In December 1973 Celtic and Rangers came face to face in a League Cup semi final at Hampden on a cold wet, Wednesday evening during a period of time which is best recalled for the industrial strife in the country, between unions and the government of the day, which caused electricity black outs and the three day week for many workers.
Rangers were said to be confident going into the game as Celtic were going through a period of transition and there had been some discontent in the Celtic camp already that season, especially the situations of Davie Hay and George Connelly who had asked for transfers only weeks previously.
Harry Hood took his place in the Celtic forward line and he was a player who often reserved his best form for Old Firm games and who was a particular thorn in the side of Rangers’ captain John Greig. Hood was a touch player who had great technique which was in total contrast to Greig’s robust, physical style and he had previously shown that he had the guile to overcome the Rangers defenders’ aggression.
The SFA had restricted the Hampden attendance to 100,000 although only 54,864 actually turned out on a night of vile weather and heavy rain but the conditions were not to affect Harry Hood in any way and he opened the scoring in 35 minutes. Willie Mathieson cleared a Kenny Dalglish shot off the line but Kenny showed great awareness to chip the ball across for Harry to score with a firm header from close range.
Alex MacDonald equalised with a long range short before half time but in the second half Celtic took hold of the game. With the superb Stevie Murray and Davie Hay now establishing a foothold in midfield Celtic were now in total control. In 55 minutes Billy McNeill headed a Tommy Callaghan free kick across goal for Harry to touch home and in 73 minutes the Celtic striker, now in full flow, strode on to a Dalglish through ball to calmly place a left foot shot home to put the match well beyond Rangers’ reach. Harry had now scored the perfect hat trick of header, right foot and left foot.
Hood was now clearly on top form and seconds after completing his hat trick he raced forward and struck a tremendous shot past Peter McCloy for a fourth goal, which was the pick of the bunch, only to be flagged offside when he was clearly two yards on.
The Celtic fans, standing soaked to the skin on the uncovered Kings Park end of the ground, were enjoying this to the full and loudly sang their own rendition of the Gene Kelly hit song, ‘We’re singing in the rain, what a glorious feeling, we’re happy again’ as the goals flew in and at time up they had taunted their rivals by chanting ‘Easy !…Easy !…Easy !’
Jock Stein had opted to play two of his younger players, Pat McCluskey and Paul Wilson, and had been vindicated in doing so as they both had fine games on the night. It was a sign of Celtic’s strength that their unused substitutes during the game were George Connelly and Jimmy Johnstone who at that time could have walked into any team in Britain.
The next day the Glasgow Herald reported on Celtic’s on field superiority and their supporters’ singing – ‘Celtic, with absolute assurance and occasional arrogance, last night trampled over Rangers and thus walked into their tenth successive League Cup Final…. with Celtic songs being sung loudly and enthusiastically, if untunefully.’
This game was Harry Hood’s finest in a great Celtic career and he remains the last Celtic player to join the exclusive club of scoring a hat trick against Rangers and its worth mentioning that Celtic greats such as Kenny Dalglish, Charlie Nicholas and Henrik Larsson couldn’t emulate him in the years after that.
It remains a pity that the linesman denied him the honour of scoring four!