Socrates MacSporran

Socrates MacSporran
No I am not Chick Young, but I can remember when Scottish football was good

Thursday, 23 March 2017

A Heartfelt Rant

YOU will, I hope, never find me jumping gladly onto any media-driven bandwagon demanding the sacking of Scotland’s Team Manager or Head Coach. Long years watching from the side lines have taught me, the Scotland manager's job is, like its England equivalent – The Impossible Job.

It doesn't matter who we appoint, the system will always beat them. Scottish football is broken, and, there is no desire within the game up here to fix that system. Until it is, we will continue to stumble along, winning a few games, losing more and, sadly, I have to believe, we will not be qualifying for the big shows – the World Cup or European Championship finals – any time soon.

I had a wee think back this morning; the first Scotland international I can recall ever actually reading about was the 4-2 loss to England, on 3 April, 1954. Now, this was the 232nd full Scotland international, the first in which we had a Team Manager in place – Andy Beattie. The team was still picked by the SFA Selection Committee, however – some jobs were too-important to be left to the professionals. The match was both a Home International Championship decider and a World Cup Qualifier. England and Scotland had already qualified for the 1954 World Cup finals, this match merely sorted-out which team finished top of the qualifying group, in actuality the Home Internationals that season.

Anyway, Scotland finished a distant second, and, true to form, the selectors panicked – only Bobby Evans, Bobby Johnstone, Allan Brown and Willie Ormond of the Hampden XI survived for the next international, a friendly against Norway, one month later. Five new caps were drafted-in, just one month and three warm-up games before Scotland’s debut on football's biggest stage.

That debut came against Austria, in Zurich, on 16 June, 1954. The SFA had decided: “Switzerland, that's in the Alps, snow and skiing, we had better have thick, winter-weight strips”. They also decided, that while FIFA required them to name a 22-man squad, only 13 would travel, and of these, only one, Fred Martin, would be a goalkeeper.

They landed in Switzerland, to find temperatures in the high seventies. They didn't provide matching training gear for the players, who had to bring their own. The team which started against Austria had a total of 52 caps between them, Allan Brown, winning his 13th cap, was the only one whose caps total was in double figures.

Bobby Evans, the most-capped player in the 13-man squad, didn't play, while regular Scotland captain George Young, Sammy Cox, who had led the side against England and Willie Waddell, the three Rangers players who were then Scotland regulars weren't there – Rangers had a North American Tour going on at the same time, and would not release their Scotland players.

It was a shambles. And, to complete the clusterfuck, Manager Beattie resigned between the Austrian match and the second game, against World Champions Uruguay, which, as every Scot interested in football knows, finished 7-0 to the South Americans. Scotland were home before the post cards.

Things will change” the Tartan Army were told. Aye Right. Four years later they again had a Team Manager, Sir Matt Busby. Like Beattie he was part-time, the selectors still picked the sides. Sadly, Busby, still recuperating from the injuries he received in the Munich Air Crash in February, 1958, was unable to travel, leaving trainer Dawson Walker of Clyde in charge.

As in 1954, we were on our way home early, after drawing with Yugoslavia and losing narrowly to both Paraguay and France. We failed to qualify for the 1962, 1966 and 1970 finals, before setting-off on a good run. We qualified for the Finals in 1974, 1978, 1982, 1986 and 1990, but, although unbeaten in West Germany in 1974, we never got past the preliminary group stages.

We failed to qualify in 1994, before reaching the finals in France in 1998; since when, zilch, no qualifying success has come out way.

We have qualified for just 9 of the 17 World Cups we have entered – a 53% pass rate. We have then son a mere 4 of the 20 matches we have played in those 9 final tournaments – a 20% success rate. However, Our World Cup qualifying record is a lot better than our European Championships one. Here we have qualified a mere twice from 13 attempts – a 15% pass rate. In the six games in the Euro' finals we have won just twice, drawn once and lost the other three games – a 33% winning rate.

Overall, we have qualified for 37% of the international competitions we have entered, winning just 23% of the matches in those finals. So, we don't really DO international competitions. Our expectations should not be high when it comes to competing on the biggest stages.

BUT – and I know this game was not a competitive one, but a FRIENDLY. However, regardless of the status of the match, surely we can expect to beat CANADA. Come-on, Scots and Canadians have a lot in common, we were the leading European nation when it came to colonising that wonderful country. Our shinty was the inspiration for Canada's national sport – ice hockey, while they, like Scotland, love curling. But, football – gie's a brek!!

