A good friend of this site, Roddy Stewart, recently discovered some old Celtic interviews on cassette that he had done in the late 1980’s. This one is with the legendary Bobby Evans. Evans is regarded as one of the best players ever to have appeared for Celtic and his 45 cap haul as a Celt was a club record for many years. It was hoped to put it out on podcast form but poor sound quality meant it was better transcribing the interview.
Bobby evans sadly suffered from dementia in later years and died in 2001. Historians recall him as one the all time great Celts. He signed for celtic in 1944 and was there until 1960.
You were the last signing of Jimmy McStay’s when you came to the club?
What actually happened was when Jimmy got his books, at that particular time they were on holiday and when we were on holiday Celtic appointed a new manager.
Did you get any opportunity to know Jimmy McStay at that particular time?
It appeared he was treated badly by Celtic and it looked like that at the time but he was brought back as a scout and I then got to know him from around the ground.
I believe it was a guy called Tommy Lipton who took you to St Anthonys?
Tommy was playing for Dumbarton at the time and stayed in Barrhead and he was off with an injury. I was playing church football this particular Saturday and the referee never turned up and as he was off injured he took over as ref. And it was through that I signed with the Ants. I actually got in touch with Jimmy McGlone who was secretary with the Ants and he came up on the Sunday. The following Saturday the Ants had a decider, I think with Blantyre Victoria at Glencairn’s park and we won that game so that was the beginning of it. I think I was only with the Ants for three to six months and in fact another funny thing about it was we were about to play Benburb, the Ants against the Bens, and they told me before the game that Celtic were there to watch me. They shouldn’t really tell you these things because depending on the player it could upset them. But actually I went up to the park to sign on the Sunday and I remember it was a Sunday as it was illegal but they did it rather than wait till the Monday.
It was a bad time to sign for Celtic as the war was coming to a close ?
It was. They keep talking about it now when it comes to the attendances they are getting , but when you go way back to 1945 there was nothing, you couldn’t do anything, there was nowhere for people to go. Every away game other than Ibrox the gates were closed for the game. Ibrox held something like 120,000 at the time so that was the only away game that the gates weren’t closed. It was a good time and believe it or not I got £2 per week with ten bob off for income tax, thirty shillings players were getting for playing in the first team. Players like Malky MacDonald. Willie Miller, Johnny Crum, George Paterson , it’s amazing really but that’s what they were getting as well.
They don’t know they are born today.
Well that’s just life isn’t it?
What about yourself Bobby they kept playing you in all sorts of positions?
I was moved around, I was a nonentity at the time, jack of all trades but master of none. At that particular time I played in eight or nine positions for Celtic but as long as I was getting a game of football I was quite happy.
Then you played at right half in the famous game at Dundee in 1948?
That was supposed to be the relegation game at Dundee where Jock Weir scored three goals and that was my first time at right half.
How do you remember that particular game?
I don’t to be quite honest, I played that long and in that many games that it’s in the past. But although winning the Coronation Cup and the double after so many years, it’s now things that are really in the past. I played for that long that people always ask me who was the best player that I ever seen or ever played against and you know it’s absolutely ridiculous because there were so many good players in those days that you couldn’t really put anyone on a pedestal as there was a tremendous amount of good players in those days.
There was a lot of pressure on the club at that time due to relegation, did you feel under pressure?
Like I say it was just a game and it was just a matter of going out and doing your best.
How did you enjoy playing at right half ?
Oh great, great, although I would have played in any position to get a game of football.
Was that your most natural role ?
I don’t know as I played right half for a long time and centre half for a long time, the only thing is you don’t do as much running as a centre half you tend to read the game more. It might be different now as they have so many positions now.
Moving on to 1951 and your first trophy was the Scottish Cup win over Motherwell. Do you remember that one ?
I remember John McPhail’s goal not much else because as I said I played over twenty years in football and ever game is different so I can’t really remember much about that one.
Moving on to the Coronation Cup, how did you regard the whole tournament?
Well there’s the wee cup up there (in the cabinet), we got wee replicas of the trophy and that other one is the St Mungo Cup, that was another one off cup which Celtic won. The Coronation Cup, I think Celtic were just chosen to make up the teams at that particular time.
Why did it go so well ?
