Newmilns, Ayrshire born outside right Willie Connell played for Newmilns before being signed by Kilmarnock in 1927. He made his Scottish League debut for Kilmarnock in a win over Aberdeen in January 1928 and soon established a regular place in Killie’s first eleven. The following season he was part of Kilmarnock’s Scottish Cup winning team that beat Glasgow Celtic 1-0 in the semi final in front of 40,000. They met Glasgow Rangers in the Final at Hampden Park, Rangers were the clear favourites. Having just won the Scottish League title, and having lost just one of their previous 43 League and Cup matches, Rangers were expecting to seal a “double double” in front of the 115,000 strong crowd at Hampden Park.
After 16 minutes the referee awarded Rangers a penalty and although Tully Craig struck it well, Sam Clemie leapt to save it at his top left corner. Two goals from in the second half from Aitken and Cunningham secured the Cup for Kilmarnock with a 2-0 victory. As well as being the first ever penalty save in a Cup Final, there was also the first ever red card in a Scottish Cup Final as Buchanan of Rangers was sent off for un-gentlemanly conduct, as Rangers’ frustration boiled over and he swore at the referee in the dying minutes of the match.
Connell was a near ever present in 1928-29, 1930-31 and 1931-32, and played for Kilmarnock in the 1932 Scottish Cup Final, when Killie were beaten in a replay by Rangers after two matches at Hampden Park which both attracted crowds of well over 100,000 spectators, scoring 62 goals in 205 appearances for Kilmarnock until his final appearance in March 1934.