Name: Mark George Perry
Position: Right back, Centre back
Clubs: Dundee United, Aberdeen, Ross County, Peterhead.
The born and bred
Aberdeen fan learnt his trade in the confines of Highland league football
with Cove Rangers when Jim McLean became aware of his talent and
invited him to join his favoured club’s New Firm rivals Dundee United. With the only other option being non-league obscurity it was an easy choice to make.
The 17-year old made the switch in 1988
and would have to be patient for his chance in the United first-team,
a prelude to his entire career at Tannadice. In ten years with the
club the phrase ‘utility player’ would be the best way to describe
the right-sided defender capable at both right and centre back. In
his first four seasons at first-team level he would register only 67
appearances, and even that was after waiting four years for an
elusive senior debut to arrive.
When it finally did come, following an
injury to David Narey, Perry would perform admirably over 20 games in
what was to be Jim McLean’s last season in control of the team. The
legendary manager had previously purchased controlling interest in
the club and retired from the coaching side to concentrate on his
boardroom duties. Ivan Golac took charge and quickly relegated
Perry back to his utility role within the squad. Over the course of
the Serbian’s 20 months in charge Perry would feature only 22 times in
all competitions and, crucially, miss out on a Scottish Cup winners
medal after being left out of the 1994 match-day squad that defeated
Golac’s second season would prove
to be a disaster and the manager was dismissed in the spring after a
terrible string of results left them fighting for their Premier
Division lives. New manager Billy Kirkwood quickly inserted Perry at
right-back for the run-in but couldn’t prevent the side dropping out of the top flight. Hope was dashed when they travelled to fellow strugglers Aberdeen on the penultimate day and lost 2-1, all but sealing the fate that was confirmed the following week
with a 1-0 defeat against Celtic at Tannadice.
The drop down in division and greater
faith shown in him by the new boss helped Perry become more
established within the side and his 25 appearances throughout the
1995/96 campaign was his highest single season tally up until that point. Getting regular playing time helped develop his game and he continued
to thrive the following year after United had won back promotion to
the top flight via the playoffs. Kirkwood was sacked after six games
but Tommy McLean’s perceptions of Perry mirrored that of his
predecessor. The defender played over 40 matches in all competitions in what
was to be an excellent year for the club.
The Scandanavian influx including Lars
Zetterlund, Kjell Olofsson and Erik Pedersen helped launch the
perceived relegation battlers up the table en route to a third place
finish. Perry was solid in defence and helped the team register a
streak of 18 straight league games without losing a match. Despite such an incredible achievement by a newly promoted side, the season ended on somewhat of a sour note after the Scottish Cup
semi-final replay defeat to Kilmarnock. It had been assumed that the
prize for winning the tie was a daunting rematch with title-chasing
Celtic. Therefore fans could at least console themselves with the
theory that a win would only delay the inevitable heartache. Then
what happened? Celtic went and lost to First Division Falkirk in
the other semi-final. United’s poor performance over the two matches
had robbed them of an odds on chance to lift their second trophy in
three years and cap a memorable season with major success.
The club entered the 1997/98 season
favoured to repeat their third place finish of the previous term.
Perry and Steven Pressley were a solid partnership at centre half,
the team had plenty of fight in their ranks and Andy McLaren, Olofsson and Robbie Winters should have insured consistent
goalscoring. Instead, each aspect of the team underperformed, often at different points. Goals were not a problem to begin the campaign but they
couldn’t keep a clean sheet, and didn’t register a win, until the
ninth match. It began a sequence of five straight wins but they would
emerge victorious in league duty only three more times thereafter. No sooner had
the defence tightened up than the goals ran dry. Seventh place was
all they could muster, although they did return to a final, meeting
Celtic in the League Cup showdown.
It was a day to forget for Perry who
was at fault for Celtic’s second goal in a 3-0 defeat. Tommy Burns’s
side had just taken the lead through Marc Rieper when the defender
attempted a square pass along the back three to Maurice Malpas. The
pass was sloppy and went straight to Henrik Larsson who ran at the
back-tracking opponents. His shot from 20 yards cannoned off Malpas and
looped into the back of the net. United improved thereafter but could
find no route back into the match and Craig Burley’s second half
header settled the game.
The summer of 1998 saw several
first-team players leave United under the Bosman ruling, heralding an increased downturn in the club fortunes that would soon have seventh
place considered heady heights. One such player to leave was Perry who
fulfilled a life-long ambition by signing for Aberdeen. Alex Miller
had recently taken over the manager’s job at Pittodrie and began
spending to get The Dons back up the table. Some of the former Hibs
boss’s signing gaffs including securing Jim Hamilton for 200k, Andy Dow for a
similar figure and acquiring Robbie Winters from United in a deal
that gave £700k in cash and Billy Dodds to United – a transfer
deal that must go down as one of the most one-sided in the history of
Perry wasn’t as expensive as those
flops but he was another dud in the eyes of the Aberdeen fans. The
reliable reputation he earned for himself over all those years at
Tannadice soon disintegrated in a bad Aberdeen side as the player,
overeager to make an impression, continually made rash decisions that
cost goals. He did, however, score a terrific looping goal that
helped defeat Celtic in an August encounter shortly after joining.
Strangely, he would also grab goals at Ibrox and Celtic Park later in
The appearances dwindled as his
performances became increasingly erratic and it was no surprise when
he was allowed to leave the club halfway through the 2000/01 campaign to sign for Ross County. At the lower level
he performed well the following year as County finished in a
respectable fourth place in the Scottish First Division. The team
regressed somewhat the next year and it soon became apparent Perry’s
advancing age was limiting his abilities.
Once more he made a downward move,
signing for Peterhead halfway through the 2002/03 season. What should have been the beginning of the end soon turned into a happy home for Perry for the next four and a half years. At Peterhead he
discovered a situation comfortable to his needs and quickly
established himself as a crowd favourite, considered a stalwart in
defence as The Blue Toon nothced 78 points in 2004/05 and
advanced to the Second Division through the playoffs after finishing
runners-up to Gretna.
In the third tier he would play all
36 league games as the club consolidated their place. In the 2006/07 campaign age finally caught up with him and his
appearances soon became limited. Unwilling to give up the sport he
moved on once more, joining Keith in the Highland league and
continuing to play beyond his 37th birthday.
Where is he now? Perry came out of
retirement earlier this year in order to bring his career full
circle; playing for Cove Rangers to help cover an injury crisis at
the age of 42.
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