“Sooner or Later They’ll Get the Winner.”

“Sooner or later they’ll get the winner.”

Inter captain Picci to goalkeeper Sarti.

Inverting The Pyramid is Jonathan Wilson’s superlative book on the evolution of football tactics. Here’s an extract from his chapter on Catenaccio, in which the author offers an interesting pespective on that famous day in 1967 from the point of view of some of the Italian players on the receiving end of Jock Stein’s attacking tactics.

lisbon herrera
Above: Helenio Herrera, Inter coach in 1967. He pioneered the use of psychological motivating skills including slogans that were often plastered on billboards around the ground and chanted by players during training sessions. He also enforced a strict discipline code, for the first time forbidding players to drink or smoke and controlling their diet – once in Inter he suspended a player after telling the press “we came to play in Rome” instead of “we came to win in Rome”. He also sent club personnel to players’ homes during the week to perform ‘”bed-checks”. He introduced the ritiro, a pre-match remote country hotel retreat that started with the collection of players on Thursday to prepare for a Sunday game. Apart from that he was quite laid back.

It was in 1967 that Herrera’s Inter disintegrated, and yet the season had begun superbly, with a record breaking run of seven straight victories. By mid-April they were four points clear of Juventus at the top of Serie A, and in Europe had had their revenge on Real Madrid, beating them 3-0 on aggregate in the quarter-finals. And then something went horribly wrong. Two 1-1 draws against CSKA Sofia in the semi-final forced them to a playoff – handily held in Bologna after they promised the Bulgarians a three-quarter share of the gate receipts – and although they won that 1-0, it was as though all the insecurities, all the doubts, had rushed suddenly to the surface.

They drew against Lazio and Cagliari, and lost 1-0 to Juventus, reducing their lead at the top to two points. They drew against Napoli, but Juve were held at Mantova. They drew again, at home to Fiorentina, and this time Juve closed the gap, beating Lanerossi Vicenza. With two matches of their season remaining – the European Cup final against Celtic in Lisbon, and a league match away to Mantova – two wins would have completed another double, but the momentum was against them. If Inter were going to defend, the logic seemed to be, Celtic were going to attack with everything in their power.

And Inter were set on defending, particularly after Mazzola gave I hem a seventh-minute lead from the penalty spot. They had done it against Benfica in 1965, and they tried to do it again, but this was not the Inter of old. Doubts had come to gnaw at them, and as Celtic swarmed over them they intensified. ‘We just knew, even after fifteen minutes, that we were not going to keep them out,’ Burgnich said. ‘They were first to every ball; they just hammered us in every area of the pitch. It was a miracle that we were still 1-0 up at half-time. Sometimes in those situations with each minute that passes your confidence increases and you start to believe. Not on that day. Even in the dressing room at half-time we looked at each other and we knew that we were doomed.’

For Burgnich, the ritiro had become by then counter-productive, serving only to magnify the doubts and the negativity. ‘I think I saw my family three times during that last month,’ he said. ‘That’s why I used to joke that Giacinto Facchetti, my room-mate, and I were like a married couple. I certainly spent far more time with him than my wife. The pressure just kept building up; there was no escape, nowhere to turn. I think that certainly played a big part in our collapse, both in the league and in the final.’

On arriving in Portugal, Herrera had taken his side to a hotel on the sea-front, half an hour’s drive from Lisbon. As usual, Inter booked out the whole place. ‘There was nobody there, except for the players and the coaches, even the club officials stayed elsewhere,’ Burgnich said. ‘I’m not joking, from the minute our bus drove through the gates of the hotel to the moment we left for the stadium three days later we did not see a single human being apart from the coaches and the hotel staff. A normal person would have gone crazy in those circumstances. After many years we were somewhat used to it, but by that stage, even we had reached our breaking point. We felt the weight of the world on our shoulders and there was no outlet. None of us could sleep. I was lucky if I got three hours a night. All we did was obsess over the match and the Celtic players. Facchetti and I, late at night, would stay up and I isten to our skipper, Armando Picchi, vomiting from the tension in the next room. In fact, four guys threw up the morning of the game and another four in the dressing room before going out on lhe pitch. In that sense we had brought it upon ourselves.’

lisbon inter jinky

Jimmy Johnstone and Willie Wallace size up their oppoents while walking onto the Lisbon pitch. Jinky seems to have spotted someone he can swap jerseys with – a wildly optimistic idea for more reasons than one.

Celtic, by contrast, made great play of being relaxed, which only made Inter feel worse. In terms of mentality, it was catenaccio’s reductio ad absurdum, the point beyond which the negativity couldn’t go. They had created the monster, and it ended up turning on its maker. Celtic weren’t being stifled, and the chances kept coming. Bertie Auld hit the bar, the goalkeeper Giuliano Sarti saved brilliantly from Gemmell, and then, seventeen minutes into the second half, the equaliser arrived. It came thanks to the two full-backs who, as Stein had hoped, repeatedly outflanked Inter’s marking. Bobby Murdoch found Craig on the right, and he advanced before cutting a cross back for Gemmell to crash a rightfoot shot into the top corner. It was not, it turned out, possible to mark everybody, particularly not those arriving from deep positions.

The onslaught continued. ‘I remember, at one point, Picchi turned to the goalkeeper and said, “Giuliano, let it go, just let it go. It’s pointless, sooner or later they’ll get the winner,’’’ Burgnich said. ‘I never thought I would hear those words, I never imagined my captain would tell our keeper to throw in the towel. But that only shows how destroyed we were at that point. It’s as if we did not want to prolong the agony.’

Inter, exhausted, could do no more than launch long balls aimlessly forward, and they succumbed with five minutes remaining. Again a full-back was instrumental, Gemmell laying the ball on for Murdoch, whose mishit shot was diverted past Sarti by Chalmers. Celtic became the first non-Latin side to lift the European Cup, and Inter were finished.

Worse followed at Mantova. As Juventus beat Lazio, Sarti allowed a shot from Di Giacomo – the former Inter forward – to slip under his body, and the scudetto was lost. ‘We just shut down mentally, physically and emotionally,’ said Burgnich. Herrera blamed his defenders. Guarneri was sold to Bologna and Picchi to Varese. ‘When things go right,’ the sweeper said, ‘it’s because of Herrera’s brilliant planning. When things go wrong, it’s always the players who are to blame.’

As more and more teams copied catenaccio, its weaknesses became increasingly apparent. The problem Rappan had discovered – that the midfield could be swamped – had not been solved. The tornante could alleviate that problem, but only by diminishing the attack. ‘Inter got away with it because they had Jair and Corso in wide positions and both were gifted,’ Maradei explained. ‘And, also, they had Suarez who could hit those long balls. But for most teams it became a serious problem. And so, what happened is that rather than converting full-backs into liberi, they turned inside-forwards into liberi. This allowed you, when you won possession, to push him up into midfield and effectively have an extra passer in the middle of the park. This was the evolution from catenaccio to what we call “i! giocco all’ Italiano” – “the Italian game”.’

In 1967-68, morale and confidence shot, Inter finished only fifth, thirteen points behind the champions Milan, and Herrera left for Roma. Catenaccio didn’t die with la Grande Inter, but the myth of its invincibility did. Celtic had proved attacking football had a future, and it wasn’t just Shankly who was grateful for that.

232 cover inside front lisbon line up t shirt

Daffodils and that…

 wee friend with the black beard was a Protestant clergyman, a refugee from the military regime in Argentina. He taught Greek and Hebrew to bible students at the University of Paris. He was telling us about the state of the modern French novel. “Tres, tres beau,” but penetrated with sadness. “When you are young, do your parents ever say you poetry?”
“No,” I said, but my father said me teams. ‘Shevlin, McNair and Willie McStay; Jimmy McStay, Cringan and McFarlane; McAtee and Patsy Gallagher, Cassidy, McLean and Paddy Connolly.’”

