Football Anecdotes: A Glasgow Bookie and World Superstars

These are stories of an eighty-year-old man and are his actual words. A Glaswegian, retired bookie who started my love for football. This man is George Johnston… My Grandfather who through friendship met some of the biggest names in Football!

Here I have given him a few names and asked for a few stories that he remembers the most. He is just an ordinary man but to me he is the real star.

This is part one of two… I hope you enjoy reading these stories as much as I did hearing them.

Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas

In Stoke for the Stanley Matthews testimonial we met the Hungarian Puskas and that Di Stefano. We were sitting after the game having a drink and Jim (Baxter) gave that Di Stefano a bollocking! He was saying during the game that (Willie) Henderson was having a brilliant game, a real real good game. So Jim says to Di Stefano ‘See you that boy was playing great and you never gave him a ball all night’ he says ‘You never ever gave him the ball. You are a greedy greedy man’. That was what Jim was like after a few drinks though. Di Stefano just shrugged it off and said ‘You might have thought that Jimmy but I play what I think’.

The other thing is Alfredo never bought a drink from what I can remember Puskas did. The difference between them was night and day; Puskas would talk to you and laugh with you. He was brilliant. His English was quite good especially when it came to Whisky. That said they both stuck together that night.

Funny thing about that match was full back Alex Hamilton of Dundee, he came on and would run up and down the wing and ask Puskas ‘How am I doing boss?’

 Lev Yashin

In 1964 I went with a couple of Scottish players to Copenhagen for a World XI match. That’s where I met Yashin the goalkeeper, a big gentleman. Everywhere he went he had two people following him in case he ran away from Russia. The thing I remember about him. I couldn’t believe it, I think he got about £70 for his wages, all the team got that. So they were all saying what they were going to do with this £70. He says ‘This is worth nothing in Russia’ so he says ‘What I am going to do is buy something for my kids and family, that is, more important to them’. The others in the team were away boozing (drinking). He called us all capitalists; he shook everyone’s hand saying ‘pleased to meet you capitalist’. He was quiet a character. A very nice person.

He was the best goalkeeper at that time.


I met Eusebio twice. Once in Copenhagen and once in Glasgow after Benfica played Celtic. They were staying up at the old hotel up at Clarkston Toll. So Willie and me went up to see him. His favourite word was ‘Amigo’ and he introduced me to everyone with ‘This is my Amigo’. Hugging us and shaking our hands. He was quite a character.

Helmut Schon

We went to this nightclub with Willie Henderson and Eusebio. Where we met Helmut Schon, He was a great character, very very nice person and easy to speak to. He asked us if we wanted to have a drink and we sat and had a drink with him for about ten minutes. He was obviously an older guy but was in there talking to the players, such as a big Belgium internationalist I forget his name but he was a tall fella.

Jimmy Greaves and Denis Law

We only really saw Jimmy Greaves in the morning. He would say ‘I am away lads’ and he would disappear upstairs with a bottle of whisky or something with a girlfriend, which he wasn’t meant to do. He seemed a bit distant from the rest of the lads and preferred to have a few drinks in his room with his girl

And then there was Denis Law. What happened was we went back to their hotel in Copenhagen after the game. We all had our dinner and at ten or eleven o’clock at night and we were debating about going off to a few nightclubs with some of the other players. Then Dennis Law appeared and I said ‘what are you doing Denis? Do you want to come with us for a drink or two?’ He said ‘I am just going to have a bottle of beer and going up to my bed’. He was the most professional out of the lot of them.

Actually the pal I was with had a dance hall and he was the first person in Scotland to have the Beatles, said it was the dirtiest crowd he had seen and he wouldn’t have them back. I bet he would have five years later.

Billy Bremner

(In the above photo Billy is far right & my dad is the wee boy)

Bremner was the cheekiest character you would have ever met in your life, oh cheeky cheeky cheeky. He was good with it though. Very fiery man.

I remember a trip to Italy and the fans would spit at the players as they walked out and Billy would be shouting at them ‘Bastards, fucking Italian bastards!’

Jim Baxter

Jim was some man. We used to go back to the Central hotel after every European tie at Ibrox. Well this one time Baxter was sitting there with his leg up, it was broken at the time. I can still see him with his leg up! So we came in and sat down. ‘What do you want to drink?’ He was a great Bacardi and Coke man. A week later and Willie Henderson was telling me that he got the bill in from the hotel. He said that all the players had left but Jim was signing all their names to the bill.

He never changed as a man. There was no airs or graces about him. Baxter was a very likeable person.

As a player he would torment people and sit on the ball. He would torment the life out of Alan Ball. Him and Billy Bremner in the tunnel at Wembley ‘He is not Jimmy Clithroes son at all’ Jimmy was a wee midget you know? (Laughs). Ball used to do his nut. They used to wind him up every time they saw him and Ball would go crackers.

I believe he said at Wembley after scoring his two goals that he would score an OG if he had the chance in the last minute. People laugh but I think he would have done it!

Charlie Cooke

He was a real loner. We were away with the Scotland team once and we past a club and there was Charlie Cooke coming out it by himself. But we would leave the rest of us and go into these places on his own. Probably just looking for a bird.

So that is the end of part one… Part two will have more to do with The Old Firm stars of the 60s.

Part Two is now available HERE.

12 Responses to “Football Anecdotes: A Glasgow Bookie and World Superstars”

  1. Exceptional.

    It’s always wonderful how someone you consider so ‘ordinary’, as you put it, has some fantastic, almost unheralded stories.

    My grandfather worked on the gates of Brunton Park for 33 years. I would have loved to have had the opportunity to speak to him about *his* legends, albeit Carlisle United ones.

    Great work Scott, but more importantly, great storied George.

  2. Scotty – enjoyable reading, mate. Thanks for sharing your grandfather’s memories.

  3. Matt – Thanks mate, I remember you telling a few of those Carlisle stories at Socrates. I do qualify the ‘Ordinary’ statement in part two by saying he is more than ‘Ordinary to me.

    Andy – Thanks Andy.

  4. Thanks for that. Great read!

  5. Thank you Daniel.

  6. That’s Willie Henderson with your Dad. Anyone know the guy in the middle?

  7. Yes that is Willie & their will be more on him in the next part.

    The man in the middle is Scottish goalie Bobby Ferguson.

  8. […] » Football Anecdotes: A Glasgow Bookie and World Superstars […]

  9. […] For those who missed Part One click HERE […]

  10. Legendary Baxter/Bremner they could get in any team at any time in the world – world beaters on their day!

    Gr8 memories.

  11. […] You can read my grandpa’s story HERE. […]

  12. […] Football Anecdotes: A Glasgow Bookie and World Superstars […]

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