Sadly, we have to advise the death of a much-respected, former Hearts coach and assistant manager, Walter Borthwick. His football knowledge was second to none, and more importantly, Walter was a “people-person” who was able to communicate tactics, advice and encouragement to players at all levels. He also listened to problems and was able guide individuals through difficult times.
Walter was born in Edinburgh in April 1948 and enjoyed a fine career as a resourceful half-back, starting in September 1965 when he joined Greenock Morton from Tynecastle Boys’ Club. The Youth Internationalist was on the fringe of the Morton team that was Second Division Champions in 1966-67, but he was released April 1967 and after trials with Brighton & Hove Albion and Dundee United, Walter joined East Fife in October that year.
His career, which encompassed some 450 competitive games, really took off at Bayview and Walter helped the Fifers to gain promotion to the old First Division in 1970-71. The midfielder subsequently joined St.Mirren in July 1974 and assisted the Paisley club to qualify for the new Division One in 1975-76. He then signed for St.Johnstone in November 1976 and Dunfermline Athletic in September 1977.
Walter was a key-man when the "Pars" gained promotion to Division One in 1978-79, being player-coach at East End Park. His work was recognized in the game and in July 1981, Walter was appointed first-team coach of Hearts under the management of Tony Ford. When Alex MacDonald took over as manager in February 1982, Walter Borthwick was one of his trusted lieutenants and he made a splendid contribution towards restoring the reputation of Hearts.
Walter’s work behind the scenes assisted the club to promotion from Division One in 1982-83 and to secure a UEFA Cup place the following season. In 1985-86, the club was runners-up in the Premier League and lost the Cup Final against Aberdeen. Nevertheless, it was a glorious campaign that was underpinned by the work of Alex MacDonald, Sandy Jardine and Walter Borthwick.
Hearts were also runners-up in the Premier League in 1987-88 and after some internal changes, Walter became Alex MacDonald's assistant manager in November 1988. That season Hearts had its finest hour in Europe, reaching the Quarter Finals of UEFA Cup where they narrowly lost against Bayern Munich. The team was third in the League in 1989-90, but the directors decided on a different direction and after Alex MacDonald left Tynecastle in September 1990, Walter moved on to eventually become the manager of Arbroath.
During Walter’s time with Hearts the club also reached five semi-finals in the cup competitions and his splendid work behind the scenes helped to develop many superb young players including Davie Bowman, Gary Mackay, John Robertson, Craig Levein, Neil Berry and Alan McLaren. He eventually became the SFA’s Development Officer in East Lothian in October 1993, while also running a taxi business in Edinburgh.
The work undertaken by Walter Borthwick in support of Alex Macdonald and Sandy Jardine, restored the reputation of Hearts after three relegations, and his work with younger players brought quality back into the team and entertainment for the supporters.
Our sincere condolences are extended to his family and friends.
By David Speed