Posts Tagged ‘Celtic’

The Lisbon Lions from Glasgow
The Best Ever Local Side..?

by Richard DJJ Bowdery.

Global Talent

In today’s £multi-billion football industry players are drawn from all parts of the globe to play in Leagues as far apart as the USA, Great Britain and Japan. Even top teams in the English non-league pyramid have players who originated from overseas.

So when Juventus and Barcelona contest this year’s Champions League (European Cup) Final on Saturday 6 June, it will come as no surprise that both teams will field players drawn from far and wide: most notably Barca’s Lionel Messi, who hails from Argentina.

Although this is now the norm, it wasn’t always so. Indeed one team in particular, who once claimed Europe’s top club prize, hailed from a lot closer to home.

Glasgow Through and Through

Nearly 50 years ago in May 1967 Celtic FC became the first British club to lift the European Cup when they beat Italy’s Inter-Milan 2-1, in Lisbon, Portugal. Not only was this a great first for the British game, it also provided one other rather amazing statistic: all the Celtic players were born within a thirty mile radius of Glasgow. Some footballing commentators have hinted that it was closer to fifteen.

Whichever figure is true it was remarkable that such a ‘local’ side could take on and triumph over Europe’s best.

To cap it all even their manager, the late, great Jock Stein, came from within that 30 mile radius.

The Team

The Glasgow lads who made history that day were:

67LisbonLions1. Ronnie Simpson
2. Jim Craig
3. Billy McNeill (c)
4. John Clark
5. Tommy Gemmell
6. Bobby Murdoch
7. Bertie Auld
8. Jimmy Johnstone
9. Willie Wallace
10. Stevie Chalmers
11. Bobby Lennox


Compare that to the Celtic side who competed in this year’s Champions League competition. In addition to players from the British Isles, you had players from Honduras, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Sweden, Israel, Australia, Norway, Bulgaria, Ghana, and Serbia.

It is a fair bet that never again will such a local side lift a major club trophy which makes the Lisbon Lions victory, all those years ago, even more memorable.





Lions Rip Catenaccio Apart!
Jock Stein’s Spy Mission of ’63 was the Blueprint for Victory in Lisbon


Celtic players rejoice at the final whistle in Lisbon.

Celtic’s meeting with Inter in the last 32 of the Europa League naturally stirs memories of when they overcame the Italian giants to lift the European Cup. Our Great Shot captures the moment of joy at the final whistle in Lisbon.

On May 25th, 1967 Jock Stein took a side that included the talents of Jimmy Johnstone, Bobby Lennox and Bobby Murdoch to Lisbon on a night that changed the face of British football as The Bhoys defeated Inter Milan 2-1 at the Estadio Nacional Stadium.

It was just Stein’s second season in charge, but his Celtic side achieved the impossible by winning every competition it entered that year. They claimed the Scottish League, Scottish Cup and League Cup as well as the Glasgow Cup – but all of that domestic glory was surpassed when they became the first British team to win the European Cup.

That heroic side become known as the Lisbon Lions, with many of the squad being included in the annals of Celtics history as the best to ever play for the club.

But the roots of that famous victory go back to the the autumn of 1963.

The then Dunfermline manager Jock Stein and his Kilmarnock counterpart Willie Waddell visited Italy to study the practices of Helenio Herrera, the groundbreaking Argentinian coach of Internazionale. Herrera was so obsessed by football and getting the best out of his players legend has it he slept with a model of a football pitch beside his bed – and his methods were working particularly well at Inter.

The notion of managers travelling all over Europe to observe the latest tactical trends was almost unheard of at the time, and the visit by Stein and Waddell changed both their  lives and their careers.

After returning from Milan both men would ditch the formal suits they wore and instead embrace the previously unknown concept of being a ‘tracksuit manager’.

Waddell found almost instant success, using the defensive template of Herrera’s to win Kilmarnock their first (and so far only) league title in 1965.

Stein would have to wait a little longer for his success, but when it came it would be ceaseless.

In December 1965, shortly after taking over at Celtic, Stein watched Scotland lose to Italy in Naples. Afterwards, Stein took Herrera’s most articulate player, left-back Giacinto Facchetti, to a hotel bar where, with the aid of diagrams scrawled on napkins, he picked the player’s brains into the early hours.

Stein was determined to find ways to break down Europe’s meanest defences and the lessons from that night with Facchetti would serve him well 18 months later.

In 1967, with a team made up of players all born within 30 miles of Celtic’s Parkhead ground, Stein’s Bhoys reached the European Cup final. Standing in the way of the Scottish side and the Holy Grail in Lisbon were none other than Herrera’s Inter.

Before the final, Stein put what he had learned to good use, instructing his left-back Tommy Gemmell: “Your job is to play like Facchetti, to think like Facchetti, to be Facchetti.”

