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Two strikers the way to go, says Denis Law

DENIS Law will be 73 on his next birthday, but a natural hitman never loses his instinct for finding the target.

Denis Law scored 30 goals in 55 appearances for Scotland. Picture: Colin Mearns
Denis Law scored 30 goals in 55 appearances for Scotland. Picture: Colin Mearns

When the man they called The King and The Lawman held court with the media in Glasgow yesterday, he teased reporters about going easy with him – "Don't make it too complicated, lads". When it came to one specific issue, though, his understanding and analysis was as sharp as a surgeon's knife.

Law hasn't lived in Scotland since 1956, when he left his home city, Aberdeen, to begin a career spent entirely in England and Italy. To say he isn't an authority on many aspects of Scottish football would be putting it mildly and Law himself was the first to admit it as he returned across the border to promote a Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice initiative.

Residency isn't essential when it comes to holding opinions on certain matters, though. Law, in sound health after overcoming prostate cancer nine years ago, does not recognise a Scotland team that would go out to play a match without a single striker.

It's more than two years since Craig Levein's infamous 4-6-0 formation in a Euro 2012 qualifier in Prague, and the system was never used again. But even now it remains symbolic both of Levein's management and the apparent shortage of forwards fit to lace Law's boots, let alone threaten his record as the country's joint-top international goalscorer. Both Law and Kenny Dalglish scored 30 times, Dalglish taking 102 games to do so and Law 55.

A team without a striker? Just imagine what Scotland's greatest made of that. The very idea almost made him shudder. Back in his playing days he would almost certainly have provoked a dressing room mutiny if such an affront had been suggested.

"I found it extremely difficult to comprehend that Scotland would play that way," he said, shaking his head. "That was one of the things people didn't take to about Craig. Scotland were famous for at least having players who were exciting and tried to score goals.

"Going back to my day, two of the finest players were Jimmy Johnstone and Jim Baxter. I could mention many more, but these are players that, if they were playing in that team in Prague, would have said: 'I'm not playing in that formation'. They would have wanted to go out and enjoy the game and gone out to attack.

"I am not a manager, but looking at it as a supporter, I found it extremely difficult to swallow. Playing with two strikers is the way we have got to go, there is no argument about that. That is the way you have got to play football and people like watching that.

"At Manchester United, Sir Matt Busby's philosophy was to go out and entertain the people, enjoy the game and try and score goals. If you get beat at least you are trying to win the game. That is what Manchester United have been built on. There are several clubs which have been successful but they have been boring and defensive. At United, they want to score goals."

Law's international years, from 1958 to 1974, spanned eight managers, including Andy Beattie, Ian McColl, Jock Stein, Bobby Brown, Tommy Docherty and Willie Ormond. For the majority of his post-playing career he has been a close observer and deep admirer of the manager of 'his' club, Manchester United. It was rather optimistically put to him that Sir Alex Ferguson could – possibly, maybe, fingers crossed, prayers submitted to the man upstairs – take on the Scotland job on a part-time basis without having to leave United.

"I think a lot of people would be very happy if Alex Ferguson took the manager's job. It is an interesting thought, but it would be very difficult to manage Manchester United and Scotland. There is no harm in asking . . . a tremendous amount of people would be happy at that."

Scotland can but dream. Realistically, another man with Old Trafford connections is a far more likely appointment.

"The beauty about Gordon Strachan is that he was a very experienced player and is a very experienced manager," said Law. "He was a fantastic player, plus he also had that cheek about him. I think he could make the team more attractive and get out and attack, particularly at home.

"I think a good majority of the fans would say he is the one they want. There is nothing really negative about Gordon. It is the highest honour to manage your country. Scotland have got some very fine players, but maybe not so many as we would like."

Another Law wouldn't go amiss. Regrettably, the 1964 European Footballer of the Year was, and remains, one of a kind.

n Law was in Glasgow to help raise £35,000 via a sporting lunch for The Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice, to promote the Brick by Brick fundraising campaign to build a new hospice in Glasgow.

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