And, as I understand it, the Canucks didn't send a full squad to take us on at Easter Road on Wednesday night. They are ranked 117th in the world, we are 67th, not great I accept, but, 50 places above the Canadians. Drawing at home to the Canadians was the equivalent of some Highland or Lowland League team getting a draw against Celtic at Parkhead.

We should perhaps congratulate all those broadcasting companies, who opted-out of broadcasting Wednesday night's match live; just as we can understand why the vast bulk of the Tartan Army passed on the game, while acknowledging the support of those 9000-plus masochists who chose to attend. But, when it gets to the stage where guys like me, who have been following Scotland for all those years didn't give a shit about the game – it's time we had real, serious, meaningful change to Scottish football.

If things don't change, we are only going one place – down the stank.

Again I say, with heavy heart:

We're awe doomed – doomed Ah tell Ye”!

Sunday, 12 March 2017

The Carnival Is Over - For Now

WELL, thankfully that's over. We have had the “No Longer the Old Firm” game, it finished as a draw and, while we will no doubt be subjected to lengthy complaints from the Celtic Family, that their favourites were refereed out of the victory which they feel is theirs by right, over the ghosts of Rangers past, the fact is, Celtic's run of wins has been halted, although, they remain on-course to go through the domestic season unbeaten.

Now, as the carnival packs up until the next one, the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden, can we perhaps examine some of the continuing problems besetting Scottish football?

If we accept it is a case of when, not if, Celtic win the 2016-17 League campaign, because, in terms of management, finances and squad depth, they are in a class of their own in Scotland, and that none of the rest will get close to them any time soon – where can we find something to enthuse about in our top division?

Well, with five of the clubs in mid-table within six points, or two wins, of each other, we can argue with justification, that ours is a highly-competitive top league. The fact the quality is not good is, however, undeniable. We are in a hole, with no way out of that hole being obvious.

There is a lot of shite being written about “Project Brave”, the plan to produce better, home-grown players in the future. However, even if – which I doubt, the stumble-bums who are supposed to run our game from Hampden will allow or facilitate – Project Brave works, we will not see positive results for some years yet.

Scottish football's dog has too-small a head, too skinny a body and too-long a tail to ever be any good. We need to work through an improvement programme which will pay off. But, again, I don't see the wit or willingness at Hampden to make this happen.

The same problems, by the way, beset Scottish rugby, but, that game, like Scottish football, suffers from the curse of aye-beenism: “Ye canna dae that son, it's aye been done this wey”, will continue to stifle change and improvement.

I WISH the new Rangers' Manager/Head Coach or whatever, Pedro Caixinha all the luck in the world in his new job – and, by God he will need it.

He has joined a loss-making club, without a credit line at a bank; a club being kept going by soft loans from directors and fans, with a Chairman who, quite frankly is toxic, has been described as “A glib and shameless liar” by a learned South African judge and has zero credibility. His every move will be subjected to critical examination by all branches of the Scottish football media, to an extent he has surely never experienced before. Also, a lot of the “fans with lap tops” who will be watching him, have their own agenda to work.

He will be assailed on all sides by advice from former players and managers, all determined to be controversial and to keep their noses in the media trough. Caixinha has no previous experience of working in British, far-less Scottish football. I don't see anyone around Murray Park (or whatever it is called these days) on a daily basis able to offer guidance and advice of a way through the minefield which is Scottish football.

The sensible thing would, I believe, have been to have appointed a Director of Football first – if, as we are led to believe, that is the road Rangers are going down, then appoint a Head Coach. But, this Rangers board has consistently failed to do the sensible thing.

The players put in a good shift at Celtic Park today, but, the truth cannot be avoided, few are what we have long called: “Rangers Class”. If Rangers are to mount a meaningful challenge to Celtic's dominance of domestic football, the players who are there will have to show hitherto undemonstrated levels of ability and application.

Even then, serious recruiting will need to be done over the summer, and, we have to question if funds are there for this process to be successful.

At least if, this week, he can get “the stenographers” (tm. Phil Mac Giolla Bhain) on-board and on-message, he will have a honeymoon period, but: forrit tho Ah canna see, Ah guess and fear”.

THIS blog has never hidden its love for Junior football, so might I draw your attention to a monumental happening at the weekend? The mighty Glenafton Athletic, my own village team, has gone top of the West of Scotland Superleague. This has resulted in a spate of nose bleeds in the village.