The match began as many expected it would, with favourites Inter going in front early through Mazzola’s penalty kick. The goal seemed to galvanise Celtic rather than deflate them. Stein’s homework began to pay off as Celtic pinned the Italian Champions back with short accurate passing.

Inter’s Catenaccio system left gaps for Celtic’s full-backs Jim Craig and Gemmell to move into and exploit and Inter’s defenders were drawn out to the flanks to try and stem the threat. “It felt like there were 22 Scottish players shooting at us from every direction,” said Inter centre-back Aristide Guarneri.

So good was Tommy Gemmell at playing and thinking like Facchetti that he equalised just after the hour mark. When Stevie Chalmers finally put Celtic ahead with seven minutes remaining the game was over. The Inter players were almost relieved at the end with Captain Armando Picchi later confessing “Extra time would have brought a drubbing…”

It was a hard defeat to take for Herrera, one from which he never fully recovered.Between 1964 and 1967, ‘il Mago’ (the Wizard) had dominated the European Cup with Inter, winning it twice and leading them to another final and semi-final. After this mauling by the Lisbon Lions he moved on, becoming Roma boss in 1968, but he never won another European trophy.

Stein had been quietly confident before the final. “We don’t just want to win this cup, we want to do it playing good football, to make neutrals glad we won,” he said.

Mission accomplished.



Tommy Burns Tribute
New Charity Single Released in Memory of Hoops Legend

by Karl Hofer.

celtic-tommy-burns-428-panini-football-78-sticker-5096-pA new song has been released to celebrate the memory of Tommy Burns and raise funds for the Tommy Burns Skin Cancer Trust.

The Tommy Burns charity single, which has been recorded by Joe O’Sullivan, Kellie Stevenson and Friends, with all proceeds going to The Tommy Burns Skin Cancer Trust.

Joe O’Sullivan was privileged to be a friend of Tommy for more than 20 years. He wrote this song for Tommy, following his sad passing in May 2008, with the hope that one day it would be recorded and released as a single to raise funds for the trust set up by Tommy and Rosemary’s family, Emma, Michael, Jenna and Jonathan in 2009.

Recorded with the help and support of some well known local musicians, including the vocal talents of Gorbals girl Kellie Stevenson, Joe wanted to create a big production sound using traditional Celtic instruments in the tribute to the Hoops great.

Joe said: “It is great being part of the Celtic Family, where I could call on friends who, without hesitation, made themselves available, to bring their talents together to make this charity single in memory of the late, great Tommy Burns.”

The single, priced at £1.99 is available from the Celtic Superstore, or via iTunes at only 99p. All you need to do is type in “Tommy Burns” and it will be the first song to come up. One click and the Tommy Burns Skin Cancer Trust gets everything made from the sale.

You can hear the moving tribute by clicking below;


The Old Firm Cup Final That Nobody Won…
‘Cheated’ Fans Riot at Hampden!

Celtic 1 – 1 Rangers (Scottish Cup Final, April 17th 1909)

by Scott Murray.

Willie Maley’s Celtic were the dominant team in Scotland. They were looking to complete their third double on the spin: later that month they would win their fifth title in a row, and here they faced Rangers in the Scottish Cup final.

The first match ended in a 2-2 draw, so the teams had to return to Hampden Park for a replay. That game was also a close encounter, played in front of a crowd of 61,000, and ended 1-1. A third replay would have to be arranged, with the Scottish FA rules clearly stating that extra time would only occur after a “series of three draws”.

1909ScotCupFinalHowever, neither players nor crowd seemed aware of that. For a while it seemed like extra time would be played after all. Celtic hung around on the pitch waiting for the restart. A couple of Rangers players milled around with them. But when a linesman wandered over to a corner flag, and yanked it from its moorings, it was clear that proceedings were over for the day, and a third match was indeed required.

That match would never be played.

Nobody in the crowd seemed much interested in the intricacies of the SFA rulebook. As far as they were concerned, both teams and the SFA were grifting them for more attendance money; this series of draws was nothing more than a whopping great con. “Of late, draws between Celtic and Rangers have occurred with monotonous regularity and the ill-informed man in the street has been heard to hit off the situation by the explanation that these indecisive matches have been ‘arranged for a gate’,” was the Manchester Guardian take on the crowd’s thought processes.

The game might have been off, but the heat was on. Quite literally, too. Amid chants of “play the tie”, thousands invaded the pitch, uprooting goalposts and yanking down nets. Stones, planks and chunks of loose terracing were wheeched through the air, while dods of the Hampden turf was ripped from the ground. Overwhelmed and overrun, the police retreated. Fans took the opportunity to set light to pay boxes, reportedly fuelling the flames with their whisky, an illustration of just how jolly baity they were. “We cannot get our money returned, but we will get our money’s worth!” screamed the crowd, according to a painstakingly edited Guardian report.

