The Curse of Racing Club

‘World triumph in three games.  The achievement of Racing, which will never be repeated in similar circumstances, will stay in history as a unique and unforgettable feat.  World Club Champions!’

(El Grafico, Argentinian sports paper, special edition -1967)


Racing 1967 World Champions


Campeon del Mundo – Champions of the World.  The Argentinian media gleefully celebrated the victory of Racing Club over Celtic in the 1967 Inter-Continental Cup Final, a competition in which the European champions played off against the champions of South America for the world crown.  It was the first time in the tournament’s eight-year history that an Argentinian team had triumphed and media, pundits and politicians alike in Buenos Aires rushed to heap praise on the team from the capital’s port district of Avellaneda.  It was the country’s greatest football success to date.  Yet one national newspaper, Clarin, expressed unease at the way that Racing had won the title: ‘Racing took the illicit road to victory.  They brought back the cup, but that was all.’


Newspaper front page

From Blantyre to Buenos Aires:  John Fallon makes front page news


Argentinian football did not enjoy a positive reputation in Europe at the time.  At the previous year’s World Cup, England manager Alf Ramsay had branded the Argentinian national team ‘Animals’ following a violent quarter-final encounter – and he refused to allow his players to swap jerseys at the game’s end.  The tactics deployed by Racing over the course of the three games against Celtic (with a deciding tie being held in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo) generated tremendous controversy at the time.


The tone was set in the first game at Hampden before an attendance of 83,437.  Spitting, flailing elbows, hair pulls, play-acting, studs being dragged down the back of opponents’ legs and outrageous tackles largely formed Racing’s armoury.  A double-challenge on Jimmy Johnstone (the second came in as he was already grounded from the first tackle) still causes the viewer to wince today.


In Buenos Aires, in front of a mammoth 115,000 spectators, Celtic goalkeeper Ronnie Simpson was struck with a missile on the head before the game had even started and had to be replaced. Racing engaged in the same intimidatory tactics as the first game and a number of Celtic players left the pitch carrying injuries after a 2-1 defeat.  (Jimmy Johnstone had to take a shower at half time to wash all the spit from his hair that his markers had kindly donated).  There were serious misgivings among Celtic directors about the wisdom of taking part in a play-off game to decide a winner.   Chairman Robert Kelly wanted the team to return home but he was over-ruled.  Everyone associated with Celtic was to rue that decision:  the deciding tie is widely referred to as ‘The Battle of Montevideo.’


In the play-off tie the Celtic players had clearly had enough of their Argentinian opponents and decided to take their revenge.  Jock Stein, although outraged at the outcome, had some sympathy for his team: ‘Even the Archangel Gabriel would have retaliated.’  The upshot was four red cards for Celtic (although Bertie Auld ignored the referee’s dismissal and played on!) and two for Racing.  One Uruguayan newspaper headline read: ‘A WAR IN MONTEVIDEO:  NO WINNERS, ONLY SURVIVORS!’


Celtic Racing Club Cartoon

The Scottish view of Celtic v Racing


Celtic’s hard-earned reputation for sporting play was in tatters – and the title of World Champions was lost.  Racing won in Montevideo by a single goal (a wonder strike from Juan Carolos Cardenas which gave substitute goalie John Fallon no chance).  Every member of the Celtic team was subsequently fined by the club for their misconduct.  Five decades on, surviving Celtic players remain embittered about their trip to South America and Racing’s tactics:

‘They were more than sleekit.  It was just badness.  Sheer evil.  Argentina were robust at Wembley the year before, but that was nothing compared to Racing Club.  They would have been happier to play without a ball.’ –  Bertie Auld


106 Celtic fans took a chartered flight to Argentina for the 14,000-mile round journey at a cost of £200 each (almost £3,500 in today’s money).   They – and the thousands of supporters back home who had to make do with delayed TV and newspaper reports to find out the score – felt cheated.  All sorts of oaths and curses were uttered in anger at Racing Club, known throughout Argentina as La Academia (The Academy).  Yet there was one curse in particular which was to prove enduring and damaging in equal measure . . .




The port of Avellaneda, with a population of over 320,000, is home to two of Argentinian football’s Cinco Grandes (the Big Five) football clubs.  While the classico derby between Racing and Independiente is not as well-known as that of Boca Juniors and River Plate, it is generally considered to be more intense, atmospheric and violent.  One of the reasons for this is the closeness of their two grounds – Racing’s El Cilindro (‘The Cylinder’ or Estadio Presidente Peron to give it its official name) lies only two hundred metres from Independiente’s Libertadores de America.


Stadia El Cilindro and Independiente grounds


It is believed that, in world football, only Dundee has two senior professional clubs in closer proximity to each other. It’s fair to say that Dens Park and Tannadice have nothing on these two temples of football.


The two stadia 300 metres apart


The rivalry between the two Avellaneda teams has been keen since 1915 when a 2-1 win for Independiente was over-turned by football authorities – a decision which handed Racing the League title.   Tensions between the clubs reached fever pitch in the 1960s as each achieved greater success.  In 1964, Independiente became the first Argentinian side to win the much coveted ‘Copa Libertadores’ – the club champions of South America – and then won it again the following year for good measure.  When Racing won the Argentinian league in 1966 they went on to beat Nacional of Uruguay in the Copa Libertadores final, paving the way for the Intercontinental Cup Final against Celtic.  The play-off victory in Montevideo meant Racing had gone one better than Independiente:  not just the best team in Argentina or South America but the best in the world.


It was too much for one of ground of Independiente fans.  With the connivance of a Racing groundsman, they entered El Cilindro on the night of their rival’s greatest triumph – and proceeded to bury seven dead black cats under one of the goalmouths on Racing’s pitch.  (Black cats are considered bearers of bad luck in South America).  Their aim was to bring a curse on Racing and deny them any future success.  As fans of La Academia celebrated in Montevideo and the streets of Avellaneda, the ‘Curse of El Cilindro’ (or the Seven Cats) was born.


Racing fans scoffed at the suggestion of a curse based on dead cats being put on them by their envious rivals.  Initially.  Prior to 1967, Racing had won Argentina’s top league on 15 occasions while Independiente had only 7 titles to boast of.  On the last day of the 1967 season, Independiente beat Racing 4-0 at home to claim an eighth title.  Perhaps there was something in the talk of a curse after all?


