I would wager that the vast amount of Celtic fans reading this article are Celtic supporters because their Dad’s were. And probably their Dad’s before them and theirs before that…
Few football clubs can rely on the devotion of their fans (always devout, never loyal) the way that Celtic can and that fanatical attachment to the club is proudly passed down from generation to generation.
My Dad first saw Celtic play in the late 1940’s and recalled goalkeeper Willie Miller as the star man in the team of that time. Indeed, it was commented that it seemed Miller sometimes almost to be seen was taking on forward lines all on his own.
The 1950’s saw Celtic with a variety of star players such as Tully, Collins and McPhail but Bertie Peacock was my Dad’s favourite Celtic player of that era. He used to say that no one ever put more effort into playing for Celtic than Bertie Peacock did.
In 1953, as a 16 year old boy, he missed the bus in Govan for the Coronation Cup final. He and a friend hitched a lift on an open backed lorry, which got them to Hampden just in time for kick off. This allowed him to witness Neilly Mochan’s legendary long range goal which helped Celtic win the cup and, when I was a boy, he would proudly show me the railings on the Celtic end at Hampden on which he was perched that night.
Four years later came the 7-1 game at Hampden. Incredibly, he witnessed this from the Rangers end as he attended the final with his two cousins who were Rangers fans. There was a family function later which is the reason why they went together and afterwards he was to comment that he saw something that other Celtic fans didn’t see – the spectacular sight of the Celtic end erupting after each goal went in.
In March 1967, Celtic and Vojvodina were tied at 1-1 on aggregate at Parkhead in the ECQF with a play off in Rotterdam looming. With virtually the last touch of the ball, Billy McNeill rose to score with a spectacular header. The old ground had never seen an ending like it and there was hysterical celebrations at the final whistle. Dad was working night shift later on and had his ‘pieces’ and a pie in his coat pocket. In all the excitement afterwards, he found that his pie had been mangled amongst the sandwiches. He said that no food had ever tasted better than he enjoyed in work afterwards, dreaming of the glory to come.
I once asked why he didn’t go to Lisbon. ‘When were you born ?’, he would ask.
‘1966’ I would reply.
‘When did we win the European Cup ?’
‘You do the maths !’
He was working in Manchester in May 1967 at the time of Lisbon. He surprised my mother by travelling home for one day, for the final, so much so that she thought he had been sacked. He told me in later years that he wanted to be at home in Govan to enjoy the event. He was glad he did as after Celtic’s victory he said it was the only time in his life he witnessed pubs handing out free drink.
In August 1967 Celtic faced Rangers in a win or bust League Cup tie on the same night as the last episode of The Fugitive was to be shown on TV. This was a big dilemma as there were no video recorders or I-players in those days. Naturally, he opted for the Celtic game and was rewarded by witnessing one the great Celtic victories over Rangers by 3-1. David Janssen would have to wait.
My Dad worshipped Jock ,Stein and in 1970 he was amongst 136,000 other people as Celtic beat Leeds at Hampden in the ECSF match of the century. He said he’d never, in his life, heard a roar like it after Bobby Murdoch and John Hughes scored and that the heaving bodies and noise that night was actually scary in its intensity. The roar of industrial Scotland echoed around Europe that night.
By the early 70’s he was taking me along and our routine was to go in the Rangers end for the first half and walk through the Jungle at half time to see the Celts shoot into the Celtic end in the second half. At this stage he adored Danny McGrain and Kenny Dalglish, two of the greatest Celts ever.
In the early 1990’s he had the pleasure of meeting one of his great heroes, Bobby Murdoch. To my Dad’s delight Bobby was a wonderful man to talk to and my Dad thanked him for all the great times he had been fortunate to enjoy. Bobby’s reply was that if it was great to watch, it was even better to play in.
When asked for a pre match prediction, no matter who was the opposition, he would always reply – ‘One more than them will do me’.
My Dad passed away suddenly last week. This is a time of grief but, as I remarked at his funeral, the bond between a father and as son (or daughter !) in supporting Celtic, is a marvellous thing and is more than worthy of comment.
Hail, hail !