We just seemed to hit form plus the fact there were big attendances, I think it was all within a fortnight and they were all good games plus the fact we were playing against English clubs and they’d be quite confident. I think it was Arsenal in the first round then Man United then Hibs in the final.
How well do you remember Neil Mochan’s goal?
I remember it was a great goal but other than that not really much.
You were generally regarded as player of the tournament above players like Johnny Carey, Hibs’ famous five and Joe Mercer.
It’s just what people think. Over the years I had been argumentative against the press and it’s just the way they see things really. It’s always nice to read the paper the next day to see you played well plus the fact I loved football and that was the main thing.
You played in the double season of 1953-54 with the famous half back line of Evans, Stein and Peacock. How do you remember them as players?
Jock was very good in the air, he was excellent in the air but he had only the one foot and it was a good left foot.
Do you think people forget he was actually a good footballer because he did so well as a manager?
I would probably say that I think they think more about him now as a manager rather than a player. But at that time they brought him back from Llanelli pure and simply just to bring on the young ones sort of style but he played that well and that was him in.
Did you see the potential as a manager there?
I never gave that much thought although I was always friendly with him. In fact after training, Neilly Mochan, Jock and myself used to go to Ferrari’s then go to a snooker hall in the afternoon or go to the pictures. Neilly and Jock were great ones for backing horses but I didn’t back horses but I used to sit in Ferrari’s and Neilly would run up to wherever the bookies was to put on the bet and see how it went. So it was either snooker, pictures, or sitting waiting on their horses in the afternoons.
He liked a punt on the horses Jock?
He did but so did Neilly.
What about Bertie Peacock as a player?
Bertie was very good as well, it just so happens it worked out well for us at 4, 5 and 6 when Jock came. Bertie very rarely had a bad game he was such a consistent player and it was the same when he played with Ireland as well.
Did you have much contact with Jock when he became manager ?
No, I hadn’t much contact with him at all then.
The following year you won the double with the likes of Bobby Collins, Charlie Tully and Willie Fernie. Would you say any of them were more influential or was it a case of a team effort?
They were all different types of player but Bobby Collins was like a wee machine, he was all over the park and it as I say if you kicked him them he would make sure he got you back, not by being dirty but he would make sure he went into a tackle. For his height he could look after himself. If he’d have been a boxer he’d have been a world champion really, the way he went about it. Willie and Charlie, when you were winning you just gave the ball to them and they would play by themselves as no one could get it off them. They were very good in a winning team.
There was talk that you and Charlie never saw eye to eye?
Oh, that was a load of rubbish. That was the press. I’ve said this before. Once I was playing with Scotland and I was right half at the time and the Irish left wing at Windsor Park in Belfast was Peacock and Tully. I think we won 6-2. I was up against Charlie and I decided before the game that I was going to run at Charlie and hit him, not dirtily of course. So right away they got the kick off and the ball went to Charlie and as he went to pass it I went and hit him, you didn’t see Charlie for the rest of the game. As I said I think we won 6-2, we used to win quite a lot against Ireland. But at the end of the game Charlie makes for me right away and he says ‘Imagine me playing with these ten monkeys!’ This was just Charlie’s way speaking about the rest of his team but that was just Charlie. As I say it was just the press. I think at the time Charlie was doing an article in the paper and that was how it came about but he was a joker really. Something always comes up in the press about players and they’ve got to have stories.
In your international career you got 48 caps but actually felt you were overlooked at times?
That wasn’t the thing at all. At that particular time, Waverley, who was Willie Gallacher who wrote for the Daily Record, he was always wanting other right halves in the side. He’d want Ian McColl, he’d want Jimmy Scoular, he’d want Jimmy Dudley of West Brom he was always after other right halves. Now after the previous international it was always that I had played well so how could it come to the time to pick another team and they were always looking for somebody else?
Before teams were selected was it a case of being reported that you were playing badly?
