DEBUT DAYS – JOHANNES EDVALDSSON

2nd August 1975 Celtic 1-0 Derby County

The summer of 1975 could easily be described as a turbulent one at Celtic Park. Legendary captain, Billy McNeill, had retired and those great Celtic servants, Jim Brogan and Jimmy Johnstone, had been given free transfers. Influential midfield man, Steve Murray, had developed a toe problem which would end his career suddenly, and George Connelly was on the verge of walking out Celtic for the last time.

This upheaval meant that Celtic were sure to have an interesting season. Then on July 7th, came the devastating news that the Celtic manager, Jock Stein, had been involved in a serious car accident near Dumfries and was critically ill in hospital. Stein would miss the entire 1975/76 season and the reigns were handed to his trusty assistant, Sean Fallon, to take over for that interim period. Happily for Fallon, the club’s star player, Kenny Dalglish, withdrew his transfer request and signed a new contract, so it wasn’t all bad news.

One of Fallon’s first acts was to take the Icelandic international, Johannes Edvaldsson, on a short term trial to establish whether he was suitable as a Celtic player. Edvaldsson’s debut came in a glamour ‘challenge match’ against the then current English league champions, Derby County, on a day of brilliant summer weather in Glasgow, which helped to enhance the attendance to a fine 44,000.

Edvaldsson was obviously a big draw at the gate and the tall midfielder was an exotic creature in the dull environment of 1970s Scottish football. At that time Derby boasted some of the biggest names in British football and on the day fielded the English internationalists, Roy McFarland, Colin Todd, David Nish and Charlie George, as well as the Scots pair of Archie Gemmill and Bruce Rioch. They were managed by that great Scot, Dave Mackay, who was said to be enjoying his sojourn back in his home country.

The game was an interesting affair and the fans took to Edvaldsson from the start and nicknamed him the ‘big Shuggie’, in the Glasgow vernacular, as a term of affection. In those days Celtic avoided using the term ‘friendly’ for such games as this and both teams were keen to play a competitive game to enhance their reputations.

Derby had the best of the early stages with Celtic’s new English goalkeeper, Peter Latchford, looking most impressive. Edvaldsson enjoyed a dream debut when he scored the only goal of the game in the 62nd minute. Dalglish’s shot was deflected into the big man’s path by Paul Wilson, and he gleefully fired the ball past the Derby keeper, Graham Moseley. The fanatics in the Jungle immediately responded with chants of ‘Shuggie…Shuggie’ and the big man won over the fans with an enthusiastic display.

Edvaldsson was so impressive that Celtic immediately made moves afterwards to make his signing permanent from his Danish club, Holbaek. The Scottish newspapers were very pleased with result as Celtic had beaten such a prominent English side and it was said to have given the nation a bit of pride back after Scotland had been thrashed by England at Wembley, just three months previously.

Shuggie’s debut game gave the fans a taste of things to come and the big man went on to give Celtic great service for the next five years.

 

 

 

 

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