When the fire brigade arrived, they were met with what the Daily Record referred to as “interference of the crowd, who pelted them with stones and missiles”. It took the best part of three hours to clear the 9,000-strong protest group; 130 people ended up in hospital.

Celtic and Rangers asked the SFA to cancel the third replay, and so the 1909 Scottish Cup was never awarded. Celtic would not get their third double in a row.

On the same evening, Charlie Chaplin was starring at the Glasgow Hippodrome as part of the Fred Karno Comic Company. But somehow that doesn’t seem quite as exciting a performance.


This piece originally appeared on in 2012.

BOBBY’s Top Ten Classic Old Firm Encounters
PLUS: Selected Match Odds

After a long absence the Old Firm re-engage this weekend in what is sure to be a lively affair at Hampden Park as they contest the Scottish League Cup semi-final.

To whet the appetite BOBBY recalls ten classic Old Firm derbies from living memory;

CELTIC 6-2 RANGERS, 2000/01

It didn’t take long for new boss Martin O’Neill to ingratiate himself with the Celtic support when, in August of his first season in charge, he patrolled the touchline for this hammering of Rangers. Even by the standards of Old Firm matches, this one got off to an astonishing start as after only 11 minutes The Bhoys were 3-0 up, with Chris Sutton grabbing the first after just 51 seconds. For Celtic fans the joy was unbridled as their side kept up their 100% league record.

This game marked the start of a Parkhead revival that brought the hoops treble glory in 2000/01 and an end to the near total dominance by Rangers that had lasted a decade.

CELTIC 0-3 RANGERS, 1998/99

This was an historic win for Rangers as they clinched the league title at Parkhead for the first and so far only time ever, winning back the SPL trophy they’d relinquished the previous season (when they were stopped from winning ten in a row). Neil McCann bagged a brace and Jorg Albertz converted a penalty as the Gers also recorded a 100th league win over their great rivals.

Sadly, the game was marred when referee Hugh Dallas was left bleeding after being hit on the head by a coin thrown from the crowd. Another Celtic supporter attempted to attack the official – who in a predictably feisty encounter had ordered off Celtic’s Stephane Mahe and Vidar Riseth plus Rangers’ Rod Wallace – but he was restrained by stewards and policemen.

Dick Advocaat’s team went on to rub salt into Celtic wounds at Hampden with a 1-0 Scottish Cup final win that sealed a treble of trophies in the Dutchman’s first season.

CELTIC 5-1 RANGERS, 1998/99

Celtic had won the previous season’s SPL to end Rangers’ run of nine-in-a-row, but title-winning boss Wim Jansen had moved on and now the side managed by Jozef Vengloš were trailing Rangers by 10 points going into this November fixture.

One of the last Old Firm games to kick off at 3pm on a Saturday, Celtic romped to victory with a brace each from Henrik Larsson and the outstanding Lubo Moravcik, before young Mark Burchill put the icing on a very sweet cake in the last minute.


Ray Wilkins celebrates his great strike

RANGERS 5-1 CELTIC, 1988/89

Graeme Souness’ Rangers side served notice that they were Scottish football’s new top dogs as the Gers recorded their biggest Old Firm win for 28 years when they thrashed Celtic in late August 1988. Celtic had won the double just three months earlier, but two goals from Ally McCoist, plus strikes from Kevin Drinkell, Mark Walters and a wonder-strike from Ray Wilkins knocked The Bhoys from their perch.

Rangers went on to win the title, the first of a record-equaling nine consecutive championships in an era of near total domination.  

RANGERS 2-2 CELTIC, 1987/88

The Great Storm of 1987 – the Michael Fish Storm – had just caused incredible damage across England but it would be nothing compared to what would tear through Ibrox just over 24 hours later.

Rangers’ defence of the championship hadn’t started well. After 12 matches, Graeme Souness’s side were trailing in fourth place, six points behind Hearts and  four behind Celtic. Both sides were desperate for the win and this led to a particularly high-octane opening, even by the standards of Old Firm battles.


Tensions are about to boil over at Ibrox…

After 16 minutes the Celtic striker Frank McAvennie clattered into the Rangers keeper Chris Woods. The two men went nose to nose and light slaps were exchanged. Woods took McAvennie by the throat and all hell broke loose. The keeper’s teammates Terry Butcher and Graham Roberts got involved and in the ensuing melee, Roberts crept behind Woods and punched McAvennie before scuttling off. Only Woods and McAvennie were given the red card.

The match was almost an afterthought, yet brilliant for all that. Roberts went in goal to replace Woods, and soon found himself picking the ball out twice, once from Andy Walker, a second from his own man Butcher. Ally McCoist pulled a goal back and then Butcher, who had been booked in the original fracas, picked up a second yellow of the match for a crude lunge on the Celtic keeper, Allen McKnight. In the last minute, Richard Gough scrambled an equaliser.

