Pat Bonner represented Ireland with great distinction during the 1988 European Championships in West Germany. He will ever be remembered in his homeland for the saves he made to defy England, and Gary Lineker in particular, when Ireland beat England 1-0 and sent the country into raptures.
Bonner had a back injury and exacerbated it during that tournament. This meant he was to miss the opening three months of the season and with Bonner’s goalkeeping deputy, Allen McKnight, having departed for West Ham, Billy McNeill looked to secure two goalkeepers in view of matters. The first was Ian Andrews from Leicester City and the second was Alan Rough.
Andrews was an expensive signing at £300,000 from Leicester City. He was a highly rated England under 21 internationalist and Liverpool and Leeds were said to have been chasing him around the time of his signing. He was to be the number one choice in Bonner’s absence with the veteran Rough signed as cover. He was 36 years old and had been playing for Orlando Lions in the USA after being released by Hibs.
Rough was well known to Celtic fans and always had a leaning for Celtic during his days with Partick Thistle and Scotland. The Parkhead crowd had always taken to him and this was shown in late 1977 when he was injured in a game at Celtic Park and had been given a standing ovation by the Celtic support after being carried off injured in a league game in which he had excelled in. Celtic were actually rumoured to have been interested in him since the early 1970’s but nothing had ever materialised and he had shown great loyalty to Thistle.
Unfortunately for Andrews he had a difficult time in the Celtic goal. He took the blame for a number of bad defeats, particularly the embarrassment of a 5-1 reverse at Ibrox for which he had carried the can for. When he let in a simple goal against Honved in Budapest in the European Cup which led to another defeat it proved to be the final straw and Alan Rough was given his chance.
Alan was only to play six times for Celtic in a short cameo in September/October of 1988 and there are some moments worth recalling. In the second leg against Honved, with the game balanced at 1-1 on aggregate, he ran out of his goals to make a fine interception outside his area which averted a goal. His calming presence on the night helped Celtic to an important 4-0 win which had saw them through to the next round. The irony of this game was that Rough had actually played for Partick Thistle against Honved in the UEFA Cup way back in 1972.
Only days after that Celtic found their form at last and hammered St Mirren 7-1 at Parkhead. Paul McStay was on top form and Mark McGhee scored a hat trick on a wet and windy autumnal day. Alan had now helped Celtic turn their poor early season form around and his last game saw a clean sheet in a 1-0 win against Dundee United before Bonner returned to the team. Rough may only have made six appearances but he had made an impression during that short period and there was relief that he had been there when Andrews had lost form completely and Celtic were in need of a steadier presence in goal.
Alan Rough will always be remembered as a Partick Thistle and Scotland legend and there remains a feeling that had he moved across Glasgow, from the west end to the east end at his peak in the 1970’s, then he could have become a great Celtic player also. It may only have been six games but ‘Roughie’ can still say he was a Celt.