The following season, Racing lost a three-way play-off for the title.  A year later they sacked coach Juan Jose Pizzuti, who had guided them to victory over Celtic, and in 1970 went through four different coaches in one season.  Things were not going well in El Cilindro.  In 1972 Racing came second in the League but this resurgence was short-lived – in 1975 they suffered a momentous 10-0 defeat to Rosario Central and in 1976 they finished second bottom of the league, just avoiding relegation.  The decade after Montevideo had been a cruel one for Celtic’s victors with no silverware secured.


Toads in The Cylinder



When Juan Carlos ‘Toto’ Lorenzo, was appointed Racing coach in 1980 he decided to tackle the curse head on.  He persuaded the club to try and lift the curse by finding and removing the remains of the dead cats.  This meant that the pitch had to be dug up.  When it was, six cat skeletons were found.  The legend had always suggested seven cats had been buried but only six skeletons were discovered.  To end the hex, Toto then instructed that six dead toads be buried where each of the cat skeletons had been. (It is doubted that there is an Argentinian equivalent to the RSPCA).  His orders were followed, the toads laid to rest and the pitch re-laid.


Could half-a-dozen toads bring an end to the bad luck that the felines had apparently caused Racing?  In the last game of the season in 1983, Racing made the short journey to the Libertadores and their great rivals knowing that defeat would mean relegation – for the first time in the club’s history.  To make matters worse, a victory for Independiente would hand them the championship.  The Racing fans watched on in agony as a 2-0 win for the home team again proved, in the eyes of many, that La Academia were truly cursed.  It would be two long, drawn-out seasons before they returned to the top division – much to the amusement of Independiente supporters.


The 1990s were to prove even more painful for Racing and their fans.  In 1997, the 30th anniversary of Celtic’s vanquishing also meant that three decades had now passed and not a single League flag had flown over El Cilindro in the intervening years.  By contrast, Celtic had won 29 trophies since that defeat in Montevideo.  Racing had fallen badly, from one of Argentina’s most successful clubs to perpetual also-rans (although the commitment and passion of their support remained as strong as ever, as reflected in continuing high attendances).  What made matters worse for them was the fact that, from 1968 onwards, Argentina’s football season consisted of two separate League championships:  the Metropolitano and the Nacional.  This meant that Racing had missed out on two League titles each season since their win in 1966 – remarkable under-performance for a club of their size and standing.


Ticker tape at La Cilindra

Happier times in El Cilindro


Thoughts turned again to The Curse.  That seventh dead cat had never been recovered, people recalled.  Was the damned curse still intact?  What of the toads – why hadn’t they reversed Racing’s fortunes?  It was time to call in the big guns and, in South America, they don’t come much bigger than the Catholic Church.


On the evening of 4th February 1998 massive crowds gathered outside the majestic Santa Iglesia Cathedral in Avellaneda for a torchlight procession to El Cilindro.  Some estimates suggest that more than 100,000 followed the procession, led by Father Horatio Della Barca and 500 torches.  On arrival at Racing’s ground the priest said Mass and sprinkled holy water on both goalmouths.  The mass was followed by a concert by the band Vox Dei (presumably an off-shoot of Opus Dei) and a friendly match between Racing and Colón de Santa Fe.  A banner hung in the ground read:  “God is a Racing fan. The devil is not.”  Time would tell whether that bold proclamation was true or not.


Racing fans and priests holy statue march to exorcism 1998

The huge procession from Santa Iglesia Cathedral to Racing’s stadium


Racing’s president, Daniel Lalín, played down suggestions that an exorcism had been performed to rid the club of its curse: “This is not an exorcism but an act of faith.  The same faith displayed by the fans who stoically go to the stadium every Sunday.  We are uniting Roman Catholicism with Racingism.”  That faith was quickly put to the test in a way not previously considered imaginable in Argentinian football.


Mass on pitch photo

The goalmouths get the holy water treatment 


Racing had been dogged by financial problems for a number of years yet their fans were still stunned when, in July 1998, the club started a bankruptcy process.  Multi-million dollar debts had been run up and, as the country itself was in dire financial straits, there were no government handouts available as there had been in the past to the big clubs.  Legal proceedings rumbled on for months until, on 4th March 1999, Racing were formally declared bankrupt, prompting the court-appointed accountant to issue a statement with the words ‘Racing Club has ceased to exist.’  The new league was due to start that Sunday however Racing were formally suspended and the game against Talleres de Córdoba was cancelled. The Racing fans were having none of that:  over 30,000 Racing fans turned up at the ground regardless, hung out their banners and sang in protest at the club’s imminent demise for a full ninety minutes.  No teams appeared.  The Curse of the Seven Cats was turning into the worst nightmare imaginable.


Racing’s fans did not give up though.  The 4th of March was to prove an opening salvo in their war to stave off liquidation and preserve the club’s history.  They fought legal battles, protested outside Parliament and government buildings and even occupied Racing’s headquarters to prevent administrators from taking physical control of the club’s property, bringing them into direct confrontation with the police.  (In one unpleasant public encounter, Racing President Lalín received a nasty cut to the head when the club’s ultras threw one of their large drums at him while speaking to the media.)


Ultimately, in a way that should have proven an invaluable lesson to other historic rivals of Celtic, the fans succeeded in halting the club’s liquidation and demise.  An appeal court ordered that Racing continue but would be run by a private corporation for a period of 10 years to pay off the club’s debts.  It was far from an ideal situation but, crucially, Racing still existed – thanks to its fans. The curse had not killed the club.


It was now a new millennium.  The frustrations of Racings fans at the ongoing trophy drought were summed up well by Cardenas, the man who scored the sumptuous winner in Montevideo: ‘It took so many years to win something again, that people started to tell me that if all Racing fans kept watching my goal, there was a risk that the shot would finally hit the post.’


Racing Club priest 2

Sacred Heart of Racing:  Father Juan Gabriel Arias, a Buenos Aires priest, shows his true colours.  No red, the Independiente colour, is allowed anywhere in his church.  


Reinaldo Merlo, known throughout Argentina by his nickname of ‘Mostaza’ (Mustard) due to his distinctive hair-colouring, did not carry much in the way of expectation when he was appointed Coach of cash-strapped Racing in late 2000.  Merlo was famed as much for his superstitions as his coaching ability.  Whenever opponents launched an attack on his team’s goal, he would make a hand gesture to bring his team luck and ward off the opposition (presumably not the hand gesture made infamous by Barry Ferguson and Alan McGregor!).  He considered flowers to be especially unlucky and associated them with death.  Naturally, opposition fans would shower him with flowers at every opportunity.


