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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