Issue 6 of the Celtic retro fanzine The Shamrock is now on sale. This is a Charlie Tully special with features on the Irishman’s glittering career, his ‘olimpico’ goals and the phenomenon of Tullymania. We have a new series on the toughest Celts called ‘Hoops of Steel’, a review of Celtic’s first-ever awayday at Ibrox, the latest Celtic Cameo and Celtic Chronicles and information on the Walfrid Walking Tour.
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This book is sub-titled ‘A History of Celtic-related Incidents and Events’ and even that doesn’t seem to capture the huge range of stories which are contained in over 370 pages, dating from the club’s earliest days through to the present era. It’s a munchie box of Celtic goodies with something for every Celtic fan from the first charity football matches organised by Brother Walfrid in Bridgeton through to Celtic’s first attempts at floodlights in 1893 to the Celtic player who won the Victoria Cross for bravery, speedway and cycling at Celtic Park and the comical red card that Johnny Doyle received away at Ayr in the 1970s as well as the passport woes of Efe Ambrose.
This is author Liam Kelly’s second book and comes two years after his commendable debut, ‘Our Stories and Our Songs.’ Once again Liam has demonstrated some impressive research skills and an eye for a good story. There are moments of sadness along the way but tales of the Johnstone Vigilante Committee, the infamous Kenny Dalglish conference in Baird’s Bar, Peperabi and the demise of Tiger Tim as Celtic’s stadium announcer are the tasty highlights of this impressive selection. There are few other places where you will read incendiary tales of Celtic Park going up in smoke, CS gas cannisters at Easter Road and Celtic’s first-ever major cup final abandoned due to a heavy snowfall in the one sitting. The book has everything.
Most of the 70+ stories are bite-sized but there are few chunky pieces to sink your teeth into also. All sorts of Celtic names, famous and little-known, past and present, come flying off the pages: Willie Maley, James Kelly, Pat ‘Tailor’ Welsh, Mohammed Salim, Willie Angus, Johnny Campbell, Glen Daly, Peter Scarff, Charlie Tully, Jorge Cadete, Neil Lennon and (boo! Hiss!) even Judas Johnston.
It’s a refreshing and welcome look at Celtic history which will appeal to fans of all ages. Liam’s new book won’t just satisfy your appetite for all things Celtic – it will leave you hungry for more. A fine achievement.
During World War Two (and for some years afterwards) a popular song by Vera Lynn contained these words: “We’ll meet again, Don’t know where, Don’t know when … but I know we’ll meet again, Some sunny day …”
Well, before their recent visit to Celtic Park, the last time we played Lazio was on September 4, 1950 … sixty-nine years ago. And it was a miserable wet day in Glasgow, rain falling steadily all day long … but it did not stop a crowd estimated at 47,000 turning up at Celtic Park to see Lazio, the first Italian club to play a match in Scotland. I remember the rain because I was there, soaked to the skin but all agog to see a top European side in action.
Celtic’s team lined up: Bonnar; Haughney and Milne; Evans, McGrory and Baillie; Collins and Fernie; McPhail; Peacock and Tully. From the start Lazio looked a stylish side, wearing sky-blue jerseys (similar to Manchester City) and playing attractive one-touch football … but eventually they were swept aside by Celtic in the rain. John McPhail, only recently given an extended run at centre-forward, was a man with something to prove and turned in a remarkable performance. Celtic latterly swept aside their Italian opponents to win by 4-0 … and all four goals were scored by ‘Big John.’ There was a pleasing symmetry about the goals that buried Lazio: two goals in each half, a matching header and penalty kick (awarded correctly by Scottish referee George Mitchell).
What had Celtic’s captain John McPhail to prove? After several seasons as Celtic’s most versatile player (with appearances at right and left-half even long before the Coronation Cup of 1953) and innings at all three inside-forward positions … at last he was given the time to establish himself as Celtic’s centre-forward – arguably a problem position for Celtic to fill since the heady days of Johnny Crum back in 1938. And John seized that opportunity, eventually leading Celtic to the Scottish Cup of 1951.
But that was not his only motivation in September 1950.
Back in May, Bob Kelly had decided to award his players with a trip to Rome. It was a Holy Year and Celtic could see the historic sights of ‘the Eternal City’, would be given an audience with the Pope … and play ‘a friendly’ with Lazio, a team based in Rome and celebrating their 50th anniversary.
The Celtic party at the Vatican including famous Celts Tully, Fallon, McPhail and Bonnar – and Jimmy Hogan (bottom left), the pioneering football coach who spent two years at Celtic Park
Unfortunately, it turned out to be not much of ‘a friendly’. Bobby Collins, who in a long career in Scotland and England proved a ferocious competitor, described the match as ‘the most vicious of them all.’ The Italian referee (a man who apparently performed well later as a World Cup official) had to award more than forty free-kicks – and ordered off John McPhail and his immediate opponent.
An urban myth has grown about John McPhail’s dismissal. According to John, the referee dismissed his marker for a series of fouls (and a scuffle with him) but then turned to Celtic’s captain and told him to leave the field “to calm down the crowd.”
It doesn’t quite ring true, that account. Almost certainly (judging by the number of fouls, and the rarity of matches between Scottish and Italian sides), there would have been a predictable clash of differing football styles and culture on the pitch … and both sides would have contributed equally.
In 1950 Celtic managed a 0-0 draw in Rome. Following our victory a fortnight ago, I would happily settle for a repeat in 2019.
