John Doyle… 30 Years On

doyle_1

That’s when Doyle took control. He equalised before half time and after Saints had gone in front again it was Doyle who gained the penalty from which Lennox equalised after he was scythed down in the area by Peter Weir. With the game late in extra time and the Celts looking desperately tired Johnny summoned the energy to run from the halfway line, round goalkeeper Billy Thomson and smash the ball home from a tight angle. Celtic, who had played for 100 minutes with 10 men, had prevailed again.

 

A few weeks later he was the hero of the hour again after scoring a magnificent, if unlikely header, against Real Madrid at Parkhead in Celtic’s memorable 2-0 win.

But it’s not only his feats on the park he will be remembered for. In a recent LostBhoys podcast Alfie Conn recalled that Johnny would come to Celtic games wearing his old Celtic scarf and this was on occasions when he was playing !

An old friend of my Father’s was once in hospital and told of his astonishment when John Doyle walked into the ward. John walked down the ward looking at the names of the patients until he came to the man in question. He then introduced himself and said that his family had contacted Celtic and that it was his own turn for hospital visits. In those days Celtic players were very active within the Celtic community, visiting schools, clubs, supporters’ functions and hospitals. How I lament the passing of this activity. Hard to believe that the current crop of mercenaries would give their time so willingly. John was happy to be there though and he spent a long time just talking to my Dad’s mate about Celtic.

He would never be forgotten in the hearts of Celtic fans and when Celtic clinched the league in May 1982 the Jungle roared: ‘Won the league for Doyle, we went and won the league for Doyle.’

To his eternal shame, the then Celtic chairman Desmond White refused to consider a benefit match for John’s family. He said at that time:

‘A testimonial game was given very earnest consideration but eventually we decided against the venture on several grounds. In brief these were the difficulty of staging midweek, and in midwinter, a challenge match sufficiently attractive to pull out a crowd worthy of the occasion; the very substantial cost of bringing to Parkhead a big name club, as well as all the other incidental but considerable outlays of the night, e.g VAT payment, policing charges etc, unavoidable expenditure……..would burden those supporting the game which would contribute nothing to the cause.’

Shame on him. John Doyle left a widow and young family as dependants and you need only ask Davie Provan if Celtic fans are willing to turn out on a freezing winter’s night in tremendous numbers for a good cause

This weekend will see a short service at his graveside in Kilmarnock to commemorate his anniversary. It’s fitting that Celtic are playing in the Ayrshire town that day so that as many may attend as possible.

For those of us who recall Johnny’s efforts in a Celtic jersey it will be a poignant moment in recalling his passing. But it will also be a day of celebration; in recalling one of the most whole hearted players who ever played for the Celts. And it truly was a privilege to have watched him.

May eternal light shine upon him

And may he rest in peace.

Amen.

More from The Celtic Underground

The Strange Case of Sean O’Grady

In April 1979 Jim Watt became the WBC lightweight boxing champion when...
Read More