Mark Reid made his Celtic debut at Tannadice in November 1980 and became Celtic’s first choice left back for the next five years. Mark was kind enough to give up his time to discuss his career in general but particularly his time spent at Celtic Park.
Saint: Hi Mark, what is the first Celtic game you remember and who was your first Celtic hero?
Mark: First Celtic game I probably remember was 1974 against Atletico Madrid in the European Cup. I remember watching Jimmy Johnstone on the TV getting kicked all over the place. When I was 14, I was an S form and was invited to training in 1977 at the start of the season and Kenny Dalglish trained with us. The paper talk was all about him leaving because he never went on tour with Celtic to Australia and then after that he got the £440,000 move to Liverpool. It was a great experience at 14 years of age to get training with Celtic and to have him training with us was great.
Saint: How did your move to Celtic come about?
Mark: I played for the school at under 15 level but because of my age I could play under 14. My Dad’s friend knew a scout at Celtic who said he would get me up to the Boys’ Club. I went up there and I was confident I would do okay as I was dropping a year and had the experience of playing with older guys from early on at school. They asked me to sign for the Boys Club then to sign an S form a few months later.
Saint: Who were your contemporaries with the Boys Club at that time?
Mark: Charlie Nicholas, Danny Crainie and Owen Paul McGhee who sang the pop song ‘You’re my favourite waste of time’, for the older guys. His name in the music world was Owen Paul but his real name was Owen Paul McGhee. By under 16 stage the S form boys all came together and we had a good team. Willie McStay came in at that time.
Saint: Who signed you for Celtic?
Mark: It was Sean Fallon on 14 May 1976 and I still have the cuttings.
Saint: Talking of 1976, you had a great experience in the Scottish Cup final of that year?
Mark: Rangers played Hearts in the final in front of 85,000 and I won a penalty competition. It all started at school where I was nominated to take penalty kicks and I won the event in North Ayrshire. Then in the cup final I scored five out of five against John Fallon, the ex-Celtic goalkeeper. The headlines in the Sunday Express next day were ‘Super Boss Jock’ for Jock Wallace winning the cup and ‘Super shot Mark’ for me winning the penalties.
Saint: You went in to the reserve team under Frank Connor. That was a good team.
Mark: We were an exceptional team. Even when I was on the ground staff, Ben Casey was there, Peter Mackie, good pros who it was good to learn from, and John McCluskey who I would love to have seen make it.
Saint: How good was John because not many will have saw him at close quarters like you did?
Mark: I remember him with Scotland under 15’s at Wembley and he was absolutely outstanding. He was different from George but equally as good. I thought he was a great player. John was more direct and took people on and it would have been great to see where he ended up had it not been for injury.
Saint: How good was Charlie Nicholas at an early age?
Mark: I played with Charlie at under 14 and you could tell he was going to be a player. He was very confident and it just continued all the way through and it was no surprise that he did well for Celtic then eventually got a move to England.
Saint: There were other good players too.
Mark: John Halpin and John Weir were both in the squad when I made my debut against Dundee United. When you’re going to make your debut then it may be at a point when the team is struggling and we had lost a few games. There was a clamour to make a few changes in the side and that’s how I got to make my debut in the first team.
Saint: What was Frank Connor like?
Mark: He was a hard man to please but he drove you on in a good way. He could pick you up but also give you a real ear bashing when you needed it and you had to accept it but he was very good for the boys. Jim Duffy was very unlucky in that he was up against big Roy Aitken for a place in the team and Davie Moyes was also around then. In those days clubs were less likely to buy a player in the transfer market if they need a new player so it was better for young guys like us.
Saint: You were in midfield for the reserves. How did the left back role come about?
Mark: I started off in midfield for the school, always midfield. I played inside left and left wing for Celtic Boys Club and then when I reached the reserves competition was fierce. The guys in the first team ahead of me were Tommy Burns and Murdo MacLeod so that was going to be a hard slog to get ahead of them so there were times when I fitted comfortably into left back as there was a space there. When we played the first team in practice games I always did reasonably well against Davie Provan so I just took a chance.
Saint: As you said we had lost a few games in November 1980, 3-0 at Ibrox and 2-0 to Aberdeen at Parkhead. Billy McNeill seemed a bit exasperated so you and John Weir were promoted to the first team for a game at Tanndice when Dundee United had an exceptional team.
