He will be remembered as one of Ally MacLeod’s best ever signings – no mean feat considering the long line of stars who played under the greatest manager in Ayr’s history.
John Sludden, who has died at the age of 56, was more than just an outstanding footballer.
He was a thoroughly decent man to boot and is rightly revered as a club legend.
An astonishing 84 goals from 153 games was incredible value for the modest £5000 which Ally paid Airdrie to secure his services. As bargains go, it was right up there.
Skipper Ian McAllister, who served Ayr for 15 seasons, is adamant that Sludden was one of the best he played with.
Cally recalls: “John was great friends with Brian McLaughlin, another great teammate of mine who has also gone long before his time.
“I was honoured to share a dressing room with them and other greats such as Henry Templeton, Stevie Nicol and Alan McInally. Sluddy is right up there as one of the best I played with.
“He was a wonderful football player but also a lovely person as well and a great friend. I am shocked to hear the news.
“Sluddy was the favourite player of a good friend of mine in Darvel.
“There aren’t too many Ayr supporters in Darvel and he was thrilled when I arranged for John to come and speak to the local boys’ club.
“He and his wife drove from their home in Falkirk one Friday evening and spent a good couple of hours talking to the boys. That summed him up.”
Sludden first made his mark at Wembley, scoring twice for Scotland Schoolboys in a 5-4 win over England that was shown live on TV.
He signed for Celtic and played in a Glasgow Cup final against Rangers before moving to St Johnstone and then Airdrie.
A loan deal took him to Ayr and he made his debut in a 2-2 draw against Partick in February 1986. He had the distinction of scoring the last ever goal at Muirton Park as Ayr beat St Johnstone 1-0.
The move was made permanent in August that year and Sludden quickly made his mark, scoring in a 2-1 Skol Cup win over Kilmarnock later that day.
He went on to score 30 goals that season and was named Scottish PFA Player of the Year for the Second Division.
Templeton joined him from Airdrie the following season when Ayr romped to the title with Sludden scoring 31 times. The team won a crate of champagne from the Daily Record for being the first in the country to score 100 competitive goals.
Sludden, Templeton and Tommy Walker were a formidable strike trio which long in the tooth fans proudly hail as one of the finest to grace the black and white.
In December 1989, former Ayr players Jim Fleeting and Jim McSherry, who were then the management team at Rugby Park, paid £50,000 to lure Sludden to Kilmarnock who he helped win promotion from the Second Division.
He went on to play for East Fife, Clydebank, Clyde and Stenhousemuir before stepping into management with Bo’ness, Camelon and East Stirling.
But Sludden never forgot his days under Ally at Ayr and would insist they were the best and most successful time of his career.
John leaves behind wife Linda and sons Paul and Marc.