However, the Glen have been playing really well this season, which is a tribute to the efforts of manager Craig McEwan and his players. The natives are happy with progress this season.

On Saturday, the Glen will be in Scottish Junior Cup action, entertaining Sauchie at Loch Park in the quarter-finals. I shall return to the four ties later in the week, but, there are some belters in there.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Countdown To Chaos

THIS week, as the countdown continues towards Sunday's “No Longer the Old Firm” clash at Celtic Park, we see Scottish football journalism at its best/worst. We still have three full days to go until the kick-off, but, already we have the usual parade of former Old Firm stars giving us their twopence-worth, which is probably more than their opinions would fetch on the open market.

Why even the man who is statistically Rangers' winningest manager ever, has put down his gardening trowel to give us his view: “Bring back Wattie and Graeme”. FFS, why not go the whole hog and revive the ghost of Bill Struth.

When it comes to Rangers, whether or not you consider the club of that name, playing out of Ibrox to he a new club, or the continuing voyages of the ship called Dignity, one thing has to be borne in mind. The club is a loss-making enterprise, without a credit line to a bank; it has a toxic Chairman and is depending on “soft” loans from directors and well-heeled fans to keep going.

The club has learned nothing from the events of 2011-2012 and on. The mistakes which got Rangers into liquidation and which have prevented its recovery from being as orderly as it could have been are still being made. Rangers today is even further behind Celtic than Celtic wer behind Rangers in those far-off days, more than 50-years ago, BS – before Jock Stein returned to Paradise.

The stenographers” (tm Phil Mac Giolla Bhain) can write all they like in support of the current club, they can be as on-message as Jolly James Traynor can make them, but, this will not alter the reality – no competent manager of Director of Football worth his salt will have anything to do with the club while the present crew of fantasists, stumblebums, and let's not forget “Glib and Shameless Liars” are presiding at the top of the marble staircase.

MEANWHILE, in the real world, an awful lot of young boys, mad keen on football and desperate to play, will be denied games this week-end, because the SFA could not ensure that the SYFA made certain that some 500 coaches had completed the re quisite Child Protection checks. This is the real disgrace, but, of course, you will not see “The stenographers” (tm Phil Mac Giolla Bhain) commenting on this – not when they have the chance to speak to Kenny Dalglish instead.

AND IN the unreal world – in Scottish eyes – of Champions League knock-out games, we had that Wednesday Night Wonder of Barcelona v PSG. I know, this is a cheap comment, but, I can only, once again, declare, maybe that long-dead SFA “blazer” was right when, on the evening of 18 May, 1960, as he exited Hampden Park following Real Madrid's 7-3 demolition of Eintracht Frankfort in the European Cup Final,he declared: “Of course, Scottish football fans would not pay to watch that sort of football on a regular basis”.

Well, 57-years on, they may not be paying at the gate, but, they are paying their BT Sport subscriptions in the hope of seeing, if not di Stefano, Puskas and Gento running riot, then certainly Messi, Suarez and Neymar, a trio who might, in time, match that iconic Madrid trio.

Of course, some of the defending on Wednesday night was Rangers' standard, some of the refereeing was Willie Collum standard, but, what a game, and what a last few minutes. Now, be honest, what would you rather watch, Barca 6 PSG 1, or a 0-0 draw, in mid-winter, between Cowdenbeath and Berwick Rangers (and no disrespect is intended to either Scottish side)?

The two Barcelona penalties were the kind 'No Longer the Old Firm' get when 0-1 behind and struggling at home, but, the Neymar free-kick would have graced any game. This was a cracker.

BY THE WAY – the third edition of Nutmeg, the Scottish football periodical is now on-sale. I urge you to beg, borrow or steal, but, ideally purchase a copy of this terrific quarterly. There are some terrific pieces in it.

I just wish somebody on either The Herald, Scotsman, Sunday Herald or Scotland on Sunday sports desks would lift their heads out of the mundane and commission “long pieces” such as those Nutmeg publishes, for our weekly consumption. The stories are out there and waiting to be told. Until the day this happens, we must embrace Nutmeg and nourish it.

I appreciate, it is an expensive periodical, but, given the length of the articles, the time it takes to read them and weigh this up against the cost – I reckon it is great value for money.

I NOTE there has been a wee bit of interest this week in applying “Strict Liability” to Scottish football teams. Of course, fitba will fight tooth and nail to avoid its implementation, but, to me it makes sense and just might work where OBFA (the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act) has failed.

