HERE’S a wee tale which I swear is true. I cannot divulge the identity of the individual concerned for fear of embarrassing the unfortunate chap.
Back in the mid-seventies, Jock Stein bought a proven goalscorer for Celtic. As ever, the legendary manager was looking to add more firepower to the side and he saw this player as being an ideal addition to his squad.
The character in question had netted regularly for his three other senior clubs prior to the transfer and there seemed absolutely no reason to anticipate the blanks stacking up at the Hoops.
Alas, the poor bloke could do little right after arriving at his new place of employment. I was at Celtic Park to witness his solitary strike which I reckon even my good self in my carpet slippers would have been able to tuck away. He didn’t get too many chances to celebrate his big moment – Big Jock punted him a couple of months later.
BALL BHOY…Jock Stein didn’t often get it wrong in the transfer market.
Inevitably, he refound his killer touch in front of goal and the strikes mounted up all the way to his retirement about a decade later.
Many years after his brief excursion to the east end of Glasgow, I was having a small libation with a Sunday Mail News Desk colleague in our office pub on the Clydeside. In came the former player, who also played for Scotland at one stage, and joined our company. I hadn’t been aware of any association between my editorial colleague and the one -time Celt. It transpired they had been born and brought up in the same village.
I took the opportunity to explore why his goalscoring career had stalled so spectacularly and dismally at Parkhead.
“When I played for other teams,” he explained, “I knew if I beat one defender I was in on goal.
“It would be just me one-on-one with the keeper and then it was up to me to make sure I didn’t miss. That was never the case at Celtic.
“I could beat one defender and there was another bloody player blocking my way. I might be able to get past him, but then you could be confronted with a third obstacle.
“I had never encountered that before in my career. I struggled to overcome the problem and I’m afraid I just couldn’t handle it. When I left Celtic, the situation reverted back to what I was used to with other clubs and I started scoring goals again.”
I recollected the conversation when I read this week that Kevin van Veen is interested in a quickfire return to Scotland after leaving Motherwell for Dutch outfit Groningen in the summer.
Inevitably, he was linked with Celtic. Admittedly, his scoring ratio at Fir Park was excellent – 33 in 67 games – but if the 32-year-old frontman does play in Glasgow any time soon it won’t be in the east end of the city.