That my parents did not ‘say me poetry’ was no deprivation. I got soul from a load of Irish 78s and an old wind-up gramophone. There was one sad disc with ‘The Laddie From Cardenden’ on one side and ‘The Scottish League’ on the other.
My father crossed from Donegal to the Gorbals at the end of the First World War and Celtic’s first spring and was weaned on the sides of the Thirties. I suppose I must have slept through the record attendance final of 1937 in my cot in Rutherglen Road where Basil Spence’s abominable ‘Galleons Under Sail’ now stands and was probably down to bed in Stamperland by the time Celtic and Everton kicked off at Ibrox on June 10th 1938 to contest the destination of the Exhibition Cup.
The long winter began that summer’s night. The second spring was almost thirty years away.
The first game he ever took me to was Third Lanark A versus Celtic A at Cathkin Park on August 26th 1944. I still grieve for the demise of Thirds, my second team. Celtic were in green shirts, black shorts and hooped socks. Rolando Ugolini was in a grey jersey in goal and Bobby Evans and ‘Hooky’ McPhail played for Celtic in a 2:2 draw.
We were back at Cathkin just over a year later, October 14th, the big teams this time, Celtic winners by 2:0. Jackie Gallagher shot into an empty goal when Peter McBride and Matt Balunas got in a fankle, and there was a penalty, I’m sure, a few minutes later, that Delaney blasted into the roof of McBride’s net.
It may seem nugatory to record details like this but every Celtic win of the period was received as being at last the turn of the tide. In the same futile hope we had applauded McGrory’s appearance in the stand (did he ever sit on the touchline?) at the pre-season trials of August 1945 when he took over as manager for the next (long) twenty years. (“Today they are ringing their bells – tomorrow they will be wringing their hands.”)
Rangers were supreme at the time that I remember staring in disbelief at a headline in the Daily Record which read Clyde 4 Rangers 3, and when they went down in Germany 6:1 to a team from the British Army on the Rhine I just could not credit it possible.
“Why are Rangers such a good team Daddy?”
“They’re not a good team. It’s just that they’re better than any of the others.”
(At the Kelvin Hall circus every January there were two teams of performing dogs, blues versus greens, with a balloon for a ball and goals. I don’t think I was ever there when the greens won. Our luck was right out.)
I experienced my first sadness like a coal hammer to the heart when dear Jimmy Delaney moved to Manchester United in February 1946. The second was Willie Miller’s failure to get the nod over Frank Swift for the Great Britain side versus Europe at Hampden in 1947. The third was in a closemouth in 1948 when the news came down the street that Celtic were out 0:1 to Morton in the Scottish Cup semi-final. It wasn’t quite the same anguish when Collins and Fernie moved on in 1958. Close enough, but I was older then, if not wiser.
We were at Charlie Tully’s first appearance in the pre-season trial of 1948. My father was not impressed but was willing to make excuses for Charlie’s new boots worn especially for the occasion. He never did acquire a love for Tully. Charlie didn’t have Delaney’s modesty. “Jimmy Delaney would come out of Parkhead, pull down his hat over his eyes and away. But this Tully fella… Celtic should have let him go years ago when West Bromwich were after him.”
After a very good league win over Thistle, Colonel Shaughnessy promised us that Celtic would be back and the Evening Times in May 1947 predicted our troubles would be over if we could only get Parola, the Rest of Europe centre-half, a big Italian. Feelers even went out to Middlesborough for Wilf Mannion.
My father had no time for Bob Kelly. To paraphrase Montaigne somewhere: run a mile from a man of principle. “McGrory’s just a yes man up there. The only team I’m interested in is Malky’s (Malcolm MacDonald was manager at Brentford before coming back to build the Kilmarnock side with which Willie Waddell won the league).
After modern day setbacks I look back and wonder how my father’s generation coped. Mine was born into dearth and defeat and took it for normal, but they had seen the happy times and burst with pride for the old Celtic. They knew what it had been like to win leagues and cups and now there was nothing.
Celtic in the 40s and 50s used to go to Ibrox with no strategy or tactics at all and play well if they held Rangers to a 4:0 defeat or even got a goal themselves. There were real stoics in those days! We expected to get thumped and Rangers expected to thump us. Yet what an incredible amount of talent was streaming in and out of the club!
Bob Kelly in his book ‘Celtic’ says that Parkhead never had a proper replacement for John Thomson until Ronnie Simpson. This was an insult to the memory of Joe Kennaway but above all to one of the greatest ‘keepers ever to pull on a Celtic shirt, Willie Miller, who between 1946 and 1950 performed heroics behind a defence that would have destroyed Thomson’s confidence as well. He played Rangers on his own at Hampden on May 30th 1946 and gained Celtic a 0:0 draw. He was a magnificent ‘keeper, brave agile and safe.
I was not privileged to watch Peter Wilson and I thought Bobby Murdoch could certainly pass a ball in his first game for Celtic, but the greatest midfielder ever in my experience was Bobby Evans, whose transformation into centre-half was equally stunning. Bobby was an all-action footballer whose only peer for energy and endeavour was Harry Mooney of Third Lanark. I stood in an Arnhem churchyard one sunny Sunday morning in 1958 and listened to a Dutchman who had seen Evans on TV in a Scotland team hammered 4:0 by England wax lyrical about the classiest defensive performance he had ever witnessed. This was before Evans played Uwe Seeler out of it against Germany at Hampden in 1959. Bobby Evans in his prime simply never turned in a bad game. He and Willie Miller were worth the turnstile money on their own. So were Tully, Fernie and Sammy Wilson alongside Billy McPhail.
Season after season the Kelly years began with dash and promise and wasted away before Ne’erday. Celtic went to Wembley to see the Hungarians tear England apart, crossed to Switzerland for the World Cup but never seemed capable of realising football ahead and the A Team without a plan was an anachronism. The only thing modern about that Celtic was the pre-match record selection from the Top Twenty.

Jock Stein enabled my father to rejoice in his old age, same as Maley (if not to the same extent) in his youth. He was at Celtic Park in the New Year of 1966 because Stein had given his beloved Bhoys back their pride and watched in delight a 0:1 half-time deficit turn into a 5:1 lacing of Rangers. I was with him in the stand for the League Cup match against Rangers on August 30th 1967 (the night The Fugitive was ending on TV) with Celtic 0:1 down and 12 minutes to go. We got three without reply and the whole stand resounded to the noise of stamping feet.
We walked on flowers from London Road to Argyle Street. “Changed days,” I said to him.
“Aye, changed days,” he said. Pure poetry.
We got a 39 bus in Midland Street but could have walked home to Pollok through the sweet night air.
It is a sobering thought, like contemplating the existence of God in the void of time, but where might Celtic be today without Jock Stein? My pensioner father would certainly not have been able to sport a button in his lapel with a big ‘9’ on it – surely an impossible feat for Celtic before Stein and without his like impossible again.
Stein brought leadership, he brought strategy, he brought tactics match per match. He prepared a one half team to play a whole 90 minutes and exploited the potential of the playing staff in hand (nobody of my acquaintance had much time for the side he took over in March 1965). He fed the hungry and he gave drink to the thirsty. He set the prisoners free. He must never be forgotten.
My father died in the close season of 1984 – one of Celtic’s more modern no-formula, no-use, no-win years – with nothing to cheer him from Celtic Park. He used to tell me I couldn’t call myself a Celtic supporter because I didn’t pay often enough to see them. I had lived in exile in London for 30 years. Concern is supposed to wane over the years, but I used to stand at the Arsenal (where a Celtic win against Rangers got as big a roar as a Gunners goal) like the shadow of the Valois – yawning – hanging on in nervous suspense for the Scottish Premier Division scores, worried sick if we were away at Tynecastle, Tannadice or Pittodrie and praying that Billy McNeill and Tommy Craig had got the game worked out or the defence were putting up a real stuffy performance.
No doubt about it, by the Centenary season the second spring had degenerated into lazy, hazy days. The worst Celtic result I heard that season was the 7:2 League Cup win over Hamilton in August. To lose two goals to toothless Accies! A few days later it was five to Rangers.
A wee African priest on a visit to Glasgow went to the big match. The crowd was enormous and he stood on the packed terracing waiting for the kick-off. Then the earth began to tremble through the soles of his shoes. Overhead the sky split. He was hearing his first Hampden Roar as the Champions of Europe appeared in the sunlight to play Spurs in a friendly. Every time I meet him he shakes his head in disbelief and lights up at the memory: “My God, the passion! The noise! Cel-tic! Cel-tic!”
Did your parents say you poetry? Yes indeed, we had the lot; lyric, epic, bathos, pathos, turgid doggerel and triumphant ode.
We are Celtic supporters. Thanks be to God.

