Celtic Stories: A real Bummer for The Rooter

Johnny Madden player green tint

Johnny Madden – ‘The Rooter’in Celtic kit

There have been many, many times when Celtic players have been subjected to rough treatment by opponents while the referee has failed to step in to ensure fair play.  When it happened to Celtic striker Johnny Madden back in the early 1890s, and the ref turned both a blind eye and a deaf ear to his complaints, the Celt decided to take matters into his own hands – with the help of a knife!

Madden was christened ‘The Rooter’ by Celtic defender Jerry Reynolds due to his ferocious shot which threatened to uproot the goalposts from the ground when he hit the net.  The Dumbarton Bhoy is recognised as Celtic’s first outstanding centre-forward and played for Scotland’s premier Irish team from 1889 through to his retirement in 1897.  He scored 49 goals in 118 competitive appearances for the club and also played in Celtic’s first ever game, the 5-2 victory over Rangers in May 1888, although a year passed before he formally signed on at Celtic Park.

It was there that this incident took place in a game recalled decades later by Madden’s team-mate Willie Maley in his memoirs in 1936.  Celtic were playing Killmarnock at the time and The Rooter kept tangling with the Killie forward James Campbell.  Campbell was a distinguished footballer, the first ever Kilmarnock player to be awarded international honours, yet he wasn’t afraid to mix it.  Curiously, his nickname was ‘Bummer’.   This was supposedly due to his non-stop activity on the playing field – although it’s fair to say that perhaps something has got lost in the translation in the century and more that has passed since his heyday.  (Whether he was related to the famed Irish internationalist Johnny ‘Jobby’ Crossan is unknown . . . https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Crossan)

Johnny Madden Celtic Squad 1892

Johnny and his Celtic team mates:  League Champions – 1893, 1894 

Madden complained vigorously to the referee at the treatment being meted out by Bummer.  As well as hacking and shirt-pulling the Killie man kept ‘tapping’ The Rooter’s ankles.  ‘Play on’ was the referee’s instruction as Madden’s fury increased.  It all got too much.  Faced with the ref’s intransigence and Bummer’s persistent fouling Madden walked off the pitch.

He quickly returned, carrying a large pocket-knife.  With the blade open he marched towards Bummer – and handed him the knife. Maley, who was standing nearby and amazed to see his team-mate walk on to the pitch carrying a knife – only to hand it to his opponent – heard Madden’s instruction to Campbell:  Stab me through the heart!

The Killie player was perplexed – to put it mildly – as Madden stood in front of him, asking him to use the knife he was offering to stab him.  The reason?  Madden told him simply, as he looked down at the knife:  “I prefer sudden death to the slow torture that you’re subjecting me to.”

Campbell laughed, Madden smiled – and the referee recovered in time to send Neil Lennon to the stand.  The knife was put away and the rest of the game was played out in a slightly more sporting manner by the Killie man.

– – – – – – – – – – –

Johnny Madden later went on to greater fame when he travelled to the Czech capital Prague in 1905 to take up a coaching position with Slavia Prague – where he became a legendary figure, earning the moniker ‘The Father of Czech Football’ for his influence on the game there.  He remained in Prague, with his Czech wife and son, until his death in 1948.

Johnny Madden coach Slavia

Read more about this fascinating Celt at The Celtic Wiki:  http://www.thecelticwiki.com/page/Madden,+Johnny

Read more Celtic Stories here:  https://theshamrockglasgow.wordpress.com/celtic-stories/

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