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Page last updated at 17:43 GMT, Tuesday, 19 August 2008 18:43 UK

Totally Frank

Be a book reviewer

By Julian Taylor

Frank McGarvey was one of the most consistent and committed forwards ever to have played for Celtic.

However, despite a prolific goalscoring tally for the Glasgow club, he was the right player at the wrong time financially, preceding the lavish salaries currently being laid out to high-profile Scottish Premier League players.

McGarvey's tale, as illustrated in his new autobiography, Totally Frank, is as much a confessional of a man who had his own personal off-field battles in the shape of a gambling addiction.

Totally Frank by Frank McGarvey, published by Mainstream

The former Scotland international, by his own admission, lost his home, marriage and self-respect during his lowest ebb.

And despite the adoration of the Celtic fans, McGarvey - who won every major trophy in Scottish football - knew that his addiction could only be faced alone.

"How had it come to this? I was a winner but when I walked in to Gamblers Anonymous I never felt so afraid or alone," the 52-year-old painfully recalls.

McGarvey's bustling style helped to carve out a career originating in the Scottish junior game's unique school of hard knocks.

Sir Alex Ferguson, then the fledgling boss of St Mirren, brought him to Love Street, and to this day the Manchester United manager feels that McGarvey was one of his shrewdest ever buys.

Ferguson's vision and encouragement of his Saints' protégé, eventually caught the eye of Liverpool boss Bob Paisley, who spent £270,000 for him in May 1979.

It proved to be a forlorn experience though, with McGarvey failing to break into one of the most successful ever Anfield teams.

"David Johnson was partnering Kenny Dalglish at the time, and even though I was by far and away the top scorer in the reserves I just could not get an opportunity in the first team," he reflects.

"And when David Fairclough was picked ahead of me, I decided I'd had enough."

McGarvey's 10-month stay on Merseyside was also, fatefully, igniting the first worrying flames of gambling, as a young man with time on his hands and money in his pocket.

Frank McGarvey
Seven-times capped McGarvey scored 113 goals in 245 games for Celtic

The Glaswegian secured a move to boyhood heroes, Celtic, much to the chagrin of his mentor Ferguson, who wanted him to join his revolutionary Aberdeen.

McGarvey's gamble - in this case, on the field - paid off, and during five years in the Hoops he netted 113 goals in 245 games and enjoyed productive striking partnerships with both Charlie Nicholas and Maurice Johnston.

Yet, threaded throughout Totally Frank is the story of a man who almost lost the lot.

For instance, how could a free-scoring Celtic pin-up end up driving to training in a battered old car hoping he wouldn't be spotted?

Future plans were deferred for that selfish, instant buzz of immediate gratification, as he admits that it doesn't matter who you are, "if gambling is in you, it's in you."

Magic moment

Never far from drama, McGarvey's finest hour arrived in 1985 when his last-minute winning goal sunk Dundee United at Hampden Park in the 100th Scottish Cup final.

Incredibly, his magic moment was overshadowed two days later when manager David Hay informed him that he wasn't going to be part of his future plans.

Despite five medals in five seasons, it was a surprising blow for a 29-year-old proven goalscorer.

And for all that he enjoyed a decent return to form and a Scottish Cup winners medal with St Mirren in 1987, he knew his career was on the slide.

After an Indian summer helping Clyde win the Scottish Second Division title in 1999/00, a brief player-manager stint at Queen of the South is described as his "worst ever decision in football."

Nonetheless, after plumbing the depths that a betting addiction can bring to a man's life, McGarvey remains philosophical enough to cope with such setbacks in football.

Now working as a joiner, and seemingly a world away from the rare old times at Celtic Park, the man who once faced Diego Maradona at Hampden is back on top of another ongoing game entirely.


Nine stars

Totally Frank by Frank McGarvey with Ronnie Esplin is out now, published by Mainstream.

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