The Celt (1989)

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Scottish Cup Memories – The St. Patrick’s Day Massacre


Scottish Cup 3rd round, 1991,  and there we were in Forfar, up to our armpits in bridies muttering, “Haven’t we been here before??” It wasn’t the only similarity we would encounter on this cup run.

Happily Forfar didn’t cause any problems this time round and an easy 2:0 victory was recorded. The main talking point after the game was the Forfar fans’ (or should that be “fan’s”?) constant chanting of Terry Hurlock’s name. Rather than admitting to being Huns without the bus fares the locals would doubtless claim that they were just winding us up. Aye right!

St. Mirren were the opponents in the fourth round (a young Paul Lambert featured on the bench). The tie was moved to a midweek slot to accommodate TV – a rare event in Scotland at the time – and first half goals from Coyne, Miller and an o.g. from McWhirter were enough to see Celtic through safely to the last eight.

So, the quarter final draw, and more deja vu as the audible gasps together with the thud of SFA officials hitting the deck in fainting fits could only mean one thing; the big Glasgow teams had to play each other in an early round for the second season in a row.

Rangers, at Celtic Park, with the tie due to be played on St. Patrick’s Day no less.

The build up to this one was naturally very subdued with no one being too bothered about who was going to win… Oh all right. Everyone was going mental!

Not only was our season on the line again, but Rangers were going for the treble. Celtic were due to play them twice in two weeks and recent form suggested that the Hoops were in for a hefty beating – in some cases quite literally.

The more superstitious among us were dismayed to find out that Celtic’s lucky mascot in the Scottish Cup, Chris Morris, was injured. He’d never lost a game in this competition in regulation play. The more football minded among us were dismayed because this meant that Mark McNally might be involved. In the event the more experienced Grant was picked in defence.

If there was any hope to cling on to it was the fact that Rangers hadn’t won a cup tie against the Hoops at Celtic Park since 1905. They also had Scott Nisbet playing in defence.

The game itself started in an unusually quiet manner, both teams dispensing with the traditional early practice of blootering the ball – or the nearest opponent – as far as possible in the direction one happened to be facing at the time. But it wasn’t long before the shrill tone of the referee’s whistle was announcing the first episode of that afternoon’s foulfest as Walters got to show off his silky skills by dextrously clattering Joe Miller into the stand.

Andrew Waddell was that day’s man in black. A pathologist by profession, he was officiating his first Glasgow derby and was about to witness some pretty pathological behaviour from Souness’s stiffs.

Six minutes in, Celtic took the lead when Wdowczyck lofted a free kick to the far side of the Rangers penalty area. Gough was odds-on favourite to get it but his former Dundee United team mate Coyne got the vital nod. The ball broke to Gerry Creaney who managed to blast a shot past Woods and into the corner of the net. It was one of the best goals he ever scored for Celtic and truly typical of the player. Give him an impossible angle and an awkward bouncing ball and he’d fire it in almost every time; give him a one-on-one with the ‘keeper and he’d fall on his arse.

Rangers were not impressed by this unexpected turn of events and came roaring back. Bonner had to come for several dangerous crosses and Trevor Steven saw a header float just wide.

Things took a turn for the worse for the silenced blue hordes shortly after that. Steven, the man Rangers looked to in midfield, caught his studs in the turf while attempting to foul Joe Miller, who was having a rare afternoon of good form on the right wing.

Steven was carried off to a sympathetic chorus of “Dig a hole and bury him” from the Jungle. On the way up the tunnel he passed assistant manager Walter Smith who was sporting a ghastly blue shell suit and white trainers ensemble that made him look like a pensioner who had been adopted by the Aberdeen casuals as a lucky mascot. His loss took the creative thrust from Rangers and Celtic, with McStay in top form, took control of this crucial area.

The answer from Souness was to trundle Big Bertha out and begin the aerial bombardment. The contrast in forward lines took on a familiar look. Predating Blackburn’s SAS (Sutton and Shearer) Celtic were fielding the MCC (Miller, Coyne and Creaney. Rangers were relying on the HUB (Hateley’s an Ugly Bastard).

In truth the game was one for the Doug Baillie raw meat enthusiasts rather than admirers of the Dutch national team, due largely to the interminable stoppages for fouls and injuries, but just before half-time Celtic got another break. With the clock ticking down to the interval Celtic were awarded a foul after Hurlock – the kind of player that often had opponents reaching for the garlic and crucifix – had grounded Creaney for the umpteenth time.

The kick was dead centre of the pitch but a good 35 yards from the goal. It seemed obvious that Wdowczyck would float it into the box just as he had earlier in the game. Not a bit of it.

The distance he took for his run up would have done justice to a fully laden Jumbo jet on the runway at Glasgow Airport. Starting from just outside the centre circle he raced up a leathered the ball with everything he could muster. Instinctively, Hurlock put out a leg which succeeded in sending it in a majestic arc over Woods and into the net.

Celtic Park went into full-on berserk mode. Poetic justice had been meted out to a player who should never have been allowed out onto the same pitch as the likes of McStay and Collins.

Hostilities paused briefly when Maurice Johnston, who until this point had given us very few chances to hurl abuse in his direction, slithered his own way into Waddell’s notebook for dissent, which matched his descent the year before.

As the half-time whistle blew we could scarcely believe what was happening.
The second half started with Rangers playing in predictably determined fashion (wouldn’t you be determined if you had to pick bits of tea cup out of your head following a Souness rant?) and after a torrid eight minutes Johnston was put through on goal only to be hauled back by Grant. Referee Andrew Waddel, not a renowned Celtic sympathiser, duly awarded the free kick but let Grant off with a yellow card, judging that Elliott was the last man rather than Pointy Pete.

It looked like being a vital break until Grant lined up in the defensive wall for the resultant set piece before charging at the ball like someone rehearsing for Pamplona. It was another bookable offence and he was promptly dismissed.


Rangers squandered a number of chances in the following ten minutes, most notably a sclaff by Huistra from ten yards out, before Celtic steadied. Paul Elliott typified Celtic’s attitude on the day when he stopped a Ferguson shot with his face and slumped to the deck spitting out teeth, blood and the remains of his half-time pie and bovril. A rub down with Brian Scott’s magic sponge and he was back on the pitch a few minutes later looking for Soapy with an ominous glint in his eye.

Then the real fun started. Tommy Coyne, dropping back to help his beleaguered team mates, clipped Hurlock, who clearly didn’t subscribe to the old adage that if you dish it out you should be prepared to take it. He lashed out at Coyne with his elbow – he was approximately three feet away from the referee at this point – and got a straight red for violent conduct. Incredibly, he hadn’t even been booked until then.

At which point the roof fell in on Rangers and their players seemed to lose whatever sense of self-discipline they had.

