35 years ago today: TEN MEN WON THE LEAGUE (tra-la-la-la-la)!

The greatest title decider in Scottish football history . . . it was Celtic’s last game of the season, at home to Rangers.  Billy McNeill’s cavaliers were three points ahead in the Championship race but John Greig’s roundheads had two games in hand.  A win was needed to fly the flag.

A goal behind in the second half, Celtic thought all was lost when the team was reduced to ten men after Johnny Doyle was sent off after having retaliated to Alex MacDonald’s all-round ugliness.  Bobby Lennox, 12 years on from Lisbon, came on as a sub for defender Mike Conroy – and Celtic went for it.  Roy Aitken equalised in the 67th minute; George McCluskey put Celtic ahead – at last! – with only 15 minutes to go.

Then disaster struck.  Bobby Russell equalised for Rangers.  Celtic’s ten men were defeated and all was lost.  Eh . . .  not quite.  This is Celtic after all.  In the 83rd minute a George McCluskey cross was turned in by defender Jackson for an own-goal.  The old Celtic Park erupted.  And then,  in the very last minute, Murdo MacLeod burst through midfield and “fired in a stupendous drive from twenty yards that left McCloy helpless.  Seconds later, the whistle went, unheard amidst scenes unmatched since the European Cup glory of a decade previously.”  (The Glory & The Dream:  Tom Campbell & Pat Woods)

The famous victory is commemorated in this great t-shirt:  http://maristic.wordpress.com/2012/12/28/class-of-79/

Of course, no footage of one of the greatest nights in Scottish football exists, due to a TV engineers strike.  Except for these very grainy shots, taken from The Jungle, of the fightback to end all fightbacks:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpI5_cZZgsA&feature=youtu.be

Celtic Book Review: ‘Yogi Bare’ by John Hughes


 Oh the Bear! The Bear!

The Bear is Everywhere,

Feed the Bear! Feed the Bear!


I had been looking forward to this book by John Hughes, the popular striker of Jock Stein’s Lisbon-era squad known to all as ‘Yogi Bear’ and feted by the Celtic support with the original chant of ‘Feed the Bear’. The Coatbridge bhoy was a fine goal-scorer with an unusual style known as much for his thrusting runs and fierce shooting as his maddening inconsistency at times. He missed out on Lisbon itself through injury but played in the club’s other European Cup final in 1970 and, having made his Celtic debut aged only 17 in 1960, should have a wealth of great stories and memories to share of the club’s golden era. What could go wrong?


Quite a lot, as it turns out. The warning signs were there when the book’s release was promoted in the press.  The Daily Record headline was ‘John Hughes lifts lid on run-ins with Celtic great Jock Stein’ while the Daily Telegraph used quotes from Yogi for the astounding claim that ‘Jock Stein was intimidating, inhumane and corrupt’. Now, you might think there were at least a few positive angles to promote first in a Celtic career laden with silverware before getting round to dishing the dirt? Not when there’s a character waiting to be assassinated, it seems. “He got rid of me when I was in my prime and three months later I was finished at 28. People say to me, ‘Are you bitter?’ Yes.”


Now that’s curious, because in the book itself Yogi goes out of the way to deny this: “I repeat I am not a bitter guy.” Yet he says it so often, after yet another bitter outburst, that he quickly loses all credibility. Was he finished at 28 as he claimed in the Record? It turns out that he is as inconsistent off the field as he was on it at times. He left Celtic at 28 but then had two seasons at Crystal Palace before joining Sunderland where a persistent knee injury brought the curtain down on his career. But we shouldn’t let the facts get in the way of a sustained assault on Jock Stein’s reputation . . .



There is clear anger that Stein sold him to the London club when the player’s view was that he had plenty more to offer. But if Jock Stein decided that playing young strikers like Kenny Dalglish and Lou Macari the Quality Street Gang was a better strategy than sticking with a player regarded by all and sundry as inconsistent and nearing 30, that’s a decision that was entitled to take. Yogi wonders if his failure to score an easy chance in extra-time in the 1970 Final v Feyenoord might have had something to do with it – it’s hard to escape the conclusion it did. Bearing a grudge about his exit from Celtic Park over four decades later cannot be healthy however. Given that he chose not to attend his former manager’s funeral in 1985, it unfortunately doesn’t come as a huge surprise.