The new coach knew all about Racing’s curse.  He believed that the club was never likely to win the league again unless the seventh cat could be found and removed.  He persuaded the board to start a new search which would go further than before:  as well as excavating the pitch it was decided to dig up the concrete moat which surrounded it also.  This was to prove a masterstroke – a cat skeleton, believed to be the seventh cat buried 34 years earlier, was discovered among the rubble of the moat and finally removed from El Cilindro.    Surely now this meant the end of the curse . . .


My old lady gave me life, Racing heart

Racing fans proclaim:  ‘My old lady gave me life, bur Racing gave me heart!’


Although Merlo was credited for ridding Racing of the last cat, the reality was he’d inherited a team that had finished 6th in the Apertura (Opening) championship and 18th in the Clausura (Closing) championship of the previous season.  Hopes of a League challenge were not high.  After some good early results though, Merlo advocated a cautious ‘paso a paso’ (step by step) approach to fans and reporters alike as Racing kept check with the league leaders.  Expectations rose.  Racing were not playing with flair – their top scorer only hit the net seven times that campaign – but they were increasingly playing without fear and were clear at the top of the league.  A magnificent strike from Gerardo Bedoya kept closest rivals River Plate at bay in El Cilindro (the fireworks display during the game’s final stages is a thing to behold!).  It would all come down to the final game of the campaign, away to Velez Sarsfield: a win would secure Racing’s first League title in 35 years.  Then, as the final hurdle approached, the curse came in to play again.


Argentina was in turmoil– a financial crisis led to the government freezing the bank accounts of citizens for 12 months and limiting the amount of withdrawals.  This sparked wide-scale protests and then riots resulting in a state of emergency being declared.  Top league football was suspended.  There was talk of the league being held up for months – or abandoned altogether, to help keep people off the streets.  Racing and other clubs protested and, after a week’s delay, it was announced that the final round of games would be played between Christmas and New Year on 27th December.


River Plate ran out 6-1 winners at home.  The title would belong to them if Racing lost at Velez.  A 1-1 draw was enough to spark scenes of unbridled jubilation at both the Jose Emiliano Stadium and also twelve miles across the city at El Cililndro, where over 40,000 Racing fans had gathered to watch the game on a giant screen.


Merlo celebrates 2001

Merlo greets the jubilating fans away at Velez as the title is won – at last


It had taken more than three decades, but the curse was at last defeated.

As they celebrated these Racing fans held up a banner which said:  ‘What ghosts?  No ghosts.  Merlo already said:  Racing are Champions!‘   The ghost cats of 1967 had now been exorcised, at long last.


What ghosts 2001 banner


Since then, Racing have won the league title only once more, in 2014.  This year (2017) is the Golden Anniversary of their defeat of Celtic and coronation as World Club Champions.  It remains Racing’s greatest achievement.  Yet, two Argentinian championships in the intervening fifty years is a poor return for this once-great club and is over-shadowed by the twenty-six League titles Celtic have secured in the same period.


Celtic fans might be forgiven for thinking that a little divine intervention has helped shape the fortunes of both clubs since the smoke cleared at football’s infamous Battle of Montevideo.


 Merlo and his statue

 Merlo the Magician – Racing Club had a statue built to honour the coach who brought an end to their curse




Celtic’s tussles with Racing in the World Club Championship are remembered with good humour in this song which can be heard in the North Curve at Celtic Park and various supporter buses:




If you enjoyed this piece you might, just might, enjoy our wee magazine . . .

The Shamrock – Celtic Retro fanzine

£3 digital (email) / £4 by post 

Full details here:


Sham covers 1 to 4 wee

Oh Harry, Harry!

Harry Hood pose black and white hoops


In the early 1970s the popular Celtic striker Harry Hood had a number of terrace chants in his honour.  Whether with or without moustache or sideburns, Harry had a swashbuckling style about him and knew the way to goal better than most.

In 312 Celtic games Harry notched 123 goals – a tremendous return.  Until Moussa Dembele came along in 2016, Harry was acclaimed as the last Celtic player to score a hat-trick against a team called Rangers.

This is the best and most enduring of the songs which you sometimes hear on the odd away trip.  The tune for the chorus is taken from a Hare Krishna chant popularised by ex-Beatle George Harrison in his 1970 song ‘My Sweet Lord’:


We don’t need yer Colin Stein

Eusebio or yer Alan Gilzean!

We’ve got someone twice as good 

We’ve got Harry Hood!  

Oh Harry, Harry!

Oh Lou Macari

Oh Kevin Barry

Oh Harry Hood!  (Oh Harry Hood!)



Harry Hood moustache and tracksuit


There aren’t too many songs where you get a world-famous footballer (Eusebio) name-checked along with a Rangers player (Stein), a Spurs player (Gilzean, formerly of Dundee), a bhoy from Largs (Luigi) and an executed Irish patriot (Kevin Barry).


Given Harry’s surname and the popularity of a Robin Hood tv show in the ’70s, it was no surprise that the show’s theme tune was adapted in tribute to the Celt:


Harry Hood, Harry Hood

Riding through glen

Harry Hood, Harry Hood 

And his Fenian men

Feared by the bad

Loved by the good 

Harry Hood!

Harry Hood!

Harry Hood!  


Harry Hood celebrates arms aloft


Another ditty in Harry’s honour was this catchy number:


Oh a dirty wee hun came up to me
He asked me the secret of the Celtic team
I answered him as best I could
The answer I gave was:  Harry Hood!

Oh Harry! Harry! Harry Hood!
We loved you Harry, like nobody should
You can keep your Rangers and your Colin Stein
Cos we’ve got Harry in the Celtic team


Harry Hood hoops 8



Two great Hunskelpers together!

Moussa visits Harry in his new bar at Angel’s in Uddingston for some goalscoring tips:

Harry Hood and Moussa Dembele


More Celtic songs and chants can be found here:

If there’s any you’d like included email us at


The Shamrock – Celtic Retro magazine

£3 digital / £4 by post 

Details here:



Sham covers 1 to 4 wee





The Iron Man tells it like it is!

Sean Fallon as Celtic captain 1952

In one memorable chapter in the excellent George Connelly biography Celtic’s Lost Legend, the great Fifer and his closest pals in the famed Quality Street Gang, Davie Cattenach and Davie Hay, reminisce about their playing days and the characters they met on and off the pitch.

All of them speak in glowing terms about Celtic’s Iron Man – Sean Fallon.  The Sligoman had been instrumental in Celtic picking up many of that exceptionally talented group of youngsters and helped guide their early careers as Jock Stein’s assistant.

Talking in 2007, when Sean was still alive, Davie Cattenach gets the ball rolling – before recalling one of his favourite Fallon stories . . .