The match is also remembered for the crowd-baiting by both sides. Peter Grant – who had harried Butcher into his own goal – celebrated by blessing himself with glee in front of the Ibrox faithful whilst Roberts conducted a sectarian sing-song from between the sticks.

It was all too much. A fortnight later, the Procurator Fiscal charged Woods, Roberts and McAvennie with “behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace” and Butcher’s name was soon added to the list. McAvennie was found not guilty and Roberts not proven, while Butcher and Woods were fined.

RANGERS 4-4 CELTIC, 1985/86

What a match this was as the two rivals served up a classic. Mo Johnston netted the opener for Celtic before Brian McClair quickly prodded home a second. The brakes were then applied as Celtic’s Willie McStay was then sent off after half an hour for two bookings. With 10 minutes of the half remaining, Ian Durrant and Ally McCoist set up Cammy Fraser to head Rangers back into the game. Johnston burst through for his second to make it 3-1 after the restart, but Rangers wouldn’t lay down. McCoist smashed a shot into the bottom-left corner, and Robert Fleck fired home an equaliser just before the hour. Fraser then poked home a Dave McKinnon looping header to give Rangers a 4-3 lead.

But the 10 men were not to be denied, Murdo MacLeod curling a beauty into the top-right corner from distance. It would prove a priceless point for Celtic, who at the time were in a desperate pursuit of Hearts at the top of the Premier Division table.


Celtic had won their eighth title in a row in 1973 and would win the Scottish Cup four times in five seasons from 1971, but on this occasion the Gers emerged victorious thanks to a winner from defender Tom Forsyth. Celtic failed to capitalise after taking the lead with a goal from Kenny Dalglish, Parlane equalising before half time.

The turning point came 30 seconds into the second half when the Celtic defence were caught napping, allowing Alfie Conn (who would later play for Celtic) to race through the centre to score. Celtic equalised through a Connelly penalty after Greig had dived full length to punch a Dixie Deans shot on the goal line with McCloy stranded, but Forsyth won the cup for Rangers in their centenary year nine minutes later.

A crowd of 122,714 witnessed Rangers upset the odds and take the trophy back to Ibrox. After their European Cup Winners’ Cup success a year earlier, this win was a first domestic trophy at Ibrox for seven years.


An incredible Hampden crowd of 132,870 watched Celtic clinch the Scottish treble in style. Rangers had beaten Aberdeen 6-1 in the semi finals, but were no match for a Celtic team that would go on to reach their second European Cup final a year later.

Billy McNeill’s early header set the tone and two goals on the stroke of half time killed the game. 19 year old George Connelly’s goal was memorable, dispossessing John Greig and rounding Norrie Martin easily to tap home and soon after Bobby Lennnox raced clear to finish emphatically. Stevie Chalmers scored the fourth on the break in the second half.

There was no joy for a certain Alex Ferguson, yet to be knighted and playing up front for the Gers in this final. In later years Bertie Auld was to comment that he had seen this game twice. The first was on the Celtic tactics board at Parkhead as Jock Stein explained to the team in advance what would happen and the second was on the pitch at Hampden on the day.

CELTIC 5-1 RANGERS, 1965/66


Stevie Chalmers

Played in gloomy fog, this thrashing of Rangers helped Celtic clinch the first of nine successive titles under the great Jock Stein. It all started well for the light blues when Davie Wilson put them a goal up after only 2 minutes, a lead they still held at the break.

Jock Stein’s halftime talk seemed to do the trick however; A hat-trick by Stevie Chalmers, a fine shot by Charlie Gallagher from the edge of the box and an even better one by Bobby Murdoch from all of 30 yards, made the final score 5-1, pushing Celtic two points clear of Rangers with a game in hand.

Just over 12 months later Chalmers would score an even more important goal when he grabbed the European Cup final winner against Inter.


Celtic enjoyed their biggest ever win over Rangers in the 1957 League Cup final. Incredibly, it was the first time that Celtic and Rangers had met in a major cup final for 30 years. Rangers were champions and clear favourites to lift the cup, but didn’t play like it as the Hoops ran riot on a memorably sunny day at Hampden Park.

It was only 2-0 at half-time, but “By the time we came out for the second half we had sensed that something was on,” said Celtic’s Bobby Collins. They even wrote a song to celebrate the occasion.

Amazingly, Celtic didn’t win another senior trophy again until the Scottish Cup win in 1965.



CELTIC – 1/3   DRAW – 7/2   RANGERS – 7/1

Selected Correct Score odds;

CELTIC: 1-0: 15/2, 2-0: 13/2, 3-0: 8/1, 4-0: 12/1, 5-1: 33/1

DRAW: 0-0: 14/1, 1-1: 9/1, 2-2: 20/1, 3-3: 66/1

RANGERS: 1-0: 20/1, 2-0: 50/1, 2-1: 22/1, 3-2: 66/1

BOBBY’S BET OF THE DAY: Kris Commons to score & Celtic to win: 6/4

Odds courtesy of Wiliam Hill.



