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Kenny Dalglish is the greatest Celtic player ever produced

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Jim Craig was once charged with chauffeuring a rookie Kenny Dalglish to training every day.

And as the former Celtic, Liverpool and Scotland icon celebrates his 70th birthday today, Craig has enjoyed every bit of the journey as he lauded the impact that Dalglish has had on Scottish football.



Scorning the dour image that Dalglish is often credited with, Lisbon Lion Craig believes that in actual fact it was his natural constitution that set him apart as he stood on the cusp of making his mark.



He recalled: “Kenny and I go back a long way. When he was first coming through at Celtic I was still living at my parents’ house in Cardonald.



“I would pick him up every morning and take him to training. Over the years I was quite the chauffeur; I had Graeme Souness – not many people know that he trained with Celtic – and Danny McGrain for company too at different times, so I’ve driven a significant bit of Scottish talent throughout the years.

“What set Kenny apart right away was his temperament. I’ve seen players, well-known players, who would be in pieces before big games.

Kenny Dalglish after playing in Celtic's 1-0 Scottish Cup Final win over Rangers in May 1977 (Image: Daily Record)

“Some people are born with the temperament that nothing fazes them and for others it never comes. Kenny was in the born-with-it camp.

“Even back then in the car, Kenny was chatty. He had a dry sense of humour. But what always came through was a very quiet confidence about his own ability.

“He wasn’t boastful or big-headed but he carried himself in a way that you knew he sensed his own talent. He knew what he was capable of.

“I always followed his career because we were always friendly. I always remember how devastated Celtic fans were when he left for Liverpool but you can appreciate what the pull was.

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“It was a chance to really go and stretch his wings and when you look at what he achieved there then you would have to say he made himself.”

Dalglish is synonymous with Liverpool and the Anfield side’s golden era of the 1980s as they dominated English football. A three times European Cup winner with Liverpool, he was loved by the support before he transitioned into the dugout.

His £440,000 move to the club in 1977 was a British transfer record.

And while Craig believes that the English side gave him a golden opportunity that he couldn’t resist, he reckons his Celtic chapter is not to be underestimated.

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He said: “Because of the weight he holds with Liverpool and the way he is woven into the fabric of the Anfield club I sometimes think his Celtic career can feel like a footnote but that’s unfair.

“He was tremendous at Celtic and also for Scotland. By the time he went to Liverpool he had already played in two European Cup semi-finals.

“I don’t think there is anyone who would question that Kenny was the greatest forward we’ve ever produced.

“I felt as though his first 50-odd caps he was still feeling his way in the team but from then on in – for the other 52, I think – he really stamped his authority on the Scotland team too. He was world-class, no doubt about it.

“Not too many players find themselves knighted so although it makes me feel old to know Kenny is celebrating his 70th birthday, I think we can all appreciate what a wonderful career he had. “

It had taken a house visit from Celtic assistant boss Sean Fallon to convince Dalglish, a boyhood Rangers fan, that he should pull on the hoops.

Jock Stein congratulates Kenny Dalglish after 1-0 win over Rangers in 1977 (Image: Daily Record)

Even then, Dalglish was a slow burner – he was over 20 by the team he really made an impact in the Hoops first team.

He couldn’t have asked for more compelling introduction. Between August 1971 and September 1971 Celtic beat Rangers three times at Ibrox. Dalglish scored in every game, and in the first game scored his first competitive goal with a penalty.

That Billy McNeill handed him the ball to take it would confirm the status he’d earned in a dressing room full of European Cup winners. Pausing to tie his lace before dispatching the penalty summed Dalglish up perfectly, according to Craig.

He added: “I have seen players really go through the mire in the dressing room and were all over the place until they got on to the park.

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“But the thing with Kenny was just how quietly assured he was. You have to remember that he came into the club at a time when there were some really big characters there.

“There were the Lions, obviously and what they had just achieved, and by the time he was looking to get into the first team the club were on the back of the 1970 European Cup Final, which they blew.

“There was a lot of talent, from the Lions who still carried a huge amount of authority and then of course you had the Quality Street gang all coming through. It would have been an intimidating environment to come into at that age.”


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