Premier League

Celtic secrets, Souness & Stringfellows – the life of McAvennie

Celtic secrets, Souness & Stringfellows - the life of McAvennie

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Graeme Souness wanted to sign Scotland room-mate Frank McAvennie for Rangers – but the lifelong Celtic supporter could not contemplate moving to Ibrox.

That is one of numerous revelations from the former striker during a candid and entertaining episode of the Sacked In The Morning podcast.

"I shared the room with Graeme at the 1986 World Cup when Kenny [Dalglish] didn't go," McAvennie recalled.

"I got on great with Graeme, I really did, and he once asked me to go to Rangers – that rumour was a good one. But I just couldn't go. I said, 'my dad goes to games with priests!'

"I thought he'd turn up at Ibrox. That he'd think he could get in."

McAvennie also reveals that Souness offered to pay for his lawyer after the infamous scuffle in the 1987 Old Firm derby with Chris Woods, Terry Butcher and Graham Roberts for which the players were charged with breach of the peace.

McAvennie could not accept Souness' offer but told Celtic that Rangers were going to provide his lawyer so the board at Celtic Park would upgrade the calibre of his defence.

  • Listen to all McAvennie's stories on the Sacked In The Morning podcast

The former forward also recalls that George Graham's failure to sign him for Arsenal led to him bringing in Ian Wright instead – and that Celtic wanted to re-sign Charlie Nicholas rather than himself before Billy McNeill stepped in.

And, while McAvennie was a big success at West Ham United, he would never have gone to the Hammers if Luton Town's chairman had not been so hands on.

"David Pleat was the manager and he was great," McAvennie recalls of the time he was about to leave his first club St Mirren.

"He phoned my mum and dad and everything, so the deal was all done.

"St Mirren took us all down to Luton and the directors and the lawyers all came in. And this big guy walked in and slapped me on the back of the head.

“'Welcome to Luton, Macca', he said. And I said, 'who are you?' He says, 'I'm the chairman'.

"I thought 'what an arrogant sod'. So I said 'I'm not signing anything' and I sneaked out the hotel room with my agent at half two in the morning and met [West Ham manager] John Lyall at Toddington service station on the M1. Welcome to the big time, eh?"

McAvennie starts the wide-ranging interview with hosts Craig Levein and Amy Irons by discussing his rapid rise from Celtic supporter to Celtic icon.

"I didn't play football when I was a kid – not until I was 19," he admits. "I used to just go and watch Celtic home and away.

"I'd just play with my mates on red ash pitches. I was a skinny wee thing with ginger hair – I was like a Swan Vesta match.

"But a Celtic game got cancelled and I went and played with some of my mates instead and there were five scouts watching the boy I was playing against. That's how it started.

"I was played in midfield as a trialist by St Mirren – and got sent off. But the manager, Jim Clooney, signed me anyway. Then he got sacked the next morning!"

McAvennie on…

Being late at Celtic

I still went back down to London when I was at Celtic. I had things to do. So every Monday morning, you know how you pick horses for the Grand National? Well, the Celtic players were picking out what minute I was coming in at! I was always late – and one day, somebody actually got ‘not coming in’.

Leaving Celtic in 1989

I didn't want to go, but when I signed [from West Ham], I took a £1,000-a-week drop in wages but was told the club would pay the tax on my sign-on fee. But the first sign-on fee I got, it was taxed. So I was raging. Everyone kept saying I moved back to West Ham because I was missing the Page Three girls and all that nonsense. But I thought I was at Celtic for the rest of my career.

Macari's training at West Ham

It was just run, run, run. I still get sweats when I drive down the motorway and see all the cones. That reminds me of Lou Macari's training sessions. He took us to a health farm once – I got a hypnotist to send him to sleep so we could go to a party.

The Stringfellows years

I always went to Stringfellows – just for an hour before going to another nightclub because Peter [Stringfellow] was great to me. And I loved him. He introduced me to Jack Nicholson – Captain Jack – and Johnny Depp. Absolutely brilliant.

Appearing on 'Wogan'

It changed my life completely. I was top goalscorer that season, but the TV cameras weren't showing football games. So I got asked on Wogan. I was just about to make my debut for Scotland, so they got me on with Denis Law. I looked like an absolute pleb, I went out and got a brand-new Cartier suit, Cartier shoes, socks, tie, everything. And 23m people were watching.

His chat with Margaret Thatcher

We met her after the 1988 cup final. I shook her hand and thanked her. She said 'thanks for what?' I said 'because I was on 60% tax down in England and you reduced it to 40%'. So I was like, thanks very much, ma'am.

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