WHEN Allan McGraw signed for Morton in 1961, Hal Stewart had just purchased a declining Cappielow club from Ricky Agnew.

Morton were in a sorry state as revealed by McGraw who commented: 'The only player there [worth the name] was Archie Robertson.' Robertson had joined Morton from Clyde where he had won five caps for Scotland and been in two Scottish Cup winning teams. He was in his footballing twilight years when he arrived at Cappielow for the princely sum of £1,000.

McGraw takes up the story: 'Archie was a hard man. When I say hard, I had a lot of respect for him, but sometimes he wasn"t a nice man. But he knew his football.

'Years later people used to say he was lazy. Archie was never lazy; he was the best trainer I ever saw and, aye, he was hard.

'He was slow, but what a passer of the ball he was. I learnt a lot from him.' After signing for Morton, McGraw returned to his national service army life, but by the time he came back to Cappielow there had been a transformation. McGraw explained: 'Hal had signed Doug Cowie and Bobby Evans [two other former internationalists whose best days were at Dundee and Celtic respectively]. That was when Hal started it all. When I came back I couldn"t believe the team.' These old campaigners began the process of dragging Morton up by their bootlaces.

Neither a former footballer, nor with any links to, or true understanding of, the beautiful game, Hal Stewart seemed an unlikely Moses to lead Morton out of the wilderness. What did he bring, then, to transform the ailing Cappielow outfit?

'He didn"t have a clue about football,' explained McGraw, 'but he could recognise a player. I used to think at times his man-management was bad, but years later I could see he was often right.

'He let it be known he picked the team. Bobby Evans and Doug Cowie took the training. We used to say Hal was very lucky. I mind one game, I had scored three goals on the Wednesday, and we were playing Stranraer on the Saturday.

'Hal took me out on the park, then he walked round it with Bobby, then Doug. He shouted me over and told me I was playing outside right. I"d never been a winger. I hadn"t a clue about how to play there.' Evans and Cowie were every bit as stunned and perplexed as McGraw, but Hal"s theory was that ace striker McGraw would find more room out on the wing.

'I was like a fish out of water,' laughed Allan as he cast his mind back. 'By luck I scored a goal. I think it might have been from a corner, and we won one-nothing. Hal was convinced he"d been proved right, but I"ll be honest - it was probably the worst game I played in my life.

'He [Hal] must have known he was wrong, for I never played there again, but he would not admit it.' But even the days of Evans and Cowie were drawing to a close. There came a clear-out after the team had finished third in the league. Hal Stewart may not have had a football background but he knew the time had come to bring in younger blood.

'It"s great to bring in experience,' said McGraw, 'but it can"t be all experience. I think he realised that. I certainly realised it later as a manager. I remember playing with Bertie Peacock [another ex-Celtic star] in a bounce game. He played behind me; a great player. He said after the game: "You get away from here, son, because you"re going to get burnt out."' Robertson, Cowie, Evans and another veteran, former Aberdeen full-back David Caldwell, were sent out to graze, but their experience had been invaluable to McGraw"s footballing education. 'I learnt more from them than anybody,' he summed up.

The winds of change were blowing up a storm at Cappielow. Time catches up with us all, and for footballers it comes all too quickly.

By the time season 1962-63 ended, Morton had improved to the extent that they finished third in the Second Division. The old guard had done their job, and now Hal Stewart set about bringing in a whole batch of new players in a bid to carry the club forward.

It may have seemed risky, but it was to prove one of the most memorable, magical seasons in the club"s history.

Allan McGraw remained along with centre-half Jim Kiernan, right-back Johnny Boyd and left-back Jim Mallon. In came goalkeeper Alex Brown, wing-halves Jim Reilly and Hugh Strachan and forwards Bobby Adamson, Bobby Campbell, Morris Stevenson and Jimmy Wilson. The total cost was £3,000 to Newcastle for Wilson.

What then happened was remarkable. Almost immediately the team clicked. They were to embark on a record-breaking campaign, sweeping all before them to win the Second Division title. They also reached the League Cup Final against Rangers.

They lost just once, scoring a record number of goals. Quick-draw McGraw, as the press were to dub him, scored a staggering 58 league and cup goals, still a club record.

It was a team effort, however, and McGraw commented: 'Whether by luck or not, he [Hal Stewart] brought the players in for the right positions. Jimmy Reilly [the captain] was a great player; great passer of the ball. Hughie Strachan, the other wing-half in the team, was more defensive.

'The one that always puzzled me was centre-half Jimmy Keirnan. He was a good player, but he was very hard on himself. He didn"t think he was as good as he was. He used to think he was awful slow.

'He was always worried about his pace, but he could cope with it. He wasn"t that slow, but he was the one we had to get to believe it.' The full-backs were Johnny Boyd and Jimmy Mallon, the latter McGraw"s old pal from the army. 'Boydy was hard as nails,' said McGraw, 'and he was fast - not the greatest passer, but not many went past him.

'Jimmy [Mallon] was one of the first of the attacking full-backs, way ahead of his time, and he was hard.' The creative unit in the team, what would now be termed the attacking midfielders, came in the shape of right-half Jim Reilly and inside forward Morris Stevenson. 'Morris and Jimmy were the playmkers,' said McGraw, 'though sometimes Morris would drive you up the wall because he would dribble, dribble, dribble. He was good at it, but you would run into a position and he wouldn"t give you the pass, he"d beat someone again.' McGraw continued: 'Wee Wilson and Adamson were fast [on the wings]. What a build Adamson had. He was like Ronaldo in that respect. He had strength and pace and he scored goals. Jimmy [Wilson] was fast and more creative.' Good strikers work best in partnerships, and McGraw"s chief compadre was centre forward Joe Caven who led the line. 'He was strong and he had good feet,' recalled McGraw of a man who also scored more than his share of goals.

It was a captivating blend and it was Hal Stewart"s mixture. 'He was good at spotting a player,' reflected McGraw. 'To pick up all these frees you must have something.' It was something which was to carry the side through a spell-binding season.