- Bill Shankly

Willie Cunningham

Position: Full-Back
Born: 22nd February 1925
Other clubs: Dunfermline, Airdrieonians, Southport
Honours: Division Two Champions (PNE 1951)

Willie Cunningham was born on 22nd February 1925 in Cowdenbeath. He started out playing football through his local school sides before joining Dunfermline Athletic as an 18 year old. He was, although, part-time as he combined football as he worked down the pits mining. This continued for a further six years during which he had transferred to Airdrie.

At age 24 he transferred to Preston North End in the summer of 1949 for a £5000 fee. This proved to be one of the best signings North End had made.

Willie made his debut for North End on 24th August 1949 in front of a home crowd of 30,935. North End ran out 2-0 winners against Grimsby Town. He was a formiddable fixture into the side until he left in 1963.

Willie was the heart of North End's solid defence for many years, although his consistent performances were somewhat overshadowed by a certain Tom Finney. He proved to be a thorn in any forward's side with his 100% commitment and strong tackles, he was without doubt one of the most 'rock solid' defenders around.

He appeared in the 1954 FA Cup Final against West Bromich Albion, but unfortuantely a win for North End wasnt to be as West Brom ran out 3-2 winners.

His performances, however, did not go unnoticed by Scotland and he got a well deserved call up to the Scotland squad for the 1954 World Cup Finals and was actually made captain. He played 5 times during the World Cup in which Scotland won 2, drew 1 and lost 2. This included a 7-0 thrashing by Uruguay! He made 3 more appearances for Scotland in 1955 and only earned 8 caps altogether as injury always seemed to hamper him on international duty.

Willie Cunningham left North End in 1963 to move to Southport as player/manager. He made 487 League and Cup appearances for Preston but soon returned when offered the job of reserve team trainer.

Willie Cunningham sadly died in November 2000, but there is no doubt he is one of the true greats to have ever played for Preston North End.