Bobby Collins Remembered
Horrendous Broken Thigh Injury Cut Short Career at Leeds


Everyone at BOBBY was saddened to hear that former Scotland midfielder Bobby Collins had died at the age of 82.

Collins started his career with Celtic, where he broke into the team as a 17 year old and played 320 matches scoring 116 goals before Everton paid a club-record £23,500 fee for his services in 1958.

Four years later he moved to Leeds for a similar fee and helped the Yorkshire side win promotion to the top flight in 1964 under Don Revie.

Collins, who was only 5ft 3in tall, played 31 times for Scotland finding the net on 10 occasions.

In our Great Shot the Leeds and Morton players applaud Bobby Collins onto the pitch before a pre-season Friendly at Greenock Morton in 1971, in tribute to his outstanding service to Leeds United FC.

Collins was awarded ‘Footballer of the Year’ in 1965 for his role in a season that nearly saw Leeds win the double but miss out on both trophies by the slimmest of margins.

But his time at Leeds was cut short when in 1966 he suffered a terrible injury playing against Torino in a Fairs Cup tie.  In the 50th minute Torino defender Fabrizio Poletti ‘tackled’ United’s inspirational captain resulting in him suffering the almost unheard of injury of a broken thigh.

Billy Bremner was very distressed and described the incident thus; “I was so upset, I found myself weeping, and had the chance come my way, I would have ‘done’ the player who had so crippled my teammate.”

Bremner admitted to losing his head and saying to Poletti “I’ll kill you for this.” Poletti got the message as he stayed well out of reach for the rest of the match.

However, Bremner later observed, “The incident taught me something. I have never since that day gone on to the field with such feelings as I had then. That day, blinding anger and passion got the better of me and obscured my better judgement. If I had tangled with that Italian player in a fight for possession of the ball, I could not have been responsible for my actions. The foul had been so unnecessary and was so obviously vindictive. Bobby had been ten yards from the ball when he had been quite literally jumped on.”

Of that battle with Torino, Paul Madeley recalled: “None of us had ever experienced just how cynical foreign players could be and it was a really tough battle. One horrendous challenge broke Bobby’s thigh and ultimately finished his Leeds career. We were determined to progress and did incredibly well to come away with a draw, but the occasion was ruined by Bobby’s injury because he was so influential to the side.”

Although substitutes had been introduced into English Football for the first time that season, they were still not allowed in European competition and Leeds had to fight on bravely with ten men. They managed to hang on to their one goal lead from the first leg, keeping the Italians scoreless and the 0-0 draw was sufficient to see United through to the next round.

The horrendous injury sustained by Bobby Collins was ultimately the end of his time at United,  he did comeback, playing the last game of the season at Old Trafford, but only played seven more games in the following season. Manager Don Revie then gave Johnny Giles the chance to take on the Collins mantle.

No one could doubt that Collins played his part in the emergence of Leeds United as a force in English and European football, leading by example with a never-say-die attitude of grit and determination which was to be the hallmark of Leeds United teams for years to come.

After leaving Leeds Collins had a two year stint with Bury before departing for a short period back in his native Scotland with Greenock Morton, where he doubled up as a scout for Revie and recommended Joe Jordan. Jordan went on to become a respected striker with Leeds, Manchester United, Milan and Scotland.

After hanging up his boots for good Collins had brief managerial stints with Huddersfield, Hull and Barnsley.


by Karl Hofer.



Success Drives Jock Stein & His New Ford Zephyr


Take a look at this fantastic photo of Celtic manager Jock Stein picking up his new Ford Zephyr from a garage on Glasgow’s Cumbernauld Road.  This picture is from 1967, and was in fact taken just two days before Stein led his Celtic side to European Cup glory in Lisbon, where a 2-1 win over Inter Milan saw them crowned as champions of Europe, the first British club to do so.

Stein was no doubt elated with that victory, but how happy would he have been with his new set of wheels..? Possibly a little underwhelmed is the likely answer.

Since the Mk1 Zephyr and Zodiac of 1951, with their Aston Martin-style grilles and MacPherson Strut front suspensions, this was the favoured mode of transport of the image-conscious middle management type. Ford regularly updated the Z-cars, allowing them to grow in tandem with their buyers’ wealth. The fins got bigger; and styling more trans-Atlantic; and their power units that bit more powerful.

But despite this upward trend, the arrival of the Zephyr and Zodiac Mk4 in 1966 was still had an element of shock and awe about it.

This car shared very little with its predecessor. It was designed around Ford’s new V-series four- and six-cylinder Essex engines, and was to be longer and wider than before. The design was bold, reflecting American thinking, not just in terms of dimensions, but also detail.


