TOMMY GEMMELL revealed his club and country secrets to friend and author Alex Gordon in his best-selling autobiography, ‘All The Best,’ published by CQN in 2014.
In the tenth and final part of our EXCLUSIVE series, the Celtic great names the players who impressed him most to be named in his all-time Scotland line-up of greats.
Gemmell, who sadly passed away at the age of 73 on March 2 2017, chose six Celtic players – including himself – in his dream team.
Here is an edited extract from that chapter.
DENIS LAW is an absolute must in anyone’s Dream Team. The guy was pure showbiz, a glamorous personality who was as tough as nails.
His upbringing in a tenement in a council estate in Aberdeen formed his outlook, not only on football, but life, as well. He shared a bedroom with three brothers, his three sisters commandeered another and his mum and dad had the third bedroom in their small apartment.
Denis’s dad was a fisherman who could be away for up to a week at a time when the trawler headed for the Faroe Islands and suchlike places. Denis always admitted his family were ‘poor, but happy’ and that upbringing didn’t do him any harm, did it?
He had the most electrifying reflexes I have ever seen in any footballer. He summed up situations in an instant. It could be a packed penalty area with bodies and boots flying all the place and Denis would have it under control in an instant. He was lightning swift.
FANS’ FAVOURITE…Denis Law is hugged by delighted Scotland supporter after the 3-2 win over world champions England at Wembley in April 1967.
I remember playing against him when I was at Nottingham Forest and we were due to face Manchester United. I was put in at centre-half that day and was right up against Denis.
Yes, I admit there was a bit of an edge to both Denis and myself during the game. He was a mucker, but you didn’t want him ripping you apart. And I knew he had the ability to do that very thing.
I just didn’t want to be on the receiving end. I was getting in about him right from the off and the Lawman didn’t say a thing. I continued to dive in and never give him a chance to get the ball under control.
Throughout the first-half there wasn’t a murmur. Same at the start of the second period. And, following another clattering challenge after about an hour, Denis calmly looked round and said, ‘Hey, Tam, would you stop effin’ kicking me!’
That was all he said. I believe it ended honours even at time-up and we had a pint or two in the club bar afterwards. The game wasn’t mentioned. A wonderful bloke. A real man’s man.
The great Bobby Charlton once said Bobby Lennox was one of the best frontmen he had ever seen and I’ll take his word for it. For a start, the England legend played most matchdays with a certain Denis Law, so he could make worthwhile comparisons.
BUZZBOMB STRIKES…Celtic and Scotland striker Bobby Lennox leaves England keeper Gordon Banks helpless in the memorable triumph in 1967.
Bobby was one of the most unassuming guys you will ever meet. You could forget he was in the dressing room before a game, but you knew when he was out on the pitch alright.
He used to run on the sands at Saltcoats where he was brought up and, in fact, still lives. That must have really strengthened his ankles.
It was no wonder he could buzz around with effortless ease when he stepped onto a football pitch. It must have been like coming out of a quagmire and onto a manicured lawn.
He must have been an absolute nightmare to play against. I think I might have been tempted to bring along a lasso if I was facing him. That would be the only way I would ever have caught him and I would like to think I was no slouch myself.
In my all-time greatest line-up, I would choose Ronnie Simpson in goal with yours truly and Chelsea’s Eddie McCreadie at full-back.
Billy McNeill in the middle of the defence with Jim Baxter not too far away. Bobby Murdoch strutting his stuff in the middle of the park with Jimmy Johnstone on the right and Willie Henderson on the left. Alan Gilzean, Denis Law and Bobby Lennox forming a three-pronged attack.
It would be difficult to tie these guys down to a rigid formation. They were all individuals, but were also all excellent team men.
It’s all fantasy football, of course, but you can’t help letting your imagination run riot at the thought of what those guys could have provided if they had all got together.
We’ll never know, but it is a nice thought.
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