”Within 20 yards of goal Patsy Gallacher was the most dangerous forward I have ever seen.
”Within 20 yards of goal Patsy Gallacher was the most dangerous forward I have ever seen. You never knew what he would do. Often he would wriggle through, past man after man, With defenders reluctant to tackle in case they gave away a penalty-kick”.
You may think that such a tribute to the Celtic player who was the best footballer pound for pound whom I ever saw was made by someone with at least leanings towards Celtic. In fact those were the words of Alan Morton of Rangers and Scotland, who himself was one of the greatest players of his time. No one was more qualified to speak of Patsy than Alan Morton. The paragraph I quote is one from an interview given by Morton to “Alan Breck” of the Evening Time: shortly after Patsy’s death in 1953. In the published interview Mr. Morton also said:
“I played alongside him once, and on another occasion we were in the same team. He was my partner in a GlasgowShefheld game at Hampden, and when I think of that game I wonder why it is that International players in these days go away before a game to get to know each other better.
Patsy and I dovetailed at once, as I think all International players ought to be able to do. “After a bit he said to me -‘Let’s kid them on.’ We did a bit of kidding, and I remember the Sheffield right-half towards the end of the game saying to his right-back ‘Come on there, get after them!’ and the right-back replying ‘You can chase them if you like, but I’ve had enough ------- running around for the day'!’
Patsy was transferred to Rangers to play in Andy Cunningham’s benefit match but he did not play alongside me that night. He was at inside-right to Sandy Archibald. He was in the Falkirk team who beat us at Ibrox in the Scottish Cup after a draw at Brockville, and, of course, he played in many games for Celtic against Rangers. “Our fellows used to say after one of those ‘Old Firm’ games -“There’s Patsy off scot-free and we’re sore all over.’ “He was an astonishing little man, and I could not agree with those who thought he played more than the ball.
He was so quick on his feet that that impression may have been easy to acquire, but I could not see it that way. "‘In summing up a position and in taking the responsibility for getting a goal himself Patsy was absolutely unsurpassed in my time .. . . “They called him the ‘Mighty Atom’ and they called him a freak. He was simply a great natural player whose unbounded skill as a ball-player cast all physical drawbacks aside. “There never was a player like him, and I often wonder if we shall see his like again.
I wish we could, just to show the preeent-day players that we of Patsy Gallacher’s time had something to boast about.” Alan Morton’s tribute was, everyone will agree, a fulsome tribute. It was not by any means the only one paid by players of Rangers who lime and again had been tormented by Patsy. One that I shall never forget was that of Tommy Cairns, who as inside-left to Morton was frequently involved in direct opposition to Gallacher as inside-right. Cairns was a very hard fellow as well as a good player.
He did not have the polish of Alan Morton either on the field or off; he was a man who called a spade a spade and whose vocabulary was somewhat limited. Cairns and Gallacher were deadly enemies on the field; off it they were often in each other’s company. Tommy was one of the vast number of football personalities who attended Patsy’s funeral. Not unnaturally there was much talk of the abilities of Patsy as men of his time were gathered together.
One of a younger generation asked Cairns What his real valuanon of Gallacher was. It was given immediately, bluntly, and honestly -------“He was the greatest who ever kicked a ba’.” So I have not been on my own in my esteem of Patsy.
No story of Celtic can ever be complete Without a deal of reference to him. I say this knowing that many younger men who never saw him play may feel that tales of his prowess have been exaggerated and that people tend to make a lot of what impressed them tremendously in their young days. How, some will say, would the great Gallacher have fared at the present time, when there is a great deal more competition, the game is much faster, and the advantages to present-day players of progress in science are considerable? My answer is this--Gallacher would have been an outstandingly fine player in any day or age. He had such ability and such confidence in himself that he would have taken the present-day challenge in his stride. The astonishing thing was that he was apparently at great disadvantage with every opponent in the matter of physique. When he played his first game for Celtic’s first eleven against St. Mirren in November, 1911, he was only 17, his height was 5 ft. 3 in., and he weighed only a couple of pounds more than 7 stilll! Not all of the Celtic directors of the time thought he would be of any use to the club.
In fact more than one of them thought that signing him was a joke in bad taste. Soon they were to eat their words. The opposing players who thought that they could bulldoze this little, frail-looking boy out of their path were equally confounded. For not the least of the qualities of Gallacher was his unmatched courage.
