EVEN to this day, Arthur Graham wonders just how high the scout from Aberdeen might have gone had he kept saying no. Perhaps the envoy from Pittodrie – legendary scout Bobby Calder, despatched south by manager Eddie Turnbull - thought the 17-year-old in front of him was simply chancing his luck as he turned down one improved contract offer after another.

This, after all, was a talented but raw young winger who was spending his Saturdays turning out for Cambuslang Rangers, and the rest of the week pouring hot metal in the local steelworks. If this was a real-life game of poker, Graham didn’t seem to have much of a hand to work with.

The teenager, though, wasn’t bluffing. He simply wasn’t interested. Aberdeen weren’t the only club to have been alerted to his potential and Graham had an appointment the very next day with Jock Stein and Sean Fallon, Celtic’s fabled management duo. To a Parkhead obsessive from Castlemilk, this was the only offer that mattered.

The man from Aberdeen, however, did not give up easily. Higher and higher the terms of the contract offer went until it reached a point where Graham could resist no more. Celtic may have been the only club he wanted to play for but, when negotiations reached a certain point, it was time to act with his head and not his heart.

“I had only been with Cambuslang Rangers for a couple of games when this guy from Celtic came up to me after one match to ask if I wanted to go to Parkhead the next day to meet Jock Stein and Sean Fallon,” recalled Graham, the Glaswegian accent undiminished despite four decades spent living in Yorkshire where he recently retired from coaching Leeds United’s youth prospects.

“The plan, I think, was for me to sign and then I would be loaned back to play with Cambuslang for a while longer. I was up for that as I was Celtic mad.

“But when we got on the bus after the game a scout from Aberdeen got on, Bobby Calder. He must have got wind about what Celtic had just offered me. He came up and introduced himself then asked right out, ‘do you want to come to Aberdeen, son?’ I told him I wasn’t interested as I had an appointment with Jock Stein the next day.

“He had offered me £30 a week and I was getting around £4.50 a week working in the steelworks. In my head, though, it was Celtic or nothing. He then offered me £50 a week and a two-year contract. This was a lot of money but the answer was the same: not interested.

“But he came back again. ‘Tell you what. We’ll give you £50 a week, a two-year contract and £500 signing-on fee.’ And at that point I had to accept, although I suspect if I had kept turning him down he would have kept going. But he completely turned me. I never did get that meeting with Jock Stein and that was all down to Bobby Calder as I would have walked to Celtic Park.”

Not every 17-year-old would have been that pragmatic but Graham was aware of his wider responsibilities.

“I had a big family – six brothers and three sisters – and I was the only one really working at that time. We had practically nothing so £500 was life-changing. I sent £250 of it down to my mother in Glasgow right away. That was a godsend to her. Eddie Turnbull got wind of it and wondered what I was up to but once he heard where it was going I think he approved. The move changed my life and my family’s too.”

Working in a steel factory may not seem the obvious starting point for a football career that would also later take in stops at Leeds United and Bradford City – as well as 11 caps and two goals for Scotland – but it served Graham well.

“That was quite a bit of work with the steel getting rolled and milled but I loved it,” he added. “There were a lot of good lads there and we used to have a kick about on our breaks. And someone from Cambuslang came down and I ended up getting a trial, played a few games with them and then met Bobby Calder on the bus that day. And that was the start of it.”

It may not have felt like it at the time, but moving to Pittodrie worked well for Graham. Aberdeen would prove the perfect setting for him to showcase his ability, often at Celtic’s expense which did not always ingratiate him with a large family who could barely believe what they were witnessing. You’re scoring goals against us? And then celebrating? It was lucky they still kept him a seat at the table at Christmas.

“I went up to Aberdeen in the January and made my debut actually at Parkhead in March,” he said. “We beat them 2-1 and I scored the winner. A couple of cousins and my brothers were at that game and I went in to see them afterwards and they were stuffing their faces with sausage rolls in the players’ lounge. My cousin said to me, ‘what the f*** are you playing at?’ So not everyone was happy with me.”

Graham spent seven years at Pittodrie, made almost 300 appearances, and bookended his stay with a trophy at either end. The first was the 1970 Scottish Cup that came his way only months after signing. He hadn’t been expected to start in the final against Celtic but Turnbull trusted him and was right to do so. He made two assists as Aberdeen won 3-1.

What would prove to be his final season at Pittodrie also delivered silverware: the 1976 League Cup. With echoes of this year’s competition, the semi-final draw produced two mouth-watering ties: Celtic vs Hearts and Aberdeen vs Rangers. Dons fans will be hoping what happened next is an omen for 2018.

Their semi-final against Jock Wallace’s Rangers would prove surprisingly one-sided, Jocky Scott claiming a hat-trick as Aberdeen ran out 5-1 winners. Few had foreseen such an outcome.

“Rangers were a good side at that time so this was probably a big surprise for most folk,” recalled Graham. “But we were brilliant that night at Hampden. Jocky in particular was unplayable and everything else just clicked. To do it in Glasgow made it even more special.”

It was closer in the final against Celtic but goals from Drew Jarvie and substitute Davie Robb eased Aberdeen to a 2-1 victory. It would prove to be the last major trophy of Graham’s career – unless you count his 1983 Charity Shield success with Manchester United – and there would be no mixed emotions on his part, despite his family’s frustration.

“A couple of my brothers had come along to the semi-final so they were delighted when we thrashed Rangers. They weren’t quite as happy when we then beat Celtic in the final mind you. But I was delighted. To win the League Cup, the Scottish Cup and also the Drybrough Cup during my time at Aberdeen was a decent return. The extra twist was that all of them came against Celtic in the final and I could have been playing for them instead. Sometimes it’s funny how life turns out.”