TOMMY GEMMELL revealed his club and country memories to friend and author Alex Gordon in his best-selling autobiography, ‘All The Best,’ published by CQN in 2014.

In the third part of our EXCLUSIVE series, we unravel the mystery of why the Lisbon Lion won a meagre 18 caps for Scotland.

The Hoops legend, who sadly passed away at the age of 73 on March 2 2017, names the man who curtailed his international outings.

Here is an edited extract from that chapter.

Please enjoy.

JOCK STEIN never said it to my face, but I had been informed by some of his closest associates that he regarded me to be the best left-back in the world.

But it was the same Jock Stein who restricted my international appearances for Scotland to a mere eighteen. No doubt a lot of people will find difficult to comprehend or even believe that statement. Take it from me, it’s the truth.

After my debut in 1966, if anyone had told me I would represent my country only another 17 times in a playing career that stretched a further nine years, I would have guessed I was the victim of a wind-up.

Unfortunately, the history books show that to be an absolute fact.

And that was down to one individual – Jock Stein. Big Jock was always a difficult man to argue with. At Celtic, his word was law.

When an international game was on the horizon and I was a cert to get a call-up, Jock would sidle up to me and I had a fair idea of what was coming next.

GREEN FOR GO…George Best and Tommy Gemmell clash in a game at Windsor Park.

‘You don’t want to be bothered playing against that lot, do you?’ he would ask. It was, of course, a rhetorical question. If Scotland were preparing for a match against one of the smaller nations, Jock would have much preferred his players resting before an important club game the following Saturday.

He didn’t like his players risking injury in friendlies against the minnows of the football world.

However, if we were due a crucial qualifying encounter in the World Cup or the European Championship, that was a different story. He wouldn’t even attempt to pull any of his players out of those squads.

But if he thought it was an international against countries of little stature, then there was always the chance of Big Jock getting a hold of you and letting you know it might be a good idea to withdraw.

‘Say you’ve got a hamstring or something,’ he would ‘advise’ you. ‘I’ll get someone from the club to put in a call for you.’

In those unenlightened times, the SFA would take an individual at his word and clubs weren’t expected to provide a medical certificate to prove you were, in fact, injured. Back in the late sixties and early seventies, the standard international fee was £50 and, once tax and other deductions were made, you were left with around £36.

The SFA knew they didn’t have to throw money at the players because most, if not all, of us would happily have given our services for free. Personally speaking, I know how much it meant to for me to don the dark blue of my nation and how proud it made my entire family.

HIGH JINKS…Tommy Gemmell duels with England striker Geoff Hurst on the day Scotland beat the-then world champions 3-2 at Wembley in April 1967.

But that would have meant little to the Celtic manager whose concentration would be completely focused on what was happening at a club in the east end of Glasgow.

Jock would add a sweetener – a £50 tax free payment for NOT representing Scotland.

Imagine that, you got more by not playing for your country than you could for playing! Money, of course, had nothing to do with it. You can’t buy those sort of memories, pride doesn’t have a price.

But Jock could be very, very persuasive and he was always quick to tell anyone, ‘There are other players out there who are just as good as you and who could do your job for Celtic.’

It was a thinly-veiled threat, of course. He couldn’t actually force you to pull out, but you wouldn’t have to be Einstein to work out you might be putting your first-team place in jeopardy if you went against his wishes.

* TOMORROW: Don’t miss Part Four of EXCLUSIVE international revelations from the legendary Celt.

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