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Willie Wallace - The Day I Signed For Celtic
The day I signed for Celtic I posed for a picture in the dressing-room in front of the number 7, 8, 9 and 10 strips.

The day I signed for Celtic I posed for a picture in the dressing-room in front of the number 7, 8, 9 and 10 strips.

I never realised I was going to use them all'! Still, I have no complaints about where I am fielded. After all, I finished last season as Celtic’s leading goal-scorer, so it shows that switching around does not affect my play.

When I started with Stenhousemuir, my first senior club, I was outside-right, an old-fashioned winger with sawdust on my boots.

Then when I moved to Raith Rovers it was Bert Herdman who was then their manager, who moved me to centre. And I have shuffled around the three inside-forward positions ever since.

Frankly in modern football I don’t think the numbers game means very much. At Parkhead we usually play with two front-runners, Bobby Lennox, Steve Chalmers or myself, for our forward line is constantly changed by the manager. I think that is one of the secrets of the Celtic success. As recently as ten years ago when a team hit a successful run that was the way it stayed . . . until someone was injured.

No one was changed. The same formation was played, but our system is different. Almost every week there is some change in the line-up or some change in tactics to baffle the opposition.

I did have a spell last season playing slightly deeper; I had started off the season scoring very well, but I then lost my touch ...

So Mr.. Stein told me to play back a little. I knew I was not playing well at the time, and I was grateful for not being dropped. That is also a secret of the Celtic success -like all club teams a player is not axed after one or two bad games.

He might be rested, or he might be switched to a new role. It certainly worked for me when I found my scoring boots again.

I have also had a spell in mid-field, especially two seasons ago. I had a bit of success there at the time, but I honestly don’t feel it is my best position. I think it was just a case of a change working well at the time.

My way to Celtic was slightly different from most of the rest of the team, who had gone direct to the club as teenagers.

I had worked my way through Stenhousemuir, Raith Rovers and then Hearts before I was transferred in November 1966.

My first club was the junior Kilsyth Rangers. I hope it does not make me sound like a soccer greybeard, but I regret the change in the world of junior football.

Then as mere teenagers we played against teams packed with veterans who knew every dodge of the game. I picked up a lot of vital experience which otherwise I would have missed.

Now the emphasis is all on teenagers, and the seniors do not regard the juniors as the most important nursery sides, but I feel it’s a pity.

When I moved to Raith Rovers I played in a team sprinkled with famous names such as Willie McNaught = and what a help he was to me in my career ~ and Jim Baxter.

That was before he moved to Rangers and stardom. He used to drive up to training on a motor-cycle and wearing a T-shirt.

But even then you could glimpse all his football class. He usually played inside-left, I remember being amazed one day and so were the Motherwcll defence at a game at Fir Park when he swerved past at least six players on a run from the bye-line to score.

He was even in a team which beat Rangers at Ibrox. Raith won 3,2, after they had been two goals down in the first ten minutes.

When I moved to Hearts it was also into a new world of European football. Hearts had been in the European Cup, and they were constantly in the Fairs Cup.

We played top teams such as Inter-Milan when Helenio Herrera had just been taken over, and that time anyway I was on the losing side.

My troubles with Hearts, which eventually ended with my move to Celtic, began around 1965, over the question of a benefit, and when I was left out a close-season tour to Norway because I had refused to re-sign.

Eventually, after I had put in a number of transfer requests, and they had all been refused, manager Tommy Walker left the club, and John Harvey, who was then the trainer, took over.

Mr. Harvey asked me if I wanted to stay, but I had made up my mind to leave, and soon after I was transferred to Celtic.

I was told later that one Hearts offcial said I could move because they thought I would be no use to Celtic!

You can imagine how that made me want to show them just how wrong they were.

My biggest disappointment at Hearts was our failure to win the
League Championship in 1965, when we only needed to draw with Kilmarnock at Tynecastle.

I think that match showed the difference between the old and modern ways of football. We went out into that vital match with no plan, just a collection of eleven individual units hoping for a win.

It’s history now that we lost 2-0, and lost the league!
Such a situation could never happen at Parkhead. I don’t mean that we are over-planned, I don’t mean that we never lose games. But at least a reasonable amount of work is put into our games.

The difference in playing for Celtic shows itself in a hundred ways. But one of the main ones is the encouragement from the crowds. Everywhere we play our fans are there. During the years I was at Tynecastle the games were dropping steadily from around 15,000 to 7,000.

I soon found out just how much the crowd meant to Celtic.
Because of the European Cup registration regulations l missed the quarter-tinal tie against Vojvodina a team i rated at the time as one of the best defensive sides in Europe.

But, even sitting in the stand, I could sense the encouragement the crowd gave the team which was climaxed by that last seconds winning goal by Billy McNeill.

And I made a scoring debut when I finally did play against Dukla Prague in the semi-Fmal, with two goals in a 3-1 victory.

The one which pleased me most was the third one, from a Bertie Auld free-kick, a move we had often practised at training. There is a great deal of satisfaction about scoring a goal over which there has been planning.

For any Celtic player who was in the European Cup victory against Inter-Milan that must be the highlight of his career.

But, of course, there have been a succession of honours, and everyone has his own individual favourite.

Mine was the 1967 Cup Final - the year we won all the honours when we beat Aberdeen 2-0, and I scored both the goals.

It is a thrill for any player to score in a Cup Final. But mine had a particular tang of pleasure. Most of my team-mates had been in Cup Finals, some of them in the winning 1965 side.

I had never previously been in a team which had gone beyond the second-round !

And last season I had another Cup-wlnners medal to join it, after the victory against Rangers!

I have played in both Scotland’s great derby games, Celtic and Rangers and Hearts against Hibs.

They really cannot be compared. Generally there is more football from both teams in the East of Scotland derby.

I would not say for a moment that there is no skill in the ‘Old Firm’ games. I think Celtic showed that in the Cup Final.

But from the matches I have been in between Celtic and Rangers it is rare for both sides to hit a good game in the same match. The
tension from the terracing too often stifles any real soccer.

And in the Edinburgh derby game no one goes in fear that if they make one false pass it will bring about jeering from the opposing fans.

I don’t know what they are like right now, but certainly when I played we had some great games with Hibs. I can remember one 5-3 victory, for Hearts.

My first experience with the international team was when I was still with Hearts, and since I moved to Celtic I have been included in the Scottish team pool.

I certainly would love to help Scotland win through to Mexico. But if we fail to qualify I reckon team boss Bobby Brown should try an entirely new policy.

He should start again with a team of players, all of them Under-23. That would mean scrapping a lot of players . . . including myself!

Sure they would have bad results, but by the end of the experiment they would all only be in their middle twenties, and I think they would have achieved a proper blend.

It is no use keeping on players getting towards their late twenties, most of them will be no good for the 1974 World Cup.

It would be a drastic method, but if we have another World Cup flop on top of our previous failure: I feel it would be worth a try.

Willie Wallace - The Day I Signed for Celtic

Submitted By Lizardking Randalstown Hoops


By Rodger Baillie

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Posted by voc1967 on Thursday 03 October 2019 - 10:59:57 | Comments (0)  |  printer friendly
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