ROY McFarland’s expression on the cover of his engaging autobiography has an uncompromising, ‘don’t-mess-with-me’ air about it, although as a player he never needed to threaten opponents.
While he was a teak-tough centre half, McFarland read the game well and was so fast that he was rarely called upon to make last-ditch tackles, preferring instead to dispossess opponents skilfully, invariably becoming the springboard for another Derby County attack.
It was these qualities and others that persuaded Brian Clough and Peter Taylor to call, unannounced, at the McFarland home when 19-year-old Roy was a Tranmere Rovers player and convince him that his future, plus a raft of trophies and international caps, were his for the taking should he move to the Baseball Ground.
The Derby duo spent several hours badgering, cajoling and charming him into signing (for £24,000) before sweeping away from the backstreets of Liverpool as suddenly and dramatically as they had arrived.
Following this whirlwind visit, McFarland was on his way to the top. Young Roy was almost a reluctant professional footballer: he rejected overtures from both Tranmere and Wolves, happy instead to work as a trainee accountant for a tobacco firm.
It was only during a trial match, when asked to swap from being a winger to a centre-half, that he found his metier and went on to become perhaps England’s best post-war centre-half.
Indeed, were it not for an Achilles injury, suffered while representing England in 1974, it’s likely that he would have won considerably more than the 28 caps he eventually accumulated, the last of which came against Italy in 1976.
Of course, he did have the consolation of Derby County twice being crowned league champions and this enjoyable tale is littered with a series of original anecdotes in which characters such as Clough, Tommy Docherty and former team-mates feature prominently.
Discovering that Dave Mackay’s favourite tipple was Mateus Rosé invariably elicits a wry smile.
Writing an autobiography with the benefit of years of hindsight used to be the norm. Thankfully, Roy McFarland appreciates this, which is why Roy Mac is such a winning read.