Willie Morgan is a Manchester United and Scotland legend.
The winger, twice Manchester United player of the year, is part of an elusive group of players that have worn that famous No.7 shirt at Old Trafford.
Willie became club captain at Manchester United and was capped twenty-six times for Scotland in an excellent career that spanned nearly two decades.
Now, 77 years-old, Willie Morgan remains as articulate, humble, and witty as ever and he reflected on an incredible life and career with the Football Pink.
â€˜I didnâ€™t plan on being a footballerâ€™
Willie Morganâ€™s footballing journey was not intended and may not have happened at all had the local priest not managed to convince his dad to let Willie stay at school.
â€˜When I was leaving school, my choice was to become a priest or to go down in the pits and I was going to go down the pits. I didnâ€™t plan on being a footballer, so it obviously came as a nice surprise.â€™
â€˜I was due to leave school at Christmas time. Clackmannan County, which is the smallest county in Scotland, for the first time in their history qualified for next round of the Schools Cup which was played by all of the counties in Scotland. But the next round wasnâ€™t played until January or February. So the school asked if I could stay on for another term so that I could play in the next round.â€™
â€˜My dad said no. He wanted me to go to work so the local priest came round, and he had been asked by the headmaster to come and ask my dad.Â He eventually relented and said ok you can stay on for another term. We won again and of course I was playing on the right wing and people started knocking on the door.â€™
â€˜My dad was heartbrokenâ€™
After attracting the interest of various clubs, Morgan and his dad devised a money-making scheme before Willie left his dad heartbroken as he signed for Burnley – the first club that he visited.
â€˜The reason I signed for Burnley was because we had a choice of all of the Scottish teams and my dad was approached by Manchester United, Newcastle, Blackpool, Burnley, Chelsea, and Arsenal. But I had never been out of the village, so I had never heard of any of these clubs.â€™
â€˜Every club where I was going to go was going to pay me Â£8 a week while I was there for two weeks. So we made a plan to come to England and pick up Â£16 from each club. We started at Burnley and then we were going to go to Manchester and then London and then Blackpool, back up to Newcastle go back to Scotland and then sign for Celtic.â€™
â€˜I had never heard of Burnley, but the people were so nice there that I told my dad that I wanted to stay at Burnley, and he was heartbroken! And I did and thatâ€™s how I signed for Burnley.’
â€˜There were no negotiationsâ€™
In times before agents, Willie Morgan recalls making the move from Burnley to Manchester United.
â€˜In those days, if you asked for a transfer, you got nothing from the transfer but if you didnâ€™t ask and they put you on the transfer list, you got 10% of your transfer fee. Burnley wanted me to ask for a transfer so I wouldnâ€™t get any money from the move. I said no so we were at loggerheads for several months with Bob Lord.â€™
â€˜I had the choice of every club in the country and of course going back to Scotland and Celtic. Jock Stein came in and wanted me to go to Celtic and I did. I went to Celtic Park and had a look around and took my dad.â€™
â€˜Then United came in on a Friday and I went to Old Trafford on the Friday night. I met Jimmy Murphy, who was the first person I met, on my way into see Matt and he just said weâ€™ve made an offer to Burnley, and they have accepted, and it was a record fee and would I like to go there. And I said yes. So I went back home, came back again, and signed on the Saturday morning.â€™
â€˜It was that simple. There were no negotiations. I didnâ€™t know what they were going to pay me or anything.â€™
â€˜He didnâ€™t demand respect, he commanded respectâ€™
Willie Morgan reveals his fondest memory at United and why Sir Matt Busby was the greatest manager of all time.
â€˜Matt didnâ€™t tell you how to play or what to do. He just picked a team, and it was just like playing for your dad – he was just a very nice man and as I have said many times, he didnâ€™t demand respect, he commanded respect. He was a very special person and, in my opinion, the greatest manager of all time. He didnâ€™t have any tactics. He just picked a team and a blend where everyone complimented everyone else. That was his greatness. It was very simple. There was no great mystery to everything.â€™
â€˜The best memory playing for Manchester United was walking out onto the pitch on my debut against Spurs. The reception was phenomenal. I had a great affinity with the fans. It was fantastic but just walking out onto that pitch was great and then to captain Manchester United is one of the great honours and itâ€™s something that will stay with me forever.â€™
All the players were great when I joined them â€“ they were fantastic, and we became friends and still are with the ones that are still alive sadly.â€™
â€˜There has been so much rubbish written about Georgeâ€™
One of the stars in that famous Manchester United team was, of course, George Best and Morgan shared his memories of the legendary Irishman.