If Hurlock had been contemplating a quiet fifteen minutes in the bath playing with his rubber duck he was in for a surprise. Coyne was involved in the next incident as well. He tackled Walters and won the ball. The Rangers winger, who had been well shackled by an unusually sure-footed Anton Rogan, had two good attempts at removing der Bomber’s kneecaps before finally settling for a well placed elbow in the teeth. Walters had been booked for yet another foul on Coyne in the first half, but there was to be no second yellow. Once again it was a straight red.

Next to go was Hateley, at that time almost as much of a hate figure among the Rangers supporters as he was with us. He got himself involved in a handbags sketch with Rogan. Both were shown yellow cards but as it was Hateley’s second he too took the long walk towards what was becoming a busy Rangers early bath tub.

With their opponents reduced to eight players Celtic threatened to run riot but unfortunately Creaney was unable to convert two great chances; a header from six yards or a one-on-one with Woods. It would have been a memorable hat-trick.

However, spirits weren’t dampened in the slightest. A famous victory had been achieved, one that we imagined would surely give Celtic the heart to march on and claim the Scottish Cup for the third time in four years. (1)

As if to emphasise the turning of the corner the Hoops won against Rangers again a week later, this time by the even more convincing margin of 3:0 in a match that was also shown live on TV.

In anticipation of Rangers being unable to drastically alter their style of play NTV gave out 6,000 red cards to be waved at offenders.

Nesbit duly obliged.

It was the last time Celtic faced a Rangers team managed by Graeme Souness, or as one of his players affectionately called him, The Beast (copyright Jan Bartram 1988). He walked out on them shortly afterwards to take charge of Liverpool after Kenny Dalglish decided he’d had enough.


(1) How wrong we were!


Get the full story of season 1990-91 through the jaundiced eyes of NTV. Free PDF file from ntvceltic@hotmail.co.uk if you make a donation to a foodbank.

The Bugle Chronicles – Ex Celt Sacked by Sky!



When Charlie Tully Scored From A Corner in the Scottish Cup – Twice!


Whenever Celtic have to travel to provincial grounds in the Scottish Cup, crowds are attracted by the possibility of an upset. This was exactly the situation when Celtic’s name followed Falkirk’s in the draw for the third round in 1953. A Celtic defeat would not have been a great shock because the Parkhead side, despite having a great reputation as Cup fighters, had been struggling, mired in the middle of the league table, unsettled in formation and personnel. The combination of a tight, narrow pitch in winter conditions and a Falkirk team eager for cup glory made many sports writers consider that such an outcome was distinctly possible.

The crowd of 23,000 that packed Brockville was an all-ticket one and had been limited by the police, but thirty minutes before the kick-off parts of the ground seemed dangerously overcrowded, especially behind the goal at the railway end.

The travelling support greeted the side enthusiastically and acknowledged the presence of Jimmy Delaney in the dark blue of Falkirk with mixed emotions. delaney had been a hero of legendary proportions for previous generations of Celtic fans and many eyes turned to spot the trim veteran with the balding head. Another familiar player in Falkirk’s colours that afternoon was Jock weir who had once scored three goals for Celtic at Dens Park to remove the threat of relegation in the last game of the 1940 season. the presence of two such players, clearly past their best, drew further attention to Falkirk’s role as underdogs but prepared for an upset.

Both sets of players moved around gingerly during the shooting-in as they tested their footing. fortunately the pitch was heavy and holding rather than frozen and the players could retain their balance, despite greasy spots on the wings.

Within minutes of the kick-off  Falkirk took charge, urged on by the roars of the locals. Delaney was in sprightly mood on the right wing and troubled Meechan with his nippiness. Meechan drew the ire of the crowd in the stand with some heavy tackling to stop him and after only five minutes Falkirk scored. As Celtic defenders stood stock still, Jock Weir raced in to head a bouncing ball high into the net. Centre half Stein and goalkeeper Bonnar glared at each other in mutual recrimination, but the damage had been done. Shaking their heads in disbelief, many Celtic supporters in the crowd were wondering when the short and stocky Weir had last scored with a header.

Immediately following the goal Celtic exerted themselves but the Bairns’ defence appeared well organised in front of their veteran ‘keeper McFeat. In Celtic’s attack the latest (and unlikely) hero of the supporters, John McGrory, chased every ball in his shambling and ungainly style but was posing little danger to Falkirk. McGrory, originally a centre-half until his defensive shortcomings were exposed in clashes with Mochan (Morton) and Reilly (Hibs) had been drafted in as a centre-forward in an optimistic attempt to solve a chronic problem. The majority of the support, while approving of his awkward enthusiasm and his recent goals, felt that his main qualification for the position was his surname – the same as the club’s all-time leading scorer and his current manager.

Celtic’s defenders were still experiencing difficulties and it surprised nobody when Falkirk went further ahead in 18 minutes through a close-range shot by Campbell.

Falkirk’s following, clearly swollen for the occasion, erupted into raucous delight. Celtic’s support lapsed into a sullen discontent. The odds were more in favour of Falkirk adding a third than Celtic pulling a goal back and the home side continued to press forward. Delaney was the source of most danger and Frank Meechan’s persistent fouling further infuriated the ‘standites’ after one jarring challenge in particular from the full-back, marginally fair this time but obviously calculated to intimidate. John McPhail sportingly stopped play to help the shaken Delaney to his feet.

At half-time Falkirk led by those two goals and left the pitch to a thunderous ovation. Celtic had shown little to inspire optimism for the second half.

However, even as the teams lined up for the restart one could sense a new determination. Charlie Tully, scarcely seen in 45 minutes, gave an example of it within seconds of the referee’s whistle blowing when he elbowed Delaney as they passed each other.

Despite Celtic’s early pressure, Falkirk came close to adding a third after a breakaway when Delaney’s alertness gave him a half chance but his shot scraped past Bonner’s left post with the Celtic defence once more in disarray.

The momentum had started to swing in Celtic’s favour, however, and in 53 minutes came the incident that would be destined to be recalled by successive generations wherever Celtic followers gathered.

The hard pressed Falkirk defence conceded a corner on the left at the Railway End. Tully took the kick and his inswinging ball swerved in flight to deceive defenders and forwards alike to finish up in the net past the unsighted McFeat, untouched by anyone. The Celtic players rushed towards Tully to congratulate him. The fans on the overcrowded terracing erupted in joy and as the crush barriers gave way before them they poured on to the fields by the hundred. Meanwhile, amid the confusion and turmmoil the referee had moved over to confer quietly with his linesman who had raised his flag. Following this consultation he immediately signalled ‘no goal’ and ordered the kick to be retaken, Tully having apparently placed the ball slightly outside the arc, as he frequently did in his assiduous practice of ‘gamesmanship’.

It was a memorable sight as the realisation dawned slowly on players and spectators that the goal would not stand. Tully stood attentively with hands on hips feigning politeness as the referee explained his decision.

Moving to retake the corner, Tully halted in order to indicate to the officials that he had no room for a run-up, the crowd still encroaching at that end of the ground. A contingent of policemen had to help push the spectators back but still Tully was not fully satisfied. Almost petulantly he handed the ball to the nearby linesman for him to place.

At last he was ready and finally took the much-delayed corner. The ball swung over with the same flight as his previous effort and once more finished up in the back of the net behind the luckless McFeat, again untouched by any player.

Once more joy erupted at Brockville on the field and on the terraces; again spectators surged forward in joyous disbelief and more barriers gave way like matchsticks. several minutes elapsed before the pitch could be cleared of supporters and to remove those injured in the crushes until eventually the tie, now irrevocably changed in mood, was resumed.

Amid turmoil on the terracing Celtic continued to attack, pressing home the psychological advantage. Falkirk could not hold out and a mere six minutes later Fernie equalised when he crashed the ball into the net from three yards after two other shots had been scrambled off the Falkirk goal line.

