BRYAN Douglas was the ultimate one-club man. More than 500 appearances over a Blackburn Rovers career spanning 17 years ensure ‘Dougie’ will always have a place in East Lancashire hearts.

Jack Walker, Simon Garner, Kenny Dalglish and Alan Shearer. Douglas’s name would grace any list of Ewood Park greats after dedicating almost his whole life to his home town club – a relationship that carries on even to this day.

His Rovers love affair could have ended almost before it had began though had a chance meeting with one of football’s greatest ever managers turned out differently.

As just a raw teenager, Douglas was head hunted by then Grimsby boss Bill Shankly during his national service with the RAF but, having just signed professional forms with Rovers, he only had eyes for his boyhood heroes.

Shankly went on to become one of Britain’s most revered managers, during a glittering 15 years at Liverpool, while Douglas was left without a winners medal to show for his unswerving loyalty to Blackburn Rovers.

As the 75-year-old now reflects on an incredible career that took him to two World Cup finals and an FA Cup final as well as seeing him mix with the game’s very best, he insists he has no regrets – but that doesn’t stop him wondering what might have been had he taken up Shankly’s offer.

Douglas said: “I was stationed near Grimsby during my two-year national service and was a store man. When I was down there I played some football and watching one of the games were two people. One Scotsman came and asked if I wanted to go for a trial to Grimsby.

“I informed him I had signed for Blackburn and he apologised. But he was back three weeks later and again said ‘would I like to go to Grimsby if they had a word with Blackburn?’.

“Well at the time I had just started courting my wife, Joyce, and so was coming home at weekends not just to play but to court as well. I forgot all about that but later on when I got in the first team, one of the first games was at Huddersfield.

“I recognised their manager as the guy who approached me a couple of years before again and it turned out to be Bill Shankly. When I used to see him at Liverpool I always thought what if I had gone to Grimsby? What would have happened?”

Douglas’s commitment to Blackburn Rovers can never be questioned.

Only four players have ever played more for the club, and even now he entertains match day sponsors with fellow legend and close pal Ronnie Clayton.

But, unknown to most, the fairy tale story almost came to an abrupt end on several occasions during his Ewood Park career as even ‘Mr Blackburn Rovers’ was tempted away by his burning desire to finally win some silverware.

“They never told you, but secretly there were a number of times when I could have moved on,” he said. “I was asked even before I signed for Rovers to sign for Burnley, Blackpool, Preston and Bolton. I was also asked to go to Notts Forest but I only wanted to go to Blackburn.

“While I was here I know that Everton wanted me. Tottenham I know also wanted me. The club would not tell you but I got to know indirectly.

“Spurs had a player called John White and their manager Bill Nicholson was the manager of the England under 23s. John White got killed by lightning, under a tree playing golf. At that time I think would have gone there.

“I was also told that Chelsea wanted me when Ted Drake was the manager. I was having a cartilage done in 1959 and I was in London and Ted Drake came to see me and he sort of hinted he had bid for me. The club kept it all quiet though and would not let me go.

“I did put a transfer request in once as well. I got a bit despondent we got beat by West Ham at Ewood and I thought we were going nowhere. I regretted doing it straight away. “Manager Jack Marshall turned it down and I thought I would not pursue it.”

During a career that started with him as a mechanic at Blackburn bus depot and ended playing as an amateur for Great Harwood, Douglas’s journey was far from the glamorous lifestyle now enjoyed by Premier League footballers.

As he speaks about his own footballing experiences, reports of Gareth Barry’s £100,000 a week wages at Manchester City flash up on a TV screen above him and he can’t help but chuckle about football’s evolution.

He said: “When I started the max wage for first team players was £14 a week. I was on about £6 a week. It was good money but later on the first team went on to £17. Summer wages were £9.

“I remember having a fight with the secretary at the time to pay my expenses for getting to Blackburn from Grimsby during my national service. It was about 25 bob for the train fare.

“When you think about it now and what they are on. Gareth Barry to be on £100,000 a week? I remember getting two of my teeth knocked out against Manchester United and I had to fight to get that paid for by the club. It was about £4 – a bit different to nowadays.

“During my national service I used to get off on Fridays. I used to travel up on Friday night and got a train from Grimsby that stopped at every station. It used to get into Manchester at 12.30pm and there were no trains into Blackburn.

“I used to travel with a lad called Billy Wright, he played for Blackpool with Stanley Matthews and Stan Mortensen. When we got into Manchester I would go into the local YMCA, which was two and sixpence, and he used to book into the Queens Hotel on Piccadilly.”

Not that you will find the man who terrorised full backs throughout the 1950s and 1960s complaining though. He is just grateful to have lived his ‘dream’.

He said: “I can put my mind back to when I was a kid and I can see the stars of the time and getting their autographs. That is why, today, I always try to oblige.

“Because I know I have been there and people have knocked me away and jumped on the bus and didn’t want to know. I have always said if I was in that position I would learn from that.

“It is amazing thinking I was one of these kids thinking it must be wonderful to be a footballer and it is. I enjoyed, apart from the last couple of years, every moment of it.”

“I still enjoy watching as well It is the best game in the world.”