This is the age of the teenager.
This is the age of the teenager. It’s the time when fresh-faced seventeen year olds can shoot to overnight fame, whether their world is football, or pop records. I wish them all luck.
But at the ripe old age of 26 I can honestly say . . . they’re welcome to it. I’ve been through it all before. The adulation, the brickbats, the teenage wonder tag, and a few other names as well, most of them unprintable. For after nine seasons in Celtic’s league side it’s only in the last two years that I consider myself a fully qualified professional. Let me take you back to 1960.
That was when the Hughes and Celtic story began. Maybe now it had the wrong kind of start . . . it was too good. I was only seventeen, my first season at Parkhead, and after only two weeks I was playing against Rangers in a League Cup match at Ibrox.
Any Celtic player will tell you he always gets pleasure out of scoring against Rangers, and I know it is the same for the Ibrox players when they score against us. Well, I started with the kind of debut which should really belong to boys’ comics. I was playing against Doug Baillie, newly signed from Airdrie and making his Ibrox debut.
Remember this was in the era before the Rangers’ big buys. A newly-signed player was still a comparative rarity for them, and it added extra spice to a game which is never short of that ..It was the battle of the newcomers, and the customers relished the clash. It turned out to be a glory day for me, and a disaster for Doug, who had been a solid, reliable player for the Broomfield club.
It was topped off for me when I scored the winning goal, we won the match 3-2, and after that poor Doug never really established himself in all his time at Ibrox. The wrong kind of start for me. It did not seem so then. I was hailed as the new superstar, the boy who was going to change Celtic. It was ridiculous, of course. But remember these were the lean years for Celtic. It had been three years since their last trophy success, the 7-1 League Cup victory against Rangers. But you can’t live for ever on the memory of one trophy win if your main rivals are busily scooping up the current awards. Celtic fans were desperate for a success, they were desperate for some new name to chant around the football parks of Scotland.
That day at Ibrox it seemed to them they had got one. I could do no wrong . . . for a time at any rate. But it did not last. A few months later I was being rested, and for almost five years that was the tale of my soccer life. In, out, in, out. I was big, awkward . . . and I knew it. Because of my height there was no way I could hide on that park, every move I made stood out, even in the middle of a ruck of players I towered over most of them. When I scored five goals in an 8-0 victory against Aberdeen a Celtic official was quoted as saying: ‘Hughes was in top form,’ and then he added carefully: ‘It’s to be hoped he can keep it up.’ That was the tale of my soccer life. Consistency, the most vital ingredient for any team or any player was lacking. The fans who cheered me, just as often booed me. One day at Stirling I fell onto the track as I was going for a ball.
I looked up from the track of that tight little Annheld ground, and recognised out of the sea of faces shouting abuse at me, one man I knew. He turned out to be a person for whom I often got complimentary tickets for games. Needless to say, he did not get any more, but I began to feel I just couldn’t win. But the worst moment of my soccer career came from a teammate.
He’s an international star, now with a top English club, but in my hearing he told our coach Sean Fallon, that if I was included in the team he would not play. It was the cruellest remark I have ever heard. You can imagine what effect it had on my confidence. I reckon now it set me back almost two seasons.. I hope I would never hear such a remark made about any youngster when I'm around ... Maybe if I had been given better advice earlier in my career I would have made the break-through quicker. But it took the greatest moment in Celtic’s history to make me realise I had to improve my form by all-out effort . . . or make a move to another club.
It was the 1967 European Cup F inal against Inter-Milan in Lisbon, and the Celtic forward line read Johnstone, Wallace, Chalmers, Auld and Lennox . . . but no John Hughes. I had been injured. But secretly I suspected that even if I had been available I might not have been in the team. I knew then how Jimmy Greaves must have felt the season before when Sir Alf Ramsey left him out of the World Cup Final side.
Of course, I was delighted that Celtic had won, I am a Celtic player. But I couldn’t help thinking how I would have loved to have been on that field helping them to win it. The only person who could change things was myself. The first step was to slog away at a diet. I admit it, I like my food. But some of my favourite dishes were ruled out in the battle of the bulge, and it was worth it. Now I still watch my weight, but I am not on a strict diet, it is everything in moderation ... Once you have touched success at the top, once you have found moves which have been planned working out successfully, once you have confidence . . . then you don’t want to go back to the old ways.
I realise there will be times when my form will slip, I think it’s impossible for any player not to suffer occasionally from that. But I will never go back permanently to the image of the old John Hughes. That has disappeared for ever . . . I’m sure about that. It may surprise some people that I have named last season as one of my most successful. For after a tackle in the game against St. Johnstone my ankle was damaged, and I missed the entire month of April . . . the League Cup Final, then the Scottish Cup Final, and the last few games in the League championship... Naturally I was disappointed, especially at being out of the Scottish Cup Final. However I think I proved right up until my injury that my form had been more consistent perhaps than any other season... It had been a season in which I had taken a lot of knocks. Some of them were fair, others were not. But I have learned now that I am going to have to take them, and get on with my job.
Perhaps the best boost to my form has been confidence. One goal perhaps summed it up, against St. Mirren at Love Street. Jim Brogan shoved through a ball, I went after it, beat a defender and then the onrushing ’keeper Jim Thorburn to score. It’s the kind of shot which only a few seasons ago it’s odds on I would have fumbled. My biggest disappointment last season was our failure in the European Cup , when we lost to AC. Milan in the quarter-final. I have one ambition above any others in football. I want a European Cup-Winners medal . .. . and I am sure it will come yet. For me, there is nothing like these European Cup matches.They are the fizz n the football champagne... Our policy is to win matches, and just as important to entertain, at all times. The domestic matches are the bread and butter which pave the way into Europe . . . and the manager never lets us forget it.
Yet I think Europe is still the greatest test of our potential. At the very top there are no favourites. Unlike some of our Scottish matches when it is considered a formality for us to win. The slightest break one way or another can mean victory, as Milan showed against us at Parkhead. It’s always fascinating to compare teams we played against before the Celtic break-through, to consider how they would manage against the present Parkhead team. Of course, it is an impossibility. But the one game I often think about would be against the Rangers team of the early sixties . . . the Ibrox era of Ian McMillan and Jim Baxter. Baxter is the player I remember most from these games. Supremely arrogant, but most of all the man whom all the other Rangers players used to look for when they were in trouble . . . and the man who was always there. It’s a great pity that the gulf between the fans of the two clubs seems bigger than ever... Personally ‘Old Firm’ matches are not ones I enjoy, for I feel that the chances of both teams hitting top form with the background of the fierce terracing battles are too rare. And I am sorry to see or should I say, hear the rivalry carried into Scotland’s international team. Tha0e chants from Rangers fans at international matches for their own players are just about the cruellest I have ever heard in sport. What do they want? Eleven Rangers players on the field.
They might get their wish in the end. I can’t see players from other clubs, and not just Celtic, going out to try their best and then receiving terracing abuse. Maybe it’s just as well our remaining World Cup matches are away from home . . . at least it should free us from those terracing barrackings. If Scotland is ever going to get anywhere as a world power at international level, and not just club level, it means everyone has to play their part . . . and that means the fans just as much as the players!
John Hughes - Let Me Take You Back To 1960
From Playing for Celtic no 1
By Rodger Baillie
Posted by voc1967 on Thursday 17 October 2019 - 18:14:33 | Comments (0) |
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Oh what a beautiful sunday
PintsMcL did you bring me a bar of rock ?
HH guys, jet lagged to fuck but finally got signed up. Niall.
Still lots to do on the site but glad your here .
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