The sequel was unfortunate. Once more the spectators were on the field in their hundreds but this time there was no real excuse for their presence there that could be offered. They spent more time in cavorting around the players and delayed returning to their places. Several Falkirk players, unused to such crowd scenes, were seen arguing with the referee and it appeared that they were complaining – with some justification – of intimidation by the crowd.

After a lengthy delay (the third of the match) Falkirk no longer had the will to resist. predictably, McGrory was responding to the cheers of the crowd and he took a neat pass from Fernie in his stride before shooting past McFeat from some twenty yards out. The Celtic crowd went wild and many of them raced on to the field to add their unwelcome congratulations to the scorer. McGrory, indeed, had to receive some attention from the trainer. So prolonged was the celebration and the pitch invasion that the referee had gone to consult with both of his linesmen as well as the police. Aware that the official was on the brink of siding with some of the Falkirk players who were clearly suggesting that the tie be abandoned, the Celtic players started herding their followers towards their places on the terracing.

After the interruption the match restarted and was played out in an atmosphere of relative calm. The only notable feature of the closing stages was a meandering run by Tully: elated by the success of his corner taking exploits he headed towards his own goal in a run that ended with him playing the ball off an opponent to gain a goal kick, much to the delight of a Celtic support no pacified and satisfied.

At the end of a hectic afternoon the home side counted up the cost of entertaining Celtic in a frenzied Scottish Cup tie. Almost every barrier at one end of the ground had been twisted out of shape or uprooted and 32 spectators had to receive first aid in the pavillion. The provincial club had other legitimate grievances as well, not least the persistent fouling of Delaney in the first half by Meechan which merited a caution. Firmer action at that stage by the referee might have allowed Falkirk to settle. Even after making allowances for the collapsed crush barriers, there was no doubt that an element of intimidation on the part of some of the supporters on the pitch had unnerved several of the home side’s players.

After being knocked out of the Cup Falkirk’s only consolation lay in having taken part in one of Scottish football’s most dramatic and enduring moments.

For Charlie Tully it was a more prosaic experience. Barracked by his own supporters in the first half for a lackadaisical approach to the game, he had been cheered off in triumph at the final whistle. He had perpetrated the most blatant foul on Delaney – although it was scarcely a brutal offence – and he had gained the approval of the supporters for his ‘wrong way’ run near the end. He had also accomplished the rare feat of scoring from a corner – not once, but twice!


First published in ‘The Celt’, November 1988

pic from the Celtic Wiki

Sean Fallon – Celtic Legend


It was wonderful to see the legend that was Sean Fallon chosen to raise the league flag at the start of season 2012-13 (at 90 he looked a sight more sprightly than some of those that were on the pitch). Sean joined Celtic on 27th March 1950 from Glenavon for the princely sum of £27,000 and made his debut against Clyde at Shawfield in a 2-2 draw during which he had the unfortunate experience of scoring an own goal in the 34th minute (Fernie and Tully were Celtic’s scorers, the latter in the 88th minute). He made up for that the following season when he made 35 appearances for the first team, including one at right back in the ‘51 Cup Final, a 1-0 win against Motherwell. “As I walked off Hampden Park,” he said, “I felt I had got everything out of life I had ever wanted. I had become a member of the famous Celtic FC and holder of a Scottish Cup badge, all in one year.”

As a full-back he became renowned for making miraculous goal-line clearances. Curiously, his other position was centre-forward, where he played against Aberdeen in the 1954 Cup Final, scoring a thunderous winning goal after running on to a Fernie pass.

These days it’s not unusual to see players writhing around waiting to be evacuated by helicopter in scenes reminiscent of Oliver Stone Viet Nam movies, all helicopters and plasma bags. All because they’ve ripped their sock. Sean Fallon earned the nickname The Iron Man at a time when even the average Scottish professional ate a pre-match of granite sandwiches washed down with mugs of molten lava. As a hobby in his native Sligo, young Sean used to participate in long-distance open-water swimming events in the North Atlantic, winning the Henry Cup in 1947.

He was made captain of Celtic in 1952 but a chronic problem with his arm meant long spells out through injury. He chose Jock Stein to take his place, a gesture that was never forgotten by the future Celtic manager. It was a broken collarbone sustained in a league game against Hearts that led to one of Sean’s oft-quoted remarks. Returning to the field with the broken limb in a hastily constructed sling, he went out on to the left wing and finished the game. “It wasn’t as if it was a broken leg,” he said. Presumably if it had been he would have been forced to go in goal.

Not that he was completely indestructible. He admitted to me at a supporters function once that he had to off during a game – possibly one of the more full-on encounters with Rangers – because had, quote, “A bit of blood coming out of me eye.”

My father used to recall an incident when, during a match against Rangers at Celtic Park, Sean was on a collision course with one of the Rangers hard men, Sammy Baird. They converged on each other from a distance like that famous black and white film of two steam locomotives hurtling towards one another along a single track. Grown men winced as the pair got closer and fathers shielded the eyes of their children lest they would be traumatised for life by what they were about to witness. When the dust settled, Sean was brushing himself off while Baird lay prostrate waiting for the St. Andrews ambulance men to finish their Woodbines and come to his assistance. He was certainly in no fit state to assist himself.

In his book Talking With Celtic (Breedon Books 2001), the late great Eugene MacBride prompted Sean to retell his version of the incident:

“I broke his collarbone. The reason for that, it was his own fault. He came in square to me, stupidly. Three years before that he was playing with Clyde. I was playing right-back. It was a muddy night at Shawfield and I had fallen in the goalmouth. Next thing, I got a kick in the back of the head. I looked up and saw Sammy running away. Sammy used to run with his chest out. Big guy, Sammy. But the following week he was transferred to Preston. The manager at Preston at that time was Scot Symon. Three years after that particular incident at Shawfield Rangers appointed Scot Symon manager and he brought Sammy back with him. And that was the first opportunity I’d had, for I always remembered the kick in the head when he was wearing a Clyde jersey. Stupidly he came in square, broke his collarbone and his shoulder and was carried off. Yet, strangely enough, Baird was quite a nice guy off the field. I met him socially several times, a nice guy. But on the field he’d that wee bit in him, you know.”

Is it just me, or is there a metaphor in there for the present day Celtic – Sevco situation?

His playing career came to an end in 1958 because of a knee injury, ten months after having played his part in the eight goal thriller of a League Cup final in 1957 (and having his name echoed a million times over as schoolboys learned the litany of that team, “Beattie, Donnelly and Fallon…”)  but his association with Celtic continued, not least as assistant manager to Jock Stein, where he was able to bring to Celtic Park players of the calibre of Tommy Gemmell, Lou Macari, Davie Hay, George Connelly, Kenny Dalglish, Danny McGrain…

Glossing over his shabby treatment at the hands of the then Celtic board of directors, he left the club in May 1978 to become assistant manager – and later a director – at Dumbarton. While he was at Boghead he heard of a promising Dutch player who was, at the time, in the middle of a contract dispute with his club, Barcelona. Sean went to Holland to see if he could use his renowned Blarney to tempt him into turning out for the Sons. “I’ve spoken to the boy Cruyff, and he says he’ll get back to us,” Sean told the papers. Dumbarton are still waiting.

Cruyff ended up going to the LA Galaxy. What on earth was he thinking about? Why this unwillingness to swap the Ramblas for the Renton? If travelling was a problem I’m sure Dumbarton would have put him up in a single-end in Partick and gone halfers on a Transcard to make the travelling easier.

There were a few legends walking round the pitch a half-time that Saturday; not too many of them have as many stories as Sean Fallon.

JB Banal





Sean was interviewed by Eugene MacBride for his book Talking With Celtic.

The result was a thoroughly entertaining chapter which leaves the reader feeling as if they’ve just spent the most convivial of time in the company of two great Celts, both of whom, alas, are no longer with us.

Sean, you taught yourself to use your left foot, is this correct?

