SCOTLAND’S legendary Denis Law celebrated his 83rd birthday last week.

The nation’s joint highest goalscorer – sharing the honour with Sir Kenny Dalglish on 30 strikes – was one of football’s most flamboyant, charismatic personalities during his unforgettable playing days.

As a tribute to The Lawman, Scotzine, over the next few days, will publish the ENTIRE Chapter One of Alex Gordon’s biography, ‘Denis Law: King and Country’, which was published by Birlinn in 2013.

Sit back and enjoy some quality time in the company of the country’s greatest-ever showman as we continue our EXCLUSIVE series.

ENGLAND’S 1966 World Cup-winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks has an interesting take on Law.

He said, ‘Denis could be arrogant, precocious, evil-tempered, hilariously funny and simply brilliant all in the space of a few minutes. Often, when the pressure of the match was at its peak, Denis brought a smile to my face with a sudden aside. That was at club level.

‘When he was playing for Scotland, he didn’t have a good thing to say to any of us Sassenachs.’

Law praised the England goalkeeper, ‘If you scored against Banksie you knew you had earned it.’ Banks returned the compliment and rated the Scotsman in fourth place in his all-time Top Ten Strikers list. Pele came first, with Jimmy Greaves second and Gerd Muller third. Then came Law, ahead of George Best, Bobby Charlton, Euesbio, Johan Cruyff, Jairzinho with Geoff Hurst and Roger Hunt joint tenth.

Banks said, ‘I thought Denis was a great competitor. The Press often referred to him as the Electric Eel. I think Electric Heel would have been more appropriate. He had such fast reactions in the penalty box that it was as if he was plugged into the mains.

PENALTY-BOX PRINCE…Denis law watches as England keeper Gordon Banks prepares to hold a high ball with Ian St John chasing.

‘I will always remember – with mixed feelings – his remarkable performance for Manchester United against Leicester City in the 1963 FA Cup Final. He produced one of the greatest forward displays ever seen at Wembley and inspired United to a 3-1 triumph.

‘Denis, a menace if ever there was one, scored one goal and was jumping in celebration of another when his header struck the bar. I turned expecting to see the ball in the back of the net and, gratefully, received the rebound into my arms. Denis threw both arms in the air and collapsed to his knees. He always was one for theatrical gestures.’

Nobby Stiles, Law’s United team-mate and another of Sir Alf Ramsey’s world conquerors, laughed, ‘We were good friends at Old Trafford, but you couldn’t talk to him in the tunnel or during an international game. And you knew he was taking these encounters seriously when you noticed he was wearing shin guards.

‘They weren’t compulsory back then and Denis rarely wore them. But when he was facing England, they were in place and you realised, to your dismay, that he was up for a scrap.’

Another World Cup winner, Jack Charlton, had a few head-to-heads with Law during their playing days at club and country level. He recalled, ‘We were drawn against Manchester United in the semi-finals of the FA Cup. The first encounter was at Hillsborough and was a bad-tempered affair which ended in a goalless draw.

‘I had a number of clashes in the penalty area with Denis, nearly pulling the shirt off his back on more than one occasion. You had to hang onto Denis because he was so sharp and so good in the air. I used to hate playing against him, though I have always regarded him as a good pal of mine.

READY FOR ACTION…Denis Law stripped and good to go.

‘Denis was a great competitor. I’ll never forget going for a cross in a game at Elland Road and, as I went to volley the ball clear, suddenly Denis was diving over me and heading it into the net. I kicked Denis right in the mouth. I really walloped him – not deliberately, of course.

‘Anyway, I remember Denis lying on his back and there’s blood and everything coming out of his nose and mouth while the trainer was sponging him down. I was standing over him as he started to come to. He looked up at me and smiled, “Did I score, big fella?”

‘There was talk of me having a little black book with the names of players I would be looking out for. I didn’t really have such a thing, but I did have perhaps five or six players in mind who had committed nasty tackles on me and whose names I wouldn’t forget in a hurry. You always remember the names of people who have done you wrong, you never forget them. I would get them back if I could. But I would do it within the laws in the game.

‘A lot of people thought Chelsea’s Peter Osgood topped my list, but that wasn’t the case. Ossie and I had some good battles , but I don’t remember doing anything untoward in my duels with him and I can’t recall him ever doing anything untoward to me. The same was true of Denis, who, as I said, has always been a good pal. I’ve still got two or three of Denis’s shirts at home that I ripped off his back.’

MY HERO…Denis Law and a Scotland fan after the 3-2 win at Wembley in April 1967.

Charlton also recalled a funny moment minutes after another hectic confrontation between Leeds United and Manchester United. ‘It was 1965 and I was sitting in the dressing room, caked in mud, when I got news I had been chosen by Alf Ramsey for the England team that was due to play Scotland in April. It was the first time I had been picked.

‘I was so excited I knew I had to tell Bobby right away. I practically ran into the United dressing room and said, “Hey, kidda, I’ve just been told I’m going to play for England against Scotland! What do you think about that?”

‘Denis was far from impressed with my big news. I believe I was ‘invited’ to leave the premises and he “would sort me out at Wembley”.

‘The international ended 2-2 and, yes, Denis scored.’

* TOMORROW: Don’t miss The Lawman Part Seven of our EXCLUSIVE series – only in Scotzine. 


About Author


Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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