A lad fixing the office computers confessed he was a Morton fan. "I'll never forgive Ritchie," he said. "Why's that?" came the incredulous chorus from a bunch of sports hacks. "Well, at my first match at Cappielow as a wee boy I saw him score from a corner. It ruined the rest of my life as a fan. I thought that was the way it always should be."
It was the way it was with Ritchie.
The narrative of the former Morton and Celtic player has definitive chapters. The first pages concern his brilliance, his triumphs on the pitch and then the story descends into a turmoil of panic attacks and depression before hinting at redemption with Ritchie's work in football, now as a scout for Aberdeen.
The substantial bulk of Ritchie as both a footballer and a personality can, however, be approached in another manner. He speaks to the days when footballers were chattels, moved on or discarded. He can now also talk eloquently about the younger generation and how they now have power.
"Football has changed completely," he says. "The player is completely in control of his career."
This was not the lot of Ritchie, born in February 1956 in Bellshill, and nurtured on the praise that accompanies talent and made to feel valued by the offers that this brilliance attracted. However, he was never in control of his destiny in the days when clubs owned registrations and managers ruled unopposed.
Ritchie, too, made wrong turns. The footballer who thought it was a straightforward decision to place the ball in the net from a corner could decide that it was best to turn down a four-year deal at Celtic and head to Cappielow.
He consistently infuriated Jock Stein, a manager not unaccustomed to dealing with unpredictable players. Stein waved off Ritchie from Celtic Park with an air of frustration.
Stein, too, tested Ritchie at Scotland level and the footballer came up short. It is routine to describe the former Morton forward as a contender for the title of best player never to have won a cap, but he had the opportunity.
"I was a bit unlucky with the 1978 World Cup squad. Ally McLeod looked set to pick me but it fell through over suggestions that I was basically a part-time player with Morton and that would not look good in terms of the biggest tournament on earth. Derek Johnstone went instead.
"Then there was another chance with Jock Stein in 1979. He took me with the full squad to Belgium but came up to my room and told me I would be the over-age player in the under-23s. He was maybe giving me a wee test to see how I reacted."
The result was a look of dark fury from the Scotland manager when Ritchie flew home with a fag in one hand and a beer in another. "It was those great days when you could smoke on a plane," he says. "Wee John Robertson sneaked up and got one off me."
Robertson gained 28 caps, perhaps predictably, 28 more than Ritchie.
The maverick, though, found a career as someone who could spot talent and, crucially, bring it to a club. As a scout at Celtic under Tommy Burns, Wim Jansen and Dr Jo Venglos, Ritchie was involved in some intriguing deals. Jorge Cadete was signed after Bobby Robson, then manager of Barcelona, pressed a piece of paper with the Portugese striker's name into the scout's hand. Hidetoshi Nakata, then playing in the J League, was missed when the Japanese forward headed to Perugia instead of Glasgow.
"I would have loved to have made that deal work. Wim had pointed him out because he had worked in Japan and Nakata would have been brilliant on the park and on the balance sheet."
The deal that gave him the greatest pleasure was the signing of Mark Viduka in December 1998 for £3.5m from Croatia Zagreb. "The situation with Mark taught me a lot. He was well-known in Europe as a possible target but clubs were just hanging off. I though he was a great talent, could score goals and had two quick feet. He lacked that yard of pace but I thought that was how we could get him. It was a great pity he did not play more often with Henrik [Larsson]," says Ritchie.
Viduka was sold on to Leeds United for £6m after scoring 30 goals in 37 games for Celtic. By then, Ritchie had also moved on. "Kenny Dalglish had come in and he wanted his own staff. Fair enough," he says.
Spells of scouting at Aston Villa and other clubs followed and now Ritchie is working for Craig Brown at Aberdeen. "I cannot describe a typical week because there isn't one. It is not about glamour," he says with a smile. "You can be at Walsall on a wet Tuesday night and at a reserve game the next day. The big clubs are shopping in the Fantasy League, but budgets are tight elsewhere. You have to scour the market place.
"They say it's a part-time job but you go to bed at night thinking about football and when you wake up your first thought is about football."
This is said without a hint of complaint.
"When I was with Aston Villa they had a big player budget and I would wake up and not know what country I was in," he says, knowing that the sentence could invite an obvious retort.
"A lot of scouting is luck, seeing a player before someone else or taking a chance and it comes off. But most of it is sheer hard work. It is about putting in the hours, making the calls and the contacts and backing your judgment."
And what his judgment about his career? "There has to be regrets, of course. But there were great times, too. I scored 25 goals in each of my first two seasons at Morton."
Would he have profited by the modern cosseting of players? "I believe it is great the way they are looked after now. Sports science and medicine prolongs careers but the biggest thing is that players are in control. They can decide where and when they go and the rewards are terrific."
So what would he say to a young Andy Ritchie making his way in the game? "I would point out the bullet points of the negatives and tell them of all the positives awaiting them if they made the right decisions. I would tell them that they could enjoy a wonderful career and could be multi-millionaires."
It would be brilliant, too, if he could show them how to score from a corner kick.
Andy Ritchie: The Price of Vice is published by DB Publishing, priced £14.99.
It is available from Monday.
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