LARGS has welcomed many famous faces over the years - but this rare photo shows the day it rolled out the red carpet to a true sporting legend.

Portuguese footballing great Eusebio is one of many examples of the influential figures who have walked through the doors at Inverclyde Sports Centre over the years to coach or learn their trade.

Sir Alex Ferguson, Jock Stein, and Craig Brown are some of the Scottish figures who regularly visited at Inverclyde, while current Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers is another to have earned his spurs in Largs.

One of the most famous faces to have earned his coaching badges at the centre is former Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, who went on to steer three clubs to European trophy successes.

The centre boss David Gemmell recalls meeting the young Portuguese before he became world famous - and told how Jose surprised him while the pair were out enjoying a drink in one of the Largs hostelries.

David said: "Some of the lads thought he was maybe a kit man or something, we had no idea really who he was.

"It was around the time internet machines were starting to appear in pubs. You would pop a quid in and get 15 minutes or so online.

"Jose dropped in a coin and brought up the Barcelona website. The page loaded and there was a picture of him among a group of about six coaches with an arm draped around Louis van Gaal.

"I shouted over to the rest of the group: 'You have to come and see this!'. He was great company and full of personality even then."

The Inverclyde impact was particularly evident during the English Premiership season of 2011-12 season, when nine top flight managers had come through the Largs academy. The names included Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Kenny Dalglish, David Moyes, Andre Villas-Boas, Brendan Rodgers, Roy Hodgson, Owen Coyle, Alex McLeish and Steve Kean.

Other big names who visited in the early 1980s were Italians Fabio Capello and Giovanni Trapattoni.

Porto player - and then Rangers target - Mario Jardel even appeared on the front page of the News in a kilt playing the bagpipes during his visit.

The centre, opened by the Queen in 1958, was originally the Hills Hotel and before that was a 19th century home to local shipbuilder Robert Sinclair Scott.

In recent years, it has undergone great change, with the old white hotel building giving way to a new modern facility.

Former SFA technical director and Scotland boss Craig Brown says the centre's reputation went before it.

He added: "The staff were the best managers that we had in Scotland - the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Jim McLean, who took Dundee United to the European Cup semi-final and Uefa Cup final.

"Andy Roxburgh was very resourceful and he brought the best in Europe to add to that, either to demonstrate or coach. He must take a lot of credit for making it an internationally renowned course.

"We had Arrigo Sacchi, whose AC Milan side with Gullit and Van Basten was the best club side in Europe, come over. We had Richard Moller Nielsen, who had led Denmark to the European Championship in 1992, Franco Ferrari, who was one Italy's best tactical coaches, Berti Vogts who went to become Scotland manager and many more."

The centre is still used by high-flyers such as English Premiership side Burnley, SPL high-flyers Kilmarnock, Manchester United U23s, who have all visited during the past year.

The actual UEFA coaching courses have moved on to Oriam, a new national performance centre on the outskirts of Edinburgh, but the memories remain.

The nightlife in Largs regularly saw many famous figures of the footballing world heading out with the locals for a few drinks. Places such as The Clachan (now the Waterside), Flannigans, Anchor Bar, Queens Hotel, Brisbane House Hotel, and even the Fiddlers were regular meeting places.

Brown added: "There was such camaraderie.

"For two weeks, we would take over the town. For some of the guys, those summers were the happiest time of their coaching lives."

Former Inverclyde Sports Centre principal John Kent warmly recalls how the likes of Mourinho would happily mix with younger footballers and other groups using the facilities at Inverclyde.

Current Inverclyde principal Barry Fleeting enjoyed spotting and meeting the stars when helping his father Jim,who was one of the coaches.

He said: "I would be on study leave from school and get a lift up in my dad's car. Next thing I would have Craig Levein, Alex McLeish or Jose Mourinho overseeing me as part of the course for a week or two.

"They were great times."