CATTENACH: Talking about brilliant servants, what about Sean?  Anyone shaking his hand would suffer from broken bones.  What a strength!

HAY: He’s no’ changed that much.

CATTENACH: He looks great.

CONNELLY: He was a good guy to look up to.

HAY:  Sean was for us.

CONNELLY:  He wasn’t coming in there shouting, or trying to unnerve you.  He had a nice away about him.

CATTENACH: We beat Rangers 3-1 in that Glasgow Cup final on a Monday night.  Quinn scored.  Oh, what a goal he scored!  We were all there that night.  Alex Macdonald was playing for Rangers – he could be a dirty so-and-so.  The ball came between us on the halfway line and we were both going for it.

I did him up high, at the top of his neck.  He was carried off on a stretcher.  Stein went ballistic at half-time.  ‘Oh, you f****** bastard! he screamed.

He called me for everything.  I was shattered.

Sean comes up and says quietly: ‘All right Catt? That was one of the finest tackles I’ve ever seen in my life!’


Sean changing room


Buy the George Connelly book here:  Celtic’s Lost Legend (Amazon)

Buy the wonderful Sean Fallon biography by Stephen Sullivan here: Celtic’s Iron Man (Amazon). One of the best Celtic books ever.

———– ————


More Celtic Stories for your enjoyment HERE!


NineteenSixtyHeaven logo by R


NineteenSixtyHeaven: Football and Music in Perfect Harmony

In the summer of 1967, San Francisco was the centre of the Summer of Love, a seemingly never-ending hippie festival which promised free love and a peaceful counter-culture revolution of Western society.  The Beatles and their era-defining album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band were at the musical forefront of the Summer of Love

In Scotland, it was a heavenly summer for Celtic fans and many more for a very different reason.  Yet these two cultural happenings were linked and had their origins the summer before … in San Francisco itself. 


 Image result for Celtic 1966

On 1st and 8th June 1966, Jock Stein’s Celtic recorded two significant results against Tottenham Hotspur and Bayern Munich in San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium, adjoining the Haight-Ashbury district, which would soon earn fame as the home of hippiedom.  These games were part of a momentous month-long tour of Bermuda and North America, which included 11 games and was later credited by the 17-strong Celtic squad as cementing the famous team spirit which was to lead them all the way to Lisbon.

Bertie Auld recalled: ‘We were close before we stepped on that plane to take off on our great adventure.  We had completely bonded by the time we got home’.


1966-06-08: Bayern Munich 1-2 Celtic, USA Tour - Pic


The tour also allowed for some important tactical fine-tuning of the newly crowned Scottish champions by manager Jock Stein, as described in the book Dreams And Songs To Sing:  ‘The manager viewed the trip as both a deserved reward and as an opportunity for some sensible experimentation, the establishing of the Murdoch-Auld axis in midfield being the most notable outcome.’

The tour cleared the way for Stein’s men to get season 1966-7 off to a flier.  The season kicked off with a League Cup campaign that saw Celtic go undefeated all the way through to the final where they overcame Rangers 1-0 on 29th October 1966.  The team were also unbeaten in seven league games by the end of October and had made an impressive debut in the European Cup, beating FC Zurich 5-0 on aggregate.


Candlestick Concer poster

In stark contrast to the good vibrations which the Celtic team left San Francisco with that summer, when The Beatles played in the city’s Candlestick Park on 29th August the atmosphere was one of foreboding.  Their third American tour was ending in frustration and dischord. Paul McCartney had to admit defeat to his bandmates who were determined to stop touring. Candlestick Park was to prove The Beatles’ last ever live concert before a paying audience. Worse was to come when, on the plane back to London after the gig, George Harrison announced: ‘Well that’s it, I’m not a Beatle anymore’.

The most popular music group on the planet were at a crossroads.  They had honed their art playing extensive live sets in Hamburg at the start of the Sixties.  Playing before audiences was their great thrill but the experience had been ruined by the very people who adored them, as Ringo Starr explained: ‘We got in a rut, going round the world.  It was a different audience each day, but we were doing the same things.  There was no satisfaction in it.  Nobody could hear . . . It was wrecking our playing . . . The noise of the people just drowned out everything.’

A more sinister element had come to the fore.  The band felt threatened by the crowd reaction after a gig was cancelled due to torrential rain in Cincinatti with 35,000 fans already in the stadium; they had watched at close quarters as police attacked fans using batons in Los Angeles after their limo came under siege post-gig.  In addition there had been demonstrations and death threats in the southern states after John Lennon had declared earlier in 1966 that they ‘were more popular than Jesus’.  It had all got too much and the very existence of the group was now threatened.


Beatles at Candlestick Park


It was fortunate that there was a clearing in their schedule (due to an abandoned movie project) that allowed The Beatles some much-needed time apart through to November.  Lennon took up an acting role in Richard Lester’s war parody How I Won the War, which was being filmed in Spain (where the villa he rented reminded him of a Salvation Army children’s home back in Liverpool called Strawberry Field).  Harrison went to India to study the sitar with Ravi Shankar and meet Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a transcendental meditation guru, while McCartney had his first experience of the drug LSD with his friend, the Guinness heir, Tara Browne.  Perhaps the most significant thing to happen to the band before their return to the studio in late November was the first ever meeting, on 9th November 1966 at the Indica Gallery in London, of John Lennon and artist Yoko Ono.

That same November and December, Jock Stein’s men continued to progress at home and abroad. In ten league games they scored 32 goals, conceding only 16 in return.  Points were dropped in only three of those ten games as their lead at the top of Scottish Division One over Rangers was stretched.  The tenacity of this squad was illustrated against Dunfermline on 19th November 1966 when they came from 3-1 down to win 5-4 with a last minute penalty from Joe McBride.


1967 Nantes v Celtic


Eyes were still firmly on the main prize though: the Second Round of the Champions Cup (as it truly was in that era).  Drawn away in the first leg to French champions Nantes, Celtic recorded an impressive 3-1 win – and Jimmy Johnstone’s delightful performance earned him the nickname La Puce Volante (The Flying Flea) from the French press.  At Celtic Park on 7th December the Celts eased their way to another 3-1 victory.  In their four games in this first assault on the European Cup they’d scored 12 goals and lost only 2.  The style of attacking football that Stein advocated was winning Celtic new admirers on the continent.

