TODAY, in Part Five of Scotzine’s tribute to Denis Law, Scotland’s favourite footballing son, we offer a platform for other legends to have their say on the legendary frontman.
These are EXCLUSIVE extracts from Alex Gordon’s book, ‘DENIS LAW: King and Country, which was published by Arena Sport in 2013.
DEREK JOHNSTONE, the Rangers striker who won fourteen caps for his country between 1973/79, delivers his verdict:
Ball in the net. Arm in the air. Job done. Back to the centre circle. Let’s get on with the game. That sums up Denis Law for me. There were no daft antics, like kissing the badge or anything like that. He was out there to score goals and that’s what he did with great regularity as his record shows.
For me, he was the best Scottish footballer of all time, bar none. People of my age group will go along with that. There have been several candidtates for the accolade, Kenny Dalglish, for one, but Denis is the main man, as far as I am concerned. It’s a pity that younger football followers never had the chance to see Denis live in action. He was electric. You can watch all the videos and DVDs that you want, but there was nothing to see this guy go about his business in the flesh.
I was brought up in Dundee, so it wasn’t too easy for me to travel down to see Denis in action at Hampden Park. I think I saw him only twice, but he made the journeys worthwhile. He wasn’t just a fabulous footballer, he was also a huge icon. He performed on a different level from anyone else.
I don’t think I ever saw him flustered when he was in a crowded penalty box with bodies all over the place and boots flying around. He was also the first player I ever saw actually passing the ball into the net. Others would attempt to rip a hole in the net, but Denis was quite content to slip it past the keeper. Just so long as the ball crossed the line, it didn’t even have to hit the net.
Another thing that impressed me was his energy. He was like a whippet the way he covered the ground. Anything around thirty yards of goal was his territory. I’m not surprised he wanted to play all over the pitch, but was told by Matt Busby, his Manchester United manager, not to come back over the halfway line.
He always wanted to be involved. Imagine trying to mark such a player? It must have been impossible for defenders. He also had an inner strength. There wasn’t much of him, but no-one knocked him around.
It’s a pity I never got to play alongside Denis. My first cap was against Wales in 1973 and, of course, Denis retired a year later. It would have been brilliant to have played in the same team as him. I have met him plenty of times while we’ve both been covering World Cups and the like during our media work.
He’s the type of guy who will sit down and talk football with you for hours on end. It’s astonishing to think he never actually played for a Scottish club side, performing all his football across the border apart from that year in Italy. Making it even more difficult to comprehend is the fact he is so passionate about his country; everything about Scotland, not just the football.
In short, Denis Law is a great ambassador for Scotland.
* TOMORROW: My Hero! A Celtic striking great has his say.