Ford Zodiac Executive Saloon

At the top of the range, the Executive was added as a trim level above the Zodiac. Like the standard Zodiac, the Executive featured stylish quad headlights, but also boasted optional automatic transmission (or overdrive manual), power steering, sunroof, reclining front seats, walnut fascia, carpeting throughout, reversing lights, fog lamps, and an increase in power to 136bhp – and all at around £1,600.

To ensure that the vast amount of space under the bonnet was filled, the spare wheel was moved forward and mounted between the engine and the radiator. Whilst this certainly improved boot space it also gave the car strange weight distribution and some interesting handling traits.

During its six-year production run, around 150,000 Zephyr and Zodiac Mk4s were built. The general consensus that the Z-cars were a commercial flop would seem to be untrue – after all, the Austin 3 Litre managed a mere 9,992 cars during its four-year life, while the golden 2000s from Rover took 15 years to notch up their 300,000-plus sales.

However, they were an engineering failure, and their troubled life directly led to Ford continuing down the pan-European route for its executive cars, with a single car – the Granada – being created to replace the Z-cars and their German counterparts, the P7 series.


Statistics and info from AROnline.


Bear Baiting!
We Salute Big Roy Aitken Who Turns 55 This Week

celtic-roy-aitken-340-panini-football-90-football-trading-sticker-28235-pFeed the Bear – My Memories of Roy Aitken

by Andrew Reilly 


If Roy Aitken was around in the Celtic team today, he’d be responsible for some of the biggest online fights, twitter feuds and even bar-room brawls in Scottish football. Taking a look at his list of honours at Celtic Park would lead you to believe that Aitken was a player who would have the ‘legend’ title bestowed upon him. 6 league titles, 5 Scottish Cups, 1 league cup, 667 games and 55 goals is the sort of haul most footballers would have been delighted to achieve in their career. The chant “Feed The Bear” would commonly ring round Celtic Park and at away grounds but you’d have plenty of fans pulling their hair out at the same time.

There are certainly enough magic moments where Aitken would drag his team-mates into a game and forward ever forward in the hope of turning defeats into draws and draws into breath-taking late winners. However, there are also enough moments where Aitken’s lack of awareness or over-commitment would cost the team dearly. There is a tendency to consider the 1980s (at least until Souness arrived in the country) as being an era where Aberdeen and Dundee United roamed and conquered. These two teams had an excellent haul and record in this decade but so did Celtic. You could take the statistics to say that Celtic were the biggest team in the 1980s in Scotland, but there could have been so much more silverware at Parkhead in the decade.

A look at the centre-half pairings further north, where McLeish and Miller refereed the game in front of Leighton or where Hegarty and Narey played with class in front of McAlpine, certainly made many Celtic fans jealous. Celtic were never short of attacking endeavour, spirit and creativity but whereas you would expect Aberdeen and United to keep a clean sheet, there was always a fear about Celtic leaking a goal or two. Aitken was a prominent part of that, and a more cultured and calm figure at the back may have seen Celtic win more leagues and achieve European success in the 1980s.

That would be to overlook what Roy Aitken brought to the team, and I’ll be honest, I’m an unashamed fan of The Bear. So much of what I still love and look forward to in football was created on Saturday the 18th of May 1985 at Hampden Park. It was the 100th Scottish Cup final, it was my first ever cup final, and with 15 minutes to go, Celtic were trailing 1-0 to Dundee United.

Manager Davie Hay had already made a bold move, taking off Paul McStay and replacing him with Pierce O’Leary. On the surface, it seemed like a defensive move but in reality, it launched Aitken further up the park, and he pushed Celtic on at every opportunity. A stunning equaliser from Davie Provan, direct from a free-kick, ignited Hampden Park. Even when I close my eyes today, the sight of Tam McAdam swinging on the crossbar in celebration comes to the fore, but more was to come.


Tam McAdam swings off the crossbar in celebration of Provan’s late equaliser at Hampden Park

With about five minutes to go, the ball was ping-ponging around in the middle of United’s half when Aitken seized upon the Adidas Tango. He charged down the right hand side, swung the ball over and Frank McGarvey contorted himself, in the way that only Frank could, and connected with the ball, sending it spinning into the back of the net. United were shell-shocked, and I witnessed my first trophy win as a fan.

The following season, Celtic had a horrendous run of form in the middle of the campaign but clinched the title in the last couple of minutes of the season. An 8 game winning run was topped off by Hearts capitulation at Dens Park. It was the first title I was present to see us win, and you aren’t going to see many better. The following day, watching the TV highlights, the interview of Roy Aitken still sticks in the mind. His line of “we said with 8 games to if we win 8 games, we’ll win the league. We won 8 games, and we won the league.” It was simple football speak from an uncomplicated footballer, but it summed up the passion and drive Aitken had on the field.