Mark: I remember getting a telegram from Jimmy Lumsden that night which gave me confidence. I did well, it was a big game and the place was packed out. We got a great result at 1-1 then I played against Airdrie on the Saturday and we won 4-1. I have a cutting from the Sunday Mail which says ‘The kid with left foot looks likely to last longer than Gabriella Brum’ who had just won Miss World but had the title taken from her for breaking the rules. She only lasted a few days. We then played Dundee United the following Wednesday and got beat 3-0!
Saint: Things were to get better.
Mark: We played Rangers in the February on the day where it was snowing. It was a cold day and I remember the noise, walking out in our jerseys with the Rangers players next to us and thinking, wow, this is it. Some of the crowds weren’t that big that season but it was near full at 56,000 and I played against Davie Cooper that day. I always did reasonably well against Cooper, I knew he would try and beat me an extra time rather than just cross it. Willie Johnston came in as well and I still have a picture of me against him. I did well and we won 3-1 with Charlie scoring twice.
Saint: What would the dressing room have been like after a game like that?
Mark: Ecstatic. Obviously it was my first big game and people were making a fuss and saying ‘well done.’ Going out after the game and seeing my Dad there was a great moment.
Saint: We beat them again in Ibrox in April and that led us on to another memorable night at Tannadice.
Mark: We beat United 3-2 to clinch the league title and I remember the players hoisted Billy McNeill and John Clark high on their shoulders. That was tremendous and we went on to win the league the next year as well.
Saint: Did you now feel part of things after the league win?
Mark: Yes, but I never wanted to take anything for granted and I knew players might come in and out. The manager had to be ruthless so if I wasn’t playing well I would be out the team.
Saint: You played against some notable wingers. We’ve already mentioned Davie Cooper. What about the others from that time?
Mark: Gordon Strachan was a handful, Peter Weir, Ralph Milne were all good players. They were all guys who I knew would give me a hard game so I had to be on my game. Strachan was very good and Ralph, who became a team mate of mine at Charlton, was exceptionally good. He could have went to a higher level but Ralph held himself back. He got a move to Manchester United as I think Alex Ferguson remembered what he could do but it wasn’t the right move for him at that time. Ralph Milne was two footed and Peter Weir was two footed, Strachan not as much and Davie Cooper was all left foot.
Saint: Hardest games in those days seemed to be against Aberdeen.
Mark: You had to earn a victory against Aberdeen back then. They were very well organised team, Miller and McLeish, with good players in every position and we always knew that at the end of the season they would be crucial results as things were very tight between the teams.
Saint: In 1981-82 you never missed a game and became a very consistent performer.
Mark: I think at that time between making my debut and winning the league in 1982 I was making fairly consistent performances and I was player who people could depend on. Over the piece I was reasonably pleased. Danny McGrain was able to go back to right back after playing on the left for a while so the team was maybe a bit better balanced at that point.
Saint: You played with a lot of talented players.
Mark: We were a team full of experienced professionals. Then you had the likes of myself, Charlie, Danny Crainie and the McStays. Frank McGarvey had just arrived from Liverpool and competition was fierce especially up front with Frank, George McCluskey, Charlie and Danny Crainie. Later on we had Brian McClair and Maurice Johnston so we always had great strikers. Alan McInally also came in and just after I left Mark McGhee arrived.
Saint: Davie Provan once told me that the three most talented players he played with at Celtic were George McCluskey, Charlie Nicholas and Alfie Conn, because the three of them were capable of doing things no other players could do.
Mark: I was young when Alfie came from Spurs and Johnny Doyle used to rib him really bad about being a ‘blue nose’ but there was actually a good rapport between them and Alfie was a good player and did well for us. I liked George McCluskey as well, he was a terrific player.
Saint: It was a very settled team back then and it is said a lot of the guys would play with injuries because they were scared of losing their place.
Mark: With bonuses the money was actually okay but the actual basic wage was not great and I got more money when I went to Charlton which I couldn’t believe. Bonuses weren’t contractual but these days the players have a lot more power. I can’t imagine having that power over Billy McNeill, if I went in there like that he would have shown me the door.
Saint: Who were the characters in the team at that time?
