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I don’t suppose anyone will oppose the view that winning the European Cup has been Celtic’s greatest success in the club’s history.

I don’t suppose anyone will oppose the view that winning the European Cup has been Celtic’s greatest success in the club’s history.

Yet I can put up a reasonable case for another famous Cup tournament success being a comparably fine achievement. Before I do so I would like to point out that no club in Britain has done what Celtic has done-with three “open” competitions over and above the European Champions Cup. The Exhibition Cup, played at Rangers’ ground in the summer of 1938, was part of Glasgow’s contribution to the Exhibition which was centred on nearby Bellahouston Park.

Four Scottish and four English clubs were invited to play ,, Aberdeen, Celtic, Hearts and Rangers from Scotland and Brentford, Chelsea, Everton and Sunderland from England. Younger readers may be somewhat mystified by the composition of the English entry. It was, it is true, not fully representative of English league football of the time, for more than one club did not give the promoters much encouragement when tentative invitations were offered. In addition it was not feasible to wait until near the end of the 1937-38 season to see which clubs would finish the most successful.

In the end the English representation was very strong, though it did not contain the current first division champions, Arsenal, or the English Cup winners, Preston North End. The 1936 champions, Sunderland, came north, as did the club who were to win the title in season 1938-39: Everton.

Celtic had just won the Scottish League championship for the second time in three seasons and we were certainly among the more fancied clubs. A goal by Johnny Crum in the fifth minute of extra time in the final against Everton gave us the trophy, a miniature replica of the Exhibiuon Tower which was a landmark night and day of the Exhibition and which could be seen from some points of the ground where the tournament was played.

The present generation of Celtic supporters may have heard or read of the ability of the Empire Exhibition Cup winning team-Kennaway; Hogg, Morrison; Geatons, Lyon, Paterson; Delaney, Macdonald, Crum, Divers, Murphy. All but Joe Kennaway, Charlie (“Chic”) Geatons, Willie Lyon and Johnny Crum survive of a very fine side-the first Scottish side, and possibly even the first British side, to develop a constantly inter-changing forward line, in which any of the five forwards would crop up in the centre-forward position. These five Celtic forwards could read each other’s minds to the letter;; as soon as one made a move away from his normal beat, another took his place. The wonder of it all was that Celtic or any other team of the day had nothing like the coaching attention that there is today; the players themselves thought out the inter-changing plan for themselves and put it into practice.

This was the second Exhibition Cup which Celtic had won. In 1902 they had beaten Rangers 3-2 in the final of a four-club tournament-Everton and Sunderland were the other teams-for which Rangers had put up the Exhibition Cup of 1901, which they held. The 1938 victory, coming a few weeks after victory in the league championship was most appropriate for Celtic in their golden jubilee year and the occasion was heartily celebrated at a banquet in the Grosvenor Restaurant, Glasgow. Fifteen years later Celtic won the third Scottish-English club tournament of the century-the Coronation Cup. This is the victory which I maintain compares favourably with the European Cup success. Here are the reasons for my belief which may surprise many Celtic supporters but which I am sure will make sense to the older ones. The word “sensational” so beloved of newspapers could have described Celtic’s Coronation Cup success.

The difference between the team’s prospects of winning that trophy and those of the 1967 team at Lisbon was tremendous. Celtic built up to the European Cup final with an impressive list of major succeses--the League Cup, the league championship, the Scottish Cup and with the earlier rounds of the European event. Though every Celtic supporter knew Inter Milan would be ill to beat in the final there were no faint hearts; everybody knew Celtic had a real chance of winning, including the players themselves. Contrast, then, the feelings in the days before the Coronation Cup. We must consider first of all that Celtic had only one major success to their name in the years from the resumption of football after the war (in season 1946-47) until Coronation year.

That was in the Scottish Cup of 1951. They had finished eighth of the 16 clubs in the 1952-53 season league-only four points above the second-bottom club. They had been knocked out of the Scottish Cup in the fourth round (by Rangers); they had earlier failed in the League Cup. Players and officials alike were in the doldrums. The Coronation Cup clubs were Arsenal, Manchester United, Newcastle United and Tottenharm Hotspur and the other Scottish clubs were Aberdeen, Hibernian and Rangers. Arsenal had just won the English League championship and “Man. U.” and Spurs had been the champions of the two previous seasons; Newcastle had won the English Cup in 1951 and 1952. Rangers and Hibs were winners and runners-up in the Scottish championship decided a few weeks previously, and Aberdeen had lost the 1953 Scottish Cup final to Rangers by a single goal after a replay.