The attack on Jock Stein doesn’t end there. There is anger at being forced to join Crystal Palace without negotiating with other clubs and also at Stein’s decision not to advise him while away on a foreign tour that his wife had suffered a miscarriage back home. As others have pointed out, those were different times – Managers had almost complete control over transfers in the absence of agents and men were rarely directly involved in pregnancy-related issues. The story told in the book regarding the miscarriage highlights Stein’s apparent insensitivity. It’s a shame the story wasn’t put in the public realm while he was still alive to give him the opportunity to respond to it. At the very least, in response to the stinging criticisms made, Stein could have pointed out that John Hughes hadn’t won a single medal before he arrived, that stuck with him through the regular periods when he lost form and even recommended Yogi for his first management post – all facts which are, begrudgingly, admitted in the course of this book.


Unfortunately another great Celtic servant, Sean Fallon, comes in for similar treatment from Yogi. John Hughes made his dislike for the former Assistant Manager known with critical comments at a supporters event at Celtic Park last year. They appeared ill-judged at the time but his criticisms of Fallon in the book are unfounded as well. He claims that he wasn’t a regular first-team pick in the early 1960s because Sean Fallon didn’t fancy him: “It didn’t matter that I was scoring goals every other game, my face didn’t fit. He never bothered to tell me where he thought I was going wrong. I was left out of the team and I was too naïve to ask for a reason.” Did he ever ask for an explanation? Apparently not: “I would probably have been shooed away into a corner like some errant schoolboy.”


ImageSean Fallon clears the Celtic dressing room of errant schoolboys . . .


Yet Sean Fallon was never the manager and it was known to the players that chairman Bob Kelly picked the team – yet Yogi’s ire is directed solely at the Irishman. Despite everything that you’ve heard or been told previously about Sean Fallon you are now meant to be believe that he was unapproachable and uncaring. And if you think that’s far-fetched, what about this: “Sean Fallon had a lot of power in team matters and would even lock Jimmy McGrory out of the dressing [room] on some occasions.” It’s one thing re-writing history to try to undermine the popular picture that has emerged of Sean Fallon as a fair and decent man; it’s something else completely to suggest that he would lock the elderly McGrory out of the Celtic dressing room. You might be forgiven for thinking there’s a theme emerging here: Sean Fallon, of course, is also not around to defend himself from these ‘new’ five decades-old allegations.


There is more than one flight of fantasy in this autobiography. Intriguingly, the story of how Big Yogi almost became a Juventus legend wasn’t featured in the Daily Record promotional pieces. I wonder if it was because even they didn’t think the story held water. “John Hughes of Juventus. Doesn’t sound right, does it? Yet that could have been the case at the start of the sixties, remarkably only year after I had broken into the Celtic first team.”Something certainly doesn’t sound right. How often had the Juve spies watched the young Hughes in action? How much lira were they prepared to stuff into Bob Kelly’s biscuit tin? We don’t know. What we do know is that a Scottish reporter once asked him if he’d heard of Juventus and that they were keeping tabs on him. Was the young Celt interested? No, he advised the reporter. And that’s basically the entire story. Even Nacho Novo’s agent couldn’t have made up a better one.


Sourness is a constant feature in the John Hughes story, unfortunately, and it bookends his career. He believed he was due to be picked for a Scottish schoolboys international in the 1950s against England at Wembley, only to lose out to a striker from Helensburgh: “Yes, Helensburgh, that hot bed of football” moans Yogi, as if the fact he was from Lanarkshire and not the wilds of Dumbartonshire should have guaranteed his selection. When his playing career appeared over he was approached by former team-mate Bertie Auld, then managing Partick Thistle, to turn out for them. Yogi was surprised at the approach: “This was the same Bertie Auld who only passed the ball to me when he didn’t have other options!” Again, another double-take is required. Is he seriously suggesting that in the hundreds of games they played together winning every trophy on offer in Scotland Bertie refused to pass to him? Doesn’t he think this might have been noticed?


The book is littered with criticisms of his team-mates at different times although he’s far less keen to discuss his own shortcomings: “Please do me a favour and let’s get rid of the annoying inconsistency tag once and for all . . . I had to be reliable to get into any of Jock’s line-ups. Hopefully, this will once and for all bring a halt to the wayward assessments and unfounded observations that my form was up and down like a yo-yo.” And yet, the abiding memory of most supporters who saw him play regularly was . . . inconsistency. They must all have been mistaken then.  That’s certainly the outlook in Yogi’s world.