Mark: Big Roy Aiken and Bobby Lennox were Ayrshire boys so we shared the car travel. They were great characters so we were really close. I got a torturous time as a young boy in those car journeys but it was a good time as you can imagine. Johnny Doyle was a great character. I had to have his boots shining, if they weren’t clean enough then he got you in the boot room and he had these big gold rings and would thump you in the back and tell you to get them clean with a few expletives. Davie Provan, Murdo, Frank McGarvey were all big characters. There was no leader, there was a collective lead from them all. They had a very similar stature. Tommy Burns was a lovely man. What a left foot, Tommy always had time for you.
Saint: Tommy used to complain that too much of Celtic’s play came down the right flank with Danny and Davie and that there was an imbalance in the team.
Mark: Tommy used to go looking for the ball and as a result he ended up drifting inside so the imbalance became more so. I always felt as though Murdo was more of a compliment to me on the left as he would keep his position whereas Tommy would drift and want to get involved in the game all over the place whereas Murdo was more tactical at getting it right.
Saint: Tommy was great going forward but not so great at tracking back and I remember noticing that as a fan.
Mark: My pal Fitzty, who I’ve known for years and years, used to come to the games and he used to say that as well that Tommy was great going forward but not so great on the defensive side of things so from my point of view, I like playing with both but if you had to sway me then I would pick Murdo.
Saint: There was a period around 1980-1983 when Tommy was at his exceptional best and you would have had a great view of that.
Mark: I don’t think you can underestimate how good he was at his peak and he had the sweetest left foot. He could turn on the ball and they said Tommy twists, Tommy turns, Tommy Burns. He was great at turning his body and getting the ball on the other side. He was a real threat.
Saint: One of Tommy’s best games was the day we clinched the second title in 1982 against St Mirren at Parkhead in an exciting finish in a game we had to win.
Mark: Tommy took the game by the scruff of the neck when he had to and he turned it at a point when we needed something to happen in the game. We went on to win well against a St Mirren side which had Frank McAvennie, Billy Stark, Frank McDougall and Tony Fitzpatrick. It shows how times change as teams like that would come and give is a real hard game.
Saint: Aberdeen were beating Rangers 4-0 at half time when we were drawing 0-0. The pressure was really on. Where you aware of that?
Mark: At half time we were aware of that and knew we had to step it up. When the first goal went in we knew it was going to be our day and we eventually won 3-0.
Saint: European games were always a big thing for players and fans. What’s your memories of Ajax in Amsterdam in 1982?
Mark: I remember we were up against it as they were a cracking side. I still have the strip somewhere. Graeme Sinclair had to mark Johan Cruyff and he did really well. I thought we played well tactically which we may not always have done in Europe and it was a magnificent result. They moved the tie to the Olympic stadium and there was a huge crowd. The fact that Cruyff was playing as well made it special. Him, Beckenbauer and Pele were the big names when I was growing up and all of a sudden I’m playing against him. I also played against Beckenbauer for Celtic in a friendly against Hamburg in 1981. They were at the end of their careers but still great.
Saint: Who was the best player you played against?
Mark: We played Juventus in 1981 and beat them 1-0 at home but we were well beaten in the second leg even though it only ended up 2-0. They had the majority of the Italian team who won the World Cup in 1982 and they had outstanding players like Dino Zoff, Bettega, Liam Brady, Scirea, Tardelli, these guys were household name we had watched on the TV. There was a point at Parkhead when I had a chance. I had broken on the left and the ball came over and I connected well and it went past. I always think back, I could have made it 2-0 to make the next leg a bit more interesting. In the second leg in Turin I remember going into the stadium about an hour before it and it was mobbed and the noise was unreal. It was a tall order that night.
Saint: In 1983 we were 2-0 down against Sporting Lisbon in the first leg before turning them over 5-0 at Celtic Park.
Mark: I was a sub and got on for the last 15 minutes but we trounced them that night. It was a typical Celtic night, fast, furious, bombarding them. They were giving fouls away all the time and it was just a great night.
Saint: There was a feeling that that Celtic were too attack minded in certain games and that the defence was often left exposed, especially against Aberdeen and Dundee United under Alex Ferguson and Jim McLean.
Mark: We were exposed at times as we were an offensive team who everyone liked to play against so we were always likely to lose goals. Alex Ferguson and Jim McLean were tactically very good. Looking back I would love to have played in a more tactically aware Celtic team as we were guilty of attacking and being caught on the break. Having a more defensive attitude may not have been accepted back then. Going back to Tommy and Murdo, Murdo was much more disciplined as a player but we got a lot of success with Tommy as he had a free rein to create.
