LEN Shackleton, the former Sunderland and England player, famously left a chapter entitled “The Average Director’s Knowledge of Football” blank in his autobiography.

You would, though, need a whole book to cram in everything that Alan Roderick Rough, who took up a place on the board of his beloved Partick Thistle this summer, has learned about the game during the past 50 years.

Rough’s time as a player, manager, coach, media pundit and supporter have given him an insight into just about every area of the sport.

Thistle, who take on Celtic, another of his former clubs, in the Betfred Cup early this afternoon, should be applauded for looking to tap into that wealth of experience as they strive to recover from relegation.

The Firhill outfit’s attempts to make an immediate return to the Ladbrokes Premiership in the coming months will be aided no end by the assistance of one of their favourite sons.

Not that the 66-year-old feels they are in any particular need of his help He has been taken aback by the commitment, professionalism and ambition of his fellow directors since taking up his new role and is optimistic about what the future holds.

“I have been to every game and one board meeting,” he said “That was a bit of an eye opener. Everybody was just so upbeat. It was unreal. Everyone had an idea about how to take the club forward, how to get more money, how to strengthen the squad. It was just a joy to be there.”

The position has changed immeasurably since his heyday. “Back in the 1970s and 1980s a director was just a guy who sat at the front of the team bus,” said Rough. “All the players said ‘hello’ when we got on and then headed up the back. That was it. There was no chat or camaraderie.”

But surely there was haggling over contract extensions, improved terms, enhanced win bonuses and release clauses with greying men in dandruff-flecked suits in smoky boardrooms? “No, you just dealt with the manager,” he said. “It was a case of ‘you’ve done well son, here’s another £20’. Then you signed a six year contract! With a three year option!”

Had Rough played in the modern era it is inconceivable he would have stayed at Thistle for as long as he did. The goalkeeper represented his country at the World Cup finals in Argentina in 1978 and Spain in 1982. As we have seen in recent days, featuring on that stage is now considered by many players, and their representatives, as a springboard to other, more lucrative, things.

“My attitude was always ‘if it happens it happens’,” he said. “I was at a club who would always sell at the end of the year. But it was always somebody else - Alex Forsyth, Ronnie Glavin, Alan Hansen, Mo Johnston. But that didn’t really bother me as long as I was playing for Partick and Scotland.

“Not joining Middlesbrough in 1980 was certainly a big disappointment. That deal was agreed before the Home Internationals. But on the morning of the England game as I came in to Hampden I was met at the door by Alex Cameron (the Daily Record sports journalist).

“He said: ‘You’ll be disappointed about Middlesbrough Alan?’ I said: What do you mean?’ He said: ‘They’ve just signed Jim Stewart’. I said: ‘Alex! Could you not have told me after the game!’”

Rough eventually moved on to play for Hibernian in 1982 after 13 years at Thistle. However, he had no say on the destination when his departure finally came. “The club needed money,” he said. “Molly Stallon, the secretary, told me I had to come in to Firhill at five o’clock one evening. Peter Cormack, the manager, didn’t know anything about it. He told me: ‘I’ve just been told you’ve been sold to Hibs’.

“Back in those days we didn’t have agents, you couldn’t manipulate a move, you couldn’t say ‘right, I’m not playing’. It just didn’t work like that.”

So what does Rough think of Dedryck Boyata, who this week declined to play for Celtic in the Champions League qualifier against AEK Athens in Greece despite his manager Brendan Rodgers insisting the Belgian centre half was fit, and his conduct?

“For me, it all boils down to whether he was or wasn’t injured,” he said. “But you know what like players are now – a wee twinge in their leg means they’re not fit. How do you argue with them?”

Footballers practically needed to lose a limb to be excused from a big game when the man from the Gorbals plied his trade. “I played for Scotland against Belgium in 1979 with a broken toe after a horse stood on my foot,” he said.

“My wife had a horse and the day before the squad met up I took it out into a field. A rabbit ran out in front of it and it jumped up and landed on my foot.

“I went straight to Jock Stein and told him: ‘I’ve broken a bone in my foot!’ He said: ‘You’re playing!’ Somebody came up with an idea to cut a hole in my boot. Wee Jimmy Steele (the Scotland masseur) painted my sock black so nobody knew.”

Rough won the vast majority of his 53 international caps under Stein – no mean feat given the latter’s renowned disregard for goalkeepers - and shudders to think how the legendary manager would have handled the Boyata situation. “Jock would have kicked him down the biggest flight of stairs at Parkhead,” he said. “He would never have got away with that.”

Rough spent half a season at Celtic, the club he had grown up supporting, himself when he was 36. He only made seven appearances, but, unsurprisingly for such a glass-half-full character, loved every minute of it. Playing under Billy McNeill was a particular thrill.

“Billy was a fantastic guy,” he said. “He has never let me forget that he missed Celtic’s defeat to Thistle in the 1971 League Cup final. Every time I see him he says: ‘If I’d been playing that day it would have been different!’”

Dave McParland, the manager who oversaw that epic 4-1 triumph, died last month aged 83. Thistle didn’t allow his sad passing go unmarked. Rough and his cup-winning team mates returned to Firhill and led a minute’s applause before kick-off in their cup game against Morton.

Rough knows some things matter more down Maryhill way than money. “When we played it was all about pulling on that Thistle jersey, about putting a smile on the fans’ faces. The cash was incidental. It is just what it was.

“It was a love affair between me and Thistle.”