TODAY, in Part Four of Scotzine’s salute to Denis Law, Scotland’s favourite footballing son, we offer a platform to 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.
STEVE ARCHIBALD, who played for Aberdeen, Spurs and Barcelona and a host of other clubs in a glittering career, made twenty-seven appearances for his country between 1980/86. This is an interview with the author in 1980 when the striker was still with the Dons:
‘Two years ago, I was presented with a marvellous and treasured memory. It was not my hat-trick against Celtic or my international call-up, or even being nominated as potentially one of the top strikers in Scotland. No, I’m afraid it’s none of those. In fact, it was far removed from the football field…only the opening of a new store in Aberdeen.
‘Before you get the impression that I have lost my marbles, let me hastily explain that it was at that store that I finally met my boyhood idol, the player who meant so much to me. The one and only Denis Law.
‘I was really thrilled to shake Law’s hand and, fortunately, there was a photographer in attendance to to get a snap of myself and the former Manchester United maestro. That photograph has pride of place in my house. I show it to everyone who pops in.
‘The reason I mention the incident with Denis is merely to illustrate what I think football is all about. Denis Law…those two words spell magic to me. Law was a flamboyant character and a menace to rival defences with his incredible acrobatics in the penalty area. His timing was immaculate. How many times did you see him fail to make contact with a high ball when he swooped for it? I remember a goal he scored against England at Hampden in 1966 that typified Law.
‘I was still at Primary school at the time, but I recall that goal as though it were scored yesterday. A corner-kick was swung over from the left wing to the near post and Denis appeared from nowhere, leapt high above the defence, snapped his head and sent a really fierce header whizzing past the great Gordon Banks, who didn’t even get the opportunity to move a muscle. Another great Scot who played that day was little Jimmy Johnstone, the former Celtic wizard of the wing, and he scored two goals from tight angles. But, unfortunately, England still managed to win 4-3.
‘Denis Law was a player with a charisma all of his own. He was a showman, a character and an entertainer. I would love to think that when I finally retire – and I hope that day is a long way off considering I have just turned twenty-four – fans might think of me along similar lines. But, of course, I realise I could never be another Denis Law. There could only ever be one Denis Law.’
Over three decades later, Alex Gordon caught up with Steve Archibald in Barcelona, where he now resides with wife Monica, daughter Kersty and son Elliot. What does he think of Denis Law today? The much-travelled marksman said:
‘I rate him even higher than I did back then. I’ve seen a bit more of life now, of course. I know a bit more about the game. I’ve since played for Spurs and Barcelona and a whole clutch of other clubs. I’ve seen management at a lower level with East Fife and I had my experience at Airdrie. I feel a lot more equipped now to give my views on Denis. What he achieved was just awesome; something special. If I am asked, and I am often, who is the best striker of them all, the greatest in the world, one name immediately pops into my mind – Denis Law. It’s impossible not to think of him. And it’s great that he is Scottish.
‘You look back at all those spectacular goals and they underline what a fascinating talent he was. That arm in the air salute was really his signature. Denis always possessed that spark and that desire to be successful. His battling qualities were something else altogether. He was an obvious believer if you don’t fight the fight then you want score the goals. And that man wanted to score goals.
‘People might have misconstrued his style as being slightly arrogant. I don’t think he was an arrogant person. I just believe he played with a self-assurance and if your job in the team is to get those goals, then you need to show that composure. Denis had it. He possessed a lot of dig, but he was an accomplished footballer, too. It wasn’t all about snarling and snapping at defenders, although he was never afraid to mix it even with the biggest of them.
‘If a defender saw a hint of fear in your eyes their job was half-done. They would never have seen that with Denis. No chance.
‘A few have tried to copy Denis’s style. I used to always play with long sleeves, even in the hottest of conditions, and with my jersey outside my shorts, but that was as far as I would go in attempting to copy Denis. That would have been a total waste of time.
‘He was the original. I’ve met him a few times since that first introduction in the Aberdeen shop and I have always found him to be a thorough gentleman. A very likeable sort, in fact. Sadly, though, I have lost that treasured photograph from all those years ago. I’ve moved house about twenty times since the, lived in a few countries and somewhere along the line it has gone missing.
‘It’s probably gathering dust in a loft somewhere. If anyone finds it, can they please give me a call!’
* TOMORROW: My Hero! Ibrox idol has his say.