Every picture tells a story with Parkhead icon
Originally published in 2001, SportTimes reprints an in-depth interview with the Parkhead legend after his tragic death at the end of September
HE spent his formative years at a boarding school in Dumfries, which specialised in rugby and cricket, before signing for Celtic in 1962 where he played as a part-timer until committing himself to a fulltime career in 1967.
Despite these apparent drawbacks, he won every domestic trophy with Celtic and played in the European Cup Final of 1970. He also picked up four Scotland caps.
After leaving Parkhead he spent some time at Coventry and then Ayr United before hanging up his boots.
1 School days
I went to boarding school in Dumfries and had to learn to stand up for myself from a very early age.
Looking back, I think leaving my parents when I was so young gave me great mental strength.
I also excelled at sport when I was away and represented Scottish Schools at both rugby and cricket. I played football as well, but nobody at my school was particularly bothered about that.
When I came back to Glasgow I started studying to become a chartered accountant. My father said to me: “You seem to be not a bad footballer, how do you fancy continuing to play?”
So, I joined the junior club, St Roch’s, and played as an amateur. It wasn’t long before I was spotted by the old Celtic scout, Jimmy Gribben (pictured), and I signed parttime forms at Parkhead at the end of 1962.
My brother, Frank, was a Celtic player at that time as well, although he moved on to Ipswich Town later. I think him being there maybe helped pave the way for me. But the bottom line is they wouldn’t have signed me if I wasn’t any good.
I played my first game for the top team at the beginning of 1963 and took part in several first-team games that year. That all ended, though, when Jock Stein became manager. He dropped me right away.
I could see the reasoning behind the move because there were obvious benefits in having full-time players. But I still went in and rattled his door – something nobody was supposed to do at that time.
He told me straight: “Parttime players. Part-time fitness. Part-time availability. You’re not going to be much use to me, son.” And that was that. He was right, too.
But I was just a daft boy at that time. Not academically perhaps, but growing up in a boarding school meant I had led a very sheltered existence.
I think I lacked a bit of maturity. I remember going for a drink with a friend one afternoon when I was 18 and having three or four shorts and a few beers. I ended up absolutely blootered and thought: “If that’s drinking then I don’t fancy it too much!”
Jimmy McGrory was the manager who signed me and I thought he was a beautiful man, a lovely gentleman. But he was possibly limited in his tactical appreciation of the game.
I think Jock did for Celtic back then what Martin O’Neill is doing for them now. He transformed the place, brought a professionalism to the club and instilled a real vigour in our performances.
The collective spirit and hunger for success were exceptional and were always there, but he galvanised that.
2 Full-time football
I failed my final chartered accountancy exams twice. I hadn’t been married for very long and soon had two children to support so I became a full-time professional at the beginning of the 1967 season.
I got into the team more or less straight away. John Clark, who was a real fighter, played in my position but he had started to struggle with injuries at that time.
The training I did as a parttime player was always well organised, but when Jock came there was more of an emphasis on work with the ball and a greater variation in fitness work and running.
This picture shows me in training at that time with Davie Hay messing about behind me and Bobby Lennox and Billy McNeill in the background. What a fantastic trainer Davie was! But, then again, I suppose we all were.
3 Treble toppers
This picture was taken during the Scottish Cup Final at Hampden in 1969. It shows Alex Ferguson and myself squaring up to each other with Billy McNeill and Willie Johnston looking on.
We won that game 4-0 and secured the Treble – the last time Celtic won all three domestic trophies in a season.
Fergie was a needler. A real elbows-up sort of player, but I got on very well with him. I was the only guy at Celtic who was in the Players’ Union and he was the only guy at Ibrox who was in it. We used to meet up from time to time, but there was no support for us and we had no real strength.
The Scottish Football Players’ Association had not been recognised by the SFA. Then, in 1971, they revealed they would donate the princely sum of £5000 to our benevolent fund for players who had to retire prematurely.
Jackie McNamara Senior was the only guy I represented during my time at Parkhead. I tried to negotiate a few extra quid for him, but if you spoke out you ended up with a black eye. Jackie had just come into the team for Bobby Murdoch and had done well and was looking for a few more quid. He had just got married and his wife was expecting so I went in to see Jock.
He said to me: “What’s it got to do with you.” I replied: “I’m the union official.” He asked: “Is McNamara in the union?” I said: “No.” But I argued his case all the same. He just said: “You’re always sticking your nose into other people’s business.” Jackie never got a brass farthing.
