On a fiercely cold March morning in 1976, an excited young man got out of bed at around 6am and went in search of a public telephone box.
On a fiercely cold March morning in 1976, an excited young man got out of bed at around 6am and went in search of a public telephone box. A week earlier, that same young man had come rushing down the steps of the SFA offices in Park Gardens, Glasgow, in no real mood to talk to anyone. He had been suspended over a sending off, but what had hurt him deeply was that it had come against his beloved Celtic on 27th December 1975.
A persistent sports writer following him to his home in Uddingston and, as the player cooled down, they sat in his comfortable living-room and he poured out his heart. "I'm fed up being kicked about for £30 a week," he told the reporter. And in the same breath added, "I want to go to the Celtic". The journalist wrote the story and the player promised him that if anything came of it he would contact him immediately. Now, a week later at dawn, the reporter's telephone rang. "I'm signing for Celtic at Glasgow Airport in a couple of hours," was the message. Despite the elements, the player had showed what a loyal person he was by giving the writer of the article plenty notice.
Thus, Johnny Doyle signed for Celtic on 15th March 1976 for a club record fee of £90,000 from Ayr Utd, just before the squad flew out to East Germany for a European tie against Sachsenring Zwickau. He was a dribbler with a thunderous temperament, but, must be remembered as a true Celt.
Johnny Doyle arrived at Celtic Park as a 24-year-old, in March 1976 from Ayr United. He hailed from Viewpark, in Uddingston - the very same area of Lanarkshire where Jimmy Johnstone first pulled on a pair of football boots. He wasn't the greatest player of his generation, but you'd need to search far and wide to find a more committed one. Nor was he adverse to the odd run-in with officialdom, and he wasn't unfamiliar with the odd red card or early bath. He was already a Scotland international having played against Romania in December 1975 whilst still at Somerset Park and had came to prominence after he inspired Ayr United to a famous 3-0 win over Rangers at Somerset Park in October 1975. Rumours abounded for some time that English clubs were interested in him along with Celtic.
He made his debut on March 20th 1976 at Dens Park but was injured and played no part in the closing months of the season. Stein returned as manager after illness in the Summer of 1976 and Johnny was first choice right winger and ultimately the replacement for Jimmy Johnstone who had moved on 12 months previously. He had a fine game against the Uruguayans of Penarol in August 1976 and this set him up for the new 76/77 season and he was in the side which clinched the title at Easter Road in April 1977. Although Johnny was a regular in a fine forward line (Doyle/Glavin/Craig/Dalglish/Conn) he was surprisingly dropped for the Scottish Cup final win over Rangers for tactical reasons and Paul Wilson replaced him with Johnny having to make do with a place on the bench.
In the 1977/78 season Johnny was plagued by injuries and he had no luck at all on August 20th 1977 against Ayr United at Somerset when he was sent off by referee Bob Cuthill for striking him with the ball by accident and was later to be exonerated by the SFA. When Davie Provan arrived from Kilmarnock for a huge fee in September 1978 it looked as if Doyle's Celtic days were over. However, Johnny buckled down and played in a more central role in the forward line, using his speed with great success. On April 28th 1979 he scored a vital winner against Dundee United at Parkhead to keep Celtic in the League race. He is perhaps best remembered for being sent off in May 1979 when Celtic were 0-1 down to Rangers in the league deciding game. The Celts roared back to win 4-2 (that in itself deserves an article on it’s own), and Tommy Burns used to tell a great story of after the game while the players celebrated wildly, Doylie was sitting inconsolable crying, "Ah let yeez doon, ah let yeez doon".
His most productive season at Celtic was probably the the 1979/80 season, with the pinnacle being when he scored a memorable headed goal against Real Madrid in the European Cup 2-0 victory on March 5th, although Celtic eventually lost on aggregate.
If John Doyle owed his team mates a debt for his ordering off against Rangers the previous May then he repaid it in full on February 20th 1980 when he had the game of his life for Celtic. In the Scottish Cup replay at Love Street against St.Mirren an astonishing crowd of 27,000 turned out to create an electric atmosphere. They were not disappointed as first St Mirren took the lead (before a lot of the crowd had gained entry) then Tom McAdam was controversially sent off after an incident with Frank McDougall before Danny McGrain took retribution on McDougall which saw him carried off from the field. That’s when Doyle took control. He equalised before half time and after Saints had gone in front again it was Doyle who gained the penalty from which Lennox equalised after he was scythed in the area. With the game late in extra time and the Celts looking desperately tired Johnny summoned the energy to run from the halfway line, round goalkeeper Billy Thomson and smash the ball home from a tight angle. Celtic, who had played for 100 minutes with 10 men, had prevailed again.
John also scored in the 5-0 semi final win over Hibs on April 12th 1980 which set Celtic up for a showdown with Rangers. John, unusually, wore the number eight shorts that day and was seen to be furious at being subbed for Bobby Lennox in extra time but he was eventually happy after George McCluskey's winning goal gave Celtic the cup and inadvertently caused an ensuing riot.
With the arrival of Frank McGarvey from Liverpool and the appearance of a young Charlie Nicholas, John's appearances were to be limited in 1980/81 although he was on the bench when the League was won at Tannadice on April 22nd 1981. The next season Johnny had to be satisfied with playing mainly in the reserves and although unhappy at not featuring in the Celtic first team he refused moves to both Motherwell and Hearts preferring to stay with his beloved Celtic.
He is buried in Grassard Road cemetery in Kilmarnock.
As happens, when a player dies in his prime, his memory lasts longer than others, but in Johnny's case, we'd have remembered him as fondly even if the tragedy had not have happened.
A Doyle-related chant emanated after the league win of 1981/82, when The Faithful remembered their departed hero, with the sombre but celebratory chant of "We won the league for Doyle" after beating St Mirren 3-0 at a packed Parkhead on May 15th 1982. In the forthcoming seasons the Jungle were prone to chanting 'Johnny Doyle on the wing' in a belated tribute to their hero.
He died a Celt, and he has never left our memories and for those of us who saw him in the green he will always be in our hearts. May he rest in eternal peace.
Can't talk about him without mentioning his sending-offs (he was that sort of character).
His most memorable sending-off came in the momentous 4-2 title-winning game against Rangers on May 21, 1979 when the famous legend & chant of "10 men won the league" was born.
Another infamous sending off came in 1977, when playing against his former club Ayr United at Somerset Park. His cross hit the ref and knocked him over, the linesman said it was deliberate and Doyle was handed a red card!
Footage to this hilarious incident v that referee in the Ayr Utd match can be found on YouTube. The red card was later rescinded.
Posted by voc1967 on Friday 23 August 2019 - 20:58:24 | Comments (1) |
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Oh what a beautiful sunday
PintsMcL did you bring me a bar of rock ?
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