On Thursday 24th November, producer George Martin assembled The Beatles at Abbey Road for the first recording sessions which would ultimately lead to the Sgt. Pepper album.  Now that touring was no longer a consideration, Martin and the group enjoyed the freedom to spend as much time – and money – as they wanted in the studio.  Incredibly, the first four weeks were taken up with the creation of just one song: but what a song.  Strawberry Fields Forever was a defining moment in psychedelic rock music involving the use of sixteen different instruments and an unprecedented fifty-five hours of studio time to hark back to Lennon’s childhood in Woolton. In between the marathon sessions for Strawberry Fields the band recorded a McCartney song, which he called ‘a parody of Northern life’, inspired by his ageing father.  When I’m Sixty-Four was a simple and sparse song with an endearing sentiment which indicated the diverse approaches the final album would take.


Beatles and George Martin in studio

On Friday 30th December, The Beatles had their last studio session of 1966.  Starting at 7pm and going on until 3am, they laid down the foundations of Penny Lane, which was McCartney’s turn to dive into childhood nostalgia revisiting the street where he and his brother went to the barber.  In these early stages the plan for the as yet unnamed album was an autobiographical traipse around the Liverpudlian landmarks of their youth.  This was a band back on track and in harmony.

For Celtic, 1966 was to end on a bum note.  Later that day, and despite goals from Lennox and Wallace, they lost 3-2 at Tannadice, their first League defeat of the season – and an undefeated record of 49 matches was gone.  They remained at the top of the league – four points clear of Rangers who had a game in hand.  Hopes remained high – but no-one could have predicted the dizzy heights the club would reach as 1967 dawned over Celtic Park.

In EMI Studios No.2 at Abbey Road, The Beatles and George Martin got the new year off to a slow start, spending the early part of January finishing Penny Lane before creating the fourteen minute free-form Carnival of Light, which still hasn’t been heard outside The Beatles’ inner circle. Towards the end of the month the band would start work on what was to become the most influential song of the Sgt. Pepper album, A Day in the Life.  Lennon had started writing the lyrics earlier that week, taking his cue from Daily Mail reports on the inquest into Tara Browne’s death – McCartney’s friend had died in a high-speed London car crash the month before – and the number of pot-holes in the roads in Blackburn, Lancashire.  The LSD-influence on the song was crystallised by McCartney who contributed the memorable line ‘I’d love to turn you on’.  This was the basis on which the BBC banned the song from the airwaves for five years due to the lyrics encouraging ‘a permissive attitude to drug-taking’.  The impact of the absurd ban was minimal. A Day In The Life remains, in the words of Beatles scholar Ian MacDonald, ‘among the most penetrating and innovative artistic reflections of its era’.


Session pic


Celtic’s start to 1967 was anything but sluggish.  The goals flowed throughout January and February in the League (five each against Dundee, Clyde and Ayr) after the all-important Ne’erday Derby at Ibrox had been postponed due to rain.  The first two rounds of the Scottish Cup saw Arbroath and Elgin City despatched for 11 goals without reply.  The well-oiled machine was getting set to move up a gear.  A friendly against Dinamo Zagreb at Celtic Park on 7th February was lost by a single goal but the purpose was to familiarise the players with how Eastern European teams set themselves up: Celtic were due to go behind the Iron Curtain in the European Cup Quarter Final.

On 1st March 1967, Celtic travelled to Novi Sad in northern Yugoslavia to play Vojvodina, conquerors of Atletico Madrid in the previous round.  The Slavs were considered one of the best teams in the tournament and Stein’s men struggled to assert themselves.  A defensive error let in left winger, Stanic to claim the winner twenty minutes from the end.  A one-goal deficit was not considered a great handicap to this Celtic team but come half-time in the home leg the Yugoslavian lead was still intact and impressive keeper, Pantelic had helped silence the 70,000-strong crowd.  Stein’s orders were to maintain the high-speed attacks to expose cracks in the Vojvodina defence.

With just over an hour gone, a Tommy Gemmell cross troubled Pantelic and Stevie Chalmers pounced to knock the ball home.  Breakthrough. The momentum had shifted in Celtic’s favour. The attacks were now relentless, with Johnstone and Hughes on either flank bringing pressure to bear: ‘The Vojvodina defence suddenly found itself like a nut between the crackers’, wrote The Times match correspondent.  But this was a nut that, over the next half-hour, refused to crack and a play-off in Rotterdam for a semi-final place loomed ominously.  Then, in the dying seconds, Celtic were awarded a corner.  Charlie Gallagher swept the ball over and Billy McNeill rose from a ruck of players to head over Pantelic and under the bar.  The whistle blew as soon as the Slavs re-started the game.  Celtic, in their first European Cup campaign, were now only two games away from the final.

Celtic players celebrate victory over Vojvodina 1967


Back at Abbey Road, George Martin encouraged The Beatles to pick up the pace and they responded positively in terms of workload and creativity throughout February.  McCartney’s idea of an alter ego band to hide behind, first cultivated on the American tour, began to take shape.  The song Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was started in early February and tied up a month later.  The album now had its identity and starting point: a fictional band playing an imaginary concert. As McCartney later explained: ‘It liberated you – you could do anything when you got to the mic or on your guitar, because it wasn’t you’.  Lennon’s rollicking Good Morning Good Morning was started on 8th February and McCartney’s wistful Fixing A Hole the day after.  Later in the week, George Harrison’s discordant Only A Northern Song was recorded but didn’t make the album’s final cut.  It lacked the music hall appeal of Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite, which fitted perfectly into the Sgt. Pepper concept, taking inspiration from a Victorian circus poster that Lennon had picked up in a Kent antique shop only a few weeks earlier.  Three days on and it was the turn of Lovely Rita to take shape in the studio, depicting McCartney’s memorable encounter with a female traffic warden.

Mr Kite poster


The month of March saw The Beatles hit top gear in production terms with the pieces of the Sgt. Pepper jigsaw starting to fall into place.   Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, inspired by a painting by Lennon’s 4-year-old son, Julian was done and dusted in just two days.  McCartney and Lennon worked closely on Getting Better, using language from the hippy culture (‘Man I was mean but I’m changing my scene’) and the slight Indian-tinge to the sound of that song was then developed in the sitar-infused Within You Without You, Harrison’s gentle assault of Eastern spiritualism on the prevailing materialism which was to be placed at the half-way mark in the final album: ‘A vital mediation break in the middle of the jubilant indulgence’, according to Rolling Stone magazine. The poignant and classic She’s Leaving Home was completed in just two studio sessions, the idea again borrowed from a contemporary news story highlighting the generation gap of the era.