Here is John McPhail’s account of his Roman Holiday – recounted over 20 years later in the 1970s:
Celtic historian Tom Campbell has recently released his 14th Celtic book entitled ‘A Very Different Paradise.’
For more details and to read reviews (as well as an interview with the author) please CLICK HERE
It was deadly silent in the Celtic changing room on New Year’s Day 1892. The players did not know where to look. Five goals down to Dumbarton at half-time without reply, things had only got worse in the second half with three more goals conceded – and still none scored. Amazingly, three Dumbarton ‘goals’ had even been chalked off by the referee.
This was real infamy: the worst defeat in the club’s short history. It remains to this day Celtic’s highest defeat in any match at Celtic Park.
Willie Maley was in the Celtic dressing room that day having played in the game. Years later he recalled that 8-0 defeat had came as a ‘terrific shock’ to the team. Even though it was a friendly, Celtic were vying with Dumbarton for the League title that season and had already beaten The Sons at Celtic Park a few months earlier. The calamity on New Year’s Day was a humiliation for Celtic. A scapegoat had to be found. Inside and outside the dressing room fingers pointed in one direction: at Celtic’s goalkeeper, Tom Duff.
The Scottish media of the day were in no doubt that the ‘keeper was the man responsible for Celtic’s embarrassment. ‘Duff’s goalkeeping was very indifferent’ reported The Scotsman while the Scottish Referee blamed him exclusively for Celtic’s humbling defeat: ‘had goalkeepers been reversed a different result would have been seen.’ Glasgow’s Catholic newspaper, the Observer, was still unforgiving of Duff’s performance three years later when it stated: ‘Everyone remembers the fatal new Year’s Day when, in the presence of some 20,000 people, the Celts had to submit to the ignominy of a 8-0 defeat, owing to the extraordinary and erratic behaviour of Duff in goal.’
Some papers openly speculated whether Tom and his team-mates were still hungover from the Hogmanay celebrations of the night before: “Because they eight (ate) nothing! – which we have reason to believe is a falsehood – at all events it is not denied that, at least, some of them drank.” It would prove to be Tom Duff’s last game for Celtic, the Committee sharing the media’s view that the blame for the heavy loss fell squarely on his shoulders.
The future had looked very different for Tom Duff just a few months earlier. He had been signed that summer from Cowlairs and was highly regarded. Willie Maley later wrote that in the club’s earliest years in the goalkeeping position “we never really had complete satisfaction” but with the signing of Duff it had become “one free of anxiety.” Tom was a safe pair of hands, the long-established custodian at Cowlairs, one of Scotland’s earliest clubs, which grew out of the railway yards in Springburn, north Glasgow.
Celtic’s decision to recruit Tom Duff as the last line of defence was not controversial at the time which, in hindsight, is more than a little surprising: Celtic’s new goalkeeper was an Orangeman!
Tom Duff’s membership of the Orange Order was known throughout the game at the time of his joining Celtic. The Ayrshireman had played in the first ever match at Celtic Park when Hibernian and Cowlairs met to formally open the new ground in May 1888. Just a few weeks later the teams met again, this time at Easter Road, in a much less harmonious affair. Tempers flared when Hibs striker ‘Darlin’ Willie Groves (a future Celt) received a punch on the jaw so hard he didn’t make it out for the second half.
Cowlairs were unhappy that the goal that put Hibs in the lead was allowed to stand and refused to play on, playing the ball back to Duff to stop the game re-starting. As the anger of the Hibs fans grew, the future Celt could be seen gesticulating at them. This was not a smart move because within a short while the Hibs fans had invaded the pitch after the Cowlairs started to walk off. The Hibs’ historian Alan Lugton described the scenes which then unfolded in volume 1 of The Making of Hibernian: ‘The Hibernian navvies were already fuming at the treatment Willie Groves had got and now they lost control, poured onto the park and set about the Cowlairs men, paying special attention to Duff who was well known for his Orange sympathies.’ As a full-scale riot developed on the pitch, the referee abandoned the tie and the Cowlairs players sought safety from the rampaging Hibernian fans in their dressing room. Alan Lugton went on to comment: ‘Incidentally, Duff the Orangeman would later play in goal for Celtic who, unlike Hibernian, never had a Catholics only policy.’
Further confirmation of the Orange allegiance of the Celtic goalie came some years later when the prominent Scottish football writer Bedouin (aka Robert M Connell) wrote a series of memoirs about the game in Scotland and its players for the Scottish Weekly Record in 1908. Connell was a friend of Celtic directors of the time such as ex-players James Kelly and Tom Dunbar. Celtic historian Pat Woods, writing in Celtic: Pride and Passion (2013) stated that Connell had a high regard for Tom Duff’s abilities which was an impressive reference from someone ‘whose knowledge of the early days of organised football in Glasgow was encyclopaedic and who referred to the keeper as ‘The Cowlairs Orangeman.’ This reference, in the 18th July 1908 paper, came about when Connell was discussing a series of famous encounters between Cowlairs and Rangers, and stated that ‘Duff, the Cowlairs Orangeman who subsequently kept goal for the Celts, guarded the uprights.’ Over a decade on, the memory of Duff playing in Celtic’s colours was still causing comment.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the Tom Duff signing was that the Celtic committee, players and supporters were all aware of his Orange background – and yet there is no record of any objections being made from any section. It is inconceivable that Celtic signing an Orangeman today would be met with the muted compliance of the Celtic support! Yet Duff was welcomed with open arms.