Unfortunately ‘Yogi Bare’ has little to recommend it and I feel saddened to write that about a Celtic player’s memoirs. The book is at its best when recalling the great games he played and scored in. His scoring record in the Hoops is clearly a huge matter of personal pride, as it should be given that he’s in the top 10 of all-time Celtic strikers. The chapter on his experience of playing for Scotland is worth a read. Yet he has a knack of turning almost every positive into a negative and is a bundle of contradictions. He bemoans being underpaid at Celtic – yet criticises the enforced move to Palace where he doubled his wages. He says he doesn’t feel like one of the Lisbon Lions – yet he still attends functions as a Lion. He puts the blame for the failure to beat Feyenoord squarely at the door of Jock Stein – while saying that before the game “Most of us had already worked out how we would spend our win bonus.” If the manager was guilty of complacency in 1970, he wasn’t the only one.


The book costs a whopping £18.99 and is self-published. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear as though it’s been fully proof-read with some glaring errors (Is Billy McNeill’s nickname really ‘Caesar’?) and typos at times. The writing lacks imagination and comes across as tired, especially in the later chapters. One example is when comparing the obscene amounts of TV money that exists in the modern game to his time, the author states: “Sky was merely something that was above your head in the seventies.” Witty banter, it ain’t.


The book seems to have been issued for the principal purpose of boosting Yogi’s pension pot – and there isn’t even the consolation that a portion of the book’s profits are going to charity. That fact in itself is in keeping with this autobiography: it lacks charity in every sense.


The Shamrock rating: 4/10


The book can be purchased here via Amazon:   http://www.amazon.co.uk/Yogi-Bear-John-Hughes-Story/dp/1904684882/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1400600573&sr=8-1&keywords=yogi+bare





ImagePeter Johnstone is described in the monumental ‘Alphabet of the Celts’ book as an all-time Celtic great.  The former miner from the west of Fife who came to the club in 1908 from Glencraig Celtic and established himself in the heart of one of the club’s greatest defences.  One newspaper wrote of him in 1913:  “Celtic fans idolise Peter Johnstone . . . a lion’s courage . . . has played in almost every position . . . never let the side down.” 


Peter won League Championships with Celtic in 1910, 1914, 1915, 1916.  In the latter two years he had returned to work in the mines when not playing as part of the war effort:  the first World War started on 28th July 1914.  Although the club won a fourth successive title in 1917 Peter made only two appearances that season after volunteering to join the war and being sent to the front in France.


ImageHe died in the Battle of Arras and lies in an unmarked grave.  He was survived by his wife and two children.

At the height of his football fame in July 1913 Celtic fan John Conway from Bridgeton wrote this poem in praise of Peter:


From out the Kingdom, Peter hies,

From Glencraig Celtic, to be precise,

And thence unto the Paradise,

The summit of his fame.

With every trick that’s in the trade,

Full many a role has Peter played;

The brilliant deputy he made,

Adds lustre to his name.


A loyal servant you have been,

Long may you wear the hoops of green,

Your well-kent face of old be seen

On our own Paradise.

No warmer Celtic heart than thine,

Long may your star ascendant shine.

Full sure when Celtic made you sign

They booked a prize.


May his soul rest in peace and long may his star ascendant shine.

Celtic Banners: Wee Oscar Tribute (Green Brigade)

ImageA wonderful tribute display by the Green Brigade in memory of Oscar Knox, a little Belfast bhoy who stole the hearts of thousands of Celtic fans and many more people across Ireland and beyond in his fight against the cancer neuroblastoma which claimed his life last week.  Oscar was remembered in a stadium-wide tribute before Sunday’s game against Dundee United and by first goalscorer Anthony Stokes also who held up a t-shirt with Oscar’s image on it. 

Here is a link to Oscar proving the star of the show (as always!) from January last year on the The Nolan Show when he met the portly presenter and his parents talked in detail about their son and their family’s ordeal:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DrezmVBCsVo

God Bless Him and his family.  He truly showed the courage of a champion. 