The last few days of March saw the final song to make it from the sessions on to Sgt. Pepper take shape.  Ringo Starr was the surprise lead vocalist in With A Little Help From My Friend, assuming the guise of Billy Shears, the band leader of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  It was one of the last true Lennon-McCartney collaborations and a genuine team effort from the band.  Starr had to be cajoled to stay on until after daybreak to complete his vocal, the other three standing around him at the microphone lending moral support. A few hours later that day they re-assembled at artist Peter Blake’s studio on the King’s Road for the photo session that formed the centrepiece of Blake’s ground-breaking cover art for the album.  Labelled ‘a countercultural totem’ by Ian MacDonald, the song became indelibly associated with the 60s after being performed by Joe Cocker at the famous Woodstock festival two years after Sgt. Pepper’s release.  The hard work was done, all that was required now was some fine-tuning.


Cover photo session


March and April had also proven a purple patch for Celtic and their various bids for domestic and European glory.  As the pressure increased the squad responded magnificently to the challenge.  They continued their unbeaten run in the league, started back in January, subjecting opponents to a torrent of goals.  They advanced to the final of the Scottish Cup by beating Glasgow rivals Queen’s Park and Clyde before the Czechoslovakian champions, Dukla Prague arrived at Celtic Park on 12th April for the first leg of the semi-final.  The cool evening saw 75,000 fans crammed into the old park and they were raising the rafters when Jimmy Johnstone, lobbing himself and the ball over the keeper, gave Celtic the lead mid-way through the first half.  But the tactically shrewd Czechs, led by the masterful 36-year-old midfield maestro, Josef Masopust, were not overawed.  They remained focused on securing the crucial away goal and Celtic Park fell silent when they equalised just before half-time, Strunc taking advantage of defensive errors.  The lure of Lisbon, where the final was to be held, wasn’t just being felt by the Scottish players.

A six-minute spell in the second half ultimately settled the tie.  Willie Wallace was making his debut in the competition that night. On the hour mark he latched on to a huge clearance from Gemmell to slip through the Dukla defence and clip the ball past keeper Victor with his right foot.  The ‘impossible dream’ referred to by captain Billy McNeill was alive again.  Celtic attacked relentlessly.  Foul after foul was conceded by the Czechs in ever more dangerous positions.  It was from one such foul, in the 65th minute, that Bertie Auld deceived the defensive wall, side-footing the ball to his right instead of his left where, after just two short steps, Wallace slammed it into the net from almost 30 yards out with the keeper left bewildered.  He was denied his hat-trick by the woodwork on the 80th minute but Celtic had a two goal lead to take to Prague to help secure their passage to the final.

On the afternoon of 25th April, Jock Stein’s instructions to the Celtic players in the Stadion Juliska were out of the ordinary: the emphasis was on defending the two goal lead.  Only Chalmers would be played as an out-an-out striker, Willie Wallace was an extra right-back and it was left to the Celtic defence to demonstrate their worth.  Three crucial saves by Ronnie Simpson from Strunc in the first half and commanding centre-half performances from McNeill and Clark kept Dukla at bay.  Celtic harried and stood up to the Czechs at every opportunity, the home team ran out of ideas and a draw was secured without Simpson’s goal being breached.  Stein’s instructions had been followed to the letter and the reward for the team’s discipline and dig was a trip to Lisbon four weeks later.


1967-04-25: Dukla Prague 0-0 Celtic, European Cup Semi Final 2nd Leg - Pictures - Kerrydale Street


First things first though – the Scottish Cup Final against Aberdeen awaited the team’s return from Czechoslovakia.  Normal attacking business was resumed as two goals again from Willie Wallace – either side of half-time – saw the majority of the 126,102 crowd celebrate Celtic’s 19th success in the grand old competition.  It was a momentous week for Celtic.  Four days after the cup final, Dundee United were the visitors to Celtic Park in the league.  Only a point was needed to clinch the Championship.  But despite leading twice, Stein’s team suffered a 3-2 defeat.  United were the only Scottish team to beat Celtic that season and they did it twice, home and away.

Celtic now had to go to Ibrox to secure the flag against a Rangers team who had just beaten Slavia Sofia to reach the final of the Cup Winners Cup.  On 6th May, before a crowd of 78,000, which included Inter manager, Helenio Herrera, Celtic supporters witnessed one of the best and most important goals in the club’s history.  Having already equalised Sandy Jardine’s opener, Jimmy Johnstone received a throw-in from Stevie Chalmers with no danger imminent.  The Sunday Mail report described what happened next:

The wee man didn’t hesitate.  He swerved to the right with the ball glued to his toe-cap and raced straight for the Rangers goal.  Johnstone made a slight detour across the front of the 18 yard box, and then unleased a tremendous left-foot drive.  Martin would have needed telescopic arms to reach the ball as it flew into the top-right hand corner of the net.  A brilliant goal from the smartest player on the field.

Despite a late equaliser, Jinky’s wonder strike secured the Treble for Celtic the first time ever.  At Ibrox.  This was already a season like no other.


Jinky celebrates at Ibrox 1967 title win


A domestic clean-sweep having been achieved, Stein and his players could now focus exclusively on Portugal and the challenge of the formidable La Grande Inter, European Champions in two of the previous three years.

On that glorious, unforgettable late afternoon in Lisbon, Jock Stein’s Celtic team struck down the negative system of catennacio with an incredible display of attacking play that heralded a new age in football.  The leading French newspaper L’Équipe proclaimed: ‘A glowing tribute must be paid to Celtic.  The Scottish club has reasserted the basic values of moral and physical fitness, of spirit de corps, of adventurousness and of the sheer pleasure in playing the game.  They have injected a breath of fresh air into our game.’  Jock Stein himself summed it up best of all: ‘We did it by playing football. Pure, beautiful, inventive football.’


Cesar Lisbon Big Cup taken below b and w


The day after the triumph at Lisbon’s Estadio Nacional, on 26th May 1967, The Beatles’ ground-breaking album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was rush-released into UK record stores to meet unprecedented demand.  For Celtic fans waking up from their hangovers or returning on planes from Portugal, the party was only just beginning.

Writing in The Times renowned critic Kenneth Tynan referred to it as: ‘A decisive moment in Western civilisation’.  It is not known whether he was in Lisbon itself or watched the game on the telly.


Pepper drum cover




© The Shamrock 2017



Get Your Hands on THE SHAMROCK!


Issues 1 -3 of The Shamrock – Celtic Retro magazine on sale here:


Covers of Issue 1and 2 together small


Book Review: ‘We’ll Always Have Lisbon’

‘We’ll Always Have Lisbon – Celtic’s Glory Year 1967’ by David Frier & Pat Woods


Book cover single We'll Always Have Lisbon


A book review in 67 words . . . 