We used to go to St Anne’s Park and that was within a stone’s throw from where I lived. And a weakness – any weaknesses we had – for instance, like not using the left foot, which was a weakness – I used to go up with one football boot on my left foot, a sandshoe on my right and there was a chap named Jack Bonnar, Lord have mercy on him – and Randolph Jenkins, Lord have mercy on him – and myself. We used to just kick the ball to each other with our weak foot. We wanted to improve, you know, the left foot, and I ended up, irrespective 0’ how the ball came to me, able to use either foot.
You’d played centre for Glenavon, hadn’t you?

I’d played centre only when they were tight for forwards. I only had about four or five games at centre for Glenavon.

You joined Celtic from Glenavon. As a centre or as a full-back?

As a full-back. I don’t think they would have selected me as a centre.

Now you were signed for Celtic on 23 March 1950 and you arrived in Glasgow on the 30th.

That’s right. I had a week at home. Charlie Tully was to meet me. I’d never been away from Ireland. They told me that Charlie Tully would make himself known to me on the Scottish boat. So I went on board and I saw the purser – I was told to go to the purser, which I did – a hell of a nice man, very good to us over the years, we could always get a berth any time we were travelling from Glasgow back home. He put out a call for Charlie and Charlie duly arrived and introduced himself and brought me down – the first place he brought me was to the bar. “Well, Sean,” he said, “What are you having?”
I said, “I’ll have a lemonade, Charlie.”
“A what? A lemonade. Oh, dear God, don’t tell me you’re one of those.”
I said, “I’m sorry, Charlie. I’m one of those. I don’t drink or smoke.” I didn’t smoke at that time. So I sat there and I was never as sick in all my life. In the morning. I drank about seven lemonades. Charlie’s drink was a beer and a half of whisky. Charlie was lightly-made and I was amazed where he was able to put this drink because, irrespective of how he drank, God, could he play! He was a tremendous player. A tremendous, great player. A personality player. A player that people would come to see. Okay, they’d come to see Celtic play but a lot of them were there to see Charlie Tully play.
I was offered digs off Alexandra Parade. I got the shock of my life the following morning. I woke up and I turned over and there was this guy in the bed with me! This chap had four sisters. His dad was dead. He was a painter. Jimmy Hogan it was who’d recommended this house. I said to myself, this state of affairs is not for me! Anyway, it was explained to me that, you know, with four sisters and the boy, that was all the room they had. It was the son was sleeping alongside of me. That was the only way they could do it, if I shared a bed with the son. Mind you, they never suggested I could sleep with one of the daughters! Anyway, I moved out.
The chairman at that time was Bob Kelly and he heard about this and he came up to the park and brought me out to Rutherglen, Bankhead Drive in Rutherglen, I’ll always remember, off Bankhead Road, and he introduced me to this lady, Miss McGuigan, Mary McGuigan, Lord rest her. And it turned out she was a niece of old Nap McMenemy who was a famous Celtic player in his time. In fact he was a member of the team, I think they won five or six Leagues in a row.
Well she was giving me a room of my own but I always remember the chairman going up and examining the bed, testing the springs, “Do you think this will be all right, Sean?”
This is the Chairman of Celtic Football Club and me just a young boy and him going up, seeing if the bed was all right. I was embarrassed actually, but that’s the kind of a man he was, wanted to make sure everything was right. He wanted to make sure I’d no excuses. So I thanked him very much and, as it turned out, the digs were tremendous. Miss McGuigan was very, very good to me. In fact, all the players used to make it their home. It was a great place. It was great digs.
Towards the end of that season I was selected to play for the club and the first game was against Clyde at Shawfield. The game was about half an hour under way – it was a terrible wet day – the ball came to me and I stuck out at it and right into my own net. What an embarrassment for a young man! And it didn’t do his confidence any good but we got through it okay, two each. I always remember that game for Jimmy Hogan. He was coach at the time. In the dressing-room before we went out, he was going round the players and I felt something wet on the back of my neck. I looked up, you know, but Jimmy had moved on. I looked at Tully and Tully looked back at me. “Don’t worry”, he said, “it’s only holy water.” Jimmy’s holy water didn’t do me any good that day, I can tell·you!

Sean, you break into the Celtic team, on 25 September 1950, in the Glasgow Cup at Hampden, a 65,000 crowd on a Monday afternoon. Celtic 1, Partick Thistle 1 and you’re up against one of those great Firhill wingers, Jimmy Walker.

Jimmy Walker, yeah. Canadian. Tremendous pace. You had to play him very tight. You had to be on the ball with him or before him or you were in trouble because if he got space he just stuck the ball by you and he was away. Jimmy would run off the park, outside the by-line because he knew if he stayed on the pitch he was going to run into you. It was the sort of thing that should never have been allowed.

You’re picked for Northern Ireland against England, to play on 7 October and you call off because there are elements in the Republic who are asking her sons not to play for the North and in the light of later events, it’s one of these disastrous political attitudes which does nothing to alleviate an already fraught political situation.

It was a disaster because they selected me to play against the British Army before that, which I did. It was at Windsor Park. John Charles was playing against us, he was in the British Army at that time. After that game I was asked and they sent me a letter confirming conversation: If selected, would I play for Northern Ireland against England? I said “Certainly.” It meant I would be playing against Matthews. Because Matthews at that time was a fixture, Finney used to play on the left, Matthews on the right, and I gave them word, certainly I would play. Then the politics started. Joe Cunningham and company in Dublin who ran Shamrock Rovers at that time, they got in touch with me. They sent me a letter and also ‘phoned me, Under no circumstances was I to play for Northern Ireland.
I said, “I will, I’ll be playing.” And next thing, they started bringing my dad into it who at that time was in politics. He was a Fine Gael man. He was on the County Council and also the Corporation and they could stir things up. This is true. I ‘phoned my dad. “Politics should never come into football,” he said, “you play! I can look after myself.”
My dad was ex-British Army. He’d been wounded in the ‘14-18 War at Gallipoli. He was also secretary and treasurer of the British Legion. He used to look after all the ex-servicemen, to get them parcels every Christmas for their wives. He used to look after all the pensioners so he was very involved, you know, locally. He was also senior alderman which shows you what the people of Sligo thought of him. He topped the poll every time there was an election. He said, “Don’t wo about me. The people know how I stand here.”
But – I was worried. And I pulled out Because the people in Northern Ireland had been very good to me and I feel that footbal and politics, I don’t feel they come together.
That was the split of the Associations because at that time boys born in the Republic played for Northern Ireland, Johnny Carey, Dave Walsh, Con Martin, they all played for Northern Ireland so I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong.
I probably would do the same thing today. I probably would play for them in the hope of bringing people together.
On 21 April 1951, at Hampden, before a crowd of 133,343, the Scottish Cup Final, Celtic 1, Motherwell 0. I was down near Southampton at the time but I cannot describe the elation when I got the final score.
Ah, that was a great result. We were so pleased. And one of the main reasons we were pleased was not for ourselves, but for the support, because they had followed that club in the bad times and we’d given them nothing and there we were, winners of the Scottish Cup. We spoke about that in the dressing room. The fans may be reluctant to accept that, but at that time – I don’t know about now – we were delighted with the support we got. Now we could give them something in return.
And off to the USA with McPhail’s Cup in a brown paper bag, brown paper bags being the technological wonder of 1951.

That was the tour there was a grouse we weren’t getting enough pocket money. The main men that were on about it were Charlie and Big John, Big Hooky, we used to call him.
Tully and McPhail.

