TODAY, in Part Two of Scotzine’s tribute to Denis Law, Scotland’s favourite footballing son, we offer a platform for other legends to have their say.
These are EXCLUSIVE extracts from Alex Gordon’s book, ‘DENIS LAW: King and Country’, which was published by Arena Sport in 2013.
LOU MACARI, the former Celtic and Manchester United striker played twenty-four times for his country – five appearances alongside Law – between 1972/78 delivers his verdict on his former club and country team-mate:
I learned a lot from Denis Law and one of the first things was how to take care of myself on a football field. There was a real tough side to Denis and he always told me to give as good as I got. He was a very approachable, likeable guy, but God help the opponent who kicked him.
Denis would never accept that from anyone. Let’s face it, he had played in Italy and he must have come up against all sorts of uncompromising players in that league. They would hack at you, kick you when the ball wasn’t anywhere near you and, sadly, some of them would spit in your face. Denis was still a young man, only twenty-one, when he had to put up with all of that. He was tough before he went to Italy, but even more so when he returned.
People used to ask me what he was like, really like. Obviously, I didn’t know until I met up with him when we were on international duty. The first time I encountered him was at the training HQ at Largs, my hometown. I admit I was excited at the prospect of meeting The Lawman. Given his standing in the game and what he achieved at club and country level, I found him to be a genuine down-to-earth character.
You look at that statue that has been erected in his honour at Old Trafford and you don’t get things like that just for being a great player. You have got to have other ingredients and Denis had them all; great personality, nice character and a genuine warmth. He has never changed a bit since I first met him all those years ago. I don’t know anyone who has got a bad word to say about Denis.
Of course, I first came into his company in 1972 when I was selected for the Scotland squad. I played alongside him for the first time when I came on as a substitute in a 1-0 Home International win over Wales at Hampden. I went on for John O’Hare, of Derby, and played in attack with Denis. There was about half-an-hour or so to go and Peter Lorimer, of Leeds United, got the winner in that period.
We must have done enough to convince manager Tommy Docherty to team us up at the start of the next game three days later against England in Glasgow on 27 May. Unfortunately, on this occasion we were on the wrong side of a 1-0 result.
But I was learning all the time from playing in the same team as Denis. At the end of June Scotland played in the Brazilian Independence Cup and I was fortunate enough to line up with Denis on three occasions, a 2-2 draw with Yugoslavia, where I scored both goals, a goalless draw against Czechoslovakia and a narrow 1-0 defeat from Brazil. Every game was a learning curve.
I thought we might have some more time together when I joined Manchester United, but it was brief. I remember I made my debut against West Ham and scored with a toe-poke at the Stretford End. The game finished 2-2. The Doc handed me the No.10 shirt before the game which, of course, was Denis’ shirt. What I didn’t realise, though, was the fact that Denis had worn it for years and years. And he had every right to wear it because he was The King.
Denis also played that day, but The Doc had thrown him the No.4 jersey in the dressing room. When I found out about it later it was another scary thing for me.
I didn’t want to be associated with Denis’s No.10 shirt in any shape or form. He was an unbelievable player and I didn’t want to be seen to be taking over from Denis. I just wanted to be a player joining Manchester United and, hopefully, go on to do a good job for them.
I knew all about Best, Law and Charlton and it was one of the reasons that I joined United instead of going to Liverpool. That trio of players were magical, all with very special qualities. Denis Law fitted perfectly into that threesome.
* TOMORROW: My Hero! A Celtic legend has his say.