Yes, it will cost clubs if their fans continue to declare their pride at being up to their knees in the blood of members of a 19th century Irish Republican fraternal organisation, or if they declare their support for a 20th century Irish Republican militia. But, if the same football clubs were to establish proper membership schemes, whereby fans gained benefits from club membership, then these clubs would be able to hold the threat of lost membership and admission to games, access to cheaper tickets etc, over these members. The clubs would also be able to get shot of the bad apples.

This would require them to engage with their fans – no, that would never do. And, by the way, bad behaviour at Scottish football is not the preserve of just two clubs – every club has, to a greater or lesser degree, its hard core of nutters. Strict Liability just might be a means of getting shot of them.

Friday, 3 March 2017

A Sad Week For Scottish Football With The Death Of Two Legends

THIS has indeed been a sad week for Scottish fitba. Bad enough to lose wee Alex Young, 'The Golden Vision' of Hearts and Everton, but to follow this with the passing of big Tommy Gemmell, one of the immortal Lisbon Lions – and this in the week I turned 70. I am definitely feeling my age this week.

Alex Young (right) at Wembley in 1966

ALEX YOUNG came from a coal-mining background, he followed his Dad down the pit, but, thanks to the promise he showed with Newtongrange Star, he was signed by Hearts, quickly got into the first team and as a 19-year-old, he helped them beat Celtic to win the Scottish Cup in 1956, the Edinburgh club's first win in the competition for exactly 50-years.

Two League Championship and one League Cup winner's medals followed, before, almost inevitably, he was sold to a big English club Everton, for £40,000 – which was a big fee for 1960. He was part of Hearts' Golden Era under Tommy Walker scoring and making goals at will.

At Goodison he scored fewer goals, but created more. He and Welshman Roy Vernon, with whom he formed a life-long friendship, were magnificent midfield providers, never more so than when the Toffees won the FA Cup in 1966.

Sadly for Young, while the great Irish legend Johnny Carey took him south, he was replaced by Harry Catterick, who, for all his managerial success, never liked Young, and, in 1968, their relationship had so detriorated Young was happy to go to Glentoran, as a player, later player-manager.

We will never know how good a manager he might have been, as the Troubles began and he returned to Merseyside to play-out his career with Southport, before a persistent knee problem forced him to hang up his boots.

Back in Scotland, he and Nancy, his wife of 60-years, ran a pub, before Alex settled down to run a very successful furnishing company in Edinburgh, which is still managed by his sons.

I interviewed Alex Young two or three times. He was always modest, but incisive, and a wee bit surprised that he should be remembered. To those of us who saw him play, that was a surprise – he really was a great player.

When he was at his height, the Scotland team was picked by the selection committee. Young was only picked eight times, scoring five goals in those eight games, which is one hell of a return for an attacking midfielder.

Competition was fierce – John White and Bobby Collins were also looking for the number eight shirt; Alan Gilzean and Ian St John for the number nine one and Denis Law and Ralphie Brand the ten shirt, while we had the likes of Alex Scott, Willie Henderson and Davie Wilson, and later Charlie Cooke, Jimmy Johnstone and Bobby Lennox vying for selection on the wing.

Young was certainly good enough to be in that company, but, his cause was not helped by having a club manager repeatedly telling the SFA guys he was useless.

For all that, none of the rest ever participated in a TV play, which took its name from his nickname – 'The Golden Vision' really was one of football's special ones.

Tommy Gemmell's other European Cup Final goal, against Feyenoord

I SUPPOSE nothing demonstrates the contrast between Celtic and Rangers better than to compare John Greig with TOMMY GEMMELL.

Both played at full-back for Scotland, both were known to their team mates as jokers in training; legend has it that the young Greig did a hilarious Davie Wilson impression, which involved running towards the penalty box, then taking-off about five yards outside it, in a graceful dive!! Greig also did a mean line in one-liners.

However, and more-so as the Lisbon Lions kept winning things, football began to become a hard job for Greig, the smiles vanished, to be replaced by a grim determination on the park.

Gemmell on the other hand didn't so much play with a smile on his face, as with a great big cheesy grin. His team mates called him 'Danny Kaye', after the great American entertainer, to whom he bore a resemblance. Well, if you're brought-up in Craigneuk, in the shadow of Ravenscraig, I suppose you have to seek laughter in all aspects of life.

Tommy had a functioning brain. He was Dux of his primary school, and sent to Wishaw High School, an old-style Scottish Senior Secondary. He might have gone on to become a professional man – doctor, lawyer, accountant or something similar, but, fitba got in the way.

