Football Anecdotes: A Glasgow Bookie, The Old Firm & The Current Day

So here is part two. This is more dedicated to some Old Firm stories and players. But it includes a near scandal and my grandfathers thoughts on the current game. The picture above was used by Glasgow newspaper The Evening Times, can you spot my dad?

Willie Henderson

I first met Willie and his silly wee glasses when we all used to meet in the tearooms after their training. He was snooker mad, so we would take him down to the snooker hall.

I remember the time when George McLean had left Rangers and was playing against them. Well he was through on goal when Willie who was always fast got after him and pulled his legs away from him. George turned around and grabbed him and lifted the wee guy up and as soon as he had him up they looked at each other and burst out laughing.

(The photo is above has my grandpa far left with Willie closest to the camera.) 

After the Stoke game Willie, Jim Baxter and myself went to the Adidas factory at Manchester. We met up with Paddy Crerand. They showed us around the factory and I was given a wee pair of football boots to hang up on my car a first for Scotland. Coming out the factory and a group of boys ran up to us looking for autographs. They all asked who I was and Willie and Jim told them ‘George McLean’. So I had to sign George McLean for all these kids.

Wee Henderson as a teenager was the best I seen, maybe biased. Jimmy Johnstone at his peak was fantastic. But the thing for me that happened to Willie Henderson was that he had a bad bunion on his foot and got it removed and he was never the same player again. He seemed slower and Tommy MacLean became prominent.

Jock Stein

Jock was brilliant, an easygoing guy. One thing he did not like was publicity. He hated publicity. I remember one day he was at the races with Sean (Fallon) and your dad was there with his camera. I saw him taking a photograph of Jock. Two minutes later Sean came down and said ‘Look the boss doesn’t like getting his photograph taken at the races, tell your boy to keep back’. So I told your dad that is enough of that or you will be out. (Laughs)

Jock was a great guy; we would just sit and talk. The best laugh I got with him. Celtic were playing this big European game and you could not get a ticket for Parkhead for love nor money. Well Barney, he used to work for me, well he was Celtic bloody daft, oh he was mad. He was saying you couldn’t get a ticket for this game anywhere; he was murder to work with. So I went up to Celtic Park and it was just a stroke of luck that I walked in and Big Jock was sitting there. He asked ‘What you after?’ So I said ‘Is there any chance of a ticket for Barney who works for me?’ Well they knew Barney and I was saying I couldn’t get him a ticket at all. He says listen I have a couple of tickets here’. They were not for sale and Jock had explained that they had printed half a dozen complimentary more than they should have done. So he sold two to me and said don’t say where you got them.

So I handed Barney this envelope with my name and Celtic Park on it. I said ‘Enjoy the game’.  Well there was this wee guy who went to the dogs, he was a real bitter bigot and he was saying to Barney how no one could get a ticket. He was saying that so and so who never go to games had these tickets. So Barney, daft as usual, ‘Canny get tickets ma boss can get tickets. Look at that Celtic Park George Johnston’ this wee guy reported it! They pulled up Jock and he said he gave them to me cause he knew me & they were getting thrown out anyway.

Jock then told me ‘Next time I bloody gie you a ticket don’t tell anyone it came from me!’ (Laughs)

George McLean

I remember George had a terrible first half at Ibrox. He always seemed to be great or very poor. So he was coming off the park this day at half time and Baxter says ‘Dandy (McLean’s nickname) that’s the worst performance I have ever seen from a professional footballer!’ George replied ‘Don’t worry Jim there is plenty more where that came from’. What an answer to give,

You couldn’t insult him. He was the best-liked guy in the dressing room a bit like a McCoist character as he always had a joke. Everybody would go to big George. He was great at imitating Tommy Cooper complete with his fez.

One day it was a real winters night and the ground was like iron and they came off at half time. The boss at the time was Scot Symon and he says ‘How is the park boys?’ They were all saying not bad and then Big George says ‘The wee bit I’ve got is quite nice.’

He basically got the sack after the Berwick game, which was a liberty. He wasn’t a fan favourite though; he was either hit or miss on the park. Everyone who knew him off it loved him.

