THE sadness of Willie Woodburn’s career is that he is always remembered as the last professional player in Britain to have been banned indefinitely for indiscipline on the field. The consequences are tragic on two counts.

First, it masks the fact that he was a superbly talented footballer. Second, it misrepresents the circumstances of that ban, which many people in football believe were harsh and unjust.

He was banned sine die in 1954 for butting a Stirling Albion player. Woodburn was not a dirty player, though he did have a temper. But most football historians believe he was made a scapegoat, a man punished in order to deter others – a fact possibly recognised by the Scottish FA when they lifted the ban almost three seasons later.

It was too late, however, for Woodburn to resume playing. His career was over.

In a sense, Woodburn was 30 years ahead of his time. Centre halves in the Forties and Fifties were expected to be little more than stoppers. Woodburn could stop – but he could also play.

True, he was a hard and formidable tackler, strong in the air and as full-blooded on the ground as you could wish a defender to be.

But Woodburn could create as well as destroy. His distribution was sure and accurate and he liked to come forward on surging runs, bringing the ball upfield to his attackers.

Woodburn, born in Edinburgh on August 8 1919, played junior football for Edinburgh Ashton and signed as a professional for Rangers in October 1937.

He made his debut on August 20 1938 in a 2-2 draw in the League against Motherwell.

After the war he established himself and won the first of his four League Championship medals in season 1946-47.

He appeared in the first Scottish League Cup Final in April 1947 when Rangers beat Aberdeen 4-0. Woodburn also won the first of his 24 caps for Scotland that same month in the 1-1 draw with England at Wembley.