23 January 1982 Celtic 4-0 Queen of the South
The McStay name has always been synonymous with Celtic and perhaps the most famous of that clan, Paul, made his debut in an inauspicious Scottish Cup tie in 1982 at Parkhead.
Paul McStay’s great uncles, Willie and Jimmy, had both been players of great renown in the 1920’s and 1930’s and his elder brother, Willie, was already on Celtic’s books by the time Paul signed for Celtic in 1981. Indeed, Jimmy McStay had been one of the few men to have managed Celtic, during the war time period of 1940-1945.
Paul was 17 at the time of his debut and was something of a youth prodigy. He was captain of the most successful Scotland youth side ever, a group of young men who famously went on to win the European youth championship in 1982, a team which included such talents as Ally Dick, Pat Nevin, Gary Mackay and Dave Bowman as well as Paul’s fellow Celts Jim McInally and Jim Dobbin.
Celtic manager Billy McNeill announced in advance that the young McStay and another Celtic youth product, John Halpin, were to make their debuts during this game as Celtic were suffering from a mini injury crisis with Charlie Nicholas, Dom Sullivan, Mike Conroy and Davie Provan all missing on the day.
The east terracing at Celtic Park, the Rangers end, was out of commission after severe arctic temperatures led to burst pipes that caused the terracing to flood and ice over, making the area too dangerous for supporters to stand on and with the pitch looking hard in places the match was lucky to go ahead.
When the teams ran out Paul McStay was wearing the number 8 shorts, a number that he was to become most identifiable with at Celtic in the years to come. Queens were not expected to give Celtic any great problems and the Celts were 3-0 up at half time with a thoroughly professional performance.
The highlight of the half had been a rare goal by Celtic’s captain, Danny McGrain, in the 21st minute. It was hardly a thing of beauty, a left foot shot which deflected past the Queens’ keeper, Alan Ball, but that didn’t stop the Celtic fans in the Jungle enclosure giving Danny a rousing reception as he raced over to accept their cheers. Danny was entitled to celebrate as it was his first goal since May 1979 !
Paul McStay’s debut was quietly impressive and he drew applause from the crowd with his fine ball control and crisp passing. However, the man of the match was another Celtic midfield man, Tommy Burns, who was at this time playing at the peak of his career and was rated the best midfielder in the country by many critics and reckoned to be a cert to be in Scotland’s world cup squad in Spain in the forthcoming summer.
Celtic’s other debutant, John Halpin, rounded off matters with a fourth goal late in the game as the frozen fans, standing in bitter cold temperatures, began to make their ways to the exits. Halpin’s goal resulted in him stealing the limelight from the young Paul but the Celtic midfield man was to make his own mark at Pittodrie, just seven days later, when he scored a terrific goal on his league debut.
Some young players take time to settle in to their new surroundings when they break into the first team but that was never going to be the case with the prodigious Paul McStay. For the next 15 years he was to be a mainstay in the Celtic team and entertain the fans royally during that period.
There can be no doubt that the McStay’s of the early 2oth century would have been enormously proud of their young descendant who carried on the family’s Celtic traditions with such distinction.