This may in part be due to the fact that Duff’s association with Celtic preceded the summer of 1892. Celtic had long-standing difficulties identifying a suitable goalkeeper. Mick Dolan, Willie Dunning and Jamie Bell had all been tried in the club’s first two seasons and even defender James McLaughlin had been used on occasion. In the summer of 1890, after Celtic’s second season, the club had fixed up a number of prestigious friendlies against English clubs, including Wolves, Notts county and Preston North End, and it was Tom Duff who was invited to keep goal. He responded with a string of good performances as Celtic went undefeated on their mini-tour of England. Yet, when the new season started, it was Bell who was again between the Celtic posts – but not for long.
In season 1890-91 Celtic failed to make the long-hoped for breakthrough, coming 3rd in the inaugural Scottish League and knocked out of the Scottish Cup at the semi-final stage. Celtic meant business for the new season and spent considerable sums securing Dan Doyle and Alec Brady from Everton as well as the prodigal Neilly McCallum returning from Notts Forest. The final piece of the jigsaw was the goalkeeping position and they went for the man many considered the best in Scotland at the time: Tom Duff.
There was no doubting Duff’s goalkeeping pedigree. He had played against Celtic many times and always impressed, even though Cowlairs were regularly on the losing side. It was Duff who had kept a clean sheet and stopped Celtic in their first ever cup final, the Glasgow Exhibition Cup in September 1888, which Cowlairs won 2-0. In a heavy Scottish Cup defeat to Celtic in 1888 one newspaper said of Duff that he ‘through all proved a most capable man.’ In January 1890 it was his ‘magnificent goalkeeping’ which forced Celtic into a replay which itself was marked by ‘miraculous saves’ from Duff (presumably of the non-Lourdes variety).
Season 1891-2 saw Duff and Celtic get off to a great start. He kept a clean sheet against Rangers in a 3-0 victory in August and the team defended ‘remarkably well’ in a 5-2 win over Abercorn a few weeks later. When reigning champions Dumbarton visited Celtic Park on 26th September in a top-of-the-table encounter, the Bhoys recorded an impressive 2-0 win. It was the most important game of the season up that point and one journalist highlighted that Dumbarton ‘were only kept from going through by the excellent goalkeeping of Duff.’
Tom’s star was very much in the ascendancy but that game may have sown the seeds for the disaster that was to unfold. Torrential rain hit Celtic Park during the match and the referee finally ordered both sets of players off the pitch until the downpour receded. The damage to Tom was to prove severe – he missed almost two months of first team action because of rheumatism connected with the fierce soaking he suffered in that Dumbarton tie.
Celtic kept faith in Tom and when they reached the Glasgow Cup Final on 12th December the call went out for him to return between the sticks. He had a quiet game as Celts ran out 7-1 winners against Clyde – which meant he won his first major medal in football, one of the main reasons why he’d moved to Celtic Park. Tom played in Celtic’s next two competitive fixtures, knocking Kilmarnock Athletic out of the Scottish Cup and beating St Mirren in a League tie on Boxing Day. With a new year dawning life was looking good for both Tom and Celtic: a trophy already in the bag, top of the League and going well in the Scottish Cup.
In the absence of competitive fixtures for most of January, Celtic fixed up some friendly ties instead. Dumbarton were invited to return to Celtic Park for a New Year’s Day fixture with a genuine competitive edge and, as expected, the tie proved a great draw with over 15,000 spectators attending. That would only rub salt into the Celtic wounds.
Over a century on, it is difficult to explain what went so badly wrong that day for Celtic to lose an incredible eight goals without reply. It was a full-strength team which included early Celtic luminaries such as Dan Doyle, Sandy McMahon, Jerry Reynolds, Johnny Madden, Peter Dowds and Neilly McCallum. These were no novices.
Captain James Kelly was missing due to injury and replaced for the day by the Clyde centre-half John Cherrie (who played ‘a miserable game’ according to one paper and Celtic did not follow up their interest in him). The keeper was certainly at fault for some of the goals. The second was described as ‘a soft shot which Duff might easily have saved’ and in the second a strike from Dumbarton striker Bell ‘made Duff shake in his shoes.’ Some of his errors appeared more schoolboy than Apprentice Boy.
If, as suspected by many, Tom Duff had over-indulged in his Hogmanay libations – or made the mistake of taking alcohol while still being treated with laudanum for his rheumatism – the likelihood is he wasn’t the only Celtic player who had done so. Yet he was the scapegoat and the only player to be removed from Celtic Park. This is perhaps no surprise in light of the scathing criticism in the papers, such as these comments from the Scottish Referee match report: ‘Duff for the day spelt his name D-U-F-F-E-R. It will take a lot of his best saving to recover the reputation lost.’
For Willie Maley the 8-0 defeat proved a ‘a rude awakening that ultimately did us good.’ The Benburb goalie Joe Cullen was brought in and would prove the most successful of Celtic’s early custodians in his five years with the club before leaving for Tottenham Hotspur.
Although the league was eventually lost by just two points to Dumbarton that season, Celtic won the Charity Cup to go with the Glasgow Cup that Tom Duff had helped secure back in December. But most importantly of all Celtic finally won the greatest prize in Scottish football at the time at the fifth attempt: the Scottish Cup. This treble of trophies was referred by Willie Maley as Celtic’s ‘three-leaved shamrock success.’
