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Football: If I'd been wearing these back in 1961 things would have been so different.. we'd only have lost eight SAYS FRANK HAFFEY; Neil Cameron meets Scotland's most infamous goalkeeper.

Byline: Neil Cameron

IT is getting close to the end of the interview and I can't wait any longer and have to bring up THAT game So the question is put to Frank Haffey, a legend of Scottish football for all sorts of reasons, about whether he has any memories of the afternoon England put nine goals past him at Wembley on the blackest day in the history of our national team.

"I'm glad you asked me about that game. I'm glad you brought it up," said Frank handing over his glasses.

"I have to say that if I had been wearing these glasses that day against England - and I'm telling you this straight - then I swear they would only have scored about eight." It's fair to say Haffey has got over the game which has made him a household name and started the trend of knocking Scottish keepers.

He has rarely, if ever really spoken about the 9-3 thrashing at the hands of the Auld Enemy, although the fact he and wife Helen have lived in Australia, where he worked as a cabaret performer for 40 years, is a factor in that.

Even for us born well after1961, all Scottish football fans know about Frank Haffey.

Now a sprightly 67, Haffey returned to Scotland for the first time in four decades this week and spent yesterday at Celtic Park atthe invitation of the club he played over 200 matches for.

Record Sport caught up with him to gauge whether he still has nightmares about you-know-what.

With a smile on his face, he said: "Do you know, I haven't slept a wink since Wembley.

"Honest. Not a good night's sleep since that game and that's 40 years ago"You're laughing, but I tell you that's the truth.

"But you have to laugh about it. I'm only human after all.

"Let's put it this way. There were 10 guys before me in the team. I wasn't out there all on my own.

"Did my team-mates walk off the park for it just to be a case of Bobby Robson and Bobby Charlton coming up to shoot past me? I don't think so.

"Everyone had to take their share of the blame.

"Billy McNeill made his Scotland debut in the game. He was brilliant that day. In fact he was the only one. Everyone else was bad.

"I get ribbed about the game from time to time but I don't let it get to me at all."

Haffey had never been back to Scotland since he emigrated but wanted to spend time at Christmas with his two sons who live in York.

And yesterday was the first time he had visited a much-changed Celtic Park. A welcoming party of Hoops legends Sean Fallon, John Clark and John Divers greeted him at the front door and stories were soon being swapped.

It was an emotional day for one of Scottish football's true characters who has a million stories to tell.

Like the time he ran up to take a penalty in a game against Airdrie - Celtic were 9-0 up - missed and applauded the keeper's save.

There was also February 3, 1962, when it is claimed that he managed to boot a free-kick into his own net. You only hope that it was really windy.

But it should be said he was a great favourite of the Celtic fans and his 40 years Down Under have not taken anything away from what he feels about the club.

He said: "This is my first time back in Scotland, never mind back at Celtic.

"I felt it was time to come home again and it is fantastic to see Celtic Park again. It is a marvellous stadium and a bit different to my time.

"To see Sean and the other boys was fantastic. I never thought I would ever see them again.

"I look back on my time with these guys with real affection.

"The greatest I ever played with was Jinky who was wonderful. Paddy Crerand was a great player also, as was John Hughes and there was big Billy as well.

"They were wonderful days. We had a great time together. I still remember the tours of Ireland we had which were fantastic.

"Celtic never leaves you. Even over in Australia I still read so much about the club in the newspapers over there.

"I still meet lots of Scots in Australia who I enjoy talking to. I always have a laugh with the Rangers fans because I tell them that I was born and raised in the Copland Road at Ibrox.

"Not many Celtic players can say that.

"I was very proud and I still am proud to say I played 211 games for this club over six or seven years"I like this present team. I have heard more about them than what I have seen because we don't get enough Scottish games. But I'm told they are playing well and I hope they win the Treble.

"I just hope they keep winning, keep doing what they have been doing under Gordon Strachan.

"Celtic is the greatest football club in the world, after all."

But while he was and will always be a Celt, Haffey was quick to praise the players he came up against. He said: "Rangers had a great team and it was a privilege to play against them in some great games.

"Jimmy Baxter was the best and, of course, he is sadly no longer with us.

"Then there was Ralph Brand, Jimmy Miller and Alex Scott - all great players."

Haffey won two caps for Scotland, both against England.

In 1960 the teams drew 1-1 at Hampden and the big goalie brilliantly saved a penalty from the great Bobby Charlton.

Next time Haffey's in town we'll talk about that


YOU HAFF TO LAUGH: Haffey can't see the funny side as Scotland are thrashed in 1961
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Dec 22, 2005
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