Walking up the old wooden corridor at Cappielow from the dressing room to the office. Virtually skipping by the time I get there. Head spinning with ideas. No point buying a car yet, can’t drive. If I get a speedboat where will I keep it? Wonder how much a Rolex is?
I had completed my 1st full week in football and I was on the way to collect my very first pay. I got handed a brown envelope with my name written on it and couldn’t work out if I’d been paid with feathers or helium? I took myself away from the busyness to open it. I was like Charlie Bucket, so excited as I ripped it open. And there it was. £32.50! Cash! I was packing! It was only that much as I had joined late due to a broken ankle and meant I was on 2nd year rates.
Not even enough to get the bus to Irvine and head to the Wryggs Man section in Goldbergs to upgrade my Y cardigan and waffles. But you know what? It didn’t matter. I had just been paid to do something I love. A free pass to as much chocolate as I could eat courtesy of Mr W Wonka couldn’t come close to this feeling. And I loved chocolate!
And so it began. Morton (as they were known back then before Greenock was added) were a part time club with a few full time players. It was great for young boys as you would train with older guys and you couldn’t help but learn off them. I had been involved in reserve games previously, had even made my 1st team debut as a trialist the year before but this was it now. This was my job. This was real.
Morton were always known as a club that would give young boys a chance and The Gaffer, Allan McGraw, was the master at selling them on. To sell you on you had to be in the team. To be in the team you had to take somebody’s place. You’ve went from just being the acne riddled lightweight mute boy, to becoming a threat, a positional rival.
In fairness the older pros took it better than the boys closer to you in age. They helped you and looked out for you. They saw something in you and wanted to play a part in your development. It couldn’t have been easy thinking this wee guy, 9 and a half stone soaking wet, is now a threat? But I never experienced any ill feeling towards me, not once was I made to feel unwelcome.
When I got promoted from changing in the away dressing room into 1st team quarters, I was accepted straight away. I still didn’t say much but I sat in the corner soaking it all in like a sponge. All the slaggings, the wind ups, the patter, good and bad was great. Obviously without knowing it at the time,that upbringing helped shape me, not only in football but in life.
When I moved to Kilmarnock years later, I like to think I became the type that helped the young boys however I could (although some may disagree) I had been there. I had done the chores before and after training. Cleaned out the big communal bath. Picked up the so called white slips that had more shades in them than a B&Q paint chart. So I knew what it took.
You tried to be like the guys who looked after you when you were that age. I saw a right few boys coming through. Boys that would go on to be Internationalists and Record goalscorers. Managers. Play Junior. Pack it in for something totally different. When I think of the amount of they boys I still keep in touch with,still get a text or message off through social media, It makes me realise how lucky I was.
I still message the boys at Morton who took me under their wing all those years ago. And no matter how long its been,with the old yins or the youngsters, you can just pick up again as if you spoke the day before. Football is the common denominator that brought us all together and keeps us together all these years later…