I recall a friend of mine who was not noticeably uncharitable to Celtic asking me if I could think of any good reason for Celtic being included in this distinguished Coronation Cup company other than that their big support would help to make the tournament a financial success. The best I could offer in the way of a reply was that the past had shown Celtic second to none in these Scottish-English competitions. But, truth to tell, I was very far from confident. Celtic had not been playing well for a long time. Furthermore there was discontent among the players; in common with players of other clubs there was talk of a “Strike” for better financial terms in this new tournament. Knowing that the Celtic players were having a meeting to consider their position, I decided to approach them in order to find out how many, if any, of them would not be prepared to wear the colours in the Coronation tournament.

I was determined that a Celtic eleven would turn out even if the majority of the lirst-team men signified their unwillingness to play in what was after all a close season, extra competition. As chairman and with the full backing of my co-directm's I took the perhaps unorthodox step of speaking to every regular first-team man individually. What I wanted to know from each of them was : “Are you going to play? I don’t want to hear reasons why you may not want to play: I want a straight ‘yes’ or ‘no’!” Everyone agreed to play. So away we went on a venture that not one of us could have dreamed would turn out as successfully as it did. Football is indeed a remarkable fascinating game in its times of unpredictability. We had been unsuccessful in a venture even before the start and it wasn’t until the Cup was won that we realised how fortunate we had been in that pre-tournament lack of success. Our goalkeeper, John Bonnar, had been below his best form and we made an effort to sign the Morton and Scotland ’keeper Jimmy Cowan.

The move fell through, and Bonnar went on to enjoy his finest hour on a football field. The football and the team spirit displayed by Celtic during the tournament , were in the circumstances “out of this world”. I understand that when John Bonnar joined his team-mates for the first match, against Arsenal, he put everyone in a good humour by indulging in a mock search for Jimmy Cowan. I mean no disparagement of any of the Coronation Cup heroes, all of whom have an esteemed place in Celtic’s history, when I single out the captaincy and the example set by Jock Stein, the cool, shrewd distribution of the ball by John McPhail as a wing half, the boundless energy and enthusiasm of Bobby Evans, a wonderful goal by Neilly Mochan, and the magnificent goalkeeping of Bonnar, especially in the second half, as the outstanding performances in a great display. We were not by any means fancied to beat Arsenal but we won 1-0 and in the semi-hnal, against a fine Manchester United side, inspired by that brilliant all-round footballer Johnny Carey, we again confounded the critics and won 2-1.

The agility of Bonnar and the ability of Stein to raid the game and give our defence an outfield anchor were too much even for the brilliant Hibs forwards in the final. Our cenuehalf was by and large a one-footed (left-footed) player. But Hibs quicksilver centre-forward Lawrie Reilly seemed to be for ever enticed into Iock’s left-foot tackle. Just When it seemed inevitable that Hibs would get the goal their play deserved Celtic scored a goal in a million. Stein cleared towards Willie Femie, who flicked the ball into Mochan’s tracks. Neilly did not waste a split second. He was on the half-chance like a hash and from 30 yards he shot with his right foot and fairly bulged the net behind Tommy Younger. The burly Hibs’ goalkeeper was facing the evening sun and I doubt if he even saw Mochan’s shot.

Jimmy Walsh scored a second goal near the finish, and the “outsiders” had won the trophy; In all the circumstances I maintain that no Celtic team ever did better against apparently overwhelming odds. This tournament proved what a discovery Jock Stein had been for us. It gave him his first major honour in football. In these days of fully 17 years ago I knew it would not be his last.

Patsy Gallacher - The Greatest Ever Celt by Sir Robert Kelly From his book Celtic

Submitted By Lizardking Randalstown Hoops


Posted by voc1967 on Friday 11 October 2019 - 12:40:23 | Comments (1)  |  printer friendly
  • Lizardking @ 12 Oct 2019 : 13:00
    Love these old stories
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