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Douglas at 80: Blackburn Rovers have always meant everything to me
THE talk has turned to tactics and Bryan Douglas has risen from his settee.
It is clear in this moment, as if there was ever any doubt, that his passion for football is still as strong as ever.
Douglas turned 80 recently, but you would never know it.
He is demonstrating the method he once used to back into fearsome Liverpool defender Ron Yeats, flexing his neck muscles to illustrate a header.
"I was 5ft 2in and he was 7ft!" he jokes.
I am sat in Douglas’ living room, privileged to be talking football with a Blackburn Rovers great.
Every question sparks a memory or a tale, as Douglas is transported back to the football field where he scored 115 goals in 503 appearances for Rovers and played 36 times for England.
On the walls of his home are reminders of his glittering career, an impressive range of pictures that tell the story of one of the finest players of his generation.
At Rovers, only the late Ronnie Clayton can rank alongside Douglas.
Each home game, he watches on from the Premier Suite at Ewood Park.
To his left he sees the Ronnie Clayton Blackburn End, named in honour of his great friend, who passed away in 2010.
To his right he sees the Bryan Douglas Darwen End.
Even two years after the stand was renamed to mark his contribution to the club, he still could not be prouder.
"Ronnie’s name has been up for three or four years and it didn’t bother me, but I did think I’m a Blackburn lad and nobody’s bothered," Douglas admits.
"But I went to a dinner a couple of years ago and suddenly the lights went out, the curtains opened and the stand was lit up with my name there.
"I didn’t know anything about it. I had a lump in my throat."
As a youngster, Douglas lived just yards away from the stand now named after him.
"I was in the fortunate position to be able to play for my home town team all my career, it’s in my blood," he says.
"I was born within a golf shot of the ground, I was born in Ewood and lived in Ewood.
"At the end of the war I used to see the players there, because they all lived in the vicinity in those days. I got to know all of the players of that era.
"At the age of nine I found myself being picked to play in a final and in those days the finals were played at Ewood Park. I played there when I was nine, when I was 10, 12, 13 and 14.
"For us kids it was like it is for the professionals today playing at Wembley."
Douglas would progress from those schoolboy days to a glorious career at Rovers, spanning 17 years from 1952 to 1969.
On his 80th birthday last month, he received another reminder of how fondly he is regarded by so many.
"I lost my wife three years ago and I didn’t really feel that I wanted to go over the top celebrating my birthday," he says.
"But nevertheless a lot of people seemed to know it was my birthday. I had telephone calls and messages, and cards from family and friends.
"I got some from one or two ex-footballers and ex-footballer’s wives.
"Even though all that time has passed, I’m still in contact with most of the old players who are still living."
Douglas is currently spending time looking into his family tree.
"We’ve gone back to the 1700s, they’re all from Blackburn and you find out a lot of things, good things and a bit of how’s your father!" he chuckled.
His fame in Blackburn has not diminished, 45 years after his retirement.
Whenever Douglas visits town, he is still regularly approached by people keen to chat about the old days.
"My wife stopped coming with me," he says.
"When she went shopping she didn’t want me with her for that simple reason that she couldn’t get on with her shopping in Blackburn, we were stopping every two minutes.
"I’d see some old school chums and I’d made my mind up that I didn’t want them to think that I was getting big headed.
"I used to stop and say, ‘Hello Frank, hello Eric’. I still do that. A lot of people recognise me.
"I’ve always tried to oblige. I still get maybe seven or eight cards a month, not just from this country but from abroad as well.
"Sometimes it costs £1.50 to send it back to Japan or Romania, or somewhere like that!
"But I always try to do it because I remember when I used to be a kid, I used to be outside at about 12 years old and some of these well known players would be brush you aside, they’d with friends or they were going to get the bus.
"I thought they were heroes before and then I thought ‘You rotten so and so’.
"I used to write to clubs for autographs, although I didn’t always get them back."
Which autograph did Douglas hold most dearly?
"Stan Mortensen, I kept it for years," he says of the former Blackpool and England forward.
"I had a load of autographs, but years and years ago I gave them to somebody."
It seems incredible now that, back in his youth, Douglas actually had a decision to make about whether to become a footballer.
"When I left school the club wanted me to go on the ground staff at Ewood but my dad insisted I had a trade," he said.
"I went as a motor mechanic at what was then the tram depot. There were still a few trams running then.
"I spent 18 months learning to be a motor mechanic but I was asking for the time off every week because there used to be a Thursday league then for ground staff boys, part-time pros and first-team players who needed a run-out.
"The management at the depot got a bit annoyed with it.
"They called me in and said, ‘You’ve got to make your mind up what you want to be, son’."
Douglas did. He swiftly joined Rovers full time.
The rest, as they say, is history.