Scotland legend Denis Law turned his back on a shock move to Hearts as he pursued his World Cup dream, a book chronicling the Scots’ march to the 1974 finals in West Germany has revealed.
With Law’s 11 years at Manchester United coming to an end, the Old Trafford club and Hearts, then managed by Bobby Seith, had, according to “Scotland ’74 – A World Cup Story” by BBC Radio Scotland presenter Richard Gordon, agreed a fee to bring the veteran striker to Edinburgh.
But although at 33 he feared his international career was over, Law opted to stay south of the border, signing for a second time with Manchester City after being released by United in the summer of 1973, hoping that decision might just help him realise his dream of finally playing on football’s biggest stage, the star having been deemed too young when Scotland had last featured in the finals 16 years previously in Sweden.
And Law’s gamble paid off as Scotland manager Willie Ormond, having embarked on a tour of English grounds as he prepared for the showdown qualifying match with the Czech Republic at Hampden that autumn, witnessed the forward turn in an “imperious performance” as City beat Coventry City.
Law’s display left Ormond purring: “He is the best I have ever seen. If he keeps up the same kind of form, I have to be interested in him.”
According to Gordon, Law, now 74, was equally delighted, saying: “It was very nice of Willie Ormond to say that and, of course, it was lovely to play at Hampden Park again. I would have to say I wasn’t particularly fit, I had a cartilage problem, and things were not going well.”
Although Law, who scored 30 goals in a dark blue jersey, didn’t get a goal against the Czechs he was instrumental in securing the 2-1 win which ensured Scotland’s place in the finals, distracting the visiting defence for Jim Holton to equalise and then earning the free-kick which led to Joe Jordan powering home the winner.
The last of Law’s 55 caps came in the opening match in West Germany, as Scotland beat Zaire 2-0 in Dortmund’s Westfalensadion, but left out as Ormond’s side went agonisingly close to qualifying for the next stage of the competition as they drew 0-0 with Brazil and 2-2 against Yugoslavia to become the first country to exit the World Cup finals without losing a match.