He was a tradesman – serving his time as an apprentice electrician at Ravenscraig, before signing for Celtic and becoming a football immortal. Forget Jardine and McGrain, Scotland never had a pair of go-forward full backs to rank with big Tam and Eddie McCreadie when they were our national team's full-backs – as they were that great April day when we toyed with World Champions England at Wembley.

It is a small distinction, but, Tommy Gemmell is in a unique club of four, along with Ronnie Simpson, Willie Wallace and Bobby Lennox – the guys who played in the two best post-war results by Scottish teams: Celtic's European Cup win over Inter Milan and that Wembley game.

Gemmell scored Celtic's equalising goal in Lisbon, and had what was in ice hockey terms, the second assist in Stevie Chalmers' winner. Not content with that, he scored another European Cup final goal, in Celtic's 2-1 loss to Feyenoord three years later. He is in a two-man club, with another left-back, Alex Neil of Liverpool, as British players who have scored in two European Cup Finals.

Gemmell was one of the jokers in that Celtic pack of such laughing players, but, his sense of fun, his liking for fast cars and the good life, brought him into conflict with Jock Stein' staunch presbyterianism. Theirs was an often rocky relationship, which, in his very readable autobiography, Gemmell partly put down to his ability to stand-up to Stein's often dictatorial managerial style.

He got away with booting one of the Racing Club Argentinians who so despoiled Celtic's 1967 World Championship clash, but, after his quite brilliant revenge on Helmut “Hamlet” Haller – for once the German wasn't kidding when he fell to the floor and screamed in pain when Gemmell “booted him up the bahookie” in Hamburg in 1969 – the writing was on the wall for Gemmell at Celtic.

After he and Bertie Auld were sent home in disgrace from th USA in 1970, it was only a matter of time before Gemmell was off to Nottingham Forest, where he did well, leaving, however, before the glory days undeer Clough, to return to Dundee.

He captained them to a League Cup win over Celtic, before managing them for a time, and encouraging the young Gordon Strachan, and, like Stein before him, being driven scatty by the off-field highjinks of Jinky, who had signed for Celtic on the same day as Gemmell.

He had a couple of spells as manager at Albion Rovers, before concentrating, after a foray into the licenced trade, on building a solid reputation in the insurance and financial planning world – along the way, making sure he kept hold of more of his football earnings than most.

He married twice, did an entertaining spell as a radio talking head, before illness blighted his last years. Sadly, one of the main jokers in the team which got the Celtic Family laughing again in the mid-to-late 1960s will not be around when the Golden Anniversary of the May evening in Lisbon is celebrated later this year.

But, as one Celtic fan noted on Phil Mac Giolla Bhain's blog this week: Ronnie Simpson, Tommy Gemmell, Bobby Murdoch, Jinky and Joe McBride – that's one hell of a five-a-side team Celtic are fielding in heaven this week, and managed by Big Jock and Tam Burns too.

You know, sad though the circumstances are, writing about Alex Young and Tommy Gemmell has made me a lot happier, remembering two magnificent Scottish talents, than I might have been, commenting again on the madness around Rangers.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Take A Press Release Mr Young

ANOTHER busy week for “the stenographers” (tm. Phil Mac Giolla Bhain) – selling the lie that all is well at Castle Greyskull to the gullible hordes of Berrs out there.

As regular readers will know, when it comes to matters Rangers, the best source of news and comment is not to be found by reading the dead trees press, or listening to the gurglings of BBC Sportscene or Sportssound, and certainly not from listening to Radio Clyde. No, if you want a clue as to what is actually going on behind that large red brick edifice on Edmiston Drive, log onto Phil Mac Giolla Bhain's blog – but never, ever, read the below the line comments.

Phil, from his base in Donegal, has been consistently ahead of the game and on the money where Rangers is concerned, and, at this latest time of turmoil for the Establishment club, I say again, read what Phil has to say.

The most-pressing item facing the men at the top of the marble staircase right now is surely sorting-out th team management. Graeme Murty, thrust suddenly into the hot-seat will give the job his all, but, in-truth, he is hopelessly out of his depth and may already be floundering.

Graeme Murty - out of his depth

Bringing in an experienced Real Rangers Man in the short term, to see-out the season, might well work, in that short term, but, that would be little more than putting a sticking plaster on a gaping bleeding wound. Nothing of note will happen at the club until they put in place a permanent manager, or, what we are being told is the preferred option – bring in an experienced Director of Football, and appoint an experienced Head Coach, able to work over the close season to ready the club for next season.