I believe that Alan Morton was giving Patsy the benefit of the doubt when he said that he did not play more than the ball. Anyone who treated Gallacher badly got his own medicine back. Nor did it matter what the size of the opponent was ; the bigger they were the harder they fell to Gallacher. It was not in his interest to start trouble, of course. Almost all of the “treatment” Patsy dished out was in retaliation.
The great thing about it from Celtic’s point of view was that even when he was starting his career he indicated quite clearly that he didn’t need any colleague to light his battles for him. But enough of Gallacher’s ability to take care of himself for all his lack of physique. Patsy was the complete footballer. He had wonderful ball control, he had tricks of manipulation all his own. His body swerve and ability to change pace, which never came from practice but obviously were natural gifts, were a sore problem to opponents.
Time and again he won a match for us with an individualist goal, but equally often he beat the opposition by suddenly changing from an individualist to the perfect team man. Just when his rivals were expecting one of the remarkable dribbling runs which forced them to keep two and even thtee players in close touch with him he would release a matchwinning pass In the twilight of his playing days and after he had left Celtic he caused the defeat of Rangers in the Scottish Cup with one deadly pass-and almost with the first real impact he made on the play.
The occasion was a fourth-round replay at Ibrox and Patsy had warned his Falkirk team-mates that Rangers, well aware of his skill even though he was by this time a clearly defined veteran-after all he had been 16 seasons in senior football-would mark him out of the game. So, advised Gallacher, he did not want the ball until such time as he had by his non-pardcipation and apparent inability to get into the game kidded Rangers into thinking that he really was 2 Gallacher far past his best. But when the time came in the second half, a time selected by Patsy, he suddenly made position for himself, shouted for the ball, and before Rangers had tumbled to the deception he had made the killing pass from which Mason scored the goal which knocked them out of the Cup.
A few of us who knew Patsy intimately could vouch for the fact that he had promised Falkixk that he would very quickly get them back the cash they paid him when he joined the club from Celtic. Some of the goals he scored for Celtic had to be seen to be believed. They resulted from a combination of superb skill, amazing stamina, and a confidence in his own ability unmatched by anyone I have known. Take for instance his goal in the 1925 Scottish Cup final against Dundee.
Celtic were a goal down (the goal scored, by the way, by a former Celt, Davie McLean) when Gallacher got possession just inside the Dundee half and no more. He did not concede connol of it until it was in the Dundee net. 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 iinal, almost superhuman eEort 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 teammates had to extricate him.
The Dundee players an hour after the match were still hardly able to credit that this goal had been scored. There had been something magical, out of this world, about it, they said. It was the greatest feat of skill and determination they had ever seen on a football field, and it had been accomplished by one of the smallest and lightest players they had ever met. Patsy had, of course, grown a bit since his early days at Parkhead; he was in his prime 5 ft. 5 in. and a little over 9 st.! That astonishing goal helped to win the Cup; it provided the inspiration for the team and Jimmy McGrory to get the winner. I saw another Patsy score which came into the same category of almost inhuman brilliance, though as it was scored in a league game it did not get the publicity that the Cup final goal received. It happened at Easter Road. Hibs had scored and Tommy McInally restarted the game.
His touch to Gallacher turned out to be the pass for the greatest goal ever scored on the Edinburgh ground. Gallacher ran right through the defence, feinting to pass but never passing, and when Willie Harper, the big burly Hibs goalkeeper, left his line to try to intercept, Patsy flicked the ball through his legs, skipped round him, and tapped the ball into the net. Then he ran it back to the discomited Harper and presented it to him with a gesture that seemed to indicate-“I’ve done with it, you can have it now!” We have known extremely clever players at Celtic Park and elsewhere whose shooting did not match their outfield skill.
But Gallacher could shoot, with left foot as well as right; he scored goals from outwith the penalty area with unsaveable shots. He could head the ball powerfully and accurately too, though I know that he believed that football should be played when possible on the ground, where, as he himself said-“the big fellows could be cut down to size”. Patsy could tackle too with the best of them; in days when there were no substitutes I have seen him play left-back and centre-half (imagine that for one of his size) and play more than averagely well.
If Gallacher the great had one flaw it was his unwillingness to let what he considered unfair tactics by an opponent go unpunished. More than once he fell foul of a referee because he took the law into his own hands and more than once Celtic suifered for that. What the slight defect proved, however, was that Patsy was human after all. Patsy was not one to talk overmuch in the days of his retirement about his football skill.