Our photo shows McDonald of Rangers indulging in some bear-baiting, no doubt well aware of the referee’s impending arrival…

Two years later, in the clubs centenary year, Aitken was the captain as the club clinched the double, again, the first double I witnessed as a Celtic fan. Again at Hampden, Aitken was a driving force as we trailed 1-0 to Hearts with two minutes to go. A scrambled goal from a corner kept us in the tie and there was palpable relief at remaining in the cup. Not for Aitken though, he sensed there was a winner in the game and he drove us forward. One more ball into the box, once more Henry Smith in the Hearts goal wilted under Celtic pressure and we were in the final.

That final, oh yes, we were 1-0 down to Dundee United, there was 15 minutes to go, and Celtic won 2-1 with a decidedly late winner. Different days but such a similar outcome and there was such a driving spirit in the team.

From there, things went downhill for Celtic and for Aitken, eventually leaving the club to go down south to Newcastle United.

I saw the Bear at Celtic for around 5 years and even I wouldn’t say they were his biggest years at the club. For older fans, Aitkens performance in 1979 when we beat Rangers 4-2 was the pinnacle. It was the night 10 men won the league after the dismissal of Johnny Doyle and Aitken was a hero. On the final day of the 1981/82 season, Celtic only needed a win at home to St Mirren to clinch the title. At half-time, it was 0-0 at Celtic Park and our nearest rivals Aberdeen were trouncing Rangers. If Celtic failed to win and Aberdeen could add one more goal to the four they had scored by half-time, Celtic would lose out. It was before my time, but even the video footage of the second showed how much it meant to Aitken and how much he drove the team forward. Celtic ended up running out 3-0 winners and Celtic Park celebrated once again.

$(KGrHqFHJF!E+(hRZ+uVBQfy+Ps5qw~~60_35Fans who didn’t like Aitken can write the same style of article as I have, swapping the bad for the good. The (harsh) red card at Hampden in the 1984 final, the inability to clear the danger against Partizan Belgrade and countless slips, careless passes and being caught out of position which cost us when a calmer head would have prevailed led many to take a dislike to Aitken.

I have absolutely no problem when people say that they didn’t actually like Aitken as a Celtic player. That’s their choice, not for me though. Even in the years I watched him play for the club, my formative years as a football fan, Aitken was a leader, an inspiration, and he was partly responsible for so many of the happiest days of my life. As a fan, there isn’t that much more you can ask for than that. Happy birthday Roy!


Andrew Reilly has written two books on Celtic; The Spirit of 86 and We Walked Away With It, both are available through Amazon (click on the book titles to view on Amazon).



Do or Die for Ajax & The Bhoys

Celtic will be without the instrumental Kris Commons for the visit of Dutch masters Ajax. Commons injured his hamstring during the 1-1 draw at Hibernian on Saturday, and his loss is a blow for boss Neil Lennon.


Winger Boerrigter recently signed for Celtic from Ajax but will miss out due to injury

Celtic are already without the services of skipper Scott Brown who is suspended after his dismissal against Barcelona. Adam Matthews (shoulder) and former Ajax man Derk Boerrigter (ankle) are also ruled out, while there are doubts over Mikael Lustig (hip) and Emilio Izaguirre (illness).

“We don’t think it’s a tear, but if it is a strain it’s a couple of weeks, so it’s definitely not looking good for Tuesday. Losing Kris is a huge blow. He has been fantastic for us this season” Lennon said.

“He’s at the top of his game and in great physical condition, so if he is out it will be a big loss.”

With neither side registering a victory in Group H yet this is very much a must-win game for both sides if either is to realistically challenge for a place in the first knockout round. Indeed both teams will be looking to take six points off the other over the next two rounds of matches and then hope to get a win against either Milan or Barca to take them to nine points – which may still not be enough.

In effect this is Celtic’s easiest game in a group of no easy games.

“We can’t lose it, put it that way,” said Lennon.

“We are four points worse off in the group than we were at this stage last season. We have a bit of work to do.”

Frank De Boer’s side come into this game also on the back of a 1-1 away draw, having taken a point at FC Twente in the Eredivisie on Saturday. Niklas Moisander sat out that encounter but is expected to be fit to face the Bhoys.

If You Know Your History…

Ajax won the clubs’ first encounter in the 1970/71 European Cup quarter-finals en route to lifting the trophy for the first time. Johan Cruyff, Barrie Hulshoff and Piet Keizer scored in a 3-0 first-leg win in Amsterdam, with Jimmy Johnstone’s solitary goal in the return not enough for Celtic.

But Celtic got revenge a decade later by dumping Ajax out of the first round of the same competition after two memorable games, with Celtic current first-team coach Danny McGrain playing in both matches.

The first leg had a frenetic start with four goals in the first half an hour, the Danish duo of Jesper Olsen and Soren Lerby on target for the visitors, scoring either side of a Charlie Nicholas penalty kick. Frank McGarvey equalised for the home side on 29 minutes but that turned out to be the final goal of the first leg.