Meantime, Duff had returned to Cowlairs and was able to recover something of his reputation. Two years after his departure from Celtic he put in a strong performance in a Glasgow Cup semi-final against his former club which in the eyes of one reporter ‘proved that he is still possessed of all the ability that earned him fame as a custodian.’ He had gone some way to restore the damage done to his reputation that infamous New Year’s Day.
Duff’s former team-mate and famed Celtic striker Sandy McMahon said years later that he could have been ‘a great goalie had he only put his mind to it.’ Indeed, if the Dumbarton debacle had been avoided, Celtic’s goalkeeping Orangeman could have been a part of the success the club would go on to enjoy in the 1890s: winning the Scottish Cup that season for the first time and winning their first League Championship the next season.
For Tom Duff, it just wasn’t to be – yet he remains a fascinating footnote in the club’s history and the most potent symbol of Celtic’s ‘open door’ signing policy from its earliest days.
For Celtic, the future was bright – but it wasn’t Orange.
Tom Duff and his Celtic team-mates weren’t the only people who enjoyed a good swally on Hogmanay 1891 . . .
In a publicity stunt, the match between Celtic and Dumbarton was kicked off by the unusual figure of Major Burke, the manager of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show which was touring Scotland at the time and attracting audiences of up to 7,000 people a night in the East End Exhibition Building near Duke Street in Glasgow, a short distance from Celtic Park.
The show was extraordinary by the standards of the day, featuring a cast of over 300 cowboys and Native Americans (or Red Indians as they were known then) and up to 200 horses, mules and buffaloes who recreated scenes of wagon ambushes, marksmanship and full-scale battles. As well as Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley, the main attractions were the exotic and fierce-looking Red Indians with names such as Lone Bull, Kicking Bear, Iron Tail, No Neck (admittedly, not an uncommon sight in Dennistoun) and the Sioux brave Charging Thunder.
After his appearance at Celtic Park on the 1st January 1892, Major Burke had to attend to some urgent business at the Calton Police Station in Tobago Street, just off the London Road. Charging Thunder had spent Hogmanay touring the public houses of the Gallowgate and getting familiar with the locals. On his return to the campsite while under the influence he assaulted one of the show’s interpreters with a war club which resulted in the police being called – and Charging Thunder being taken into custody.
Major Burke’s attempts to secure his early release failed and the Red Indian remained resident in the Calton’s jail cells (which can still be seen when driving along London Road) until January 12th when he had to appear in the Sheriff Court. While he pled guilty to the assault, Charging Thunder’s claim that his lemonade had been spiked did not result in any clemency being shown as he could not identify the Gallowgate pub in which this offence had occurred. He was sentenced to 30 days imprisonment in Barlinnie. This was not proving a good start to the New Year for either Tom Duff or the Sioux Brave.
Charging Thunder returned to the fold of the Wild West Show and came back to Britain again when it toured in 1903. There was another fall-out and this time Charging Thunder decided that he would set up home in Salford with one of the show’s horse trainers, Josephine Williams. He remained in Greater Manchester for the rest of his days, changed his name to George Williams and raised a family while working at the Belle Vue Circus – where he looked after the elephants – until his death through pneumonia in 1929. He is buried in Gorton Cemetery near Burnage, where Noel and Liam Gallagher grew up.
According to his surviving grandchildren, Charging Thunder did not shake off the fondness for drink that landed him in the Tobago Street police cells. But when he had imbibed too much he would avoid trouble by heading for the zoo where he would sleep off his hangover with his favourite elephant, Nelly, guarding over him.
An earlier version of the Tom Duff article first appeared in Issue 3 of The Shamrock magazine
Born in Glasgow in 1934, Tom Campbell emigrated to Canada in 1956. After obtaining an Honours degree in English Literature from Ottawa’s Carleton University, he spent four years at St Paul’s in Alliston, southern Ontario as head teacher. He returned to Ottawa to become head of the English department at St Wilfred Laurier High School before taking on a similar post at the city’s largest high school, Glebe Collegiate. He has also taught in El Salvador.
Tom has combined his literary interest with a lifelong support of Celtic to become the author/co-author of 13 books on the history of the club, including The Glory and the Dream (with Pat Woods), Jock Stein: The Celtic Years (with David Potter), Tears for Argentina (a project which involved interviews in Buenos Aires with Racing Club players who took part in the infamous 1967 World Club Championship games), Charlie Tully: Celtic’s Cheeky Chappie and Bobby Evans – Celtic’s Forgotten Hero. He has also contributed to magazines such as The Celt and appeared on Celtic TV.
The Shamrock caught up with Tom on the line from his home in Ottawa, Canada to ask about his love for Celtic and football and the ‘golden’ post-war period of the late 1940s and early 1950s which forms the backdrop to his new book A Very Different Paradise.
What are your earliest memories of Celtic games?
I had a cousin (Eddie) four or five years older than me, and he was a fanatic. He used to go to games at Celtic Park with his father … and then tell me about them, suitably embellished. I actually remember going to one match with them, and recall moping outside a pub in the Gallowgate for an hour with Eddie while his old man (a wild Irishman) refreshed himself inside.
My initiation and education as a Celtic supporter followed well-defined lines: as a small boy I was taken by my father to Moore Park in Govan several times to see St Anthony’s (who also wore the Hoops), two or three times to see Celtic Reserves, and finally to graduate on special occasions to see ‘the big team’. I have met another Celtic supporter of about my age who had a similar introduction, except in his case the junior team was St Roch’s.
