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Tony Scappaticci a fearless competitor was also joker in the pack

By Jim Gracey

Tony Scappaticci, taken too soon at the age of 48, will forever be remembered as a hero to a generation of Glenavon Football Club fans.

Scappi, as they knew him, was a tenacious, hard tackling, take no prisoners, little full back in the last successful Lurgan Blues team before the present one. Coming from nearby Banbridge also made him a local hero to the Mourneview faithful.

They recalled his name often over the 20 barren years they waited for trophy success that finally returned under Gary Hamilton three seasons ago and he was in the Windsor Park crowd a year ago this week to see his beloved Glenavon lift the Irish Cup again, defeating Linfield.

Scappi played on a Glenavon team of all talents in the early 1990s.

That side, managed by Terry Nicholson and then Alan Fraser, were famed for their goal-laden strikeforce of McCoy, McBride and Ferguson and their swashbuckling style. If you score four, we'll score five was their motto and they even famously made it six in a Budweiser Cup final replay thrashing of Linfield.

But that team also needed its workers and Scappi was one of those, always turning in 90 minute performances with 100% effort.

Small in stature, he was not only fast across the ground but into the tackle. Taller attackers also came to fear and admire his prowess in the air. For all their height advantage, Scappi could leap like a salmon to win balls he had no right to.

His devil may care lifestyle off the pitch matched his fearless playing style and earned him character status throughout the Irish League as he helped Glenavon to an array of knockout trophies, although the league title they had the talent to win eluded them in the era of a great rival Portadown side, under Ronnie McFall, who, having played the position himself, was a huge admirer of Scappi's craft.

On the team's yearly European trips of that era, Scappi was the practical joker in the pack. Teammates would regularly return to their hotel rooms to find their beds turned upside down and the culprit was always immediately identified.

A raker, he found the lure of a hotel casino and nightclub irresistible on an infamous trip to Finland. And that was before the game, the antics of players in general on the trip playing a part in the unpopular sacking of manager Nicholson.

Scappi lived hard and played hard.

He had his demons but he appeared to have exorcised them, as he told me when we last met at the cup final last May. He had been invited by the club as a former cup winner and I found him in his usual spot at the bar in the company of former teammates, keeper Robbie Beck and midfielder Dessie McCann.

We reminisced as all around supped the sponsors' lager but Scappi stuck to mineral water. He had been dry for a number of years, he explained, and looked fit and well, drawing favourable comment when a picture of the trio was posted on Twitter, including from as far away as New Zealand where another former teammate and defensive partner, Duncan Lowry, now resides.

So what a hammer blow to learn of his passing yesterday, a loss that will be felt by the 90s generation of Glenavon fans, his teammates and rivals of the era, and above all by his family. God rest you Scappi.

Belfast Telegraph

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