A good friend of mine, as my career blossomed out with Rangers, was none other than Ferenc Puskás, the great Hungarian inside forward. As mentioned earlier, I first met Ferenc when I played for the Rest of the World against England in the FA Centenary International, at Wembley in 1963. He was a man after my own heart. He couldn’t speak English, but we still had two things very much in common. He liked a good dram. And he had a good left foot.
Also he was extremely fond of the ladies. His problem was, he kept finding himself last in that particular queue. Being usually first, I was always glad to give him a hand. After the London game, I gave him the appropriate introductions, and he made excellent use of them, but I remember best the aftermath of another game involving Puskás – Rangers versus Real Madrid in the European Cup, in Glasgow.
Real were still a wonderful side then and they beat us I-0. Puskás, inevitably, was the scorer. It wasn’t the only score he made that night. At the hotel afterwards, he lost no time in seeking me out.
‘Baxter, Baxter, party, party, whisky, jig-jig.’ He may not have been able to speak English in the accepted sense but he knew how to make himself understood in the basics.
‘Hold on a minute, Push,’ I said. ‘I’ll let you know what’s happening, don’t worry. Would I let you down?’ Quite charitable of me, when I think of it, considering the way he had treated us on the park.
As soon as we could, we went up to the George Hotel, headquarters for me and most of my friends then. Ferenc and two other Real Madrid players came along – I couldn’t have kept him away – and we learned there that Ronnie McKinnon knew of a party out at Drumchapel.
Now Drumchapel, reckoned to be the biggest council housing estate in Europe, might not strike you immediately as the ideal party spot for players from two of the best-known football clubs in the world. The truth is that there were lots of great parties at Drumchapel, there being only one snag. Few of the council houses had more than two bedrooms, which can make matters quite awkward at times for those who like a certain amount of privacy.
To get a bedroom, you had to be there early, and we weren’t early. But Puskás wanted his whisky and his jig-a-jig, not necessarily in that order, and not necessarily separately. It was an attitude for which I had great respect and, as I had said, I couldn’t let him down. Eventually, we paired him off with a very inventive lady who worked for a nationally known food firm. She seemed to like Ferenc, and neither was concerned about exactly where or how they could get together!
That was Drumchapel!