The point about it is, it used to be as well that big George, George Young had to play because he was very good as a captain and it always had to be that the right half position was a bit dodgy as far as myself was concerned. So I decided, I was very outspoken in my younger days, and I went to Bob Kelly at the time as there was a team to be chosen in about two or three days. And I said to him – ‘I wonder if you would agree with me that I do not wish to be picked for the team but if I’m chosen I will willingly play?’ So he said it’s up to yourself if that’s the way you feel and then the headlines were ‘Evans does not want to play for Scotland’. I still have the papers and that was completely untrue. It’s just the way the press make things out. There was never any doubt in my refusing to play what I said was I did not wish to be considered but if I was chosen I would play. Which was a different way from how the press put it.
Why did Waverley do this? Was it because you played for Celtic?
I actually got on quite well with him. I used to do an article for the Sunday Dispatch – ‘My friends the footballers’ -which was quite funny – and there was a bloke who wrote with the Daily Mail. At that time the Mail was in St Vincent street they shared a building with the Sunday Dispatch. At that time Alex Cameron worked for the Mail and was a copy boy and Willie Gould and Andrew Wallace were the main reporters. But there was a bloke who worked on the Edinburgh edition called Alec Young, not the footballer at Hearts. He always did the Edinburgh sides and when Celtic went through there, Celtic were always lucky this, that and the next thing. And this day I went up and there they all were congregated including Alec Young. And I just said to him, ‘Who ever seen you around a reporter?’ That was all. Nothing nasty about it. And see from that day I was always the worst man on the park. I still have the cuttings up the stair. I played against West Germany in Stuttgart around 1959 and we actually won 3-2 but Evans was the worst man on the park. That’s what Alec Young said. I was centre half and they took the centre forward off in the 44th minute. In those days you could bring on a sub but only before the 45 minutes. In every other paper I was the star man but not to Alec Young.
The same thing happened many years later with Kenny Dalglish at Celtic.
I laugh at it now but it wasn’t a laugh at the time.
You captained Scotland at Wembley?
Oh aye, the Jimmy Cowan game in 1949. 1949 we won 3-1, 1951 we won 3-2 and Bobby Charlton scored the winner in 1959 when we lost 1-0. I also played four times against them at Hampden.
And what about the 7-1 final against Rangers in 1957?
On the day if it had lasted another ten minutes it would have been 10-1 it’s just the way things go but we could have got double figures.
You were actually off the park when rangers scored their goal so it could have been 7-0. Someone had clattered you.
I don’t remember being off it’s so long ago.
You played against the Lisbon Lions when you were with Raith Rovers?
I played against the bulk of them in league cup games.
How did you enjoy it in London with Chelsea?
I played with Greavsie. He was a nuttier in those days as well. But he was good. They had both Bonetti and Matthews who were England international goalkeepers. Ted Drake was the manager. Peter Sillet was right back and his brother John Sillet was left back. Peter Sillet was a big bloke but John would kick anything above the grass. Terry Venables was right half, me at centre half and Bobby Bradbury at left half. Outside right was Peter Brabrook and centre forward was Ron Tindall. On the left wing was Frank Blunstone.
Management, was it not for you?
Not really. It’s just your luck, no matter what job you’re in. It was playing for me.
How did you get on with Mr McGrory?
Oh he was a great man. He was a gentleman really.
Too nice to be a manager?Probably, but you couldn’t meet a nicer bloke. He used to tell you just to go out and enjoy yourself. In fact the year we won the double we would head for Ferraris, we would get the old car to St Enoch square and then you would walk up Buchanan Street. And if we were on a winning streak and someone waved you would wave back. But if you were losing then rather than nod to them you would look in a shop window until they passed . That the difference between victory and defeat. We didn’t need team talks with the players we had , they were all good players. Mr McGrory was so nice that as we were running out he didn’t know what to say. If eleven players are running out, you’ve got to say something quick to each player. Mike Haughney used to be the last player out and all Jimmy McGrory could say to him was ‘Cheerio then son.’
Final question how would you some up twelve years at Celtic?
Enjoyable. Very much so, no complaints at all in the time I was there it went by like that. I really enjoyed that. I still keep an eye on the results.
Do you ever go to Parkhead?
Not really. My friend is a Motherwell supporter of all things and the back end of last season I went to some of their games and enjoyed going there. I find very few ex players actually watch games. The excitement is not there. I used to go up to Celtic park at one o’clock for a 3 o’clock kick off. The trophy room there now used to be the billiards room and I would go up and play billiards just to relax before the match.
Thanks for your time Bobby.