So did any clubs ever say 'Stay with me'?........apologies, that was unecessary, here's Rob Langham....
When Rod Stewart pitched up at Heathrow recently sporting an electric green Celtic Football Club tracksuit, it begged the question as to whether the man had ever been properly fashionable?
Sort of. Stewart is after all, about to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the second time – that august but faintly ridiculous Cleveland institution recognising his work with the Faces – the band formed out of the ashes of The Small Faces and Jeff Beck Group back in 1969.
That feathercut might lend him the aspect of a demented bantam now, but for a time Stewart existed at the epicentre of the London mod scene – his threads mirroring the fashion sense of the band he was to join. Even now, one could point grudgingly to his twenty first century skin tight jeans, if they weren’t cream-coloured of course. As the great philosopher once said, ‘I like to go out two or three times a week and sometimes I get barnet done...it’s still my own hair, you know. Which is more than can be said for Elton. Bald bugger.
That’s a typical statement from Stewart – a man who is never going to jostle with shrinking violets for house room. As the Faces grew in popularity, the archetypal seventies rock star was born eventually emerging as a solo artist megastar, fathering eight kids from five different relationships, hanging out in Los Angeles and perpetrating various crimes against music.
The royalties from such ditties as ‘Sailing’ and ’Baby Jane’ will have been satisfying to receive and if a couple of his songs, ‘Maggie May’ most prominently, have stood time’s tribulations in the critical sense, will there have been a moment of ruefulness that an alternative career should have been taken?
Because like the aforementioned Reg Dwight of Pinner, Stewart is a nothing short of a soccer nut. Gigs still commence with the kicking of footballs into the crowd, the Celtic crest appears proudly on bass drum heads and at a recent concert in Australia, he requested that a telly be stationed alongside the stage so he could keep an eye on the Bhoys cup tie with Inverness Caley Thistle. A pensioner watching the idiot box hardly constitutes news of course, but the passion is there.
A February article in When Saturday Comes lamented the way the internet had put an end to the phenomenon of the football fantasist – you know, the barber who was once on Millwall’s books, the taxi driver who once ‘had a trial’ for Spurs.
But leaving aside Brentford Football Club’s failure to remember the fact, enough evidence would point to Stewart’s genuine presence as an apprentice at Griffin Park at the dawn of the swinging sixties, having graduated from a Middlesex schoolboys side. Legend has it that the experience ended due to an aversion to cleaning boots.
Countless celebrity matches attest to his skills – even if the original ferociously tackling centre half of lore has been replaced by a more wispy presence. Stewart is very much on the ‘Tarby’ circuit when it comes to such events but he’s no Boris Johnson with the round ball – this man can play.
Nor is he slow to come forward as a supporter. He has stayed loyal to a family background that saw his father and two elder brothers form a local club, Highgate Redwings (the Detroit analogy perhaps an uncanny hint at the future mid-Atlanticism their bairn would embrace) and which had emigrated to North London from Scotland.
Stewart’s rasp is more Sean Dyche than fellow Parkhead season placeholder Billy Connolly though. It must have been to his eternal chagrin that he was the one English born member of a family so he has spent the intervening 67 years emphasizing his Scottishness.
For a time, he was an integral part of the Tartan Army home and away, most notably at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina – Scotland’s elevation to one of the world’s top 16 spots obfuscated by Peru and Iran; a late heroic effort against future finalists the Dutch proving insufficient.
The nation produced players of true international class at that time of course – Dalglish, McQueen, Jordan, Souness, Hansen, Gray – the 2-1 win over England at Wembley in 1977 perhaps a high watermark as the men in dark blue utterly dominated the game. The cock of the walk confidence on display sat well with a singer rarely scared to wear a vest in public and whose band had once devoted sleeve notes to lists of sexual conquests.
Despite growing up at the opposite end of the Parkland walk disused railway track from Arsenal, Stewart’s English team have always been Manchester United – as the lyrics of ‘You’re in My Heart’ put it – ‘you’re Celtic, United, but baby you’re the best team I’ve ever seen’. No, it doesn’t work, does it?
But those men from Glasgow’s East End remain his first love. Before a pre-season friendly against Fulham in 2005, the singer offered the usage of the garden for training at his Essex mansion after Bisham Abbey became unavailable, while just this year, he scheduled the christening of his 10 month old son Aiden so as not to avoid a fixture a home fixture.
Part of Stewart must wish he’d been there in Cordoba lining up alongside Don Masson and Willie Johnstone – but as he sums it up: ‘a musician’s life is a lot easier, and I can also get drunk and make music’. Many of us might wish he had opted for the green grass instead.
Rob is part of the two unfortunates, one of the best football blogs on t'internet. Go see.