But, assuming the club can at least hold onto third place in the Premiership and get into Europe, that close season will be a short one. The playing staff is quite simply inadequate for a European campaign – there are players featuring regularly in the first team who are patently not “Rangers Class” and who will need to be moved-on. This could come at a huge cost, and, as Mr Mac Giolla Bhain is forever pointing out: “this is a club without a credit line at any bank, reliant for survival on loans from directors”.

He has also recently revealed, the three directors who have been bankrolling the club of late are now a gang of two while nobody any longer pays any credence to the utterings of the absentee Chairman, who, we should never forget, is tagged as: “a glib and shameless liar” by a South African judge.

The club is also engaged in one or two on-going legal disputes. Honestly, given this scenario, can you see any worthwhile contender for the role of Director of Football or of Head Coach, touching such a toxic club with a barge pole.

Certainly, there will probably be one or two Real Rangers Men out there who fancy they could turn things around, but, in all honesty, the one towering former Rangers player, himself a one-time fan, who has the stature, the knowledge and the ability to do the job will not go anywhere near the club.

Well, if you were Sir Alex Ferguson, would you relocate from leafy Cheshire to Glasgow, give up your front row, directors' box seat at Old Trafford and all the perks which your success in England had earned you to take on restoring Rangers – under that Chairman and that board.

No, and neither will Fergie – perhaps the only man who could turn things round – provided the financial side was sorted-out.

ELSEWHERE, one or two of “the stenographers” (tm. Phil Mac Giolla Bhain) have been waxing lyrical about the inadequacies of Hampden this week. Of course Hampden is not fit for purpose. Of course it is outdated and the sight lines, indeed, almost the entire spectator experience, is not what it should be.

But, if anyone seriously thinks the SFA and Queen's Park will do anything to sort out the mess, they are deluded.

We may, some day, see the ideal scenario, a 100,000-capacity, state-of-the-art truly National Stadium, to be used by our football and rugby teams built on a greenfield site somewhere central, with excellent rail and road links. BUT, this will only happen once Scotland is an independent, thriving nation, sure of its place in the world.

So, at 70 next week, I will never see it, indeed, my youngest grand-son, who is coming up on five, just might see it – it is that far away and that far down the list of priorities in this country.

I don't know what the answer is, but, I think we can look forward to many more years of the Hampden Experience, grim though that can be.

PROJECT Brave continues to be hyped-up in the press. Aye well, this is, for my money, yet another in the long list of failures to bring Scottish football up to date.

I don't know all the answers, but:

  1. Immediately bring-in a three foreigners rule
  2. Go to a single 16-club league, all-seater stadia, full-time squads
  3. Regional leagues below this level
  4. A strict limit to squad numbers, (say 25-plyr squads)with fringe players (who should all be under-23 dual-registered with teams in the regional league
  5. Seventy per-cent of each 25-man squad must be “Scotland-qualified”.

These changes would, I am certain, do for a start.

Roger Hynd

BIG Roger Hynd died last week, after a long and courageous battle against cancer. Of course, the tributes stressed he was: “ex-Ranger Roger Hynd”, although the club which got the best service from him and where he was happiest was Birmingham City – they even inducted him into their Hall of Fame.

With Shankly as a middle name; his mother Jean was the great man's sister – Roger was minor football royalty, Wullie Shankly was his nephew, and he was always a great supporter of the Glnbuck/Shankly legacy. He was also a fine PE teacher and had a lot more to him than most footballers.

In Scotland he is best-remembered for his short spell as an emergency centre forward for Rangers at the end of the 1966-67 season, including wearing the number nine shirt in the European Cup-Winners Cup final against Bayern Munich.

There is a legend down here in East Ayrshire, in the Shankly heartland that big Roger only got the centre forward gig because of a typical own goal by the Rangers of those days.

Jim Forrest and George McLean were cast into the wilderness following Berwick, but, that season, there was a young centre forward from Cumnock who was scoring goals for fun in the Rangers reserve team. He had scored over 40-goals and, knowledgeable Rangers fans wanted to see him given his chance in the first team. He was duly pencilled-in to start in the first team one week, when an ex-Rangers player from this area telephoned Ibrox and informed Scot Symon that the young lad was engaged to a Roman Catholic.

He never got the first team call, and was eased out of the club the following season. Roger Hynd got the first team gig – the rest is history and to some extent legend.