CELTIC BOOK REVIEW – ‘The Road to Lisbon – A Novel’

‘The Road to Lisbon – A Novel’ by Martin Greig & Charles McGarry



Ay Ay Ay Ay

Simpson is better than Yashin

Lennox is better than Eusebio

But Johnstone is better than anyone!


This road to Lisbon is a fascinating and engaging tale that reflects the varied signposts along the way: Burnbank, Bilbao, Coatbridge, Chalk Farm, Dunfermline, Salamanca, Bridgeton Cross and Estoril, to name just a few. The two authors have succeeded in making the physical journey of 1700 miles – and Jock Stein’s spiritual journey from Lanarkshire miner to world class football manager –an enthralling and, at times, enlightening experience. And that’s before any acid was dropped in the Basque Country!


A novel about Celtic and the club’s greatest journey is challenging on a number of fronts. All Celtic fans are familiar with the Lisbon adventure to some degree but the two stories weaved together here are truly imaginative and complement each other superbly. The absorbing, dual approach takes the perspective of a group of Celtic fans from the Gorbals hurtling south in a Hillman Imp as well as that of the man who guided the team all the way to the Estadio Nacional. One account is a rollercoaster of stories, incidents, characters, noises and sights which veers from comedy to grim reality and moments of quiet reflection while the other consists of a narrow, single voice from deep within the psyche of Jock Stein himself, revealing his fears, his motivations and ultimately his strategic genius.


Celtic’s greatest manager comes across as a straight-talking force of nature who doesn’t miss his targets when they come into sight: bottom-feeding journalists, bent referees or his forbidding opponent in the Inter dug-out, Helenio Herrera. Or rather, he doesn’t miss his f*cking targets, for this is the voice of Stein as the man and former miner: uncut and unrefined. It won’t be to everyone’s liking given the pedestal he now (rightly) occupies, yet there’s no doubt he used his language as well as his physical presence to intimidate, impress and cajole, especially that squad of players who hadn’t won a single trophy yet were Champions of Europe in just two seasons under his management. The imagined team-talks and other exchanges here convey not just the forceful language used but also the humour and the crucial relationships which Stein developed with Jimmy Johnstone, Sean Fallon, Bob Kelly and Billy McNeill among others.


The other Road to Lisbon is being spear-headed by Tim Lynch (I’ve only ever met a single Tim in my time whose first name was actually Tim) and his band of Gorbals die-hards: Rocky, Eddie, Mark and Iggy. For them it’s a road-trip of a lifetime, the first occasion (as with most of the 12,000 travelling Celtic support) that they’d even been abroad. It was a different time. There’s tensions aplenty in this group of pals who are on the brink of major changes in their lives. Love, family, faith, gangs and crime are some of the things pulling them in different directions. The pilgrimage to Lisbon, the lure of the big cup and the glory of Celtic are binding them together – just. When they’re on the verge of splitting or fighting, Tim brings them back together with memories of their favourite Celtic games and all is right for a while. But Lisbon is also a crossroads for them: their experiences on the way there mean there’s no turning back when – and if – they all make it back to the Gorbals. They are changed men and you can understand why as the story, which captures the flavour of the age splendidly, unfolds. They are endearing characters in very different ways and you are left wishing that, somehow, you could have joined them for the ride.


All roads lead back to Celtic, of course. The Stein segments include his earliest football days, long before he captained Celtic to the Double in 1954. The authors bring his back-story to life and make him an even more substantial figure. His meticulous notes, fixation with tactics and development of unrivalled man-management skills are all to the fore. The story of the wayward Hibs’ star Willie Hamilton – and how his snoring caused upset one night in the Stein household – shows how finely honed his managerial talents already were before his return to Celtic Park. Stein’s flawless research and preparation is mirrored in the work undertaken by the two authors here to cast light on the details about his life and career that had previously been overlooked but are an integral part of his story. The imagery that is deployed at times is also captivating – the road towards the Portuguese capital being described at one point as having “several thousand Celtic supporting strung along it in clusters like beads on a rosary.”

This is a Celtic road trip from the Barras to the Basque Country and beyond that you never want to end.

The Shamrock rating: 8/10



Watch the trailer about the book here!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcQf–gmRPg


Buy the book here (direct from the publisher – avoid the exorbitant fees that Amazon charge):  http://www.birlinn.co.uk/The-Road-to-Lisbon-9781780270845.html