There are not many perks to be had in CU towers but I recently had the privilege of an early viewing of ‘Smiler’ – The Neil Mochan story.
This is a production directed by Luke Massey and assisted by the Celtic writer, Paul John Dykes, the author of the recent highly acclaimed book, ‘The Quality Street Gang’. It’s worth noting that Paul is in the process of writing a detailed book on Neilly Mochan’s career to go in tandem with the release of the DVD.
Most Celtic fans are familiar with the basics of Neilly’s Celtic career as player and trainer and for those who are not, it is a magnificent story.
Signed in 1953 from Middlesbrough, Neil, a proud Celtic fan, jumped at the chance of a move to Parkhead and was an instant success. His career highlight came in May 1953 when he scored one of the iconic goals in Celtic’s proud history against Hibs, in the final of the Coronation Cup at Hampden, from an estimated 35 yards.
Further success came in 1954 wen the double of league and cup was secured and, if that wasn’t enough, Neilly was immortalised by scoring two goals in Celtic’s legendary 7-1 League Cup final win against Rangers. As it tells you on the film, this is still a record winning margin in any British senior cup final.
Fate took a hand in 1964 when Neil was appointed as Celtic’s first team trainer and when Jock Stein returned in March 1965, the good times started rolling.
Much is made of the fabled Liverpool boot room during Bill Shankly’s time with Bob Paisley, Ronnie Moran and Joe Fagan being the trusted lieutenants. Stein also had his own boot room team and he relied heavily on Neilly, Sean Fallon, Bob Rooney and Jimmy Steel to create that special atmosphere which helps to breed success and Neil Mochan was at the forefront of that
The film informs you that he served Celtic in one position or another for 37 years and during that period the club won over 50 major trophies. That’s the basic story but this film does well to put flesh on to the bones. There are interviews with Neil’s family which set the tone and there are some magnificent stories and anecdotes from the Celtic players of each period, from Mike Jackson and Charlie Gallagher in the late 1950’s to Frank McAvennie and Andy Walker from the 1990’s.
Neil Mochan was a very proud but modest man and this film pays him the tribute of helping to make the Lisbon Lions the fittest outfit in Europe. Celtic didn’t only play Inter off the park in Lisbon; they ran them off it.
This story is very poignant and Neil’s last days as a Celt before his sad passing in 1994 are very touching. It’s worth noting that every Celtic manager from Jimmy McGrory to Tommy Burns kept Neil in their back room team and that is a most fitting tribute.
This is a story told with great enthusiasm and affection which every Celtic fan will hugely enjoy, no matter what age you may be.
If you’re a Celt then watch this film and you’ll be a ‘smiler’ as well.
The film is due for release on December 1st and a trailer and further details can be found on http://www.smilerdoc.com