NOBODY in Scottish football, not even the members of the Celtic side that coasted to a fifth consecutive title and went all the way to the European Cup final, could get close to Pat Stanton back in 1970.

Fast forward 50 years to the present day and not an awful lot, albeit for quite different reasons, has changed for the Hibernian great.

Stanton is, like everybody of his generation across the country just now, following government and medical advice and living in isolation in order to avoid making contact with anyone who might be infected by coronavirus.

For a fit and active 75-year-old, who relished attending matches at Easter Road in his role as a Hibs ambassador before the Covid-19 pandemic struck last month, being confined to his home in Tranent hasn’t been an enjoyable experience. Being apart from his children and grandchildren especially.

Yet, he understands the elderly are among the groups most at risk from the outbreak and watching news bulletins of the worsening situation with his wife has underlined to him it is the correct course of action.

“You just listen to what you are being told to do,” said Stanton. “What else can you do? It’s out there, it’s completely new, nobody knows what’s going to happen or how long it’s going to last. You just have to make do as best you can. Hopefully at the end of it all it will be cleared up.

“It’s obviously being done for a purpose. I have been seeing all the hospital admissions rising on television. You see businesses struggling, folk losing their jobs. There is a lot of hardship. It’s depressing viewing. These are tough times for a lot of people. There’s always folk worse off than you. You have just got to count your blessings.”

Stanton, modest to a fault, considers himself fortunate to have been named the Scottish Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year back in 1970.

Celtic, who he would later go on to play for, won the First Division and League Cup double that season and also defeated English champions Leeds United in the European Cup semi-final thanks to the efforts of the likes of George Connelly, Tommy Gemmell, Davie Hay, Jimmy Johnstone, Bobby Lennox and Bobby Murdoch.

However, the nation’s scribes were still of the opinion that the classy midfielder had been the outstanding performer and presented him with their prestigious award - an honour that wasn’t bestowed upon a Hibs player again until Leigh Griffiths won it some 43 years later in 2013.

“With what Celtic were achieving in Europe and at home it was good to get picked,” he said. “Hibs were a good side back then, but Celtic were a terrific side who were doing great at that time. In another era, Hibs would perhaps have pushed on and won more, but Celtic were a match for anybody.”

So, though, was Stanton. He had matured into an exceptional talent by that stage in his career and was a fixture in the Scotland side. He had no inferiority complex.

“Early on you are just hoping to get picked and keep your place in the team,” he said. “There is a touch of the daft laddie about you. As time goes by and you become more of a regular your confidence grows. I was 25 by then and had more experience. That helped me. I was confident of doing well no matter who the opposition was.”

Working under two great managers, Jock Stein and Bob Shankly, and playing alongside some renowned professionals, including John Baxter, John Fraser, John McNamee and Neil Martin, in his early days at Hibs had aided his development to that point greatly.

“I was lucky,” he said. “There were terrific players there who were all a big, big help to a young player starting out. Baxter, Fraser, McNamee, Martin - to have these people in the side with you was invaluable. When you were about to do something stupid they would tell you not to. You learned quickly.

“Jock Stein came in in 1964. When a new manager takes over you always think: ‘What’s he going to be like? What ideas will he have? Will he fancy me as a player?’ Everybody has their concerns. On his very first day Jock got all the players in the dressing room. He introduced himself and then said: ‘There will be changes here. But it will be you who make the changes’.

“He never asked you to do anything you couldn’t do. He knew your limitations and played to them. He was a larger-than-life figure to me.”

Stein was replaced by Shankly, the elder brother of Liverpool manager Bill who led Dundee to their only Scottish title in 1962, a year later. His successor proved to be a more introverted individual than his famous and charismatic sibling. Stanton soon discovered he was every bit as knowledgeable and inspiring.

“Bob Shankly was a big influence on me,” he said. “He was a nice man, had a good idea of the game and had done very well as a coach. He wasn’t as outgoing as his brother, he was a quiet. But he had a great understanding of football. The minute he started talking you listened.”

Stanton was, to his delight and surprise, reunited with Stein after spending 13 years at Hibs. He joined Celtic in a swap deal with Jackie McNamara Snr in 1976 when he was 31. He would flourish in the sweeper role he was handed and help the Parkhead club win the Premier Division and Scottish Cup double in what turned out to be his final season. A knee injury then forced him to retire.

“People didn’t move about so much in those days,” he said. “But eventually Jock caught up with me, at the end of things, which was great. To go and play under him again with guys like Danny McGrain, Kenny Dalglish, Bobby Lennox and Roy Aitken at my age was something else. To win the league and cup double so late in my career was amazing.

“I can remember sitting in the dressing room at Hampden with my medal after the cup final and Jock came over and said: ‘There’s a lot of great players who play all their lives and never win one of them’. At the start he was there and at the end he was there.”

But Stanton’s heart always lay in Leith. After managing Cowdenbeath and Dunfermline he had a spell in the Hibs dugout in the 1980s. He was honoured to be asked by Easter Road chief executive Leeann Dempster to become their official ambassador. He is very much looking forward to taking in a game again when the current crisis is over.

“The game has changed,” he said. “But people still go along every Saturday hoping their team wins. That is still the same.

"I was delighted when they asked me to become and ambassador. I couldn’t believe it. It’s nice to meet people on match days who might have watched you from the terraces, but have never spoken to you. They’ve probably booed you, but they’ve never spoken to you.”

In Pat Stanton’s case, they probably haven’t.