â€˜The first thing that happened at United was that I took the No.7 shirt and George wore No.11 for the rest of his career. In the first week, I went out for lunch with him and said I wanted to be friends and he said of course, and we became friends that day and were up until he sadly left us.â€™
â€˜Thereâ€™s been so much rubbish written about George. George wasnâ€™t a boozer when he was playing â€“ thatâ€™s an absolute myth. It was only at the end of his career, that the booze came into it. But he was a great guy. On the pitch, I created goals for him, he created goals for me. We got on great. That whole team were all great players and all nice people.â€™
â€˜Later on when I went to America with Chicago and then three seasons with Minnesota, it was Besty that got me to go. George said you should come over to America, youâ€™ll love it. He said itâ€™s easy, itâ€™s great, so I went. I did four years, and it was great.â€™
â€˜He was just a great guy.â€™
â€˜We could have won the World Cupâ€™
Morgan was part of the unbeaten Scotland side that went to the World Cup finals in 1974 and he believes that they could have gone all the way.
â€˜Itâ€™s supposedly the greatest Scotland side ever. We had a great team. It started off with Tommy Docherty as the manager of Scotland and he was brilliant as the manager of Scotland. When he got the Manchester United job, Willie Ormond took over and he was a really nice guy but I do believe if Docherty had stayed on as manager, we could have won the World Cup that year.â€™
â€˜We got eliminated without ever getting beat. We were a great team but a couple of choices that were made werenâ€™t right otherwise we could have gone the whole way. To play for Scotland is the fantastic.â€™
â€˜Playing for your country is fantastic. Youâ€™re not playing for one set of fans; you are playing for your countryâ€™s fans, and they support every team in that country. So itâ€™s a really nice feeling and the Scottish fans were fantastic â€“ totally unbelievable. Great memories.â€™
â€˜All my moves came because I didnâ€™t want to move houseâ€™
After leaving Manchester United, Willie Morgan returned to Burnley before moving to Bolton Wanderers but both moves came as a result of his reluctance to move house!
â€˜I just signed a new six-year contract at Manchester United and did one year and when I had the problems with Docherty. I went up in the old bailey and he sued me for lying. Obviously, Docherty was the problem and not Manchester United.â€™
â€˜Again, I had the option of any club, but my children were at school and I didnâ€™t want to move house. Jimmy Adamson, the manager of Burnley at that time, came and said we would love to have you back and it was quite a long journey every day to training. But I decided to go back because I admired Jimmy â€“ he was a great player and a nice guy. I actually signed a six-year contract with Burnley then. Then Jimmy got the sack. That was enough for me!â€™
â€˜I then went to Bolton which was a team that was playing very well and looked like they would get promotion. It was half an hour to training so I signed for Bolton and really enjoyed it there. Bolton were great – we had a good team and got promotion and did very well. But all my moves that I made in my career were because I wouldnâ€™t move house!â€™
â€˜A wonderful lifeâ€™
Willie Morgan ended a phenomenal career in 1981 and the Manchester United legend reflected on retirement and what he describes as a â€˜wonderful lifeâ€™.
â€˜I never actually retired I just stopped playing. When I came back from America the last time. I had the choice to go to again Leeds or Manchester City and I looked at both of them and then thought do I really need it at my age?â€™
â€˜I had been playing four years non-stop because the seasons had overlapped. So I was very tired and thought Iâ€™ll just stop playing. At the time because I could still play and still had offers to play, I didnâ€™t think I would miss it. I didnâ€™t at first but when the tiredness wore off, I thought maybe but then I took up golf. I have played a lot of golf and that helped. I also turned down four managerial jobs when I finished playing because it went back to the same thing â€“ I didnâ€™t want to move house!â€™
â€˜To get paid to play football, itâ€™s the greatest life you could ever ask for. We would have played for nothing. I have had a great career so itâ€™s been a wonderful life and I wouldnâ€™t change a thing â€“ other than going to the old bailey – I might have changed that!â€™