In retrospect during those days Celtic were a poor team … but they were my team. My grandfather told me stories about the great days of the past: Jimmy Quinn’s heroics against Rangers, Patsy’s miraculous goal against Dundee, John Thomson’s last fatal save at Ibrox … and the most recent triumph (the Empire Exhibition Trophy) in 1938. Even I (about five years old) could sense those days were past. After all, my first experience of a Rangers-Celtic game was at New Year’s in 1943 and Celtic lost 8-1 at Ibrox! I had the consolation of seeing Celtic win at the same ground a year or so later when George Paterson scored from thirty yards on a frozen pitch. Incidentally, I watched both those games from the Rangers’ End as my father was concerned about the sporadic outbreaks of hooliganism and bottle-throwing that marred some Celtic seasons back then. No trouble at all from the Rangers’ supporters around us, by the way.
A couple of other war-time games stick in my memory. I watched both of them from the Jungle and both were won thanks to Celtic comebacks: down 0-2 at halftime to struggling Albion Rovers, Celtic fought back to win 4-2 … and, trailing to Hamilton Accies, Celtic scored twice in the last five minutes to win 2-1. Both goals against Hamilton were scored by Gerry McAloon, and he always was a favourite of mine. Gerry actually played in the Empire Exhibition Cup for Brentford, played for Celtic during World War 2, and went back to Brentford afterwards but re-joined Celtic in the trade for George Paterson. I also have the vague impression he was used as make-weight in Charlie Tully’s arrival from Belfast Celtc in 1948. In later life Gerry McAloon worked as the janitor in Sacred Heart in the Calton, but sadly died of hyperthermia after collapsing in the street in mid-winter.
Such a contrast in life to the stars of today. Slightly better than a journeyman player, Gerry McAloon deserves a greater recognition. I think that’s why I started to write about football — to pay tribute to often neglected performers who contributed so much to brighten up otherwise dark days
In those days factory-workers often often worked over-time in mid-week and usually till noon on a Saturday. So, my father did not go to many games but one of his mates was ‘Big Hughie’, also the bus-convenor for Penilee & Cardonald CSC. My dad arranged for me to become a member of that club, and for a number of years (1947 to 1952) I travelled to almost every Celtic game … and I was well-looked-after: I was subsidised on the bus, somebody paid for me to get into the grounds, and always there was a member nearby to ensure I didn’t get lost, and could find my way back to the bus safely. Thank you, gentlemen …. a bit belatedly.
At present I am a member of the Ottawa CSC, and I find it hard to realise that the youngest member of Penilee & Cardonald is the oldest member of the Ottawa club. Time passes, and I have noticed that my recollection of past, long-ago players and matches is much sharper than recent games. For example, I can recall every nuance of John McPhail’s thrilling gallop through Motherwell’s defence to win the Cup in 1951, but my memory of last season’s winner against Hearts is less clear. I suppose that is a benefit for a historian.
What are the main differences between Scottish football then and now?
Bob Crampsey once described the toilet facilities in many Scottish grounds as “worthy of eliciting comment from the more fastidious tribes of the Amazon”. He was right. It was picturesque squalor for the most part. And, because we love the game, we tend to remember the ‘picturesque’ and forget the ‘squalor’.
I remember getting the tram-car to Bridgeton Cross, trudging up London Road in the rain, standing in an open terracing in a downpour for ninety minutes, and then having to walk back into Argyle Street and St Enoch’s subway in that same rain to get home. And, if we won, it was well worth it!
I don’t think the average supporter of today accustomed to present standards would (or could) accept what we did in the past without complaint,
All-seated stadiums? Definitely, a great improvement in every way.
Cover from the elements? Surely, it’s basic common sense?
Playable pitches? Compared to the past, the playing surfaces are almost ideal. Look at the old videos and you can see that, even as recently as the Lisbon Lions, football matches were frequently played on pitches bereft of grass and often just mud-bowls. Brendan Rodgers’ complaints about the grass at Tynecastle would have been scorned back in 1950.
The ball? The all-weather ball came into use around 1953, replacing the traditional leather ball (that got heavier and heavier as the game progressed on rainy days and muddy pitches). Astonishingly, many football people objected to the new ball; Rangers threatened to walk off the pitch at Celtic Park in 1954 when the referee (Jack Mowat) opted to play with the ’new’ ball.
Substitutes? If a player was injured and unable to continue, he was not replaced. It was considered ‘character-building’ to play short-handed. To have a player substituted for tactical reasons was laughable. Substitutes (only one player) was introduced into Scottish football around 1966.
Back then, change was suspect. The Hungarians who defeated England 6-3 at Wembley in 1953 and 7-1 in Budapest a year later were described by a Scottish selector (and incidentally the headmaster of a Scottish secondary school) as ‘freaks’. Training was designed principally for stamina or strength. Footballers were denied access to a ball to make them “hungry for it when Saturday comes round”.
Tactics were predictable: teams employed a static formation of two full-backs, three half-backs, and five forwards … full-backs early ventured into the opposing half of the field, only wing-halves took throw-ins, sides made changes only for injuries or suspensions. I can still run off Rangers’ regular side of the late 1940s and early 50s: Brown;Young and Shaw; McColl, Woodburn and Cox; Waddell and Gillick; Thornton; Duncanson and Rutherford.
Of course, players were mere chattels, tied to a club for life and limited to salaries decided upon by the clubs. For example, the great Bobby Evans, in a football career of twenty-odd years, probably earned a TOTAL of around £26,000!
