Peter Price 26th February 1932 – 23rd October 2015
In saying that Peter Price was Ayr United’s greatest ever player this is not some kind of reaction to the fact that he has passed away. People have been saying it for decades. He has no close contenders. Until his passing he was the town’s greatest surviving sporting hero.
The town of Ayr has produced many sporting heroes; people like Arsenal and Scotland star Ian Ure or test cricketer Mike Denness but they all pale in comparison to a man who has scored many more goals for Ayr United than anybody and it would be a virtual miracle if anyone even approached his record.
He was quiet and unassuming despite having a considerable amount he could have bragged about. His goal scoring made him a marked man. Literally! He used to talk about the physical punishment he used to take. But he was willing to put up with it in the Ayr United cause. He would remark that he only ever really wanted to play for his local club.
His passing is, in the main, sad news for the family. It is also sad news for the town and Ayr United supporters everywhere. He was a phenomenon and here is the proof.
Centre-forward, 1955 – 1962
Peter Price remains the most prolific Ayr United goalscorer of all time and his influence was such that his time at the club could accurately be described as ‘The Price Era’.
His career began with Craigmark Burntonians and he then progressed to St.Mirren after turning down the opportunity to play in a second trial match for Celtic reserves. After being released by St.Mirren, his next club was Gloucester City. While there, he played in a floodlit friendly in which Gloucester beat Spurs 2-1. The visiting team contained three England internationalists. They were goalkeeper Ted Ditchburn, right-back Alf Ramsey and inside-forward Eddie Bailey.
At the age of twenty-three, he returned to his native Ayrshire and was signed by Neil McBain for Ayr United in the summer of 1955. The transfer was from Gloucester, although conflicting reports that he joined from Darlington were not wholly inaccurate. His registered club had given him permission to guest for Darlington owing to an army posting to that area.
The return to his Ayrshire roots soon developed into a story of goalscoring abandon. For example he netted five in an 8-1 rout at home to East Stirling on 26 November 1955. Such form was far from isolated. In winning promotion one hundred and three League goals were amassed and Peter Price had the honour, at Forfar, of getting the milestone hundredth. The same goal comprised his fortieth League strike of the season.
A sojourn into the First Division proved all too brief. This was to prove a bad development for Second Division defences. In the two seasons 1957-58 and 1958-59, he scored one hundred and five competitive goals. On 29 March 1958, Ayr United trailed 4-1 in a League fixture at Hamilton. Quite remarkably Price scored four in eight minutes to win the match 5-4. The goal times were 72, 73, 78 and 80. No one would have dared to write such a story in fiction.
It was harsh that such prolific scoring should have gone unrewarded in terms of the club’s promotion quest. There was no such frustration in the championship season which followed. “This was one of Price’s best ever games. He matched his legendary goalscoring act with slick and intelligent ball play” – (Ayr United 3 Morton 0, 6 September 1958) : “Every time Price got the ball, City’s defence panicked” – (Brechin City 0 Ayr United 4, 18 October 1958) : “You could almost see the worry on the faces of the Alloa defenders when Price was in possession near goal” – (Ayr United 6 Alloa Athletic 2, 25 October 1958).
Yet he was more than a penalty box finisher. In the course of a 3-0 Scottish Cup win, at home to Stranraer, he started a run at the halfway line, which culminated in him beating all challenges to get through on goal and net a shot which was described as “unsaveable”. It was consdidered to be : “A goal that will be talked about at Somerset Park for many a day”.
Once back in the First Division, his menace was still greatly in evidence. On 12 September 1959 a highly rated Motherwell team lost 5-2 at Ayr and the occasion was marked by a Price hat-trick. Reputations did not matter to him. On 23 January 1960, television crews from BBC and STV descended on Somerset Park for the visit of a Hearts team which was destined to win that season’s First Division championship. After a 1-1 draw, one journalist described what he considered to be “one of the wildest displays of jubilant supporters in a decade”. While 1-0 down, a Bobby Thomson clearance fell to Sam McMillan who broke clear before picking out Peter Price. The ace predator met the ball on the run and advanced on the Hearts goal before beating Gordon Marshall with a left-foot shot. It was a goal which put the fans into a feverish mood of excitement due to the timing of it. It was the last development of the game. There was not even sufficient time left to re-centre the ball.
The fickle nature of football was illustrated in October 1960 when Jacky Cox dropped Price for a game at Dunfermline. He was the club’s top goalscorer to that point of the season. Nevertheless he found himself playing reserve football and he remained out of contention for four matches at this stage. On returning there were signs that the magic was still there. On Christmas Eve 1960 he got the only goal in a win over Rangers and he was headline news again. Disappointingly the season ended in relegation and he refused terms in the summer of 1961.
The ‘Price Era’ ended on 4 January 1962 when he signed for Raith Rovers. Prior to the end of the 1962-63 season he was an Albion Rovers player, although not for long. In April 1963 he emigrated to Australia where he played for Gladesville. On his debut for that club he scored a hat-trick against Hakoah with less than half an hour played. It is a fact that his first touch of the ball in Australian football resulted in a goal. The goals continued to flow but he was unhappy there and flew home amidst a threat of being reported to FIFA for breach of contract. It was a hollow threat since, in June 1963, the Australians were still negotiating for entry to FIFA.
To reflect on the Ayr United career of Peter Price is to reflect on a goalscoring phenomenon. He is one of eight players to have scored at least one hundred competitive goals for the club…..and he is the only one to have broken through the double-century barrier. A true Ayr United great!
League Scottish Cup League Cup
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
1955-56 35 40 2 1 5 0
1956-57 32 21 1 0 6 4
1957-58 34 46 2 1 6 7
1958-59 35 37 2 2 8 12
1959-60 32 17 3 5 6 4
1960-61 19 5 0 0 6 3
1961-62 12 7 1 0 4 1
199 173 11 9 41 31
213 competitive goals for Ayr United!. Once you have digested the stats please re-read them and digest them again. Ally MacLeod, our greatest manager, was born on 26th February, 1931. Peter Price, our greatest player, was born on 26th February, 1932. 26th February has as great a resonance in the club’s history as the date the club was founded.