Football agent John Viola has represented some of Scotland's biggest players over the last 30 years.

Despite the reputation of agents as greedy and selfish John has managed to remain friends with the many players he has represented over the years, and counts some of them as family.

Here he tells Sport Times the story of his career...

Early days

After I left school in Easterhouse aged 16, in 1976, I served an apprenticeship as an electrician.

When I had finished learning my trade, I went to Australia for two years. I fancied a change of career while I was Down Under and enrolled in a college course in financial services.

That was the profession I went into when I returned to the United Kingdom. I worked for a broker in London and then in Glasgow and came into contact with a lot of high net worth individuals.

Many of them were footballers. Derek Whyte, who was just breaking through at Celtic at that time, was one of the first players I dealt with. I still work with Derek, who I am pictured with here, to this day.

Before long, the players started to ask me to represent them. This second photo shows me in discussions with Derek's team-mate, Chris Morris, about a new contract in the early days of my career.

Football Family

The first major transfer I was involved in was in 1992 when Ray McKinnon moved from Dundee United to Nottingham Forest for £750,000.

Brian Clough, the Forest manager at that time, was not at the meeting at the City Ground I attended. He was on holiday in Majorca and conducted negotiations in his typically brusque manner on the phone.

My business took off quickly and before long I needed some help. So I drafted my nephew, Phil McTaggart, in to assist me. This picture shows us together when he was just a laddie.

Phil left his job with Barclays Bank aged 18 in 1999. In 2002 he became the youngest registered agent in Europe. Nowadays, he is a co-director of my company, ViolaFC, and does as much work as I do. Last season, he took the Chilean internationalist Jean Beausejour to Birmingham City.

Tough Talking

I have lost count of the number of disagreements I have had with individuals in football over the years. Unfortunately, it goes with the territory. Sometimes, if a manager does not get his own way, then he can take the huff with you.

For example, I arranged the transfer of Lee McCulloch – who I have worked with since back in his Motherwell days – from Wigan to Rangers in 2007. Being a lifelong Gers supporter, Lee was desperate, just desperate, for the move to the Ibrox club to go through.

But his manager at Wigan at the time, Paul Jewell, obviously didn't want to lose one of his key players. It is fair to say we exchanged some choice words.

Footballers have short careers and they have to maximise their earning potential while they have the chance.

Jimmy Johnstone, the Celtic legend who was a friend of mine and who I am pictured with here, made virtually nothing out of the game. How can that be right? I once said to him: "If I had been your agent you would've been making £100,000 a week."

I have been fortunate to meet a fair few of Scottish football's greats over the years. I was happy to get involved in a football match Danny McGrain held to raise money for a diabetes charity in Clydebank some years ago. This second picture here shows me with, from left to right, the late Davie Cooper, Danny, myself and the late Tommy Burns.

Firm Friends

I took John Hartson from Wimbledon to Rangers in 2000 – only for him to fail his medical. That was a strange one as John went on to enjoy a long and successful career across the city with Celtic.

My first involvement with Rangers, in fact, came when I was introduced to Charlie Miller just when he was breaking through into the first team at Ibrox in the early 1990s.

The association with the Ibrox club grew from there. Over the years, I have worked with, among others, Barry Ferguson, Craig Moore, Bob Malcolm and Gordan Petric.

Dick Advocaat was the manager who gave Barry his chance in the first team. He is a great wee guy, a funny man. I also built up an excellent working relationship with then club owner Sir David Murray around that time.

Rangers brought in a large number of players back then. I was involved with a lot of the transfers. I helped them sign Dariusz Adamczuk, Marvin Andrews, Claudio Caniggia and Russell Latapy.

I have worked just as much with Celtic, too. Indeed, one of the biggest transfers I have been involved with was when Chris Sutton signed in 2000 for Celtic for a £6million fee, which is still a record for the Parkhead club.