Old Firm Betting Scandal

There was supposed to be a scandal and a Celtic player tried to involve me.

Rangers were playing Hibs at Ibrox. Wee Willie said to me that this was the worst Rangers team he had ever played in; they were playing a winger at left back and nonsense like that. He was say that Hibs would murder them, as it goes Hibs only won one nothing. He says ‘If I was you sir I would have a bet’ that’s how he spoke. I said that it is hard for me to bet against Rangers. So anyway I eventually I put a tenner on seven to two Hibs.

So we were in the Bamboo tearooms in Gordon Street the next night and this guy who had played left back for Celtic a real dirty slimy type was sitting behind us. He heard me saying that I backed Hibs last night and telling my table I got a great price for it and I was sitting with Baxter and them at this time. So next thing Roger Baillie and Ken Gallacher who knew I was a bookmaker and pals with some of the players came up to me saying they had this story.

They said there was this scandal blowing up that Rangers players betted on Hibs to win. They came to me personally and said they had this story. According to the story they had heard I had put on money for the Rangers players. So I said who did I put the money on with? They said that’s the thing we have asked some bookmakers and they said no one had put any big bets on Hibs. They then asked me if I was telling the truth and I told them what I had done and who I bet with. I knew the Rangers were playing terrible and the price was to good not to put money on. They said they had it ready to print and I said ‘Go for it but I can assure you I had one personal bet and that was it’.

They appreciated that because they knew had they went to print and it was not true then it would have caused upheaval with the Rangers players. I got on well with the press guys, Jim Rodger who they called ‘Scoop’ he was great at his job. They were very pally with the players and some were fantastic and others took liberties. But the three I mentioned were nice guys.

(The photo has my dad in it with the Scotland team including various members of both Old Firm sides)

Celtic and Rangers

They would all drink in the tearooms together. They would all get on well with each other. As Sean Fallon said it was a lot of the fans that built up the tension and trouble.

I remember we were at a do. Both Rangers and Celtic each had a table. Big Jock was there with his Celtic team & we where there with the Rangers. They were all chirping at each other ‘what are the animals eating tonight? Meat as usual’. Oh they were very friendly towards each other.

Current Day Football

More than half of the players in those days would last a game these days. If someone tried taking the Mickey they were up in the air, boom! They are well protected now.

What Scotland miss are two out and out wingers. Look how good Wylde and Forrest played against the Dutch at Under 21 level they were magnificent. Scotland should do that more. Enough with all the negative tactics! The minute a winger goes by the back then the other team is in trouble. But they concentrate too much on these attacking full backs now but a good winger would make mince meat of them nowadays.

Also what I don’t get is why when they were rich Rangers and Celtic didn’t invest more in areas like Drumchapel, Toryglen and Easterhouse. I mean really spend on these places. They always thought if they are good enough they will come to us. Ridiculous. At one time they would just get rid of great players just because the were not tall and strong, what a waste. Just look at Barcelona now.

They can’t move around and socialise now. They have too much money and stay in their boxes at the race meetings. I have no idea how Tevez gets away with everything, he just ignores everyone… I suppose that’s money that does that. Players used to have more fun. Although I wouldn’t stop any of them putting a punt on in my shop.

I never gave it a thought to get a photograph, an autograph or get even a programme. You didn’t in those days when you were around them all the time. Just think Helmut Schon is a World Cup winner! Funny thing is I used to take bets from Sir Alex Ferguson and Owen Coyle now they are two Premiership managers.

Well Gramps you are my hero and without you I would probably never have fallen in love with football!

So thank you. 

For those who missed Part One click HERE

5 Responses to “Football Anecdotes: A Glasgow Bookie, The Old Firm & The Current Day”

  1. Really enjoyed the stories Scott. My Grandpa grew up in Govan I really wish I had sat down and got all his stories written down before he passed away.

    Never appreciated all the football he would have watched as a boy. He maybe even had a pint with your Grandpa at one point lol.

  2. Cheers Andrew. A few have said that about their own grandparents.

    Haha yes maybe they did 🙂

  3. […] Part Two is now available HERE. […]

  4. pure dead brilliant, more please!


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