In the fifth of our six-part series on Peterhead’s 20 years in the Scottish football league, the club’s most successful boss Jim McInally and most successful player Rory McAllister open up on close to a decade of trials and tribulations.
When Jim McInally reflects on his time with Peterhead, pride is the overriding emotion.
It will be nine years next month since he took over at Balmoor and in that time it’s been a rollercoaster ride for the Blue Toon.
The highs include winning the Buchan club’s first two league titles in the SPFL, League Two in 2014 and 2019.
A run in 2015-16 Challenge Cup which ended in facing Rangers at Hampden in the final, beating the Gers in the league at Ibrox, a glamour Scottish Cup tie against Celtic and memorable League Cup wins against the likes of Hearts, Dundee and Inverness Caley Thistle.
The lows include relegation from League One in 2017 and agonising promotion play-off defeats in 2013 and 2018.
Looking back McInally said: “There’s a lot of pride in what we have achieved as a club. The regret I always have is the relegation season.
“It shouldn’t have happened and it always muddies the waters for me, but we have had a lot of good times.
“I look at the Challenge Cup final and that was amazing. Rangers won’t be in the lower leagues and playing in the Challenge Cup again, so to not just play them in the league, but play them in a cup final at Hampden, it just doesn’t get any better than that.
“There’s no doubt what we did that season was a great high point.
“Yet that season finished disappointingly. For whatever reason, after the cup final, we went flat and went on a poor run, but it doesn’t detract from finishing third in League One and reaching the cup final because it was a great achievement.”
McInally admits when he took the job he never expected to still be in place nine years on.
The former Dundee United player offered to resign following the 2017 relegation, failure to win promotion a year later and even last year after winning League Two.
But he says the support of the Balmoor board and chairman Rodger Morrison have been instrumental in keeping him at Peterhead.
He added: “Of course it’s a surprise to be here nine years on and it’s not something I would have expected when I started.
“I always think it’s healthy if you can leave a club in a better situation than you found it in.
“That’s why I was seriously considering leaving last summer, because we’d won promotion, so we were in a higher league than when I took over.
“Just coming in for a start you try to pick the club and improve things and I think we have.
“It’s been brilliant, there’s no question, being manager of Peterhead.
“Ultimately you need the right tools to do the job and the board have always made that possible – we’ve had brilliant boards.
“At any football club, the manager-chairman relationship is massive.
“I’ve had a very good relationship with the board as a whole, but the relationship I’ve had with Rodger has been a huge help to me.
“He’s always been there for me in difficult times, even when we got relegated and the season after when we just missed out on promotion, he’s given me great support and you can’t beat that.”
Former Blue Toon goalie and assistant manager Paul Mathers had a role in McInally getting the job.
The former Scotland cap explained: “I’m friendly with Paul and he was a big factor because he encouraged me to apply for the job and I think he spoke to Rodger as well and put in a good word for me.”
McInally knows he couldn’t have achieved what he has without the players and paid tribute to those who have played under him.
“There’s an endless amount of names I could mention that have served the club so well,” he said.
“We’ve had good people and good players. Looking at the history of Peterhead, Rory McAllister will perhaps always be the main man in that history because of the great things he did for us.
“As well as him there have been many other great players for us.
“Loads of guys like Martin Bavidge, Graeme Sharp, Callum MacDonald, Graeme Smith, Steven Noble, Andy Rodgers, right up to the current day with guys like Jamie Stevenson, Simon Ferry, Scott Brown and Jack Leitch.
“There are a lot of players that have spent a long time at the club and have given a lot to the club.”
Rory McAllister – the man who netted 198 goals in 348 games for the Blue Toon
Rory McAllister knows he’ll always be linked to Peterhead after eight-and-a-half goal-laden years at Balmoor.
During the Blue Toon’s 20 years in Scottish League football, few – if any – players have attracted as much attention as McAllister.
The striker had previously had a short loan spell with the Buchan outfit in 2008, but joined permanently in 2011 from Brechin City having rejected the advances of full-time clubs.
