THE most famous photo of Dave Mackay is one that the man himself grew to hate. To some viewers, the picture by sports photographer Monte Fresco of Mackay grabbing hold of Billy Bremner during a 1966 match between Tottenham Hotspur and Leeds is one of football’s most memorable images, summing up his commanding presence. But Mackay felt it gave a misleading impression.
“I get asked to autograph that photo all the time,” he said a few years ago. “But I don’t like it, because it portrays me as a bully – he’s smaller than me and I’m picking him up. I’m not a bully and don’t like bullies.
“He was a brilliant little player but a dirty little b******. He kicked me in the leg I’d just come back from breaking twice. If he’d kicked the other one I could have accepted that. But he kicked the broken one and that really annoyed me. I could’ve killed him that day.”
Jimmy Greaves, a Spurs team-mate of Mackay’s, was more forthright in his criticism of Bremner when he discussed the photo in 2011. “When Dave grabbed Billy it was probably the only time this nasty little player ever looked frightened in his entire career,” he said.
“I can remember Bremner kicking me in the tunnel before one Leeds-Spurs match. I asked: ‘What did you do that for, Bill?’ and he said: ‘Just cos I f***ing felt like it’. He wouldn’t have kicked Dave Mackay in the tunnel, though!”
The famous photograph is conspicuous by its absence in Mackay’s autobiography in 2004 - The Real Mackay - and when The Scotsman serialised the book, Mackay was reluctant for the image to be used.
Writing the foreword to the book, Sir Alex Ferguson said. “Dave’s rage is that of a person having been inexplicably kicked by a brother or best friend; Billy’s look is one of the brother or best friend having made a stupid mistake and regretted it.
“Dave was never dirty or cynical. He would never do anything that might sully the reputation of the sport he loved. He never set out to hurt another player, although plenty of others set out to hurt him.”