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 Part Five of our EXCLUSIVE series, we highlight the treatment Celtic players could expect from a section of so-called Scotland fans when they represented their country.
The Hoops legend, who sadly passed away at the age of 73 on March 2 2017, was dismayed at the “pathetic and sickening” situation.
Here is an edited extract from that chapter.
BIG Jock Stein was always fond of informing his players of the fact that they were on the payroll at Celtic and Scotland would only pick up the tab whenever they chose to give you a call.
‘Remember who pays your wages every week,’ he would growl. ‘You’ll not be able to pay your mortgage with three or four fifty quids a year.’
It wasn’t only Big Jock who wasn’t slow to attempt to persuade his players it might be better for them to put their feet up on a Wednesday evening rather than be pitched into an international confrontation. Bill Shankly, at Liverpool, and Matt Busby, at Manchester United, did exactly the same.
THE LAWMAN…Scotland legend Denis Law snaps onto a rebound to whip a shot past keeper Gordon Banks to guide his country to a famous 3-2 win over world champions England at Wembley in April 1967.
Stein, Shankly and Busby, three great Scots. But three great Scots who wouldn’t think twice about asking – or demanding? – their star men have a night off instead of turning out for Scotland. And those managers weren’t alone, either, but they were the most high profile.
Busby, though, was always wasting his time if he tried to get Denis Law to pull out of a Scotland squad. Denis would have none of it and, at the zenith of his career, his would surely have been among the first names on Busby’s team sheet alongside Bobby Charlton and George Best.
Not even Busby could have afforded to leave out a fully-fit Lawman. Denis was fanatical about playing for his country. He was an outstanding patriot and God help the guy who stood between him and a place in the Scotland team.
Busby would have had to put him under house arrest to prevent him getting to Scotland to play for his country. If Scotland had arranged a fixture on the moon, you could be sure Denis would have got there somehow, some way. Okay, a slight exaggeration there, but you get the drift.
TARGETMAN…Jimmy Johnstone would often become the focus for the boo brigade when he played for Scotland.
Denis would often tell me, ‘I loved it when we won and I could go back to Old Trafford and let my English mates Bobby Charlton and Nobby Stiles know how well we had played. The other English guys in the dressing room had to tolerate me going on all week about how wonderful Scotland were.
‘If we lost, though, it was a vastly different story. Then I was apprehensive about what was awaiting me when I returned from a trip to face a dressing room grilling. I was helped by the fact I had Paddy Crerand alongside me and he would always lend his support. But, boy, did they know it when Scotland achieved a good victory.
‘I suppose I must have been difficult to live with in 1967 after we had beaten them on their own midden at Wembley. World champions? We proved who were the best that afternoon. It was 3-2 going on a massacre.’
Sometimes, of course, there were other reasons for Jock not wanting players to turn out for Scotland. Wee Jinky Johnstone was the direct rival of Rangers’ Willie Henderson for the outside-right position in the international line-up.
And, sadly, the Ibrox fans used to give Jinky dog’s abuse when he was chosen ahead of their player, who, by the way, was an outstanding performer in his own right.
SCOTLAND THE RAVE…Davie Hay and captain Billy Bremner celebrate a 2-0 victory over England at Hampden in May 1974.
Jinky was as courageous a character as I have ever encountered, but being continually booed and jeered while playing for his country did get through to him. You would have required the skin of a rhino for it not to.
Jock would see that could affect his performance a few days later for Celtic with the player’s confidence completely sucked out of him.
There were several occasions when Jinky would get the same treatment as myself. ‘I’ll get someone to phone in and say you’re injured or ill, Wee Man,’ Jock would say and a lot of the time Jinky chose to take that line instead of putting himself up for the boo brigade to have a field day at his expense.
Honestly, it was pathetic and sickening. Scottish fans jeering their own player? You couldn’t make it up.
I know Davie Hay had a similar situation when he was settling into the international team. At that stage, if Davie was selected, it normally meant he was taking the right-back berth associated with Rangers’ Sandy Jardine. That would make my mate Davie a target for what was always termed ‘a small minority’.
Small or not, they could kick up some bloody racket. I can tell you that Davie actually got out of his sickbed once to play for Scotland in a game at Hampden. He had been struggling with a touch of flu and had just made it to play for Celtic on the Saturday.
ZERO TO HERO…Kenny Dalglish’s stature with a section of Scotland followers rose overnight when he left Celtic for Liverpool in 1977.
He was given some time off at the start of the week to try to recuperate by the-then international team manager Bobby Brown before being picked to play in a European Championship qualifier against Denmark in a midweek tie in November 1970.
As you might expect, he struggled before being replaced to huge cheers from a section only too happy to see Sandy Jardine come on in his place 13 minutes from the end. If only those so-called supporters had known.
At least Davie, as ever, had put in a fabulous shift to help Scotland to a 1-0 win with John O’Hare scoring in the 14th minute.
Frankly, the opposition during those dark days, must have been completely bewildered at the antics of the home fans.
I recall Kenny Dalglish getting much of the same. He was achieving great things at Celtic as he emerged as a potentially genuine world class player and we all knew he was destined for football’s pinnacle.
Yet he still got it in the neck from some halfwits on the terracing when he performed at Hampden. That all changed, however, when he moved to Liverpool in 1977.
Soon afterwards, the mob who used to bay for him ‘tae get aff’ were proclaiming him as King Kenny. Did he suddenly become a better international player when he moved to Anfield?
Coincidence? Don’t think so.
* TOMORROW: Don’t miss Part Six of the EXCLUSIVE international revelations from the legendary Celt.