Saint: The 1982-83 will always haunt us as we won the League Cup and were in line for the treble. A big media entourage began to follow Charlie Nicholas and maybe this affected the team?
Mark: Possibly, but we had enough of a lead which we should never have surrendered. The lead dwindled and you may have a point that this may have affected the team. He was player we need at that time to fire the goals in but I do feel I got two league championship medals but that should have been the third. Three in a row would have been great particularly with the level of competition.
Saint: In 1983 Billy McNeill left and Davie Hay came in as manager. What were the differences between them?
Mark: Both had a ruthless streak. Both told you straight. Both were Celtic men who knew what was needed to win. I got on well with Davie but he brought in Brian Whittaker and my appearances were limited. Graeme Sinclair played a few times as well so I was out the team at times. Then I worked my way back in, but as time went on I felt I was on a shaky peg.
Saint: In March 1984 you are well remembered for two penalties. The first against Aberdeen in the League Cup semi and then in the final against Rangers.
Mark: I’ve still got some great action pictures from when I scored the penalty against Aberdeen where I turn and jump on top of Danny. It was a great day, to win 1-0 and score the goal against Aberdeen, who were the favourites. We played really well and we turned them over. I didn’t side foot penalties, I tended to strike them and I felt if the keeper was going to save it then it would have to be a good save. As soon as you get a penalty people’s reaction is that you will score so the pressure is right on. I had a good record with penalties from schooldays onwards.
Saint: Then in the final against Rangers we mounted a comeback from 2-0 down to getting a late penalty and the chance to equalise.
Mark: I looked up to the Celtic end which was packed and we had made a spirited come back and now it was all on me to score. I tucked it away well and it was a feeling of relief rather than ecstasy as I kept us in the game and we saved face. It was a bad day and McCoist was on a hot streak scoring a lot of goals and they won 3-2. He did carry a lot of luck and he was lucky that day to get the rebound after Pat Bonner had saved his penalty.
Saint: In April 1985 you were still in the team when out of the blue you moved to Charlton Athletic.
Mark: I was out the team at that point and we played Rangers in a reserve game at Celtic Park and hammered them. I knew Charlton were coming up but I knew nothing of them other than Derek Hales played for them and I remembered when Hales and Mike Flanagan had been fighting on the pitch. Arnie Warren, their chief scout, came up and wanted me to go down. I had made my mind up as I felt I was on a downhill spiral at Celtic. It was clear that I was free to move. I was only 24 and felt I had plenty of years left. The ironic thing is I went down there and they signed seven players. Jimmy Hill was the front man although he wasn’t putting any money in and Lenny Lawrence was the manager. We gelled very early on and got promotion from the second division to the first which was the top tier, along with Norwich and Wimbledon. Norwich had the likes of Dave Watson and Chris Woods and Wimbledon had the Crazy Gang so it really worked out well for me. I grew to like it there and was there for six years.
Saint: Then it was back to St Mirren under Davie Hay.
Mark: I negotiated a free transfer from Charlton and they gave me it for the service as long as I went back to Scotland. I got injured at Selhurst Park just before I left. I recovered then came up and got a knock on my knee and I felt as though I had to prove myself when I should have rested and recovered. We had a young physio who wasn’t strong enough to say ‘you shouldn’t be playing.’ I wasn’t doing myself justice then needed an operation and it was probably one the bleakest times football wise. And I think any St Mirren fan from that time would say I never did myself justice and I can agree with that. I was out a long time and actually glad when the decision came to stop playing.
Saint: What does Mark Reid do these days?
Mark: Mark Reid teaches people to drive in Irvine and I’ve been doing that for 25 years. I’m a Papa now to a wee boy who lights up my life and I play golf at Dundonald links. Golf was never a big thing at Celtic and I took it up in later life.
Saint: Is there one outstanding memory you hold from your Celtic days?
Mark: Making my debut at Tannadice. It felt as though I had accomplished something a lot of people never do. Looking back, playing for Celtic was huge. It’s great when people meet my kids and say I remember your Dad. It means more to me that they are proud.
Saint: Thanks for taking the time to talk Mark.
Mark: You’re welcome.