One of the most insightful, enjoyable and fascinating Celtic books ever – about Lisbon, and so much more.  That season.  The players.  The trophy.  La Grande Inter.  The city.  Estadio Nacional.  ‘Bola’. Stein v Herrera.  Football v Anti-Football. Hurricane.  Il Mago.  Houdini.  “Cairney! Cairney!” Tschenscher.  Tobering.  Bertie’s maw.  Vainqueur.  Obrigado.  Lisbon’s Lions. 

And . . . ‘Bicycling to the Moon!’

Don’t just buy it – bulk buy it!


The Shamrock rating:  9/10 


(A fuller review will follow!)


To buy ‘We’ll Always Have Lisbon’ click here:   Amazon link

Only £9.99

Also available at the Celtic Superstore.



More Celtic Book Reviews here:



Issues 1 -3 of The Shamrock – Celtic Retro fanzine on sale here:


Covers of Issue 1and 2 together small








The Greatest Goal!


They called him ‘The Mighty Atom’.  Standing at a mere 5ft 5 inches and weighing little over 9 stone, Patsy Gallacher was small – but this tiny bundle of energy was near impossible to suppress.  He looked unwieldy and some thought feeble, but Patsy had the physical qualities of a gymnast and a relentless stamina which few opponents could match.

Making his debut in the Celtic first team in 1911, this son of Donegal quickly developed a reputation for skilful forward play the likes of which had never been seen.  Celtic’s first historian, Dr. James Handley, captured the Patsy magic in this dizzying description from ‘The Celtic Story’: “He caught the popular fancy with his unorthodox style, his inexhaustible treasury of tricks, his magical elusiveness expressed in uncatchable wriggles, slips, swerves, hops and famous ‘hesitation’ stops. To see Patsy halt in mid-career, place a foot on the top of the ball and calmly wait for opponents, reluctant to approach and be fooled, to make up their minds, made many a supporter’s afternoon. Physically speaking, he should have been wafted off the field like thistledown.’ 


This atomic mite was not for wafting away though.  He led Celtic to six League triumphs and had won the Scottish Cup three times during a majestic era for Willie Maley’s team.  Then, in 1925, came the moment that defined a career – and what is still considered by some to be the greatest goal ever scored.

Some thought that the 1925 Scottish Cup Final would be a walkover for Celtic.  Drawn against a then-dominant Rangers team in the semi-final, Maley’s men were not expected to make the final, never mind continue the Ibrox club’s failure to land the cup for over two decades.  The managed to do so in considerable style, running out 5-0 winners with Patsy largely being credited for setting out Celtic’s tactics on the day.

Dundee had only won the Scottish Cup once before (against Clyde in 1910) and were not fancied to overcome the Glasgow team who were aiming to beat the record held jointly with Queen’s Park of ten Scottish Cup final triumphs.   75,157 spectators, 6,000 of them estimated to be fans of the Dark Blues, looked on as Dundee took a hold of the first half and grabbed the all-important breakthrough goal on the half-hour.  It was a former Celt, Davie McLean, who knocked home the rebound of a Gilmour header, which had come off the bar with keeper Shevlin posted missing.  (As the Dundee fans celebrated, the keen-eyed in the Celtic support may have remembered how the 37 year-old McLean had joined Celtic way back in 1907 and had been under-study to the great Jimmy Quinn for a few seasons before moving to England.  His goal for Dundee was one over 500 in a career spanning over a remarkable 25 years.)


Patsy in action – 10 years earlier

Dundee took to the Hampden pitch in the second half with their lead still intact.  Celtic fans remained confident that their team would soon equalise and be in control of the match but, as the minutes passed, Dundee’s resilience increased.  Although having more possession than in the first half Celtic could not find a way through the Dundee defence – and especially their goalkeeper Jock Britton.  The Dundee Courier waxed lyrical about his performance: ‘Many a joyous roar from the considerable Celtic support was choked down by the Dens Park custodian.  It seemed he could not be beaten.  Two great high-up clearances in half that number of minutes elicited cheers from friend and foe alike.  Britton gave a masterly display, his clutching and anticipation being wonderfully certain and accurate.’

Saves from Connelly, Thomson and McGrory (playing in his first cup final) kept Celtic at bay.  There was now only a quarter of an hour left in the tie, it looked as though Dundee would hold out and take football’s oldest trophy back to Dens Park with them in triumph.

Patsy had other ideas.

At the time of Patsy’s death in June 1953, one of the most fulsome tributes came from his rival and contemporary, the famed Rangers outside-left and Wembley Wizard, Alan Morton.  Known as ‘The Wee Blue Devil’ for his daring wing play, Morton recalled that “in taking the responsibility for getting a goal himself, Patsy was absolutely unsurpassed in my time.”   That pretty much describes what happened in the 76th minute of the 1926 Scottish Cup Final.

The institution that is the Dundee newspaper the Evening Telegraph (known to locals even today merely as ‘the Tully’) put it in very simple terms: ‘For Celtic had got the ball in the net that it put there to catch it. Gallagher it was who did it.  A free kick and a “breenge.” That was all there was to it, and it was level pegging.’ 

The Scotsman was just as succinct: it was a faulty clearance by the same player which allowed Gallagher, in company with a couple of other Celts, to rush the ball into the net.’

A breenge and a rush?  Hardly the stuff of legend and in marked contrast with this comment from the Glasgow Herald: The feature of the contest was Gallagher’s equalising goal, and in a career of much distinction it is questionable if the clever Celt ever accomplished anything quite so sensational and clever.’

More intriguing detail is contained in the Herald’s match report: ‘In 76 minutes Celtic got the goal that always seemed imminent, Gallagher crowning a daring and devious bit of play by throwing himself bodily into the net and carrying the ball with him.

Throwing himself into the net?  Carrying the ball?  What on earth was going on?  The Dundee Advertiser added some more colour: ‘The ‘Mighty Atom’ wriggled and pushed his way through a litter of friends and foes to stagger into the back of the net with the leather.’   

Dundee’s resistance was broken.  There was a certain inevitability that, with three minutes of the game remaining, a header from Jimmy McGrory – who had been shackled the whole game prior to that moment – breached Britton’s goal and won the cup for Celtic for a record-breaking 11th time.  (To commemorate this success in his first cup final, manager Maley presented 20 year-old McGrory with the cup and insisted the Garngad Bhoy sit at the front of the Celtic team’s horse-drawn brake carriage as it made its way from Hampden into Glasgow city centre for the post-match celebration.)

