HE MIGHT have represented St Mirren in two different spells and achieved enough there to reach legend status, but Frank McGarvey does not hold out much hope for the Paisley team against another of his former clubs at Hampden on Sunday.
According to McGarvey, Celtic will emerge triumphant from the League Cup semi-final meeting. As much as it saddened him to so casually dismiss St Mirren’s chances, he wouldn’t be persuaded otherwise. He does have strong ties to Celtic too of course. However, if somehow he is proved wrong, then it won’t cause him too much heartache. In total, the striker spent nine years at Love Street, between a short stint at Liverpool and a longer one at Celtic, where he won the League Cup in 1982.
“The only thing that can beat Celtic is them being over-confident and I don’t think Neil Lennon will let that happen to the players,” he said. “St Mirren have almost no chance of winning this game.”
“Celtic have been away in the sunshine for a week and they’ve come back and won 4-1 and 4-0 against two of the top teams in Scotland,” he added. “They are in top form, Gary Hooper is absolutely flying, and St Mirren have just had their poorest game of the season against Ross County, who easily beat them 4-1. St Mirren were very poor. Celtic have been outstanding and they are in the last 16 in Europe so they are one of the best 16 football clubs in Europe just now and St Mirren have just played their poorest game.”
McGarvey placed great store in Celtic’s mid-winter trip to Marbella. They have returned and dealt easily with the twin challenge of Hearts and Dundee United in successive home games.
“Having that wee week away will really help Celtic,” McGarvey said. “I always felt when I was a player that I needed a rest after the autumn games. I actually asked Alex Miller when I was at St Mirren once if I could get a rest and he said ‘no’. I went out and dislocated my shoulder bone. He said to me ‘you meant that!’. On the Monday I showed him a photo of the injury and it was dislocated, and said ‘I didn’t mean to do that!’”
McGarvey is always engaging company. As might be expected, he has a view on Hooper’s Celtic future, and can empathise to a certain extent with his dilemma. After all, McGarvey was quick to agree to the once-in-a-lifetime chance to join Liverpool, before moving on to Celtic for lower wages. It clearly narks him. He was, though, still the highest earner in the country.
“When I joined from Liverpool I went from £475 a week to £300,” he reflected. “So I dropped cash. I must be the only player to ever have joined Celtic and drop money. They gave me £300 a week and I was the top paid player in Scotland by a mile I think. Davie Provan and Danny McGrain were on £250 a week and Bobby Lennox was on £60 a week. After tax and insurance I got £196 a week. That was my wages.”
His signing-on fee was £12,500, of which McGarvey received only £2,500 after tax. These were different times. While he accepts a player has to look at the bottom line, he feels Hooper should show a little more patience and hold out for a move to a bigger club than Norwich City.
“If he [Hooper] wants to go down there and fight relegation and win the Capital One League Cup down there then that is fine,” said McGarvey. “He won’t need to work the rest of his life. That’s important. But you want to have ambition. If it was Manchester United….”