Matt Busby – what do you consider to be his unique strengths that brought him success as a manager?
Jock Stein was asked once if he had ever discussed football tactics with Matt Busby and his answer was significant: “No, I wouldn’t want to embarrass him”.
Tactics in those days were simple and uncomplicated, and Busby, a Scottish internationalist wing-half, was a product of his times. Everybody who met Busby spoke of his dignity and natural gravitas; he invoked respect automatically and without effort. He was recognised as an intelligent man, an honourable man, and a thoroughly decent human being. People wanted to work for him; players wanted to play for him … Sensibly, he knew which players could complement each other; he may have fielded Best, Law and Charlton up-front but he had grafters like Styles and Crerand to support them.
You have been based in Canada for many years now – has the experience of supporting Celtic from that distance changed over time?
I went to Canada in October 1956 and quite a few of my friends thought I would be back in Scotland to watch Celtic within a year. Well, it didn’t work out like that: for one thing, I didn’t have enough money to come back … and I had enrolled in a university programme, a completely new direction for me. By the time I was earning enough to return, I had become more settled in Canada. Admittedly, I was homesick at times but not quite enough to seriously consider going back.
Celtic? I always knew how they were doing (unfortunately, sometimes). There is a five-hour time-difference between Glasgow and Ottawa. In the early days, I could buy the Toronto newspapers in Ottawa on a Saturday night and get the results. The most memorable was on Saturday 19th October 1957 when I read that Celtic had beaten Rangers 7-1. Jubilation turned to doubt when I thought it might have been a misprint. Eventually, I phoned the Toronto Telegraph and asked for the Sports Desk. It was a long-distance call, and in 1957 it was expensive. A tired voice at the other end confirmed the score, adding the information he had received ‘hundreds of calls’. I remember to this day his closing words: “I guess it was an important game, eh?”
In later years, the CBC picked up segments of the BBC World Service at noon on Saturdays and included all the British football results. That’s when I fell out of bed in January 1967 when the announcer calmly intoned “Berwick Rangers 1, Rangers 0”.
Much later around 1998, I became one of the founding members of the Ottawa Celtic Supporters Club, and spent Saturday mornings twiddling the dials on a Short-Wave Radio; across the city, Ronnie Campbell (also of the CSC) was doing the same and we phoned each other several times, to check that we had heard things correctly; reception was very intermittent at times. Our club met about once every three weeks, sometimes in the basement of my house, and sometimes at Hughie Campbell’s. This was to watch videos of Celtic games. The Hamilton (Ontario) CSC was one of the largest and most prosperous in Canada. Every week they got the skimpy BBC coverage of Scottish football and transcribed (sic) them into a North American format. Once they had about an hour’s worth they would copy it, put it on to a Greyhound Bus and send it to Ottawa (about 260 miles away); one of our members would pick it up at the Bus Station, and guard it with his life till we had our meeting (where it was shown, discussed with Jesuitical detail, and then shown again) …
A word about the Ottawa CSC. It still flourishes and we now watch almost every Celtic game live, home and away. For the past eighteen years we have met in the James Street Pub on Bank Street but only recently that tavern has closed down: we have relocated to The Heart & Crown, a more palatial ‘howff’ in Ottawa’s gentrified Market area. Another indication of how time passes: one of our members, recently retired, is Art McKenzie. Art is Canadian-born, and has no previous connection with Celtic, but he liked the look of their jerseys, found out about our club and eventually joined it. I thought he looked vaguely familiar and, when I quizzed him, he replied: ‘I look a bit different now, but you were my English teacher back in High School.” And now he has just retired!
Fanatical Cetic supportersl, yes … but, in much the same way that Celtic is more than a football club, the Ottawa CSC has other attributes. Last year the Ottawa Mission (an organisation that caters to the homeless) received the princely sum of $7,000 from the CSC … and the club’s principal charity (MS) received handsome donations. Not too shabby from a club with about 20 members! The money is raised, mainly from four well-attended quiz nights throughout the year, raffles, and donations from the members. Brother Walfrid would have approved.
Who do you consider were the best players in Scottish football in the immediate post-war era when you followed Celtic home and away?
I have a preference for skilful players who give 100% but who remain sportsmanlike. Here are some I remember.
Two great goalkeepers, Miller (Celtic) and Cowan (Morton). Willie Miller, although very young, was an outstanding keeper for Celtic during the War. He was incredibly brave and suffered several injuries by diving courageously at opponents’ feet. A stylist, he was immaculate in dealing with cross-ball from either wing. Jimmy Cowan, who succeeded Miller as Scotland’s keeper, was an excellent shot-stopper and acrobatic in making miraculous saves. Sadly, Jimmy died at the early age of 42, shortly after retiring from football.
Three outstanding full-backs: Jimmy McGowan (Thistle), Sammy Stewart (East Fife) and Willlie McNaught (Raith Rovers). McGowan was a whole-hearted defender, and always committed to Thistle’s cause; despite that, he was as clean as a whistle, rarely called up for foul play… because of his premature baldness Sammy Stewart always looked old. Another no-nonsense defender, he was always reliable for the unfashionable Fifers … Willie McNaught also played for an unfashionable club but he earned several Scottish ‘caps’ despite that. Always composed, he never looked flurried or rushed.
