Rangers legend Harold Davis: Life and career in pictures

By Matthew Lindsay

Chief Football Writer

Rangers legend Harold Davis: Life and career in pictures

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Chief football writer Matthew Lindsay interviewed Rangers great Harold Davis, who passed away aged 85 last week, for the Every Picture Tells A Story feature that appeared in the Evening Times in 2002.

Here, we reprint the article in honour of a remarkable man and player.

1/2 - Black Watch

I WAS born in Cupar in Fife in 1933 and my football career started at clubs in that area. I kicked off playing for Newburgh Juniors and then moved on to East Fife.

But I was called up for my National Service in 1952 and joined the Black Watch. Before I knew what was happening I was on the other side of the world fighting in the Korean War.

I had a good opportunity to avoid it. I could easily have stayed in this country and joined the physical eduction corps and played for my battalion team. But I am not the sort of character who will dodge something. Some of the other lads were going, so I tagged along.

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But I was shot up pretty badly. It was just one of those things that happen in war. I forgot to duck! It was at night and I was in the trenches and I got in the way of a machine gun.

I was shot in the stomach and the foot and spent, in total, a year in hospital recovering. I was unconscious for six weeks. When I came to I had dozens of tubes sticking out of me. I had to undergo 18 operations in total.

I was told by the doctors that my physical condition saved me. I was about 14 stones when I was shot and that went right down to 10 stone. I suppose I was lucky I was exceptionally fit.

It was a terrible, tragic experience. But if you can survive something like that then it certainly has a positive affect on your character.

When I came back home I was still a player with East Fife. But I was in no condition to play football. I was told my playing days were finished and I shouldn't even attempt to make a comeback.

But I got in touch with Davie Kinnear who was the physiotherapist at Bridge of Earn Hospital then. I embarked upon an extensive rehabilitation programme with him which proved to be a resounding success. I was soon back in training and had then forced my way into the first team.

Scot Symon used to be the manager at East Fife. But he left to take over at Rangers. He had soon signed up Davie Kinnear. I joined the pair of them at Ibrox in 1956. This first picture is an early one of me in action.

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The second photograph shows me getting into a car at Ibrox with Davie after a trip to the hospital. He was such an important influence in helping me get back playing again after my problems.

3 - Tackling Tully

TO begin with, I played a couple of games out of position at inside forward. It was just to get me involved. I was still a young boy in many ways. There were so many great players that I was quite overawed by the whole situation.

They had players like Ian McColl, Johnny Hubbard, Alex Scott, Bobby Shearer and Eric Caldow.

To play with a guy like George Young, a giant of the game in every way, was just incredible for me. He was at the end of his career and I was privileged to get the chance to play with him.

This was the first team that I played for. I got into it and established myself pretty quickly. They are, back row from left to right, Bobby Shearer, Eric Caldow, George Niven, Ian McColl and me. Front row from left to right, Alex Scott, Billy Simpson, Max Murray, George Young, Sammy Baird and Johnny Hubbard.

One of the early games that sticks out in my mind was in the reserves against Celtic at Ibrox. I was in direct opposition to the legendary Charlie Tully. At that time he was ready to retire and, apparently, they were giving him an extra season as thanks for his service.

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But I had no idea. All I knew was that I was up against a great player. I just about put him in the stand with my first tackle. I did the same shortly after that. And then again after that. The Rangers support loved that and lapped it up. But after my third challenge on him he turned to me and said: "Look son, if you just take it easy I'll give you the bloody ball!"

4/5 - The boss

SCOT Symon was the boss. Even after we had both left Rangers and I met him in the street that was what I called him. Nobody ever called him Scot. He is dead now, but if he walked into my house today I would say: "All right, boss?"

He was a strict disciplinarian and that was how he ran Rangers. In his early years there that attitude brought the club great success. I think towards the end, though, his old ways counted against him. Football was changing and the game was becoming more tactical. But I suppose football is like everything else. Nothing stays the same forever.

He did not bother much with tactics and formations and things like that. This first picture is an early training session at Ibrox and shows some of the players heading the ball to each other. We are, from left to right, Jimmy Millar, Bobby King, Ralph Brand, Eric Caldow in the background, myself, Billy Stevenson and Andy Matthew.

The second picture shows us toasting our Scottish Cup success at the celebration dinner back in 1962 with, from left to right, Willie Henderson, myself, Davy Wilson, the boss and Ian McMillan.

6 - Iron Man

I COULD never have been described as skilful. I was lucky again in that I had a good physical stature and was quite determined. I always gave it my all, and then something extra, and that helped to carry me through games. I was called The Iron Man by the newspapers and the supporters. This picture shows me with two of my defensive partners at that time, Eric Caldow and Bobby Shearer, at the railway station after our game with Dundee had been cancelled. It is interesting that I am the only one of the three of us who looks happy the match has been called off.

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Eric was very speedy and sharp while Bobby was a hard player. Captain Cutlass they called him. Scot Symon was very good at blending that team. If a player on one side was skilful then another player would be really tough. In my opinion, there was never a successful football team that was built entirely from skilful players.

7 - Medal haul

THE main thing I can claim from my eight years as a Rangers player was I won four league medals. Those were in the days when you could play up to 15 matches and still not get any reward for your efforts. You had to play consistently well to win the league.

