Excerpt from Memories Of Johnny Doyle, A True Celtic Great by Paul Cuddihy.
It is difficult, if not impossible to imagine how those close to Johnny Doyle felt when they heard of his tragic and untimely death – a family devastated at the loss of a husband and father, and a group of men having to cope with the loss of someone who was part of their daily working life over a number of years. For the rest of us, as supporters, it was difficult to take in the news, no matter what age we were on October 19, 1981. Celtic players were heroes, giants who filled those green and white hooped jerseys and carried our hopes and dreams on to the field every week. At times they appeared like larger-than-life characters, and the idea that any of them should die so young, and while still in the sporting prime of their life, was beyond comprehension.
Johnny Doyle died 29 years ago today, electrocuted while working in his house in Kilmarnock. He was only 30-years-old.
At the time of death, he had made 180 appearances for Celtic, scoring 36 goals since signing for the club from Ayr United in March 1976, and he had already ensured his own unique place in the history of the club – from scoring against Real Madrid to getting sent off against Rangers the night 10 men won the league. On the anniversary of this tragic event, it’s the words of those who played alongside Johnny Doyle for Celtic which offer the most fitting tribute to the player and the man. Frank McGarvey perhaps summed it up best when he said “whenever I think about him, I’ve always got a smile on my face.”
And speaking to the men who were Johnny Doyle’s friends and team-mates, one got the impression they all smiled as they remembered some of the things ‘Doyley’ had got up to at Celtic Park.
“He was a lovely, bouncy character. He could be a right scallywag as well at times, but he was a bundle of fun. He loved playing for Celtic. You always hear of people saying they’d play for the club for nothing but Johnny Doyle was one of the few who would actually have done so. He loved everything about the club and was delighted to wear the Hoops.”
“I used to play against Johnny Doyle when he played for Ayr United and hated playing against him because he was always in your face, always tripping you up or trying to nutmeg you – he was a hard player to play against and I never enjoyed coming up against him. When he came here, though, I did play on the same flank as him and that was great as he was such a brave little guy, plus he was a Celtic supporter and he wasn’t afraid to show that.”
“Doyley played for the jersey and it genuinely meant so much to him to put on that jersey on a Saturday afternoon. There are none of these type of players left in the game today, and when you hear the phrase ‘he would have played for nothing’, Johnny Doyle was one of the few who probably would have played for nothing.”
“He was always a team player. He never went out and just played for Johnny Doyle, he had a great attitude to the team. And whether it was in games or in training, he always wanted to win. He was a big Celtic fan and he gave his all for the club. He was a great character and there was never a dull moment when Doyley was about.”
“He was a very direct winger and a very confident young lad, very sure of his own abilities. He played against us a few times for Ayr United and he was a danger then, so it was better he was playing for us than against us. I didn’t realise until he signed for us just how much of a fan he was. He was Celtic-daft. He was an extremely funny guy and an unbelievable character, and in a dressing room full of characters, he stood out.”
“He was larger than life and stamped his character on the dressing room. He was a massive Celtic supporter and he always played with his heart on his sleeve. He loved the club and he loved the supporters, and he epitomised what Celtic is all about. He’ll never be forgotten in Celtic’s history, not only for what he did on the park, but also for the fact that he was one of those players who always wore his heart on his sleeve.”
“One of his best attributes was that he was an incredibly big-hearted player, and was fearless. He got me most of my penalty kicks at Celtic. He was a great man to have in your team and he loved playing for Celtic, as did we all. He was a good guy in the dressing room, although I always remember Jock would end up shaking his head at him, especially after he gave a team-talk and then asked if anyone had any questions. It would always be Doyley who spoke up.”
“I don’t think I had to play against him but even when he was at Ayr United, everyone knew he was totally Celtic-daft and everyone knew that he wanted to sign for the club, all of his family in Viewpark were Celtic through and through.”
“He was a right character and kept the dressing room going, and he was the only Celtic player who ever came into training or for a game
wearing a Celtic scarf. He loved everything about Celtic and playing for the club. I like to remember him as a great player who scored
goals as well as making them, and for all the things he got up to and whenever I think about him, I’ve always got a smile on my face.”
“He was a massive Celtic supporter and it’s the ambition of every kid, if you’re a supporter, that you want to play for the team, and his
ambition came true. He came from Viewpark, and that’s where wee Jinky came from, John Robertson as well, so that area produced
three of the best wingers in the game at that time.”