Sept 15th 1982, Celtic Park   CELTIC 2-2 AJAX

Goals: Olsen (5) 0-1, Nicholas (14, Pen) 1-1, Lerby (19) 1-2, McGarvey (29) 2-2.

Att: 56,299


Pat Bonner – Thomas McAdam, Danny McGrain, David Moyes, Mark Reid – Tommy Burns, Murdo MacLeod, Paul McStay – Frank McGarvey, Charlie Nicholas, David Provan
Manager: Billy McNeill


Hans Galjé – Peter Boeve, Keje Molenaar, Edo Ophof, Gerald Vanenburg – Johan Cruyff, Sören Lerby, Jan Mölby, Jesper Olsen, Dick Schoenaker – Leo van Veen
Coach: Aad de Mos

Celtic went on to win 1-2 in Amsterdam a fortnight later to progress 4-3 on aggregate with George McCluskey scoring a last minute winner moments after Cruyff had gone off to a rapturous ovation. Charlie Nicholas had given Celtic the lead with a glorious chip in the first half before Vanenburg equalised after 65 minutes.


Celtic’s David Moyes gets stuck in on Jesper Olsen of Ajax

It was the stuff of fairytales for McCluskey, which  was topped-off afterwards as he recalls here; “I remember going into their dressing room after the game trying to swap my jersey but every one of them had their heads down. They all said no, and told me to get out, but as I was going out Cruyff was lying having a massage on the table.

“He shouted on me, took his top off and said he would swap with me because I scored a great goal. I didn’t want any of the other tops after that, I got the main man’s…”

All in all it was a memorable night for Scottish football as all four clubs in Europe progressed; Rangers defeated Borussia Dortmund, Dundee United knocked out PSV Eindhoven and Aberdeen went through against Dinamo Tirana – Those were the days…



De Jong is a danger-man

CELTIC:  6/4   DRAW:  11/5   AJAX:  15/8

Selected Bets;

Correct Score:

Celtic 2-2 Ajax:  14/1

Celtic 1-0: 15/2

Come From Behind & Win:  Celtic – 17/2  Ajax  10/1

First Scorer:

Samaras – 7/1   De Jong- 15/2


Odds courtesy of William Hill


The Group of Champions

by Rob Shepherd

The Champions League is back

Over the past decade what used to be know as the European Cup has evolved into a de facto European Super League.

With the Super Clubs virtually guaranteed participation, a sense of embarking on a weird and wonderful mystery tour has to a large degree been lost.

Given the seeded format of the Group stages so too has the spine tingling cut and thrust of sudden death in the early stages.

But Group H – Celtic’s Group – throws up a spicy taste of the past. If not ‘The Group of Death’ – that could be Arsenal’s – its more like ‘The Group of Romance’;
Barcelona, AC Milan, Ajax & Celtic.


Billy McNeill was the skipper of the first team from these shores to win the European Cup

All four are steeped in the colourful heritage of the competition. Celtic of course were the first British side to win the European Cup when they beat Inter Milan in Lisbon in 1967.

This season’s final is in Lisbon, but not even a New Romantic could expect history to repeat itself. In the hard nosed football world where money DOES buy success it’s too far fetched to hope for Lisbon Lions II.

But there will be a few teary eyed Green Glaswegian granddads who will well up over the next few weeks as The Bhoys play it out on the big stage. They won’t be able to resist recalling the exploits of McNeill, Johnstone, Auld et all to their bairns.

And while some bookies make Celtic 750/1 no-hopers to lift the trophy there is every prospect of them causing an upset or two on the way.


It worked out nicely for AC Milan when they went Dutch

AC Milan, who boasted one of the all time great European Cup teams in the late Eighties, have already expressed caution ahead of their opening game against Neil Lennon’s side in the opening game at the San Siro.

That Milan are 50/1 emphasises they are a long way from being the force they were when they had the three Dutch masters, Rijkaard, Van Basten and Gullit, in their team.

Ajax, who had the dominant team of the early Seventies with Cruyff, Krol and Neeskens are 200-1 outsiders and could be vulnerable.

As for Barcelona, will the great team of Messi, Iniesta, Xavi and now Neymar, bounce back after the disappointment of last season..? Barca are 9/2 second favourites behind holders Bayern Munich.

What is for certain is the atmosphere at Celtic’s three home games especially will be a throwback to the days when on the big European nights even the poshest punters would drink Bovril not Bollinger.

And as for the away trips; well for this generation of Celtic supporters it will be a bit like the Yellow Brick Road.

The Odds:

Chelsea to win it all? With Jose Mourinho on an unfinished business mission to win the CL with The Blues 9/1 is decent punt.

Dark Horse: The latest mega bucks side Paris St Germain are interesting at 16/1.

As for a decent long shot: Napoli are worth a go at 40-1.