The Boy Who Would be King.
The story of Denis is an astonishing and uplifting tale of triumph over adversity that saw a young Aberdeen boy rise from humble beginnings to become one of the greatest football players the world has ever seen.
Denis played for Huddersfield Town, Manchester City, Torino and Manchester United and became the greatest footballer that Scotland has ever produced; an icon of the game revered and loved throughout the football world.
He is best known for the eleven years that he spent playing for Manchester United, where he scored 237 goals in 404 appearances and was named The Lawman and The King by their supporters.
“We all need role models. Denis was a year and a half older than me, I looked at him and thought; that’s what I want to be”.
Sir Alex Ferguson
Aberdeen is the birth place of Denis Law and home to Aberdeen Football Club who under the management of Sir Alex Ferguson famously beat Real Madrid to win the European Cup Winners’ Cup Final in 1983.
Denis was born to George Law (a fisherman) and his wife Robina on the 24th February 1940 at No 6 Printfield Terrace, Woodside, Aberdeen.
He was the youngest of seven children and went barefoot until he was 12 years old, and wore handed-down shoes until well into adulthood; his first pair of football boots was a birthday present from a neighbour, which he received at 16 years of age.
He supported Aberdeen and watched them when he had enough money to do so, watching local non-league teams when he did not. His obsession with football led to him turning down a place at Aberdeen Grammar School, as he would have had to play rugby there instead. Instead, he attended Powis Academy (now St. Machar Academy) in Aberdeen. Despite having a serious squint in his eye, he showed great promise once he was moved from full back to inside-left, and was selected for Scotland Schoolboys.
Freedom of the City
Thousands line Aberdeen honours football legend.
More than 15,000 people lined the streets of Aberdeen to greet Scotland legend Denis Law as he celebrated being granted the Freedom of the City.
The former Manchester United striker and charity ambassador led the annual Christmas lights switch-on parade, following Saturday’s conferral ceremony at the Beach Ballroom.
Previous recipients of the honour include Sir Winston Churchill, Nelson and Winnie Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev and Sir Alex Ferguson .
The 77-year-old, who was born in the city, said: “I really didn’t expect the reception I got, I’m almost lost for words, it was just unbelievable.
“The parade down Union Street was wonderful and to come out on the Town House balcony and get such a warm reception is something that will stay with me forever.
“I have always called Aberdeen home and this weekend has meant so much to me.
“I’m looking forward to relaxing now and letting it all sink in, there has been so much going on and I’ve enjoyed it tremendously.”
In the 1964/65 season, Mr Law won the Fifa Ballon d’Or award. He also jointly holds the Scottish international record goal tally, alongside Kenny Dalglish, with 30 goals from 55 caps.
Mr Law was joined by family and friends as well as young representatives of community groups and clubs associated with his Streetsport initiative, an award winning programme led by the Denis Law Legacy Trust, when leading the parade on Sunday.
Streetsport recently won an accolade at the 2017 National Pride of Sport Awards, taking the TSB Community Partner Award, which recognises a group of people who have worked together for a good cause in their area.
The programme aims to reduce instances of youth crime and anti-social behaviour while helping develop the employability and aspirations of young people in Aberdeen.
Lord Provost of Aberdeen Barney Crockett said: “Denis is a unique Scottish icon, there is nothing but good feeling towards him and that is because of his great personality, modesty, integrity and of course his achievements in football and in life.
“It was fantastic to see the people of Aberdeen turn out in their numbers, from the youngest faces in the crowd to those who grew up watching Denis play the game, everyone relates to him and knows all about his talents.”
Denis Law, Aberdeen’s footballing son, was recently awarded a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) by Buckingham Palace for his charity work as well as his sporting achievements.
Denis was recognised for his fundraising work with the Denis Law Legacy Trust, Streetsport, Meningitis Now and Cancer Research UK.
On the field Denis was a world renowned footballer and is still the only Scottish winner of the FIFA Ballon d’Or. He holds the record for 18 Manchester United hat-tricks, was capped by Scotland 55 times and represented the country at the 1974 World Cup in West Germany.
Denis returns annually to host a fundraising dinner and recently helped launch a #YesBallGames a campaign to remove all of the ‘No Ball Games’ signs within Aberdeen city after a lobbying campaign by Greenspace and his Streetsport initiative.
Well done Denis…a fantastic ambassador who has inspired thousands of young people to get active through a range of activities across Aberdeen city.
In celebration of Denis and his remarkable contribution to the world of sport and the city of Aberdeen a number of fans and corporate sponsors recently commissioned a statue of Denis.
The iconic image below was the inspiration behind the statue which was unveiled by Sandy Busby (son of Sir Matt Busby) at Aberdeen Sports Village on the 20th July 2012.
The ceremony was attended by Denis and his family along with his Manchester City team mate and friend Mike Summerbee
Denis being presented with the FIFA Ballon d’Or European Footballer of the Year in 1964).
Other winners include Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Find out more about the FIFA Ballon d’Or Player of the Year Award.