I thought Jock Stein was a strange big man. You could be walking along a corridor at Parkhead one day and he would totally ignore you. Then, the very next day, he would stop and say: “Jim! How are you doing? How are Joyce and the kids?”
I know he was a heavy gambler. I used to think that his mood depended on whether or not the £100 he had on My Fair Lady in the three o’clock at Chepstow that day had gone down the pan. Still, it certainly never affected his abilities as a manager.
4 Euro scene
As I mentioned, when Jock first came to Celtic as manager he told me I would not feature in the first team because I was part-time.
If, for example, we were away for a European tie, we would fly out on Monday and come back on the Thursday. That was no use to me or him because I was working.
But I was still in the squad that flew out to Lisbon for the European Cup Final in 1967 and that was a magnificent experience. I was just so thrilled to be part of it as by that time I had become a real Celtic man.
Everybody in the team did their job that day, but I thought John Clark, Bertie Auld, Bobby Murdoch and Tommy Gemmell, in particular, were all simply outstanding. I was so pleased for them and also the Celtic supporters.
But, of course, I would have loved to have played in that game. So I was delighted to get the chance to take part in a European Cup Final myself in 1970 when we played Feyenoord in the San
Siro Stadium in Milan. Sadly, we were beaten.
This picture shows Rinus Israel scoring their first goal with, from left to right, Tommy Gemmell, myself, Billy McNeill and our goal keeper, Evan Williams looking on in despair. We ended up losing the game 2-1 after extra time.
Because it was such an amazing achievement, the win in 1967 had diluted some of the players' thirst for success. But Jock Stein probably thought he needed their experience in the team and it was hard to argue with that.
5 - Cap call
My direct opponent the day I played for Scotland against England at Wembnny ley in 1971 was Franny Lee and this picture shows me beating him.
He was a tricky player and very pacy. I twisted my ankle early on, and to add insult to injury we lost 3-1 We had some fine players
back then with guys like Davie Hay, John Greig, Jimmy Johnstone, Tony Green and Eddie Gray to name a few. You can see the disappointment in my face as I trudged off at the end along with Tony.
I won four caps for my country that year. I played against Northern Ireland and had to face George Best.
I think he had been put up against me because they thought I was the weakest. But I gave him a wee tickle. So, he went over to the other wing and Davie Hay gave him a wee tickle, too. After that he spent the rest of the game footering about in midfield. He was starting to go then. It was a great waste of a huge talent.
6 Old Firm delight
I scored the winning goal in the final minute of the New Year Old Firm match at Parkhead in 1972.
This picture shows my effort and I can still remember what happened. It was late on and the referee awarded a free-kick on the halfway line. I would normally have taken it, but for some reason I said to Harry Hood: “Just lump it up the park.”
I remember the ball coming over my shoulder as I was running towards goal and I saw Peter McCloy coming off his line. He should have killed it, but he stopped and I tried to head the ball past him with some force. I totally sclaffed it off the side of my head into the goal.
It was an unbelievable feeling and I will never forget Jock’s face when I got back to the dressing room!
I went home that night and my father phoned me and said: “Great goal, son, but I’ve got a confession to make. I left the ground before the final whistle.”
I only scored about 10 or 12 goals in my career. I was more of a combative player, a strong, tough tackler.
7 Young guns
This is the picture of the Celtic squad after their 3-0 Scottish Cup Final win over Dundee United in 1974.
It was an exceptional team to be part of. There were so many good young players coming through the ranks at that time and they were more than adequate replacements for the Lisbon Lions.
In my opinion, Celtic should have gone on to win far more trophies than they did with that team. Too many players were allowed to leave. However, it suits me to say that, of course, because I was moved on.
9 On the move
I THINK my attitude cost me two years at Celtic. I was freed in 1975 and signed for Coventry City – as this picture shows – and it certainly had a positive effect on me.
I helped the Sky Blues to their highest-ever position in the English First Division – what is now the English Premiership – and played well for two seasons down south.
The change gave me an new lease of life. There were certain times I felt I was getting complacent at Celtic because I had been there for so long. However, Jock was great at knocking that sort of attitude out of you.
After my spell in England I joined Ayr United for a couple of seasons and helped them to their highest-ever place in the Premier League as well - fifth place back in 1978. I played well for them and enjoyed my time there before I finally hung up my boots.
I was desperate to beat Celtic during my time at Somerset Park. I remember one game they beat us 2-0. I was up against Kenny Dalglish. That was a hard shift! But he still didn’t score against me.
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