Despite the significance of the occasion for the young McGrory, he always highlighted the remarkable nature of Patsy’s intervention in turning the game in Celtic’s favour.  In his autobiography, ‘A Lifetime In Paradise’, published fifty years later, McGrory said that Dundee’s opener ‘only proved to be the spur for the greatest goal I have ever seen and aptly it came from the greatest player.’  This is his recollection of the equaliser:

Patsy Gallacher took a pass from Peter Wilson and even to this day I can remember vividly what followed.  With that peculiar dragging motion of his he meandered past man after man until the Dundee left back made a desperate effort to stop him.  Patsy fell to the roar of “penalty” from the Celtic crowd but in falling he had craftily kept the ball gripped between his feet and as the keeper came out Patsy somersaulted into the back of the net still with that ball lodged between his feet.  There was absolute pandemonium and thq e Dundee players were absolutely stunned by such brilliant.  That was the move that had beaten them and although it was only 1-1 they knew it was all over.  I had to run into the net to free Patsy but I was so excited I didn’t even congratulate him.  I just got him to his feet and ran straight back to the middle of the park.” 

With no film footage of the cup final or even action photographs available, the best visual accounts of the scenes that greeted Celtic’s equaliser come from contemporary cartoons published in newspapers in the game’s aftermath.  These confirm that Patsy did indeed end up bound in the goal-nets and could only be freed with the intervention of his team-mates:


Glasgow Observer – 18th April 1925


The Scotsman – 13th April 1925

Whether it was the greatest goal ever scored is a debate that can never be settled especially as the game of football continues to evolve and becomes a truly global sport.  There is no doubting however the impact that the goal had on those who witnessed it.  Robert Kelly was a 22 year-old when he attended at Hampden that day, the son of Celtic’s first captain, and who would later go on to become a Celtic director for four decades.  He never forgot the ‘almost inhuman brilliance’ displayed by Patsy that day: ‘He must have beaten six opponents as he dribbled and swerved towards goal; several times he must have been very nearly on the ground as opponents made contact with him if not contact with the ball.  His final, almost superhuman effort came barely six feet from the goal-line, when, having tricked the goalkeeper and again almost having been grounded by an attempted tackle, he somersaulted, with the ball wedged between his boots, right in the net, from which his delighted team-mates had to extricate him.

Celtic 1925 SC winners  photos

Time can, of course, play tricks with the memory – and details can become embellished in the re-telling.  That was certainly the view of the legendary Celtic playmaker Charlie Tully, a hero of the 1950s with a style not unlike Patsy’s, who began to question the veracity of the tale of the goal he heard many, many times:  ‘According to all the reports I hear from Chairman Bob Kelly and Jimmy McGrory about the number of men Patsy beat, he must have started his run at Melbourne, hopped on a plane to London, jumped a helicopter to Hampden Park, and grabbed a taxi up the left wing to score.  That’s the only possible way he could have passed all those people!


John Rafferty, an accomplished sportswriter with The Scotsman later referred to it as ‘the weirdest Hampden goal.’  To Celtic historians Pat Woods and Tom Campbell it has proved to be ‘a goal destined to be recalled for decades!  A touch of magic to continue the legend of Celtic’s invincibility in the Cup!’  The game was to become known as ‘The Patsy Gallacher Cup Final’ because, as The Dundee Courier said on the Monday after the match: ‘Gallagher could have been held by no man.  His amazing control of the ball and his elusiveness were a thing for wonderment . . . he wears well, does this slip of a player whom Celtic must rate as much more valuable than his weight in gold.’ 

Uncontrollable and unpredictable.  His burst of energy and trickery bamboozled the Dundee defence and, even when laid low and with yet another obstacle in his way, Patsy introduced the element of surprise – a somersault! – and went over the top.  As he lay on the pitch caught up in the goal-net waiting on his team-mates to rescue him, Dundee’s cup hopes were blown apart.  The classic slopes of Hampden exploded with joy in green and white.  And almost a century on, they talk of his magnificent goal still.

Such was the impact of Celtic’s Mighty Atom.



– – – – – – – – – – –



Modern Illustrations of Patsy’s Goal:  

From the excellent graphic novel history of Celtic,  The Celtic Story:  The Will to Win by Patrick, Allan and Tommy Canning (Buy a copy here:  Amazon link )  





From the David Potter biography ‘The Mighty Atom: The Life and Times of Patsy Gallacher’ – the definitive text on Patsy  (Buy a copy here:  Amazon Link)




From  Douglas Beattie’s excellent wee guidebook ‘The Pocket Book of Celtic‘ – well recommended, has lots of great Celtic goals illustrated and much more besides, buy a copy here:  Amazon Link


– – – – – – – – –

Enjoy reading this?

You’ll love our magazine!

Issues 1 -3 of The Shamrock – Celtic Retro magazine on sale on line here:


Covers of Issue 1and 2 together small




Celtic Songs: Mark McGhee



It may come as a surprise to younger Celtic supporters, but there was once a time when Mark McGhee’s name rang out in tribute around the terracings at Ye Olde Celtic Park.  Yes, the miserablist Motherwell manager, he of gurny greetin’ face and forked flaming tongue, nowadays best renowned for childish fall outs with Celtic managers and coaches, was once a fans’ favourite  back in the 1980s.

Some players wear the Hoops bursting with pride.  McGhee often looked like he was about to burst through them.  Burly, chunky and big-boned are some of the euphemisms that are applied to the fatties in football these days  but Celtic fans weren’t concerned about McGhee’s not inconsiderable girth.  The former Aberdeen and Hamburg striker was a strong addition to Davie Hay’s squad and this song was sung with only a slight tongue-in-cheek:


He’s fat!

He’s round!

He’s worth a million pounds!  

Mark McGhee!

Mark McGhee-eeeeee!


No matter that in today’s money he would be worth the equivalent of Moussa Dembele’s big toe, a million was a lot for a player back then.  The man known to his team-mates as ‘Dingus’ served Celtic well in his four seasons at the club when he was usually a spare striker to the likes of McClair, Johnston, Walker and McAvennie – yet still scored 34 goals in 113 appearances.

His tenacity helped beat Hearts in the 1988 Scottish Cup semi-final and keep alive the dream of a Centenary Double and he scored Celtic’s only goal in front of a 100,000 crowd away to Dinamo Kiev in 1986.  His rotundity did not stop  him finding the net when the chance arose and, as a Celtic fan, he played a proud part in that unforgettable Centenary season.




More Celtic songs and chants can be found here – get singing!  

A Celtic Retrospective