Harry Mooney (Third Lanark), John McPhail (Celtic) and Tommy Gallacher (Dundee) were typical Scottish wing-halves. Harry Mooney of Thirds was a left-half and about the same height and build as Bobby Collins. He had a long throw-in, and tackled like a tiger but nobody could complain of his sportsmanship … John McPhail was a talented player and eventually appeared as a starter in eight different positions (every half-back and forward position) but he started off as a right-half. He had a rolling gait and received his nickname by easing past a defender and ‘hooking’ the ball into the centre from the bye-line … Tommy Gallacher (Dundee) was Patsy’s son and joined Dundee from Queen’s Park. Dark-haired and handsome, Tommy was a highly popular player at Dens Park and, after retirement, was a respected journalist for a long time.
Scotland was famous for decades for producing an assembly-line of inside-forwards such as Tommy Orr (Morton), Willie Sharp (Thistle) and Jimmy Mason (Thirds). Bob Crampsey once claimed that Tommy Orr was always so cool that, if he played with an ice-cube tucked into his oxter, it would not have melted by full-time. An elegant player!… Willie Sharp would have been a regular for Scotland had he played for Rangers (or perhaps Celtic). Always intelligent, he could anticipate events inside the penalty area and was a frequent goalscorer – including the quickest goal ever scored in Scottish football…Jimmy Mason spent his whole career with Third Lanark but earned ‘caps’ for Scotland. He was industrious and an excellent distributor of the ball and, although not noted as a scorer, netted one of Scotland’s goals in a 3-1 win at Wembley in 1949.
Willie Waddell of Rangers expressed surprise that he had been given so many ‘caps’, considering the opposition from Jimmy Delaney and Gordon Smith. Waddell described Delaney as ‘the bravest of the brave’ and that was exemplified by Jimmy coming back from a horrendous arm-injury that side-lined him for almost two seasons. Matt Busby signed him for Manchester United for £4,000 and described him as ‘my best-ever signing’. After joining Aberdeen later in his career, Jimmy was made captain for the Dons’ visit to Celtic Park; a crowd of 61,000 turned up for the former Celtic favourite and his immediate opponent Alex Rollo was booed unmercifully for fouling him; Aberdeen won the match by 4-3 and Delaney scored the third goal, and received an ovation for it. A beloved Celtic player.
And lastly, perhaps my favourite player of all time — Gordon Smith of Hibernian. Smith at outside-right and ‘poster-boy’ of the Edinburgh side’s ‘Famous Five’ forward-line, was an elegant winger who had everything: speed and skill, courage and sportsmanship, a creator of goals and a prolific scorer… He also has an unusual distinction in that he was a valuable member of three league winners other than Rangers or Celtic; the ‘Gay Gordon’ played for Hibs, Hearts and Dundee when they won the championship. I have a personal memory of Gordon Smith from the time I was a net-boy at St Mirren; the only two players who thanked me for retrieving the ball were Bobby Brown, Rangers’ goalkeeper, and Gordon Smith.
Finally, what is Tom Campbell’s greatest-ever Celtic 11?
An almost impossible task, and it’s better to go with first impressions rather than agonise over it.
I have picked Bobby Evans (recognised as a right-half or centre-half) out of position but I have always felt that he would have made the ideal sweeper because of his anticipation. Bobby Murdoch and Bobby Collins would have been formidable, skilled and hard, in any midfield. Neil Lennon could read the game perfectly behind them and Jimmy Delaney, always full of running, would have been adept at linking defence and attack. Patsy Gallacher, a genius, could flit between the midfield and attack, and link up with the incomparable Henrik Larsson. And this is a side with considerable versatility: McNair could play any defensive position, McGrain could be fielded as full-back on either the right or left, Collins could star in four forward positions and also in midfield. Give Patsy a jersey and lt him do whatever he wants…
And that’s a pretty decent bench, isn’t it?
A Very Different Paradise is Tom’s new book which he has published privately with a limited edition of 375 copies.
Review: ‘A Very Different Paradise’ by Tom Campbell
‘And if you know your history’ goes the most famous of the Celtic songs. How about, knowing that history better than most, you decide to have a go at re-writing it – posing the vital question “What if?”
That is the intriguing premise behind the newest book from Celtic writer and historian Tom Campbell. He has taken a ‘sliding doors’ moment in the club’s history and provided a remarkable insight into how Celtic’s post-war era might have taken a completely different course had a single decision been altered.
That this Celtic writer should take a risk in attempting such a novel approach to viewing the club at a critical historic juncture should come as no surprise. His first book, Glasgow Celtic (1945-1970) was published a lifetime ago as far as some supporters are concerned (including yours truly who was born the year it came out) and was one of the first books in which the supporter of a club analysed a single period in the club’s history in a unique and refreshing style. After a hiatus of a few years Tom then forged a memorable partnership with the redoubtable Pat Woods which led to a series of ground-breaking books including the influential The Glory and The Dream and the wonderful, timeless Rhapsody In Green.
But Tom Campbell didn’t take the easy option and rest on his laurels after those successes. For Tears In Argentina he travelled all the way to Buenos Aires and secured interviews with some of the surviving Racing Club players who denied Celtic the title of World Champions over three tumultuous encounters in late 1967. In Celtic’s Paranoia: All in the Mind? he forensically examined the many controversial issues which have involved the club, its support, the game’s governing bodies and the media down the years.
