ALEX ROLLO followed the well-beaten path of the aspiring footballer in the 1950s - sign for a junior team of good repute then step up to the seniors.

His junior club was Ashfield, then and long afterwards one of the aristocrats of the junior world, a club which played to five-figure gates in cup ties.

Rollo was noticed by the Celtic scouts and his signing for them in 1948 was the beginning of a long apprenticeship.

It was the time of long apprenticeships and it was January 1951 before he made the first team. It was the not the most auspicious debut and it involved a 3-1 defeat at Fir Park, in Motherwell.

The following three matches against Aberdeen, Hibernian and Dundee brought three more defeats for the team, but the newcomer held his place against the ebullient Roy Milne, who at that time seemed to have a permanent lease on the left-back position at Celtic.

There is a certain irony that this far-sighted persistence of the board should have taken place at a time when Celtic had scarcely ever been worse administered. The net result, however, was that 14 weeks later, Alex Rollo had a Scottish Cup medal following the defeat of Motherwell in the cup final of 1951.

He was a player whose career you wrote off at your peril. At a time when many great Scottish players had scarcely seen a cup medal, let alone won one, Alex Rollo had collected his after playing a mere 14 league games and seven Scottish Cup ties.

Rollo was, above all, an undemonstrative efficient brand of player. His career was still on an upward trend. He did not quite make full international

status for Scotland but he was selected to play against the Irish league at Ibrox, and in such exalted circles, he did not look out of place.

He was not a prolific scorer because in his time fullbacks were not greatly encouraged to get to the other end of the pitch, but those goals that he did

score normally had something remarkable about them. Of such a kind was his equaliser against Third Lanark on a snow-covered Cathkin Park. Celtic went on to lose that match but in two successes against Rangers, the winning goals were scored by Rollo, who in one match was listed at outside-right and left-half. And yet, peculiarly, his position seemed frequently under threat and he had to fight off such challengers as John Jack and Joe Baillie.

The odd thing was that Celtic were winning comparatively little at this time, but when they did, Rollo had a habit of cropping up in the team and looking back over his career he certainly seems to have won anything that was worth winning. He was an invaluable member of the side that won the Coronation Cup in 1953, although his seat was in jeopardy, to use the political phrase. He was in the side that defeated Arsenal, said to be the finest team in Britain, Manchester United on the threshold of greatness and Hibs, long on the other side of that door. In the final against Hibs, he was in direct opposition to one of

the great wingers of all time - Gordon Smith. Rollo did not totally eliminate the danger from Gordon Smith - the fullback was not born who could do that - but he jockeyed the great winger or, in the phrase of the day - defused him.

Rollo left Parkhead on a free transfer having played one match in the Celtic flag-winning campaign of 1954, and he ended up under the watchful eye of another ex-Celt, Callum MacDonald of Kilmarnock. He approached the game from a very different direction from that of Jimmy McGrory, who was much more of a reaction manager at Celtic. MacDonald was precise and scholarly, and now in the early-1950s, embarking on a plan that subsequently lifted Killie to their heights.

It was a strange time for Celtic - the side was full of good players such as Neil Mochan, Bobby Collins, Bertie Peacock, not to mention Willie Fernie, but the sum was always much less than the parts. Had Alex Rollo stayed for another two years at Parkhead, he would have come under the tutelage of Jock Stein. As it was, he had had a very satisfactory career without, in his early days, being exposed to much in the way of structure.