Correct. But it was Charlie that started it all, “We don’t have enough money!” Charlie, of course, was looking for spare money, and actually, we didn’t need a lot of money, because you found when you went there, people that lived there, Irish people, Scots people, they were so generous, it was embarrassing. They were taking you everywhere. They wouldn’t let you spend anything. We used to talk about it. And I used to say to Bertie Peacock and Willie Fernie, “How, in the name of God, can we reciprocate?” They wouldn’t allow you to. To do anything for them. The only way we could reciprocate was when they came here to Glasgow. But I will always remember that incident. We got together, we were looking for more money. So we’re staying in the Hotel Paramount on 46th Street, and I’ll always remember there was a balcony with a stairs up and there was a floor there with a table and sitting on one of the chairs was Bob Kelly. He was there to talk to the players, not collectively, but one by one, individually. And one of the first players up was Charlie. So Charlie went up and Charlie was one of the few people that called the chairman, Bob. So Charlie went up.
“Heilo, Charlie.”
“Hello, Bob.”
“Have a seat, Charlie.”
“Thank you, Bob.”
Now the acoustics were such that the voices hit the ceiling of the balcony – and Charlie wasn’t aware of this – and came right down to us. So we could hear Mr Kelly ask Charlie, “Rght, well what’s the problem?”
Charlie said, “They’re looking for more money, Bob. Actually I think they’re getting too much as it is. I think they’re getting far too much.”
“I thought there was a complaint,” says Kelly.
“Not as far as I’m concerned, Bob.”
We’re all down below with our mouths agog. So Tully comes down the stairs for the next one to go up. He looks at us and we all look at him. “I bloody well told him!” he says.
That was Charlie. He was one of the few players who could get away with it. A character. A great character.
You have a holiday in Ireland after the USA and you come back for the St Mungo Cup, Glasgow’s football contribution to the Festival of Britain. And all of a sudden you are pushed in at centre-forward and score two goals against Aberdeen on August the first, both equalisers, before Jimmy Walsh gets the winner, 3-2.

Celtic kept me at centre and unfortunately, I hated the position. The reason they played me there was to take the weight off the other forwards who were on the light side bar Collins because Collins could look after himself. They were all on the light side and I was supposed to rumble them up – the opposing defences, that is, which you were allowed to at time because we played it physically but within the laws. But in the process, I happened to score goals.
Heron comes into the side in the League Cup against Morton, on 18 August at Parkhead, you go back to right-back. Why did Gil Heron not make the grade?

The Scottish weather. I remember one time it was a really cold day and the sleet was coming down against Third Lanark. And poor Gil, “Oh, this is not for me! I don’t play in this weather”! Ah, he was hopeless that day. He’d also been a boxer too, represented some area in boxing, but I remember he and Jimmy Mallan fell out and had a fight behind the goals. Gil and Mallan fought over a tackle. I always remember Mallan invited him into the gym but Gil didn’t want it, “Oh no, not for me.”
I don’t know if I’d have gone either. Mallan was useful.

17 October 1951, at Dalymount, Eire 3, future world champions, Germany 2. Fallon at right-back.

I think they put me up centre that day because I will always remember the German goalkeeper hitting me. I charged him but I’d taken on more than I thought because he hit me, he caught me under the heart. And if the ball had come near me for the next ten minutes, I wouldn’t have been able to blow at it. I didn’t want them to know. Never let on you’re hurt – that was the attitude in that time anyway. You could be hurt but never let on. So I was very careful about charging him after that. We beat them 3-2 and it was a good German side.
And on 16 November 1952, packed crowd, 40,000, Sean Fallon centre-forward for Eire against France. Scored in 20 minutes. Went at the French defence like a battering-ram.

One each. The great Kopa was playing for them. And Fontaine played. Some great players.
They would make their names in the 1958 World Cup.

Now, Sean, you had picked up a bone injury against Derry City on the Irish Tour of 1952 and now, five days before Christmas ‘52, you clash with old Celtic favourite Jimmy Delaney playing for Falkirk at Brockville. You come off worse with hairline fractures of the arm.

What happened was, I always remember Jimmy Delaney wrote to me after the accident, that he hoped and prayed I would recover quickly. He had had a lot of trouble himself with an arm injury. What happened, I went in to tackle him and my forearm caught between his hip bone and my hip bone which is the strongest part of your body. And my arm was broken in two places. See this bone? It should set like that one. But I broke it three times after that. And I was just after being selected as captain of the team.
But I finished the game. I went in at half-time. And the doctor did that -I always remember – put my arm up to his ear, gave it a shake, passed me fit to resume action. I finished the game at full-back, left-back, and I always remember I was in agony playing out the time. And on the way back, Alex Dowdells was trainer at that time, I said to him, “Alex, it’s very, very sore.” He says, “Right, we’ll get off the bus at the Royal.” So we got off the bus and went in. I was X-rayed, the arm was diagnosed broken in two places, I was put in plaster.
We were playing a Cup-tie. We were drawn against Stirling Albion on 7 February 1953, in the Scottish Cup, ice-bound surface. I’d just come back into the team. The doctor had come to see me and he says, “Ach, that plaster shouldn’t be on you at all! Take that plaster off.” So the plaster came off and I played in the Cup-tie. In the last few minutes of the game, I happened to get a kick on the forearm and I knew it was hurt, really hurt. But I finished the game and told Alex, “It’s bad again, Alex.” What had happened was, a callus had formed on the crack, but it hadn’t become solidified. It was still soft and the kick had opened everything up again.
So I went into the Royal again and it turned out it was the same doctor as had treated me after the Falkirk game. He says, “Your arm was broken only a few weeks ago! What were you playing for?”
I said, “The doctor said it was only muscular.”
He said, “Not at all! I can still get the plates. You’ve woken the whole lot up again!” The callus hadn’t become solidified. I was playing again far too soon. But what could I do? You’re young and I wanted to play and you think people know better than you do. I missed a whole lot of games because of that.

Then you did it again in Dublin on 20 April.

I broke it in Dublin and couldn’t get it sorted out until the following day. The boy caught me there with the boot. Celtic were playing an FAI select in Dublin, for An Tostal at Dalymount Park. I came back and this time I went up to Duke Street hospital. It’s closed now, I think. There was a grand man there, I just can’t remember his name, and he put me in plaster, and he said, “You’ve’suffered all right with that.” I’d never suffered so much in all my life. I couldn’t sleep. Then we’d to get the train back from Dublin to Belfast, get the Glasgow boat that night and I was lying there with it. They gave me tablets but they were no good. So it was put back in plaster again for the third time – for the fourth time!
Then we were playing against Hearts at Celtic Park, on 24 October 1953, Scottish League, and at that time we used the diagonal system of defence. We didn’t play with a sweeper, the full-back became a sweeper depending on what side we were being attacked. If the attack was down the right, and I was playing left-back, I’d move in to cover the centre-half. Jock Stein was playing. Jock had the ball. And Davie Laing, the Hearts left-half, he finished up with Clyde, I think. Good player. He was injured so they moved him up to centre-forward. Sometimes they did that instead of putting them on the wing because, as you know, in those days there were no substitutes, you just played on or left the field. So anyway, I was where Jock should have had the ball away but with Laing being semi-injured, he lingered. I moved out, thinking Jock was going to clear the ball but he lost it to Laing who was coming through. I was late in coming back in and he was just ready for a shot at goal so threw my body to get between where I reckoned the ball would be and the goals. The ball hit me, travelling like a bullet, caught me here, stuck in here and broke my arm. Feel that arm.
I went out for the second-half at outside-left. Bobby Parker was playing right-back. “Sean, injured or not,” he says, “I’m going for every ball!”
“Oh,” says I, “I know.”
“That’s our fault,” he says.
Says I, “Don’t worry.” We had a bit of banter. But seriously, he says, “I’m going for every ball.” But I remember I was in agony.

That was the day you said, “At least it’s not a broken a leg!”

