A good-natured debate is going on among a group of friends – and strangers. It’s a verbal table-tennis match between football fans.

The merits of Franz Beckenbauer and Bobby Moore are being discussed by Joe FitzPatrick, the minister for public health, sport and wellbeing. His sparring partner is erstwhile Clyde, Alloa Athletic and East Stirlingshire winger Arthur Grant. A number of interested parties are dotted around the table listening to the conversation.

Grant has been charged with making a case for why the former England captain was a better centre-back than his German counterpart. He does so convincingly, contending that none other than the great Pele claimed Moore was the best defender he had ever faced. There is a retort from elsewhere among the group: “aye, but Pele never played against Beckenbauer”. There is laughter before the minister sends a devilish forehand back across the table: “But Beckenbauer scored 14 international goals and could play in midfield, too.”

A vote is taken. Two hands go up for Moore, four for Beckenbauer, including that of Grant, who was supposed to be batting for the England captain. There is raucous belly-laughing, now.

“The minister made a very compelling case,” grins Grant, his eyes full of mischief.


This is a Football Memories reminiscence session in full swing. The occasion is the launch of a set of playing cards commissioned as part of Glasgow’s host-city status for Euro 2020 in association with the Football Memories Scotland programme, a project which has, for the past decade, sought to enrich the lives of people with dementia and their carers. At the end of a week when discussions in Scottish football have again centred on the links between heading the ball and dementia, the Football Memories project has never been more relevant.

Provisions for a lasting legacy had to be written into the fabric of the bid document when Glasgow made its play for host status for this summer’s finals and the initiative was an obvious place to start for Richard McBrearty, manager at the Scottish Football Museum and Football Memories project director.

“The first few pages are about Hampden, its history, Glasgow as a football capital for the world,” says McBrearty. “We had a strong heritage to build on. When the bid was successful and we started to look at legacy programmes from the museum’s perspective, because we were running so much of the Football Memories project, it was an obvious move to create a resource to go beyond what we had already.


"We have got a lot of great images, thousands of images to do with Scottish football because it is the national football museum of Scotland, but very few on Beckenbauer or Platini or any of these guys in European football. So this was an opportunity for us to get resources – through UEFA’s influence – that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to get.”

Hence the cards, depicting 60 Euro legends, which in the coming weeks will be sent out to more than 130 care homes, day-care centres and NHS hospitals across the length and breadth of Scotland that are partnered with Football Memories. It will further burnish the reputation of the project as a force for good. Reminiscence sessions are such a powerful tool that they have been recognised as being as effective as any of the four drugs on offer to people with dementia.

McBrearty recalls witnessing at first hand the transformational effects after showing Ally MacLeod around the museum in the hope that he might trigger a memory not long after the legendary former Scotland manager had gone public on his battle with dementia.

“He couldn’t remember anything about his managerial career,” recalls McBrearty. “That aspect of his memory had gone completely and I was on my back feet thinking ‘what do I do now?’ What saved the day was that the family had also loaned us items from his playing career. Ally had been a great player with Hibs and Third Lanark but he’d also played in England with Blackburn Rovers and there is a section in the museum with Ally’s shirt from the 1960 FA Cup final on display there. Blackburn lost but Ally had a brilliant game and was man of the match so I took him up to look at the shirt and, as soon as he saw it, he came alive, his personality was back and he started talking about the game. He could even name the whole team from goalkeeper to outside left without catching a breath. It was just an incredible difference.”

Grant, now a Football Memories volunteer, recalls that his early exposure to it

led to a similarly eye-opening, life-affirming experience with a gentleman in a care home who hadn’t been out of his room for 10 days despite gentle coaxing from his son and daughter-in-law.

“He was deep in his shell [but] we managed to persuade him to come down and I asked him what team he supported. He said it was Celtic. So I dug out this iconic photo of Billy McNeill scoring the winning goal against Dunfermline [in the 1965 Scottish Cup final] which started Celtic on that great run of nine-in-a-row and the European Cup and he looked at the photo and said ‘24th April 1965’. The son said ‘What?’ and the man said ‘Yeah, that was the day I got married and my brothers were all raging because they were all Celtic supporters and they missed the game’. He went on to talk about his wedding and his son hadn’t heard this story about his mum and dad’s wedding and he got very emotional. From there, he never stopped talking for the whole hour of the session. The photo is the pebble in the water.”


Another volunteer, Robert Harvey, is also a former Clyde player and one-time team-mate of Grant’s. Every Thursday, he gathers together a group of acolytes inside the Hall of Fame room at the Hampden Museum, he’ll invite along a special guest, where the talk will be about football and just life in general really.

“We’ve had people at Football Memories meetings who often will see photographs of the 1960 European Cup final here, they can name the 11 players of the Spaniards like that but they can also name the 11 players of Eintracht Frankfurt. These things are so ingrained,” says Harvey.

The Football Memories Scotland programme is the oldest in the world, and has gone from strength to strength since its inception in 2009. Today, it has partnerships in Brazil and the Netherlands and continues to flourish; McBrearty hopes the EURO 2020 cards will also see service further afield.

“One aspiration for us, certainly with the group in the Netherlands, would be to give them the template of these cards, translate them into Dutch, apart from the fact we have got some great Dutch players in the cards, the idea of this pack of cards as a resource is, if you are a certain age and you love football, you are going to know who Beckenbauer is, who Bobby Charlton is, Marco van Basten and guys like that because they are household names – so that’s why it would work equally well in Germany or the Netherlands,” says McBrearty.

Another aim is to bring old players together in the same room so that they too can experience the benefit of reminiscing with their peers.

McBrearty says that before he died, Alan Gilzean, the great Dundee and Tottenham striker, was engaging with the Football Memories group at Dens Park. One day the facilitator of the group announced that a special guest had arrived.

“The door opened up and in walks Alan Gilzean,” says McBrearty. “There was an intake of breath first of all and then you could have heard a pin drop. That one example is where we want to go, we are working with Frazer Wishart at PFA Scotland and we’ve got an aspiration to work with former players associations and things like that. They [the participants] benefited so much from that experience but, I tell you what, Alan Gilzean must have walked out the door that day feeling a million bucks as well.

It’s not just the minister who makes a compelling case.