Motherwell FC's legendary Ancell Babes are recounted in new YouTube video

Motherwell FC legend John Martis is one of the club’s playing greats featured in a new YouTube video celebrating 65 years since the formation of ‘The Ancell Babes’.

Thursday, 16th July 2020, 10:40 am
Updated Thursday, 16th July 2020, 10:44 am
The Ancell Babes Motherwell team played some exceptional football in the 1950s and 1960s.
The Ancell Babes Motherwell team played some exceptional football in the 1950s and 1960s.

The 25-minute production, which can be viewed at YouTube/Motherwell FC legends/Ancell Babes, is the work of Kirkfieldbank man and ex-Motherwell player Cammy Murray, plus Tom Smith and Stuart Graham.

Rated by many as the Steelmen’s greatest ever side, this youthful, free flowing and entertaining team was led by manager Bobby Ancell (Fir Park gaffer between 1955 and 1965) and its legend survives today in the form of squad players John Martis, Willie McSeveney, Billy Reid (not one of the original Ancell Babes), Willie Hunter and Ian St John.

Sadly, fellow Ancell Babe Pat Quinn, an inside forward who made 251 appearances for Motherwell between 1955 and 1962, scoring 119 goals, died on Sunday aged 84.

Martis (80), a centre back who made 296 ’Well appearances between 1957 and 1969 after joining from Royal Albert, told the Times and Speaker: “Bobby Ancell was a decent chap. He would make time for all the players.

“He was a good man manager. Ancell would try and build us up to get us to think we were better players than who we were playing against.

“He would say: ‘Oh this guy can’t do this, he can’t do that, he’s a bit rubbish’. That certainly did help us.

“And Ancell also said that the best way to enjoy football was to go out and get on top of the other team as quick as you can, rather than have to struggle.”

Martis and his Motherwell mates recorded an incredible achievement in season 1959/60, beating Glasgow giants Rangers a total of four times (three 2-1 wins and a 2-0) in league and league cup.

“Each player in our team was a great player,” Martis said. “We didn’t have any passengers, so that’s why we were able to beat Rangers so often.

“We had eight players who played internationally for Scotland (Martis’s one cap came against Wales in Cardiff in 1960).

“We had a great forward line and every one of them was terrific. Ian St John was the tallest and I think he was about five feet four!”

The Ibrox side were also the opposition for what Martis considers his most memorable individual match, a 5-2 Scottish Cup third round replay success in front of over 90,000 fans in Glasgow in March 1961.

“We had fought back from 2-0 down at Fir Park to draw 2-2 in the first tie,” Martis said. “We then went to Ibrox on the Wednesday and beat them 5-2. That was the best night of my career.

“But in the next round we drew Airdrie at Fir Park and they beat us. We could beat Rangers hands down most of the time but Airdrie and Celtic were bogey teams for us.”

The Ancell Babes also had a superb 9-2 friendly win over Flamengo at Fir Park in April 1960. The Brazilians had beaten Manchester United 5-0 just a few days earlier!