THE 50th anniversary of the Lisbon Lions was given its due coverage this week – and why not. Winning the European Cup all these years ago remains, and will remain I feel for a long time, the geatest achievement by a Scottish football team. We do right to celebrate it.
No caption necessary - we all know who they are
One hundred years hence, assuming we are still playing fitba in Scotland, and there continues to be a club called Celtic, they will still be celebrating Lisbon.
The 25th of May 1967. would be an obvious date to celebrate. Perhaps, 27 May, 2017 will also be celebrated – possibly as the day when Celtic completed an unbeaten domestic season, by winning the Scottish Cup. But, 26th May, should also be seen as significant in Celtic history?
Why? Well, on 26 May, 1917, Celtic had romped to the Scottish League title, in racing terms, “a distance”, a whole ten points (remember, two points only for a win back then) ahead of their challengers as they won the Division One title for the fourth year in a row. Then, as now, Rangers were third, but, there was one change a century ago. Back then, it was Morton who finished second, while Aberdeen finished at the foot of the 18-club Division 1.
A century ago, Scotland and the United Kingdom were engaged in “The war to end all wars”. That conflict still had 18 months to run and Scottish football was doing its bit for the war effort. In 2017, “Brexit” has ensured, we are again engaged in conflict in Europe.
On Saturday, 26 May, 1917, 30,000 fans turned up at Hampden to see a War Fund charity match, as champions Celtic took on a Rest of the Scottish League XI. The match raised the not inconsiderable sum for the time of £885.
Celtic were below full-strength, without defender Willie McStay, forward Andy McAtee and play-maker Patsy Gallagher. They still fielded one or two future club legends, including a newcomer, playing just his third game on a loan deal from Sunderland, future club and national captain Willie Cringan.
The Rest XI contained some household names. Their line-up was the first occasion in which a future Rangers combination -Tommy Cairns and Alan Morton – then still with Queen's Park – formed the left-wing pairing. There was a first representative honour too for young Motherwell centre forward Hughie Ferguson, picked on the back of a first season 24 goals for the club, but who would go on to greater fame as an FA Cup winner with Cardiff City.
The Rest XI won 2-1, Rangers' Jimmy Bowie getting both of their goals, before, in a spirited Celtic fight-back centre forward Jimmy McColl pulled one back. “Sniper McColl”, is one of the forgotten men of Celtic and Scotland, somewhat overlooked, sandwiched as his career was between those of Jimmy Quinn and Jimmy McGrory. McColl, however, scored 123 goals for Celtic in 169 games, which is top-quality striking by any standards. He then joined Hibs, scoring a further 140 goals in 320 games, and, as trainer with the Leith club he played his part in bringing through the legendary “Famous Five”.
The teams that afternoon a century ago were: Celtic: Shaw; McNair, Dodds, Wilson, Cringan, Brown; O'Kane, McMenemy, McColl, Browning and McLean.
Rest of Scottish League: Brownlie (Third Lanark), Manderson and Blair (both Rangers); McIntosh (Dundee) Mercer and Nellies (both Hearts); Simpson (Falkirk), Bowie (Rangers), Ferguson (Motherwell) Cairns (Rangers) and AL Morton (Queen's Park).
Celtic has always prided itself on the club's work for charity – they certainly did their bit for the war effort in 1917, when, as in 1967, and today in 2017, they ruled the roost in Scotland.