When he left to join Cove Rangers in January, the 33-year-old had racked up 198 goals in 348 games.
Reflecting on his time with Peterhead, McAllister said: “I know I’ll always be linked to the club because of my time there and I’ve still got a lot of time for the club and the people there.
“People talk about me leaving, but sometimes things have to change and it felt like the right thing to do and I hope people aren’t too bitter towards me about it.
“I really enjoyed my time at Peterhead overall and have a lot of good memories from my time.”
During McAllister’s time at Balmoor, he twice helped the Blue Toon win the League Two title (2014 and 2019).
His goals also played a major part in the run to the 2016 Challenge Cup final against Rangers at Ibrox.
He scored in every round up to the final with the most memorable game a 5-3 second round victory against Falkirk in which McAllister netted all five.
Aside from those landmarks he also picks out victories against Hearts (2017) and Dundee (2016) in the League Cup and a League Two triumph against Rangers at Ibrox in 2013 as other highlights.
McAllister added: “We won a couple of league titles and reached the Challenge Cup final as well.
“The first time we won League Two was really good being the first time the club had done it as well.
“I played in a lot of good teams over the years at Peterhead and you can pick out individual games like beating Hearts and beating Dundee in the League Cup.
“Those were good nights for the club and good atmospheres to play in.
“Another game that sticks out was beating Rangers at Ibrox, to do that is something that will always stand out as one of the great days.
“We had a great day in the Challenge Cup final at Hampden and we had a great run to it.
“Playing Falkirk away and scoring all five goals is something that will always stand out for me on a personal level.”
For all but the first few months of his time with Peterhead, McAllister played under boss Jim McInally.
He enjoyed working under Scotland’s longest-serving manager, who seemed to have a knack of getting the best out of him.
McAllister said: “I’ve got a lot of time and a lot of respect for Jim. Right up until the end I enjoyed playing under Jim.
“From the get-go when he came into the club I enjoyed working with Jim, Davie Nicholls his assistant was the same and I enjoyed working with them.”
‘He still has that drive to be successful again’
They’ve worked together for almost nine years and Rodger Morrison says there’s nobody better to be in charge of Peterhead than Jim McInally.
McInally has been at the helm for almost half of the Blue Toon’s 20 years in the Scottish League.
There have been ups – League Two title wins in 2014 and 2019 and a run to the 2016 Challenge Cup final – and downs – relegation from League One in 2017 – but chairman Morrison is full of praise for the job Scotland’s longest serving manager has done at Balmoor.
He said: “Jim has a vast amount of experience. I believe it was the first time the club had advertised for a manager.
“Previously we’d always pinpointed someone but we advertised and Jim stuck out by a mile on a high quality list.
“Over the piece we’ve had some good and some, thankfully infrequent, not so good times but I still rate Jim very highly as a manager.
“His record speaks for itself and ask any player who has worked under Jim, they will more often than not tell you that he is the best gaffer they have played for – both professionally and personally.
“Sometimes you need a bit of luck and sometimes in our position with where we are geographically in Scotland attracting the right players can be difficult.
“But Jim has shown at numerous points over his time with Peterhead his ability to recruit well due to his reputation as a manager who gets the best out of players.
“Even after nine years he still has that drive to be successful again and we trust him to achieve that, he’s the best man to take the club forward and I think we’re all looking forward to the new season.”
Morrison has been with Peterhead for 35 years and over the course of the last 20 following the step up from the Highland League he says he’s seen some great players in action.
He added: “There have been so many important players for us over the last 20 years and Rory McAllister is definitely one of them.
“I’ll always remember being behind at Falkirk in the Challenge Cup and coming back to win (5-3) with Rory scoring all five goals.
“When you talk about putting the club and the town of Peterhead on the map it was Rory who did that a lot because at 5pm on a Saturday when the scores are on the TV his name was usually there as well.
“It’s easy to concentrate on strikers because they score the goals and grab the headlines but we’ve been lucky enough to have some great players pull on a Peterhead jersey.
“Martin Bavidge, Graeme Sharp, Callum MacDonald, Bobby Mann to name a few.”