Football Federation Australia is saddened to hear that former Socceroo Willie Rutherford passed away on Sunday 24 October 2010.
Willie was born in Lochgelly on the shores of Loch Ore in Scotland and played with East Fife, then in the Scottish Second Division from 1965 to 1968, and Forfar Athletic before emigrating to Australia in 1968, where he joined the Hakoah club in Sydney, helping the club to third place on the ladder in 1969 and top in 1970.
His brother Harry also played with Hakoah, with the two Scots providing goals and crosses for Ray Baartz, John Watkiss and Roy Blitz.
Willie had extreme pace and a fierce shot and could bring crowds to their feet with his sudden bursts of brilliance. The football writer Andrew Dettre described Rutherford as ‘mercurial, unpredictable but undeniably brilliant’. ‘Rutherford is an enigma. At his best I rate him Sydney’s most valuable forward, who can win matches on his own. His speed with the ball, explosive bursts and quick snap-shots could cause havoc in Seoul. But Willie has developed a reputation of being moody, if not unreliable; huge ups and downs have characterized his one year in Sydney.’ (Soccer World, 29 August 1969, p.3).
In 1969 Australia faced an enormously tortuous 1970 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign which involved nine matches all but one of which were played overseas. Rutherford took part in six of them including the third and deciding match against Rhodesia after two drawn games. He scored the opening goal, and forced a defender to concede an own goal for the second as Australia won 3-1, with the third goal coming from Johnny Warren. The Socceroos then had to face Israel home and away and narrowly missed out after a 1-0 loss in Tel Aviv and a 1-all draw in Sydney.
He did not just demonstrate his speed on the football field but was a professional sprinter, winning races in Toowoomba and the Gold Coast in the early 1970s. In 1973 to 1975 he turned out in a number of matches in Hong Kong for Kwong Wah. Then in 1978, Willie moved to Perth, Western Australia, where he played with Perth Azzurri, Forestfield United, Spearwood Dalmatinac, Stirling Makedonia, Morley Windmills, Maccabi FC (Player /coach) and Floreat Athena.
Following his football career, Willie worked in the building industry as a supervisor.
Willie’s funeral will held at 10am on Friday the 5th of November at the Pinnaroo Valley Cemetery, Whitfords Avenue, Padbury.