From normality, comes loyalty

Date: 25th November 2021

From normality, comes loyalty…

The latest blog from our resident writer Donald Stewart.

“There is a well-known saying in boxing that if you want loyalty, buy a dog…

For those of us, of a certain age, and who look back at football of a certain vintage, it was not so much about hitting the tanner ba’ but seeing the people from our school, in the terraces and on the park. We would then cast an eye to the director’s box to see a swathe of camel haired coats of the Board who would be recruited from the small businesses and local Rotary Club of the mediocre and a wee bit wealthier than the rest of us and that was “our” club.

On the park we would hope for occasional success, a team that was head and shoulders above our local rivals and a half decent pie at half time. The sun always shone, and when it didn’t it bred stories of derring do with which to bore a new generation, and we all sang out hearts out for 90 minutes and there was never any bother.

It is, of course, utter nonsense, but we all like to reminisce.

But one thing that is irrefutable is that many a player made his professional debut and his swansong for the same team. Nomadic existences were still the norm for big players, those that caught the eye of bigger club’s scouts and went on a wander round a variety of clubs.

I was reminded of that when a statue was unveiled this week to the former Huddersfield Town, Manchester City and United and Scotland legend Denis Law. Despite making his name in the red side of Manchester, it was to the blue side of the city that he first made his mark. The truly iconic picture of him, having backheeled United to relegation in a City shirt at the tail end of his career, showed loyalty, not to the Reds but to the dignity of a man who knew his heart may not be able to be divided but the implications of his skill were to lose one of his teams to the top flight. As it turns out it was not the goal that relegated them but at the time, he felt it might be.

If the big names could wander round the country and walk into teams that were willing to pay for them, what of the players who were brought up on the terraces and then went on to don the colours of the local team and then stay put. They turned out in all weathers, played their heart out, no matter what leagues they were in and sometimes got rewarded at the end of a long career with a testimonial where the cash generated was their reward for not leaving our club.

There were more than a few who got as far as the loyalty but did not quite mange the testimonial. As the statue was unveiled in Aberdeen of one legend, in Hibernian, Lewis Stevenson agreed a new deal to stay with the club to continue his own legendary status. In amongst many reports of his contract extension, the desire he expressed to see out his career at Hibernian FC was refreshing. It was an example of old school loyalty in a time that players get accused of mercenariness in trying to find the best deal for their families.

And let’s not be fooled – some of them are mercenary, but quite a few, in a short career, need to maximise their earnings.

It was a refreshing thing to read. Legendary status is begun though not acquired by pledging loyalty and proving it rather than kissing the badge and signing for your rivals. That leads to infamy.

And records shall be made – not perhaps the records of the Lawman – but comparable in many ways. Stevenson is the only Hibs player to have both a League Cup and Scottish Cup winning medal – ever. The latter of the two is no longer the joke of many a cheap jibe. He is however only fourth in the list of appearances in a Hib shirt. Ahead of him are Pat Stanton, Arthur Duncan and Gordon Smith.

I am old enough to remember Stanton and his name is not just a byword for the club but also a watchword for steadiness and quality. Stevenson is well aware that the quantity of matches played depends on the quality provided by him when playing them. There seems to be very little doubt that he can contribute and with another year to run on his contract now he is certain to provide a new twist in showing that an old dog, has an old fashioned quality with the trick being to stay loyal.”

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