By Jack Crawford

He’s played from junior level to international level and everything else in between, but former Dumbarton player Ian Wallace says that the Sons’ last cup run was the one that put him on the map.

Stevie Aitken’s side head down to Oswestry on Saturday to take on The New Saints in the semi-final of the Irn-Bru Cup, with Sons’ last appearance in the last four of a national competition coming more than 41 years ago.

Wallace, 61, was part of the team who took Sons to the last four, the striker scoring the winner against Partick Thistle in the fourth round helping Sons progress to the quarter-finals.

They then went on to beat Kilmarnock to set up a tie against Hearts at Hampden Park.

Alex Wright’s Dumbarton side drew the first game 0-0, with the Jambos winning the replay 3-0.

The retired forward, who also played for Coventry and Nottingham Forest, admits that Sons should have gone a step further.

He said: “We should have won the first game. The whole town was behind us because it was a semi-final.

“It was a big thing for everyone with all the razzmatazz and everyone was really up for it. It was a big thing and really exciting.

“We beat Partick Thistle in the quarter-final 2-1 at Boghead. There was a big crowd there that night and Thistle were favourites.

“I was only 18 and scored the winner. At that particular time it was probably the best moment of my career.

“That goal put me on the map.

“It caused a lot of interest in the club which is why a lot of scouts came to watch us and maybe why the likes of myself got a move down south.”

Wallace, who grew up in Whitecrook, Clydebank, started his career at junior side Yoker Athletic, but quickly drew the attention of other clubs after scoring nearly 50 goals at the age of just 17.

Fast forward not even a year and Wallace was now brushing shoulders with the likes of Jumbo Muir, Lawrie Williams and Murdo Macleod.

Wallace said: “I was scoring a lot of goals [at Yoker Athletic], I think 47 that season, and I was only 17.

“They must have had a scout there watching me, because they signed me but left me at Yoker for the rest of the season.

“Signing for a professional club was what I always wanted to do, so after signing for Dumbarton I was quite happy to stay there for the rest of the season.

“Dumbarton put me on the map.

“Looking back, there were other clubs interested at the time such as Clyde, Clydebank and Arbroath, but the people at Yoker said that I would get a chance at Dumbarton to break through early doors. “It was a great set up where we only trained two nights until we went full-time.

“Luckily I was one of the few who did go full-time.

“That put me in good stead, because you had more time with the coaches and they could guide us a bit more.”

The lure of playing in England was too much for Wallace to resist as he moved on to play for Coventry City after two years at Dumbarton.

The English side paid £70,000 for Wallace, who fitted right in as he felt they were similar to Dumbarton, and was inducted into the Sky Blue’s hall of fame after scoring 60 goals in 140 appearances.

He said: “Coventry was like a bigger version of Dumbarton, because they were a family club but getting 20-30,000 crowds.

“They had a lot of Scottish boys there at the time which also helped. “When they came in for me they were in the same league as the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham so that was a dream come true when it happened. “I went down green and naive and just wanted to kick a ball.

“When I played my first ten games for the reserves I played at all the big grounds, but they were all empty so I wasn’t phased by them when I played for the first-team. It couldn’t have gone any better.

“I had four great years there and for three of those I was top scorer. It was all new to me and life was good.”

Wallace continued to catch the eye of all the big clubs, and at the time there was no such bigger club than back-to-back European champions Nottingham Forest.

He was signed by Brian Clough for £1.25million, and the striker enjoyed the winning mentality that came with his new club.

He said: “When I went to Nottingham Forest they were European champions at that particular time.

“You were the big boys and everyone wanted to beat you. You had to win every week and get results.

“People were always trying to knock you off the top and that was a different feeling altogether, but one that I enjoyed.

“I was really competitive so it suited me. It was always a challenge and I had a great four years there.

“Cloughie should have been an England manager and the only reason that he wasn’t was because he was too outspoken.

“He would have run the show there because he ran the show wherever he went. He would have been too powerful.

“His man management skills were brilliant.

“He allows you a drink and let you do stuff other managers wouldn’t. With Brian Clough, he’d said jump and you said how high. You had to play by his rules.”

After knocking back a four year contract from the Reds, Wallace moved abroad to play for French side Stade Brest before stints back in England, then Portugal and Australia.

But Wallace admitted he never loved the game quite the same after moving overseas.

He said: “I was 28 at the time I left Forest and wanted another challenge, so I moved to Stade Brest in France which was a bit of a mistake.

“I got offered another four years at Forest and I never took it, but looking back I maybe should have taken it.

“I came back to Sunderland but my happier days were before moving abroad. I wasn’t really enjoying it as much.

“I had 18 months there and went to Portugal to play for Maritimo, but it was different football and a different lifestyle.

“I then went to Australia to guest play for Melbourne Croatia and ended up staying.

“The football was good, not as high a standard but I was getting near the end of my playing career so it suited me.”

After a year Down Under, Wallace called it a day on his playing career and moved into management, despite confessing it’s not something that ever really crossed his mind.

He said: “Management isn’t something I ever really wanted to do.

“When I was at Sunderland, Harry Gregg, a former Busby Babe, was the Carlisle manager and wanted me to go there as player/coach with him going onto the board, but at that time I wanted to keep playing. Maybe it’s something I should have tried at that time.

“I coached Melbourne for a bit, and when I came back I had a stint coaching Yoker before being offered the manager’s job at Dumbarton. I started the youth development scheme there and a few boys came through the system.

“I played under a lot of good managers, Jock Stein for Scotland and Brian Clough for Forest, so you pick things up without really knowing it.

“Even though I didn’t really want to go to the coaching side at that particular time.”

Wallace’s management style wasn’t far away from his playing style - attack.

His way of football caught many teams off guard, and Wallace has the highly unusual stat of having won more games away from home than at Boghead while with Dumbarton. Of his 25 victories for the Sons, just seven came at home.

He said: “I had the attitude of home or away, we play the same system.

“It doesn’t matter if it was the top team we were playing or the bottom team.

“I just played the system that suited Dumbarton. I didn’t accommodate the other team.

“We were a team that was going to score goals but it was a question of how many we were going to let in so my teams were always attacking.

“Sometimes in that division we played a bit too much football but it was the way I wanted to play.”

Wallace, who still occasionally does scouting for both Coventry and Forest, will be keeping a keen eye on the semi-final this weekend and hopes the current squad can make history once more.

He said: “It’s great for them just to get this far. With a bit of luck then they’ll go one step further.

“I’ll be keeping my fingers, toes and everything else in between crossed.”