Denis was the showman supreme. He was more than a mere goal scorer whose cavalier thrusts and menacing darts brought panic to opposing defences. Law was an inspiration to those around him at club and country level and to younger generations of fans everywhere. Team-mates adored him, opponents feared him and fans revered him. He was a free spirit, an extrovert, a complete one-off, a rare combination of impudence and intelligence, class and clout. Denis Law is, was and always will be The King.
Former England manager Graham Taylor speaks to legendary striker Denis Law about his glittering career. Originally broadcast on Sky Sports January 2013.
Facts & Figures
Did you know?
Denis Law is still the only Scottish football player to win the prestigious FIFA Ballon d’Or.
Denis Law holds the record for most hat-tricks in Manchester United’s club history:
1. Denis Law 18
2. Jack Rowley 12
3. Dennis Viollet 9
4. Wayne Rooney 7
5. Bobby Charlton 7
Denis signed his first professional contract with Huddersfield Town in February 1957 and went on to flourish under the management of Bill Shankly.
"Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”
Bill Shankly OBE
Conferment of Honorary Award by the Robert Gordon University
On Thursday 13th July 2017 Denis was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws (Hon LLD) by the Robert Gordon University in recognition of his support for city’s Streetsport initiative.
Pictures courtesy of STV News.
Conferment of Honorary Award
Presented by Graham Hunter – European football Journalist and Author
“This moment is for a great sportsman, a great Aberdonian footballer.
A high achiever, somebody who ranked not just in the world elite but in the all-time world elite.
However I think the thing that makes it appropriate that you as a University, and a student body, are conferring this Honorary Degree on Denis Law is that he has also proven over his life to be a great man.
He’s exhibited values at every stage of his life to which you and every graduand and graduate should aspire.
He’s honest, he was tough, daring, creative, ambitious, impish, inspirational, determined… a high achiever.
Curious about life, curious about the world and capable of overcoming obstacles.
It’s famous now that, as he left this city to begin his professional football career, he bore, and I’m not being rude, no resemblance whatsoever to what a professional footballer would have looked like then or now.
Yet, he became somebody who wasn’t simply very, very good but is today revered around the world.
I’ll give you a small example because I know that most of you aren’t old enough to have seen Denis play at his greatest but most of you will have seen Wayne Rooney play football.
And Wayne Rooney just scraped by Denis’ goal-total for Manchester United, having taken 150 games more to do that – I think that gives you some context.
More, would be that the current Manchester United captain, Michael Carrick recently asked me to go and help with his testimonial, to organise La Liga players to perform in it, and outside the stadium that day, a couple of weeks ago, the queues to look at the statue of the Holy Trinity, Sir Bobby Charlton, George Best and Denis Law, were much bigger than the queues to get into Old Trafford early on.
That’s because, if you say Manchester United you instantly hear the name Denis Law and you see his goals and his single-arm upraised salute in triumph at the team’s and his achievements.
Right now, his 46 goals in a season in the 60’s are still the most that any man has scored for Manchester United in a season.
He has the most hat-tricks. He was part of one of the most remarkable eras in British football in that a true tragedy of social and human proportions at Munich Airport in 1958 took away many great footballers, great men and when Sir Matt Busby turned to people to rebuild the club, he turned to men like Denis Law.
I should have known, we should have known…. that a man of Denis’ class would have this day organised via whoever it is up in the sky that looks after him!
His first professional team, Huddersfield just got promotion to the Premier League.
The city where he was born, Aberdeen, had a very powerful season, second in two cups and second in the league.
Torino, where he played in Italy had their best season for ages.
Manchester United beat Ajax to a European trophy – and they’re the two sides which competed in Denis’ hugely attended testimonial at Old Trafford in 1973.
Manchester City…. trophy-less but in the hands of Pep Guardiola – the No.1 disciple of Johan Cruyff, who I know, having spoken to him, adored and loved watching Denis play football …
….and whose organisation, the Cruyff Foundation have just backed Denis and Streetsport, RGU and the Denis Law Legacy Trust by putting a huge six figure sum into giving people in this city a free, 24 hour astro-turf football court where they want youngsters to go and learn social skills, leadership, creativity, enjoyment, ambition..
All the things that I just mentioned represent Denis’ personality and his life.
I’d like to point out as well that he’s been a great family man.
He met and fell in love with his beautiful wife, Diana, so many years ago, they’ve been friends and partners all throughout his life, from the early 60s until now.
It’s fantastic that she’s here with us today.
I have the great privilege to know his daughter, Diana, without whom the Class of 92 – Gary Neville, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs – could not function as successfully as they do today.
She’s a brilliant representation of this admirable man.
And for that reason, I commend Robert Gordon’s University for this award.
But more importantly, graduands, I commend Denis Law’s attitude, style, determination, skills, elegance, honesty and ambition to all of you in the exciting and challenging years ahead of you.
Do the best you can. Do it like the Law-man.
Vice-Chancellor, I present to you for the award of Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa…. Denis Law”.
Transcript courtesy of Graham Hunter @BumperGraham