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20 February 2013

Richard Day looks back at the Scot's career

David, or Davie as he was known north of the border, was born in Strathmiglo on February 20 1925 and was educated at Wemyss School.

He played for Bayview Youth Club before being joining Hearts of Midlothian at the age of 17 in 1942 after five of the Bayview players were signed by boss Davie McLean who himself had moved from local side East Fife.

However he signed-up for the Navy that year and it wasn’t until after completing his National Service that he made his Hearts debut in November 1946 although during WWII he did guest for Celtic, West Ham United and Bath City.

He gained a first-team place in the 1946-47 season and was famed for his long throws and a rocket left-foot. Davie made his debut at Greenock Morton in November 1946 and went on to make more than 250 appearances with the club which included a League runners-up medal (1953-54) and three various cup semi-finals (1946-47, 1951-52 and 1952-53).

During 1953-54 Laing played three times for a Scottish League representative side, twice against the League of Ireland and the other was against the Welsh League.

At the end of that season Davie was part of a 16-player Hearts squad that travelled to South Africa for a 10-game tour. Two of these were against the national side, they beat them 2-0 in Pretoria before losing 2-1 in Durban.

On September 4 1954 he scored a penalty as Hearts beat Celtic 3-2 in a League Cup tie. It turned out to be his 18th and final goal in 311 appearances for the club as just days later his 12-year association at Tynecastle came to an end when a £6,000 fee saw him join Clyde.

His debut for the Bully Wee was on September 11 in a 2-2 home draw against Celtic.

Davie’s first season at Shawfield saw the skilful, wing-half win a Scottish Cup winners medal as they beat favourites Celtic 1-0 in a replay in April 1955 which followed a 1-1 draw. En route to the final they beat Albion Rovers, Raith Rovers, Falkirk and champions-elect Aberdeen in the semi-final – Laing had featured in every game.

During his short time at the club they played in some big friendlies against the likes of Arsenal,  Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle United and Sunderland.

In July 1956, after Clyde had suffered a cost-cutting exercise following relegation, he was on the move again joining Hibernian but after just 10 games the experienced Scot arrived at Gillingham in August 1957.

David made his Gills debut in the opening game of the season against Brighton & HA at home.

In November 1957 he was in the Gillingham side that recorded a then club record win as they beat Eastern Counties Gorleston 10-1.

Five months later Laing scored his first goal for the club albeit in a 3-1 home reverse against Shrewsbury Town.

After scoring five times in 88 games he was surprisingly released by manager Harry Barratt and in the summer of 1959 he joined Margate and he netted on his debut against Cambridge United at home.

The FA qualified coach skippered the Thanet side throughout his time at Hartsdown Park and also worked as a sports journalist with the Thanet Times.

Having scored eight goals in 103 appearances Davie was released and quickly joined local rivals Ramsgate Athletic for the 1961-62 campaign.

After a season at Southwood he joined Canterbury City in June 1962 and made 20 appearances in the Southern League before ‘retiring’.

However he returned to playing action with Margate Reserves in 1963-64 and helped run a Sunday youth side – he also added four more first team games to his tally. The following campaign saw him coach Margate ‘A’ and appeared for them in a local amateur league.

Davie then left in the summer of 1965 and returned to Scotland, continuing his media work with the Daily Record and he also later edited the Hearts’ matchday programme.

It was in the mid-Seventies that he returned to Kent taking up the post of Sports Editor at the Dover Express. Despite being over 50 at the time he formed a five-a-side team and played local Sunday football.

After retiring from the paper in May 1990 he once again returned north of the border and lived in East Kilbride. Unfortunately Davie suffered from dementia which sadly deteriorated and he moved into a nursing home in Calderwood.

In September 2011, at the age of 85, he was inducted into Clyde FC’s ‘Hall of Fame’ in a ceremony at Glasgow’s Marriot Hotel. Despite his suffering he received a standing ovation after addressing the guests.

Last May he went to Hampden Park to see his former clubs Hearts and Hibernian, he was a guest of the latter, participate in the Scottish Cup Final.

The Scottish Junior F.A have previously honoured him with one of their cup competition in the East Region being named the DJ Laing League Cup.

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