Chris was unsettled at Chelsea and wanted a move away. Pretty soon, Celtic, along with FOUR English Premiership sides, were interested in signing him.

But the Celtic board were not keen due to the amount of money involved. They were fighting with their new manager, Martin O'Neill, over it.

But O'Neill was brilliant. Having just been appointed, he was in a strong bargaining position. He called the shots and Chris became his first signing.

My cousin, Harry McManus, who is a Celtic supporter, still thinks he was personally responsible for the Parkhead club signing Sutton.

I was speaking to Harry one night and he said: "Get Sutton to sign for Celtic! Make sure Sutton signs for Celtic!" Personally, I think £6m was an absolute bargain.

In the second photo I am walking into Parkhead with another man who starred in the Hoops, Barry Robson, ahead of his transfer from Dundee United a few years ago.

Model clients

I think a lot of people are unaware what agents do. There is a lot more to it than they think. I have, for instance, been involved in every situation imaginable with Barry Ferguson over the years.

For whatever reason, Barry often gets a hard time in the media. But he doesn't play at the level he does, at the age of 33, with a poor attitude.

On the contrary, he is an exemplary pro. He would never have enjoyed the career he has had if he was staggering out of a night club at three o'clock every other morning.

Many of the guys I have worked with since the early days, the likes of Barry, Charlie Miller, Craig Moore, Gordan Petric and Derek Whyte, are still with my company to this day.

If I was giving bad advice to my players then I would not be able to say that. Believe me, they would have moved on. I am a businessman, but I am also a human being. My players are like sons, friends, brothers, to me.

This picture shows me with some of my boys at the launch of my company website a few years ago. We are, from left to right, John O'Neil, Barry, Stilian Petrov and Craig.

Although it had no direct link to the Scottish game, one of the biggest transfers I have been involved in was that of Christian Karembeu, the French internationalist, to Middlesbrough from Real Madrid in 2000.

Christian flew into England to meet with Bryan Robson, who was then the Boro manager, and talk terms.

I knew Bryan was partial to a pint of Guinness so I suggested going to the local pub for a chat. Bryan said: "Great idea John!" The deal was completed fairly quickly thereafter.

I became quite friendly with Christian and his wife, the Slovakian supermodel Adriana Karembeu, who was world- famous as a result of a Wonderbra advertisement, after that. I arranged for them to be guests of honour at a sports dinner in Glasgow that year.

Adriana, inset, arrived in the city on her private jet from a modelling assignment in Europe a few hours before Christian. So I took her out for a meal and a few drinks while she waited for her husband. I got on my phone to my mates and made sure we went to bars where they would be.

If I was going to be out on the town with the supermodel who was in the Guinness Book of Records for having the longest legs in the world, then I wanted to make damned sure somebody I knew spotted me!

My 'Aussie son'

Craig Moore always says I was like a father to him. In fact, he called me his 'Glasgow da'. I started working with him when he was 17, when his own father was 12,000 miles away, and watched as he rose through the ranks to become a first-team regular at Rangers and an Australian internationalist.

This picture shows Craig and I when we were on holiday in Las Vegas. We took a trip to the Grand Canyon one day. He is a great guy, who now works for ViolaFC as our Australasian consultant.

Craig recommended me to Gordan Petric when he was at Rangers. I took him to Crystal Palace, Hearts, AEK Athens, Sichuan Dahe in China and Partisan Belgrade after that.

Home again

I have just come back to this country after five years of being based out in Dubai.

I have business interests over there and it was a good base to explore the up-and-coming Asian football market.

As well as myself, Phil, Craig and Gordan, Jim Sherry, the former Hamilton player who is now a registered agent, works as our football advisor and Alan Holdsworth, another registered agent, is also part of the team.

The picture here shows, from left to right, Jim, myself and Phil gearing up for the busiest part of our season.

Being an agent is not as fruitful as it once was. Certainly, the money is not there in Scotland any more. But it is what I do and I love it.