SCOTLAND legend Denis Law celebrated his 81st birthday yesterday – and Scotzine acknowledged the nations’s joint record goalscorer with a special tribute.
Today, it’s the turn of one of the Lawman’s former international team-mates to pay homage to his hero.
Here is an EXCLUSIVE extract from Alex Gordon’s book, ‘DENIS LAW: King and Country’, which was published in 2013.
WILLIE HENDERSON, Rangers’ legendary winger who was capped twenty-nine times by his country between 1962/71- nineteen with Law – delivers his verdict:
Denis Law was the finest Scottish player I have ever had the privilege to play alongside. Absolutely no doubt about it. Everything he did was stamped with class and quality. If I got down the wing and slung over a cross there was every chance that the blond head of Denis would be there to meet it. The man was lethal in the box. Right foot, left foot, in the air – the guy had the lot.
I remember a game against Northern Ireland at Hampden in November 1962 when we won 5-1. I set up four goals for Denis and scored the other myself. It was just one of those great nights when everything clicked into place. I was up against a very good left-back in Alex Elder, who played for Burnley who were a top side back then.
They had played Spurs in the FA Cup Final that year and had lost 3-1 to one of the best English teams of that decade. But that night he could do nothing to stop me. Inside, outside – I was beating him all over the place. I’m told he thought about quitting football afterwards, but was talked out of it!
Anything I dropped into the box was gobbled up by Denis. We were both unstoppable that night and it was a joy to be in the same side as him. A month before that Northern Ireland game we had beaten Wales 3-2 on my debut the previous month. Denis and I clicked immediately. He scored that night, too, and I was lucky enough to get the winner. We weren’t a bad partnership.
In our next game, against England at Wembley in April the following year, we won again, this time 2-1 with goals from my old Rangers pal Jim Baxter. I was pulled down by Ron Flowers to gain a penalty-kick and Slim Jim popped it into the net for the second of his double. Jim and Denis in the same team – how did we never win the World Cup?
I played alongside Denis on nineteen occasions, from 1962 to 1966, and we lost only four times, all by the odd goal to Norway (3-4), Republic of Ireland (0-1), Northern Ireland (2-3) and Poland (1-2). Interestingly, he scored eighteen of his thirty goals in those games and that included another foursome against Norway the year after the meeting with the Irish.
I operated on the left wing that evening with my Rangers team-mate Alex Scott on the right. It didn’t matter to Denis; any ball in the danger zone from either left or right was his for the taking.
Another thing about Denis that I must put on record was the fact he was such a nice bloke. There were no airs and graces and he was just one of the guys when we were all together. I’m sure everyone will tell you the same story. He never pulled rank although, of course, he had been there, seen it, done it and had the T shirt.
He may have been the most expensive player in British football at the time at £115,000, but you wouldn’t have known it with his overall demeanour. Remember, Manchester United paid that money in July 1962 and it would be another six years before Rangers broke the Scottish transfer record with the £100,000 signing of Colin Stein from Hibs – still £15,000 short of what Denis had cost all those years beforehand.
The man was 100 per cent class and all-round good guy. If you couldn’t play with Denis Law in the team then you couldn’t play at all. He brought the best out in everyone – on and off the field.
*TOMORROW: My Hero! Another former team-mate has his say.