Denis Law is, and forever will be, a Scottish football legend. In addition to being the country’s joint-leading goalscorer in international matches, Law netted over 300 times across his distinguished club career. His honours included two English titles, one FA Cup and the 1968 European Cup (though an injured Law didn’t play in the final). He was the 1964 winner of the Ballon d’Or, which was then a recognition of the best player in Europe. Imagine, if you can, how good he would have been had he been able to see properly.
Born in Aberdeen during the Second World War, Law grew up obsessed with football and even turned down a place at Aberdeen Grammar School because he would have missed out on playing the sport he loved and forced to turn to rugby instead.
Despite having a serious squint which severely affected his sight, Law showed promise from a very early age. Spotted by a scout at Huddersfield, the Scot was invited for a trial period. “Never did I see a less likely football prospect,” Huddersfield boss Andy Beattie would later remark. Small, wiry and wearing a thick pair of NHS specs, team-mates didn’t think much of Law when he first showed up. The mocking from others only grew stronger as Law darted around the pitch with one eye closed, which enabled him to see the ball better. This infliction, combined with the pressure to perform, meant Law didn’t give the best account of his talents, but Huddersfield signed him anyway.
The club decided to send the player to have his eyesight corrected. Even after the surgery, Law’s vision was still far from perfect, but getting rid of the squint was enough to boost the young player’s self-confidence. From there his career took off.
With Bill Shankly taking over as the club’s manager, Law went from strength to strength. After four years in the first-team squad, during which he made his debut for the Scotland national team, the striker was on the move, signing for Manchester City. One highly productive year saw an equally short stint in Italian football with Torino. It was while he was in Serie A that Manchester United came calling.
Law would spent 11 glory filled years with the red half of Manchester. Signed at a period when United were still trying to rebuild following the Munich Air Crash tragedy, the squad struggled against relegation in his first year. In the end Law’s 23 league goals went a long way to keeping the club in the top flight. United escaped by just a point. There were signs of happier times to come, though, when they finished the campaign on a high by defeating Leicester City in the FA Cup final.
The next season saw the debut of George Best. The rest is history.