Former Scotland defender Gordon McQueen dies aged 70

Gordon McQueen has died at the age of 70 (PA)
Gordon McQueen has died at the age of 70 (PA)

Former Scotland defender Gordon McQueen has died aged 70 after his battle with dementia.

McQueen, whose 16-year playing career during the 1970s and 80s included spells at St Mirren, Leeds and Manchester United, was diagnosed with vascular dementia in early 2021.

A statement issued on behalf of the McQueen family said: “It is with the heaviest of hearts we announce the passing of our beloved husband, father and grandfather.

“We hope that as well as creating many great football memories for club and his country, he will be remembered for the love, laughter and bravery that characterised his career and his family life – not least during his recent battles with ill health.

“Our house was always a buzz of friends, family and football and this constant support sustained him as he fought bravely against the cruel impact of dementia.

“The disease may have taken him too soon and while we struggle to comprehend life without him, we celebrate a man who lived life to the full: the ultimate entertainer, the life and soul of every occasion, the heart and soul of every dressing room, the most fun dad, husband and grandfather we could ever have wished for.

“The family would like to express our huge thanks to the wonderful staff at Herriot Hospice Homecare for their outstanding care; the utterly incredible Marie Curie team who were there with us all until the end; and Head for Change for the emotional support and respite care.

Gordon McQueen, centre left, was a towering presence throughout his playing days
Gordon McQueen (centre left) was a towering presence throughout his playing days (PA)

“Finally, to our wonderful friends and family who are a constant source of support we send our utmost love and gratitude.

“You will remain in our hearts always, Yvonne, Hayley, Anna, Eddie, Rudi, Etta and Ayla.”

McQueen, 6ft 3in, was among the outstanding central defenders of his era, winning 30 caps for Scotland between 1974 and 1981.

He came to prominence in England following his move to Leeds from St Mirren in 1972, helping the Yorkshire club to league title success in 1973-74 and playing a key role in their run to the European Cup final in 1975.

McQueen, who missed out on Leeds’ final defeat to Bayern Munich through suspension, joined arch-rivals Manchester United in 1978 and went on to win the FA Cup in 1983.

Injury robbed him of a World Cup appearance in 1978 after he had been included in Scotland’s squad having made his senior debut in 1974 against Belgium.

After retiring as a player, McQueen had a brief spell as Airdrie manager and coach at former club St Mirren and spent five years as coach at Middlesbrough under Bryan Robson until 2001.

McQueen went on to become a popular Sky Sports pundit and his family announced he had been diagnosed with vascular dementia in February 2021.

Daughter Hayley, a Sky Sports presenter, revealed in an interview on ITV’s Good Morning Britain in April that McQueen’s condition had been spurred by the repeated heading of footballs.

Robson, who played alongside McQueen at Old Trafford, said the Scot “lit up any room he walked into”.

“Gordon was one of the best centre-backs I had the privilege of playing with,” Robson said on the Manchester United website. “He was strong and brave, and ahead of his times in being a defender who could play out from the back and contribute as much in attack as he did in defence.

“He was a perfect fit for Manchester United with his flair, courage and big personality, and that’s why the fans loved him.

“Most importantly, though, he was a brilliant person with a huge heart. He lit up any room he walked into and that’s how he should be remembered.

“Gordon and his family have been dear friends for over four decades and Denise (his wife) and I are heartbroken by this news. We send our love and deepest condolences to Yvonne, Hayley, Anna, Eddie and all the McQueen family.”

McQueen’s former Manchester United and Scotland team-mate Lou Macari described him as “the biggest character in football” in his tribute posted on Twitter.

Macari said: “Biggest character in football, large as life, funny, full of desire. Took to Utd like a natural & loved the roar after one of his runs.

“That awful illness robbed us of the real Gordon, heart goes out to family, wife Yvonne was a 24/7 warrior for him.”

St Mirren, Manchester United, Leeds and Middlesbrough all paid tribute to their former defender, while the Scottish Football Association tweeted: “The thoughts of everyone at the Scottish FA are with the family and friends of former Scotland international Gordon McQueen who has sadly passed away at the age of 70.”

Airdrie said they were “deeply saddened” by the death of their former manager, whom they described as “a legendary defender”.

England manager Gareth Southgate added: “It’s very sad and my thoughts are with Yvonne, Hayley and the rest of the family.

“I worked with Gordon at Middlesbrough and got to know him very well. He has been suffering for quite a while now so it’s very sad news. As is the passing of (former Chelsea player and manager) John Hollins who I also got to know.

“Two famous football figures from when I was younger and thoughts are with both of their families.”