I was born in Glasgow in 1953. My dad was a Fireman there but had to retire early because of lung damage due to attending many serious fires in the 50’& 60’s. He took my older brother to a few Celtic home games back then but because I was younger and suffered from a hip condition, I wasn’t fit enough to go to the games.
We moved to Stirling as my mother had family there and because of my hip condition I spent the first 18 months confined to bed in hospital. Once I had recovered, my uncles said they would take me to my first Celtic game. It was October 1963 and I was 10 years old.
I remember traveling through to Glasgow for the game against Airdrie at Celtic Park in my uncle’s big old Humber car. He managed to park in Dalriada Street and I remember he got a parking ticket after the game.
Walking towards the stadium before the game, I felt the excitement that most kids feel – my heart was thumping! Seeing the huge floodlight pylons added to that feeling and although it was a 3 pm kick off, the lights were on shining brightly through the misty damp weather. I loved the floodlights, especially on a European night when I was older.
Once in the stadium we went straight to the old Jungle. There seemed to be more rusty holes than metal in the roof ! It didn’t matter about the old roof or the fact that there was only around 12,000 there, I was in heaven and the Jungle choir seemed to sing throughout the game.
Celtic seemed to score every time they attacked! I thought every game was like this, unfortunately back then that wasn’t the case. 9-0 – I couldn’t believe it! And then Celtic were awarded a penalty. The crowd chanted for Frank Haffey the goalkeeper to take the kick. He ran up to take it and he hit the ball well only for the Airdrie goalkeeper to make a decent save.
Although I had the ‘Celtic bug’ beforehand, this game really cemented my love for Celtic. I’m pleased to say that almost 60 years after this game, the feeling is still as strong if not stronger. I have been to many great and not-so-great games, including a European Cup Final in Milan and many Cup Finals. Even now I still feel great excitement approaching Celtic Park, even if I’m only visiting the Club shop.
I don’t get to many games now because of my health but still manage as often as I can. That game against Airdrie in 1963 certainly started my love affair with Celtic.
Bob’s first Celtic game was on 26th October 1963 at Celtic Park in a league match where Celtic beat Airdrieonians 9-0. The attendance that day was 12,000.
The Celtic team was: Haffey; Young and Gemmell; Clark, McNeill and Kennedy; Gallagher and Murdoch; Chalmers, Divers and Hughes.
Celtic were leading 6-0 at half-time. Bottom-of-the-table Airdrie had lost nine goals three weeks earlier to Dundee United. A goal feast had been anticipated. Charlie Gallagher started the scoring in the 17th minute. John Hughes chipped in with two goals while Murdoch, Divers and Chalmers joined them on the scoresheet – all in the first half.
Two goals in five minutes saw John Divers claim a hat-trick on the 60th minute. Four minutes later it was the turn of John Hughes to celebrate a hat-trick of his own. With twenty five minutes left in the game, Celtic were on course to beat the record victory of 11-0 which was established in 1896 against Dundee. When John Hughes was pulled down in the box, a penalty was awarded to Celtic.
Writing in the Evening Times, Peter Hendry reported that “Billy McNeill shouted for (wait for it!) goalkeeper Frank Haffey to take the kick. Frank ran the length of the park with all the confidence in the world, took the penalty kick, and then had to sprint hurriedly back to his own goal after McKenzie had made a great save from the shot.”
Celtic didn’t add to their tally and the chance of creating a new record was lost. 11-0 remains Celtic’s record score today. The Celtic side went on to finish third in the league behind Rangers and Kilmarnock. It would prove the club’s sixth trophy-less season in succession.
Within eighteen months of the Airdrie game, Jock Stein was in charge at Celtic Park and Celtic embarked on their most successful era. It is safe to say he would not have sanctioned a goalkeeper taking a penalty when the chance to make history was there for the taking.
MY FIRST CELTIC GAME
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