He would much rather Speak about the laughs he had got out of the game and the social side of it. He used to take delight in recalling a conversation he once had with a chairman of Rangers, Sir John Ure Primrose Patsy had been invited to play for Rangers in a benefit match for one of his well known contemporaries, Andy Cunningham, Rangers’ inside-right. Rangers (and Andy) knew that Patsy would help to swell the “gate”, and after the game at Ibrox Sir John thanked Gallacher for his co-operation and complimented him on his fine play.
Patsy made suitable reply, mentioning that he had been glad to assist in any way he could but pointing out that next time Celtic played Rangers Sir John wouldn’t be referring to him as Mr. Gallacher, as he had done, but as “that wee humphy ------ ------ ! Patsy rarely did the training that his erow-professionals did. He was a man who was always fit, even though he enjoyed himself off the field and made no secret of it.
Willie Maley rightly considered that the chief value of training was to keep players at their best fighting weight and that as Gallacher never had superrfuous weight the rule did not need to apply to him. Nevertheless, for appearances sake and especially because young players might have got the wrong impression Gallacher had to go through certain motions. Willie Maley was a stickler for discipline, especially When his players were preparing for a special occasion Gallacher chose a time at Dunbar, where Celtic were preparing for a Scottish Cup tie as a variation from Seamill, where they used to be taken almost as regularly as they are now, to outwit the manager. Safely checked into their hotel one evening, having had their dinner and given their insn'uctions for the next day, the players were just about to go to bed. The trainer, Will Quinn, was stationed at one of the two exits just to ensure that none of his chicks strayed from the scene.
The manager was playing cards With the directors at a spot in the lounge from which he could see any move made towards the only other way out of the hotel. The odd player who might have had ideas about leaving the place for an hour or two forgot about them. Goodnight greetings were exchanged by the manager and players-including Gallacher-as they made their obvious way upstairs to bed. Half an hour afterwards a well dressed little lady, who could have been visiting some of her friends in the hotel, passed Will Quinn as he sat smoking his pipe at the hotel’s main door, and they too exchanged “goodnights”.
Then as Will Quinn enjoyed his smoke and contemplated bed for himself the neat little woman skirted the hotel to the lawn at the back, picked up from the turf a bundle of men’s clothing that had been tossed out of one of the top bedroom windows, adjourned to a gardener’s shed, discarded the borrowed lady’s outfit, complete with hat and hat pin, high heeled shoes and face-veil, and donned Gallacher’s civvies.
Patsy was on his way to an hour or two With some cronies. Patsy was confident off the field as well as on. Many a time he negotiated special financial terms for himself at Celtic Park-terms which no other player had the slightest chance of getting. But he did not discuss what he received from the club with other players; he was too wise to do that. Some of them realised, of course, that Patsy was on a higher wage level than they were. Sometimes what he achieved in the way of bargaining with the directors and or the manager resulted in others benefitting also. But in many instances this was not so and one or two players resented that. They were too cute, however, to suggest to the powers that be that they should get as much as Patsy.
Nor would anyone have dared to tell Gallacher that he didn’t deserve more than anyone else. They knew how often Patsy’s genius put a bonus in their pocket. One bold boy buttonholed Patsy one day and asked for advice about how to get more money. Gallacher was not very co-operative, and suggested that what every individual did in the way of getljng terms was his own business and his alone. Patsy certainly wasn’t going to plead his colleague’s case. He did concede that it was up to everybody to try to get what he thought his play deserved. “Well,” said the team-mate (who in Patsy’s opinion was no great shakes as a footballer), “I’m going to ask the manager for what I’m worth.” Whereupon Gallacher told him that he would be well advised not to do so as all that would happen was that he would be offered a damned sight less! Not only Celtic saw lit to meet Gallacher’s requeststhey were never demands-at least halfway. When he came into the Irish International side they straight away started to flourish and the crowd who came to watch them swelled tremendously. Half an hour before the kick-oif for an IrelandEngland match at Windsor Park, BelfaSt, Patsy was sitting in the dressing room not having divested himself of one article of clothing-even the bowler hat was Still on his head. To the trainer’s reminder that it was time to change into the emerald green of Ireland the Irish inside-right replied that he wished to see the treasurer. The very experienced treasurer was prevailed upon to visit Gallacher in the dressing-room and wasted no time in asking him why he wasn’t stripped like the rest of the team Patsy said quietly that he wasn’t like the rest of the team and that he wished to discuss the payment the players would get for the match.