‘A Very Different Paradise’ arose out of a discussion with the doyen of Scottish football historians and writers, Bob Crampsey. The ‘sliding doors’ moment is the day when Scottish international midfielder and serving soldier Matt Busby knocked on the front door at Celtic Park during the early days of World War Two, offering his services to the club he grew up supporting in the village of Orbiston on the outskirts of Bellshill, Lanarkshire.
During the war years, the Celtic board had effectively put the club in cold storage. They were not interested in maintaining a strong squad or taking advantage of the many top English players such as Stanley Matthews and Tommy Lawton (who both turned out for Morton!) who were based in Scotland during the war and allowed to join local teams as guest players. Even though Matt Busby was offering his services to manager Jimmy McStay for free through his desire to wear the hoops, the Celtic board still declined.
Instead Busby went to Hibernian where he played over 40 games and took a hand in coaching the excellent young players that Hibs had at the time who would develop into ‘The Famous Five’ over the next decade. When the war was over Busby was approached by Manchester United to restore their fortunes and within little time he was exceeding expectations as one of the first tracksuit managers, bringing through the ‘Busby Babes’ and making United the second British team to secure the title of Champions of Europe in 1968.
The question that Tom Campbell poses is: what if Busby had been allowed to play for Celtic? What effect would he have had on the young players in the team? What if Celtic’s younger directors – Bob Kelly and Desmond White – had got round the intransigence of chairman Tom White? How would Busby have gelled with the famed international coach Jimmy Hogan who joined the club in the late 1940s? In short – could Matt Busby have done for Celtic in the 1940s what he achieved with Man United in the 1950s?
This is a work of fiction and yet you have to keep reminding yourself of this fact because the story is based on a deep-rooted understanding of how football was organised and played at the time and especially the key characters who were controlling the destiny of Celtic. Having created the scenario, the author then gets to indulge himself by suggesting possible signings and developments with some of the players already at Celtic Park being allowed to achieve their potential. The best insights relate to actual players as well as tactics and the different outcomes that might have been achieved in certain encounters with well-known opponents. The period from 1939-1965 is the least successful in Celtic’s history in terms of silverware. Would that have been the case if Matt Busby had been allowed free rein to develop his coaching talent at Celtic Park and go on to lead the club?
‘A Very Different Paradise’ is a fascinating, insightful and entertaining read. It encourages you to think about football and our club’s history in a completely different way. Fiction does have a place in football writing after all. The real success of this book is the way it brings to life a key era in Celtic history – and convincingly presents alternative outcomes, based on Campbell’s in-depth knowledge of the people involved, their motivations, strengths and weaknesses. I enjoyed it so much I immediately re-read the book after finishing it, trying to separate out the fact from the all-too-convincing fiction. It is a Celtic version of Fantasy Football – but from the ‘40s and ‘50s rather than the ‘90s (which would be ripe for a historical re-write also!)
And if it can help erase memories of the notorious Celtic frontline of ‘The Five Sorrowful Mysteries’ of the late 1940s, this alternative Celtic history is an idea surely worth embracing!
The Shamrock rating: 9/10
A Note from Pat Woods
We recently received this communication from renowned Celtic historian Pat in respect of Tom Campbell’s new book:
I fully endorse David Potter’s excellent and comprehensive review of Tom’s book, a highly interesting and imaginative undertaking worthy of the highest praise. Given this, could I just add the following ,which I hope underlines the theme of the book?
Early in his career as manager of Manchester United, Matt Busby demonstrated the steeliness that would make him an outstanding manager: the ‘Genial Matt’ image was a bit of a myth,as Denis Law,for one, found out when he asked for a wage rise in 1966. While sitting in the stand – as managers tended to do in the Forties and Fifties and into the Sixties – Matt overhead his chairman ,James Gibson (a highly successful businessman who had bailed out an indebted United during the 1930s) criticising his team selection.
Busby waited for an opportunity at half -time to follow his chairman and administer to him in private the proverbial word in his ear. He told Gibson,technically his boss, never to do that again, a rebuke which in those days normally resulted in an instant dismissal. However, after being stunned initially, the chairman realised that he had someone who did not belong in the usual category of ‘message boy’ managers and gave him his full backing thereafter.
Busby , who was ‘ Celtic daft’ , came close – it seems- to becoming Celtic manager circa 1950, in a plan devised by Desmond White ( the vice – chairman) which was scuppered by chairman Bob Kelly. I once wrote a letter to Sir Matt (as he was by then) asking him to confirm this, but received a non – committal reply. Significantly, he did not deny that an approach had been made.
Tom with Pat at the book launch for ‘Kenny of The Celtic’
The latest book by acclaimed Celtic writer and historian Tom Campbell is a dramatic re-imagining of a ‘sliding doors’ moment in the fascinating history of Celtic Football Club . . .
During the six years of World War II organised football in Scotland was ‘unofficial’. Most clubs utilised the services of guest players, usually footballers in Scotland on military service. One such man was Matt Busby, a Scottish internationalist and a Liverpool player; born in Lanarkshire, he volunteered his services to Celtic . . . but his offer was rejected.
But what might have happened had he turned out for Celtic during those wartime seasons? This novel, with its blend of reality and fiction, its evocation of those times, its clubs, players and personalities explores that possibility.
If only . . .
A remarkably accurate depiction of Scottish football in the post-war era. The players, managers, chairmen and journalists come to life realistically – so much so that one can easily forget that this is a novel and not history. BOB CRAMPSEY (commenting on the book’s first draft)
A truly remarkable re-construction of past events in Celtic history. If this were only true, and not a delightful work of fiction! DAVID POTTER