Grangemouth, Stirlingshire born inside right Willie Buchan began his football career with Cowie Thistle Juveniles in 1930 and played for Grange Rovers in 1931 from where he was signed by Willie Maley’s Glasgow Celtic in January 1933. Buchan made his Scottish League debut in a 3-2 league defeat at Queen of the South the same August but had to wait until 1934-35 to establish himself as a first team regular. Capable of playing as a forward or in a deeper role, Buchan had great vision, drive and above all wonderful all round ability which quickly established him as a massive favourite with the Celtic support. It was said of him his “chief characteristic is his adeptness in drawing the defence”.
Buchan was a key player for Celtic in their Scottish League Championship in 1935-36, Celtic’s first League title for ten years. He had a good scoring record and became a renowned penalty taker, but it was his support play which saw him create goals for the likes of Jimmy Delaney and Jimmy McGrory. He was rewarded with inter league honours when he played for The Scottish League, scoring in a 3-2 win over The Irish League at Windsor Park, Belfast in October 1935.
He ran the show in the 1937 Scottish Cup Final in front of a record 146,433 crowd at Hampden Park as The Bhoys took on Aberdeen, dictating play from the off and after playing a part in Celtic’s first goal he was on hand to score the winner. Once again his reward was inter league honours, as he scored two penalties in a 3-2 win over The Irish League at The Oval, Belfast in September 1937. Possibly his only low mark on the pitch was that he played in the club’s record defeat of 8-0 away at Motherwell in April 1937, a match in which he had to go into goal after Joe Kennaway had to leave the field injured (Celtic were already 4-0 down by then).
After 59 goals in 135 appearances, Celtic agreed to sell Buchan to First Division Blackpool for what was then a record sum involving a Scottish club of £10,000 in November 1937. The switch to Lancashire was a lucrative deal for the club but for Buchan it was a move he had neither instigated or welcomed. He had been summoned to The Bank – the Queen Street restaurant owned by Maley – where he was met not only by the Celtic boss but also his Blackpool counterpart. Willie recalled: “The way things were put to me it seemed I had no choice in the matter. It was a great disappointment as I was enjoying playing for Celtic.”
He made his Football League debut at Preston North End the same month, scoring 12 goals as Blackpool finished twelfth in the League. He played for The Seasiders both sides of the Second World War, during which he guested for Celtic, Manchester United, Leicester City, Aberaman, Hamilton Academical and Stenhousemuir while a PT instructor for the RAF. He also played once for Scotland in an unofficial wartime international in 1943.
On resumption after the War he scored a hat-trick against Portsmouth in a 4-3 win in September 1946 as Blackpool finished fifth in the League Championship. But he increasingly struggled for game time at the top level and after 36 goals in 103 appearances Buchan moved on to Hull City for £5,000 in January 1948 and helped them to win the Third Division (North) Championship in 1948-49, scoring 13 goals in 46 appearances for The Tigers.
He then moved to Gateshead in November 1949, spending three seasons on Tyneside, being ever present in 1950-51, where he scored 19 goals in exactly 100 appearances before becoming player-manager of Coleraine from July 1953 to January 1954, and ended his football career at East Stirlingshire, for whom he played 16 matches in 1955 already aged 40, before retiring the same year.