When Ian Stewart and his family left Glasgow to move out to the North Lanarkshire village of Glenboig in August 2013, he would be the first to admit to knowing little about an area steeped in footballing history.
As an avid follower of Rangers and a season-ticket holder at Ibrox for almost 40 years, Stewart was left shell-shocked to learn the tiny Scottish village was home to the club’s first treble-winning captain Jock ‘Tiger’ Shaw.
That sparked an idea in Stewart’s head and through the help of Shaw’s surviving family members, the civil servant managed to bring his latest creation to life.
‘Eye of the Tiger’ is an enthralling account of the life and times of one of the most legendary figures in the Ibrox club’s rich history, a man who epitomised what it meant to be a Ranger.
The book charts Shaw’s extraordinary journey from the coal pit at Bedlay (Annathill) to leading the Gers to their first-ever treble win and his pivotal role in the Light Blues defence, which was famously dubbed the ‘Iron Curtain’ because it seemed as solid as the barrier that divided Europe at the time.
Asked how the idea of the novel came about, Stewart explained: “I’d written a book that was released in October 2013, along with David Mason for Rangers about one of their previous major managers, Bill Struth.
“After the booked launched I was thinking about how enjoyable it was to write and I quite fancied doing another one, so I spent a bit of time speculating what my would my next book be about.
“Then by sheer chance through a discussion at work, I found out that Jock Shaw was from Glenboig. His granddaughter worked in the same organisation as I did.
“In fact, his house where his son-in-law still lives is only a five-minute walk from my own front door, which seemed too much of a coincidence, so that was what really motivated me to pick Jock as my subject matter.
“What really interested me was the older players because the current or modern-day footballer receives a lot of publicity through the media, whereas these old players don’t get as much recognition and weren’t nearly as well off financially and were closer to the normal working man way back in Jock’s era.
“He was a really important, if not, iconic figure in Rangers history and someone who hadn’t had a book written about him, so there was a story to be told.
“The idea germinated in early 2014 when I went down and spoke to his family and gained some more information.”
Prior to meeting Shaw’s family, Stewart developed through his first book ‘Mr Struth: The Boss’ a greater knowledge and understanding of the type of character that the six-time capped Scotland international was.
Having joined Rangers from Airdrie in 1938 for £2,00, Shaw’s signing started a remarkable association with the club, which lasted over 40 years and saw him serve as team captain, third-team coach and groundsman.
Described as a ‘humble hero’, Shaw was a key figure in the Gers defence in the immediate post-war years and would also captain his country and share the distinction of beating England with his brother David in the same team.
Stewart admitted: “As a bit of a Rangers geek I suppose, I do have a lot of knowledge on old players and through Mr Struth who was manager of Rangers for over 30 years, there were things I found out that I had no idea about.
“Jock was also one of my father’s all-time favourite players. If Rangers were not doing well on the park, he would always say ‘ahh he’s no Jock Shaw’ if he didn’t think the effort was being made that should be.
“That was the team my father was introduced to in the late 1930s. Jock was a youngster on the rise at the time.
“For me, two things stood out. The first being how humble he was. It was interesting to learn how much of an integral part of the villages of Glenboig and Annathill, which is where he was born and brought up.
“He ran two of the village shops at one time - this was the Rangers captain, the Scotland captain and yet, he lived in a small house in Glenboig.
“Everybody loved him. Since I offered to drop copies of the book off around the village, the number of times folk said ‘I knew Mr Shaw, he was a lovely man’ was incredible.
“They didn’t know him as Jock ‘Tiger’ Shaw, the footballer, they just knew him as the kind-hearted Mr Shaw who ran the local shop and was just part of the village life.”
Explaining how his nickname ‘The Tiger’ came about, Stewart stated: “It was all to do with his playing style. He was a no-nonsense, ferocious but fair tackler and that’s what earned him his reputation from supporters.
“He was an honest professional who had the sort of character that others looked up to. When things were tough, ‘Tiger’ would tell them to roll their sleeves up.”
The biggest surprise for Stewart came when he learned more about Scotland’s triumphant 1-0 “Victory” International win over the Auld Enemy in front of a record “wartime” attendance.
He said: “Annathill is even smaller than Glenboig and when the pit was there in 1946, I think there was roughly 1500 people that lived there during the peak of the coal mining industry.
“Scotland played England in an International match that year, and they beat their arch enemies with a last-minute goal from Celtic great Jimmy Delaney.
“Baring in mind Scotland had been hammered by England by some embarrassing score lines throughout the war, the thing that astonished me most was three of the Scotland defenders that played in the match came from Annathill.
“They were Jock, his brother David who was a superb player and captain of Hibs and Frank Brennan who went on to play for Newcastle and was part of their last team to win the FA Cup.
“But can you imagine three lads from a village of just 1500 playing against England at Hampden Park in front of a crowd of 140,000? To me, it just takes my breath away that a wee place like Annathill could produce footballers like that all at the one time.
“Jock, his brother and his father were all left-backs, but when Jock and David would play for Scotland together, it often meant David would switch to right-back.
“There is a fantastic article which the Sunday Post published and said I could reproduce in the book about their mother’s memories of that whole day.”
Following a seven-year suspension of Scottish football’s top-flight due to World War II, Rangers battle for superiority between 1946 and 1953 often came with Hibernian and not Celtic as we know today.
The rivalry between the Shaw brothers heightened the excitement around every fixture between the two sides.
Stewart explained: “Predominantly it was Rangers who dominated but Hibs were a real force to be reckoned with at the time and won the league as well.
“They had built a team that came to the fore called ‘The Famous Five’ - arguably their best-ever side.
“Games against Rangers were often billed as ‘The Famous Five Vs Rangers iron-curtain defence’.
“I think over the period Jock was at Rangers, there were 13 League Championships played for and Shaw picked up a winner’s medal in 12 of them.”
The Shaw brothers may evade the minds of fans in the present day, but that will never discount their undoubted influence on the history of Scottish football and the success of their respective clubs.
*Hardback copies of ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ - The Jock Shaw Story can be purchased for £19.99 at your local Waterstones store or via Amazon. Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd (11 October 2021)