The official was furious and ordered Gallacher to strip right away; he said that the match fee of the time plus the normal International cap would be awarded to the players and not a penny piece more. At this point Patsy asked the treasurer if it was only a rumour that Windsor Park was full with some 50,000 people inside. When it was agreed that it was fact and not rumour Gallachet asked if it was appreciated that a goodly proportion of the crowd had come to see him play and for no other reason. Was the labourer not worthy of his hire (or words to that effect)? Patsy was given his final warning-get stripped or else. The oiiicial was given his-go out and tell the crowd that Gallacher isn’t playing and see what’ll happen. The outcome? Gallachet played, was an outstanding player in a 1-! draw, and received (by private arrangement) the largest fee ever paid to an Internationalist in the world up to that time! Tommy McInally, to whom I have referred in the Gallachet story, was also an Internationalist-for Scotland ,, round about this time; He too was something of a “character” off the field and on. When he heard of Patsy’s successful venture in Ireland he set out to enquire if the Irish strain in his (McInally’s) family could not enable him to qualify for the Irish International team!!!! McInally of Gallacher’s team-mates was the one who came nearest to being a real personality. But there was still a great gap between the two men. McInally, a tall, slim young man when he came to us from St. Anthony’s, developed into a big man of overweight; when it came to a pinch he was soft where Gallachet was hard.
They were often compared, for Tommy at his best could be as entertaining and as profitable as Patsy, though for every time McInally was at his best Patsy was a dozen times so. Such comparison led to one of the most humorous scenes ever witnessed in the Bank Restaurant, Glasgow, of which Willie Maley was the proprietor and where for many years Celtic teams and oHicials met before and after matches. Gallacher and McInally maintained their connection with the “Bank” long after the club had changed their meeting-place. Many a customer of the "‘Bank” in the old days will have heard Tommy, who to my knowledge-and I was a sehoolmate of his for a time-never once used a swear-word, tell a person who did that he would “go to the bad lire”. Tommy, much more showy than Patsy, always attracted an audience in the “Bank” and elsewhere. He was always good for a laugh. Into the restaurant one day came a callow, young newspaper man not long enough in the business to know any senior player for his looks let alone his ability. He had heard that McInally in the “Bank” was a good source for stories. This brash young fellow fortified himself with a few drinks, and as he looked around the busy bar spotted a group which obviously contained some of the sporting crowd; snippets of their football talk could be heard by our young reporter. As he moved over to the fringe of the group he heard one of them being addressed as Tommy; he also heard references to Patsy Gallacher. The budding pressman could not believe his luck; he was now in a position to listen to Tommy McInally talking football. He joined the company and was welcomed when he introduced himself.
For the next IO minutes they talked football, Celtic football in particular, and McInally and Gallacher even more particularly. Our writer was visualising his piece at the top of the page. He was feeling so good that he managed to ask “Tommy McInally” what he thought of the attempted comparison of himself and Gallacher, whereupon “McInally” in most lighthearted manner told him there was no comparison-he, McInally, had forgotten more than Gallacher had ever known. With that, obviously, the pressman could not disagree. By this time tears of laughter were streaming down the face of one of the group-proprietor Willie Maley himself. "McInally” was in fact Gallacher, who had acted his part perfectly in the practical joke played on the unsuspecting youngster who didn’t know how vastly different were Gallacher and McInally in physique and in general appearance. Tommy wasn’t even in the “Bank” that day. I am sure the lesson was never forgotten. Patsy came to many of our matches after he stopped playing. Often I was asked why we did not seek his advice about players and the playing of the game in days when Celtic had little to boast about. The simple fact is that Patsy never would have made a good coach or adviser. He set his standards much too high. He simply could not understand why the average player could not learn in a year what he had known when he was a mere boy. 80 there was no way in which he could have been a good tutor or coach of football. He had not the patience to teach raw material. As a matter of fact he was very hard to please. No one knew that better than his sons, two of whom became senior players of note, Tommy and Willie. The latter followed his father as a Celtic player; Tommy was even more distinguished as an insideforward With Queen’s Park and later as a wing-half for Dundee. Each of course, had an impossible task in football, for older spectators were always comparing them with their fatherand not favourably. Willie and Tommy are Celtic shareholders now. Tommy is well known as a football writer for a Dundee newspaper; Willie a hotel owner in Ayrshire, sees many of Celtic’s matches. Neither of them heard mneh praise from their father for their football ability. Patsy as a matter of principle was harder on his own sons than on any other young players, though I know that he gave them credit as it was due when they were not present! But so long as there is a Celtic the name of Patsy Gallacher will be revered, and his sons-and their families-can rightly be proud of that.
Patsy Gallacher - The Greatest Ever Celt by Sir Robert Kelly From his book Celtic
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