A decent Celtic quiz question is – name the three English born goalkeepers who Jock Stein signed for Celtic in the 1970’s? The answers are Peter Latchford, Gordon Marshall senior and – Roy Baines.
Roy Baines was something of a surprise signing for Celtic in late October 1976. He had been a respected and capable goalkeeper for Morton, whom he had joined from Hibs in 1972 and Jock Stein was in the market for an experienced back up goalkeeper for first choice Peter Latchford, after the departures of Ally Hunter and Denis Connaghan that summer. Morton were dead keen on Celtic’s restless youngster Andy Ritchie and a deal was proposed to see the experienced Baines arrive at Parkhead in exchange for the prodigious Ritchie going in the opposite direction to Cappielow.
Baines’ first appearance in a Celtic shirt came in November 1976 against Ipswich Town for a game that Jock Stein and Bobby Robson were keen to be played to keep their players in shape on a weekend where both Scotland and England had chosen to cancel top flight football due to World Cup qualifiers being played in midweek. The talented Ipswich side won 2-1 but Baines had made a good first impression in front of the Celtic fans.
In March 1977, Peter Latchford was injured at Ibrox, on a day when his courage in playing with an injury had earned Celtic a valuable 2-2 draw. The next fixture was a hugely important game against Dundee United at Celtic Park. Celtic led the table by three points from both United and Rangers and a win was essential for the Celts to stay on track towards another championship.
With Latchford out injured, Roy Banes made his Celtic league debut that day in front of a huge crowd. The official attendance was 37,000 but, as was usual at that time, there seemed a great deal many more people than that in the ground. The first incident of note took place in the 23rd minute when Danny McGrain gave away a penalty after he had fouled Paul Hegarty. At that time, United’s colourful goalkeeper, Hamish McAlpine, was the club’s nominated penalty taker, and as he came forward to take the kick it was difficult to recall any opposition goalkeeper who had previously been in this unusual position in a match at Parkhead.
To the great joy of the Celtic crowd, Roy Baines guessed correctly to dive and smother McAlpine’s shot. This resulted in the fans roaring for the ball to be kicked upfield towards McAlpine’s empty goal but Tom McAdam blocked Baines to give away a free kick. Happily Celtic went on to win 2-0 through goals by Ronnie Glavin and Joe Craig and a fine day was rounded off when the news came through that Kilmarnock had beaten Rangers 1-0 at Rugby Park. It was a tremendous start to Roy’s Celtic career. The league had all been won that day.
Roy retained his place in the Celtic side for the next five fixtures which included a Scottish Cup semi-final victory over Dundee at Hampden. On 13 April 1977, Celtic travelled to Fir Park in the knowledge that a draw would give them their first ever Premier League title. It was an unseasonably cold night and the game was to prove as bleak as the weather. Celtic lost 3-0 with full back, Andy Lynch, having the severe misfortune to score two own goals past Roy Baines in the Celtic goal. Four days later Celtic won the league at Easter Road but by this time Latchford had recovered and returned as Celtic’s goalie.
Eighteen long months passed before Roy was to make his next appearance for Celtic. After Latchford’s aberrations in a sore 2-0 defeat at Tynecastle, Roy was brought in to freshen the team up. By this time Billy McNeill was now Celtic manager and was keen to make his mark on team selection. Roy was given a run of ten games during a spell where McNeill’s team suffered from infuriating inconsistency. Results did not go Celtic’s way, the worst being a hugely controversial 3-2 League Cup semi-final against Rangers at Hampden where Roy was deemed to be blamed for a Rangers goal. His last Celtic appearance was against Morton at Cappielow on 23 December 1978 and there was great irony that the only goal of the game was scored by Morton’s Andy Ritchie, the player with whom Roy had been exchanged for back in 1976. In early 1979, Roy returned to Cappielow to join Ritchie as Morton a fine team in the Premier League under ex-Celt, Benny Rooney.
Although Roy Baines did not play many gamed for Celtic he will always be remembered for that dramatic debut penalty save against Hamish McAlpine in 1977. He was a decent goalkeeper and it was his misfortune that Andy Ritchie became so tremendously successful at Morton as this frustrated an element of the Celtic support who resented Roy’s arrival in exchange for Ritchie, who was so outstanding at Morton that he was named Scotland’s player of the year in 1979.
Another good Celtic quiz question is to name all the goalkeepers who played for Celtic during the Jock Stein years of 1965 to 1978? Roy Baines can be immensely proud that he was one of them.