I can actually remember playing in every leg of a Scottish Cup in 1960 and then getting injured in the semi-final. Ian McColl came in to replace me for the final against Kilmarnock, who we were expected to thrash, and ended up with a medal. I got nothing at all. Still, I am pretty happy with my haul.

In those days if we came out at Ibrox and there were only 40,000 people in the ground it was a bad do. There had to be well in excess of that, at least around 60,000 or 80,000 before we thought it was a big crowd. For cup finals the crowds were just incredible and regularly topped 100,000.

This team picture of us after the 1962 Scottish Cup final shows that. You can see the mass of people. This picture illustrates perfectly what I was talking about - the crowd against St Mirren was 126,930. You can see this team was a great mixture of speed, muscle and class. It was a great side. They are, from left to right, Davy Wilson, Ronnie McKinnon, Jim Baxter, Jimmy Millar, Eric Caldow held aloft with the cup, Ralph Brand, Bobby Shearer, Willie Henderson crouching, Ian McMillan, Billy Ritchie and me.

Willie Henderson was speedy, Davy Wilson had a bit of class on the other side, Jimmy Millar was as hard as nails, Ralph Brand was sharp as a tack and Jim Baxter could win games by himself - if he felt the inclination. I could never claim to be a classy player but my team mates helped me out.

One of my most memorable European nights was in a game against the Belgian side Anderlecht in 1959. Their forward, Joseph Jurion, had been doing a bit of kicking off the ball and it was really beginning to rile me.

Towards the end of the game I was on the ground and he ran past me and deliberately put his studs into the back of my hand. I was so mad I got up and took off after him. When the crowd saw what I was doing there was a huge roar and everyone started egging me on. Luckily, I calmed down and saw the funny side before I got to him.

I was not against retaliating, but I never looked for trouble. I looked after the young boys at the club and helped the likes of Alex Willoughby and Jim Forrest. If they were in trouble with a bit of bullying, they would come to me and I'd sort them out.

8 - Changed days

I LEFT Rangers in 1964 and moved across Glasgow to join Partick Thistle. This picture shows me signing on at Firhill with ex-Rangers star Willie Thornton who was the manager. But at that time I was beginning to lose my edge. I depended a lot on my physical strength and, at 31, I was starting to lose that a bit.

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It was a wrench to leave Ibrox. But I knew the day would come some time and for the two seasons before I eventually left, when the time came to sign a new contract, I was thinking: "This will be the year I don't get one." But I had eight years at the club and was extremely happy with that.

If there is a disappointing aspect to my time then it was when I finished I came out with practically no money. I look at the state of affairs these days and average players can spend three seasons in the first team and, at the end of it, they are millionaires. That annoys me.

I can remember seeing Corky, the great George Young who I mentioned earlier, at a football match in Aberdeen many years ago. He was in a wheelchair and I didn't even recognise him at first. But we got talking and I discovered he was living in a single end in Grangemouth and had hardly a friend in the world.

When I was a player the ball was a big leather thing that would absorb water and gain about five pounds in weight when it rained. There were times when players were loathe to take a penalty. But Corky would regularly clear a heavy ball beyond the halfway line.

I just looked at Corky and thought: "How can Rangers Football Club just forget this man, this giant of Scottish football, like this?" He is dead and forgotten now. But the club did him no favours at all in his old age.

It galls me to see how football has turned out. The cheating involved in the game is terrible. You see players diving, doing somersaults, angling for penalties. Then a slow motion replay shows there was no contact at all. Whenever I watch football now I just end up on my feet screaming at the television. They are just pansies.

10 - Coaching

AFTER I finished playing I went into coaching and took charge of Queen's Park for three years. They would have to be the most enjoyable days of my football life. They were maybe not the most exciting, but they were the most pleasurable. It was a very sociable club and the people were so friendly.

But by that stage Davie White had taken over from Scot Symon as manager of Rangers and he asked me to join him as a trainer. He was a good tactician and needed a bit of muscle. This picture shows me taking a training session in Govan. I thought we did quite well. But Willie Waddell was appointed manager and I left after five months. The less said about that the better.

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Davie moved on to Dundee and I joined him there for three years. We were spectacularly successful and beat Aberdeen, Celtic and Rangers en route to a League Cup victory in 1973. But after that I decided to finish with football. I moved up to Gairloch in Wester Ross and opened the Craigmore Hotel. It was meant to be a glorified boarding house. But I ended up running it for 14 years in all. Still, I was able to retire at the end of it and now live a quiet, comfortable life. I spend most of my time fishing and golfing.

FACTFILE

1933 Born in Cupar in Fife.

1952 Is called up for National Service with the Black Watch while playing for East Fife. Is shot while fighting in the Korean War. Spends a year in hospital and is fortunate to survive.

1955 Breaks back into East Fife team after successful rehabilitation.

1956 Joins former East Fife manager Scot Symon at Rangers.

1964 Leaves Ibrox after winning every honour in the Scottish game. Joins Partick Thistle and spends a year at Firhill before retiring.

1969 After a spell as Queen's Park coach, he returns to Rangers as trainer under new manager Davie White. Spends five months there.

1970 Joins White at Dundee and leads them to 1973 League Cup Final success.

1973 Opens Craigmore Hotel in Gairloch.