I went back to the same man to have it put in plaster. He told me the body could only give off so much calcium and: “As far as you are concerned, Mr Fallon, it’s working overtime. Wait and I’ll give you a letter to Celtic Park. They should send you home to Ireland and give you a real rest.”
And I’ll always remember, he wrote on the letter, that the arm had taken too much abuse, that I needed a rest in Ireland. That was good enough for them. They sent me home. It was the swimming season. The Henry Cup was being swum for, a long swim and I’d won it twice. The sponsors wanted me to swim in it. I said, “I can’t, I’m in plaster up to here. I’d get the plaster wet.”
“Ach,” they said, “you can swim maybe half a mile or so, you know.”
And I stupidly – typical Irish, brain full of stones – I went in for the swim and didn’t the plaster get wet? “God,” I thought, “if I go back to Glasgow and the plaster’s all soft and wet, they’re going to jump to one conclusion that I haven’t been looking after myself.” So, needless to say, I didn’t win the swim! But my dad, God rest him, brought me up to the surgical hospital. He was friendly with the surgeon there, Charlie McCarthy. He was the orthopaedic surgeon in the hospital. He put a new plaster on. So that was me. And I went back, and eventually I got it off in Glasgow and I never had any more bother after that. But just pains, you know.
You have pains in it nowadays?

Oh aye, pains in it all the time. But that wasn’t the last of my injuries because I broke my nose twice after that. A fractured rib. Then my knee got a bad twist. Unfortunately the first operation on it, he left a piece of cartilage, the surgeon at the Victoria. The second one, it had moved, it had moved back, and he thought he’d leave it for a couple of weeks and then he went back again and he got it the third time. Nowadays they have a different type of operation.

Keyhole surgery. They did that on my left knee, no bother. But the right knee I finished up with about 27 stitches in. My right knee. And when I played, the knee would fill up with blood. And I went to Mr McDougall. He was the chief orthopaedic surgeon in the Royal. I used to go up and get blood drawn off my knee and a cortisone injection to play. After I went up the second time to have the blood drawn off, Mr McDougall said, “Take some advice, son, I’m not happy about giving you cortisone.” You know cortisone nowadays, a lot of people, they don’t use it at all. He warned me with cortisone I could even lose my leg. He said, “I’m not giving you any more cortisone.” He said, “If you’ll take some advice from me, you’ll retire from the game,” which I did.
Sean, some very progressive moves by Celtic around this time. You were taken down to Wembley for England versus Hungary, on 25 November 1953, England 3, Hungary 6. And the month before, you’d been down to see England versus the Rest of Europe, the 4-4 game. I mean, very progressive stuff, at that time, you know?

That was the chairman, you know. The chairman believed that you must learn if you’re looking at the best. You can’t help but try and emulate what you’re watching. You can’t but try to emulate if you’re· watching the top players in the world.
And have you a memory of the Hungarians?

Oh, the Hungarians were fabulous! There was Boszik, wing-half, Puskas did the handshaking but Boszik was the captain of the team. I always remember someone saying, Oh, he’s quite slow. But he proved that speed of thought could always overcome speed of movement. To anyone looking at him, Oh, he’s slow, he’s slow, he’s too slow for first-class football. But he was always on a jog, always on a jog, and the way he could pass a ball and his control was immediate. Control was immediate. And he could see things so quickly. That was the reason he didn’t have to be fast because you get guys that can run like greyhounds, but you say, Can they play? It’s a different thing altogether. Puskas was something too and Hidegkuti.
Now the Scottish Cup Final versus Aberdeen at Hampden, Aberdeen 1, Celtic 2. Fallon at centre gets the winner in 63 minutes, following a run from deep by Fernie.

Another of those great mazy runs. I’d have been in trouble had I missed it, the pass was so perfect.

And Jock Stein received the Cup although the club captain was in the side?

Jock had become – when I was appointed captain, you always had to nominate a deputy and my closest friend there, a great pal of mine was Bertie Peacock. But Bertie was younger than me, about six years younger than me, and I wanted a man of experience so I recommended Jock Stein. Jock became my deputy. He reciprocated then when he became manager which went to show he hadn’t forgotten. He could have brought in his own man.
We went off to Switzerland and he nearly drowned Bobby Collins at the Lido in Lucerne. He threw him in off the raft and didn’t realise Bobby couldn’t swim. Wee Bobby wasn’t pleased one bit. I saved him from drowning. Poor Bobby. Puskas, he got injured in the 8-3 game against Germany in Switzerland and he was in plaster and I remember Bobby Collins going up to him and asking him for his autograph, you know. There was a few of us used to run around together, Collins, Fernie, Peacock and myself. We were standing there and Bobby walked up with his sheet of paper and his pencil. Puskas just looked at him, Och, away you go! And he walked away. You should have heard wee Bobby! Boy, he called him for everything! In fact, we were ready to protect Puskas because Bobby was very fiery. He was ready to put one on his chin. But Puskas was wrong. There was no reason why he shouldn’t have given him his autograph. I’ll always remember that incident.
And Peacock, Fernie and Collins would play in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. Now here is something. 21 August 1956, Celtic 3, Rangers 4 in the Glasgow Cup. Fallon uses a 100 percent muscle charge on Sammy Baird, lays him out.

I broke his collarbone. The reason for that, it was his own fault, he came in square to me, stupidly. Three years before that, he was playing with Clyde. I was playing right-back. It was a very muddy night at Shawfield and I had fallen in the goalmouth. Next thing I got a kick in the back of the head. I looked up, I saw Sammy running away. Sammy used to run with his chest out. Big guy, Sammy. But the following week he was transferred to Preston. The manager at Preston at that time was Scot Symon.
Three years after that particular incident at Shawfield, Rangers appointed Scot Symon manager and he brought Sammy back with him and that was the first opportunity I’d had, for I always remembered the kick in the head when he was wearing a Clyde jersey. Stupidly, he came in square, broke his collarbone and his shoulder and was carried off. Yet strangely enough, Baird was quite a nice guy off the field. I met him several times socially, a nice guy, but on the field, he’d that wee bit in him, you know.
Now into 1957 and 80,000 people for a three o’clock kick-off against Rangers at Ibrox on a Wednesday! Scottish Cup replay. Can you imagine!

They had Billy Simpson with them. Billy Simpson drove the ball at me in the first ten minutes and the referee, Jack Mowat, Jack sorted him out. Then he came up to me, “Now, Mister Fallon, don’t retaliate, I know you’re hurt but don’t retaliate. I’ll watch him.” I always thought Mowat was a great referee.
I want to ask you about Sammy Wilson, the forgotten man of the 7-1 side? Snappy ground passes, positional intelligence, ace schemer, a revelation as one newspaper report said of him. How did you rate Slammin’ Sammy?

Sammy Wilson? At that time, we were one of the first teams to introduce the four man forward line, the centre-forward and a player alongside him. We played Sammy Wilson up front alongside Billy McPhail. Billy got everything that was going in the air, he could knock them down and one thing Sammy could do, he was a great finisher. But he wasn’t a worker. He was given that area to play in but that threw a lot of work on us. The old-style inside forward came back and did a lot of work in midfield. With Sammy, it meant we were short a wee bit on the left side. And at that time on the left side you had Tully, Peacock, Fallon. That threw a lot of work on Peacock and myself. Because Charlie, you know, Charlie wasn’t a great worker. Charlie wanted the ball to his feet. And if Charlie had been out the night before he’d never get back in his own half of the field anyway. But Sammy was lost when McPhail retired. He retired in ‘58, same as myself. A lot of the old players retired about then and they started producing young players around that time. After McPhail went, Wilson wasn’t profitable without him. He wasn’t the same player. McPhail could get up over a ball and head it down. Very few forwards can do that. They can get under a ball but McPhail could hang and get the ball down to people’s feet. It’s a lost art.
How was that 7-1 game for you?

Oh, it was tremendous for us. We expected a hard game. The usual Old Firm rivalry. No matter what people think, the spectators, we had a lot of respect for one another and that game, irrespective of how the game went, we shook hands, because we were professionals. We were the better team on the day. We accepted that. But that particular day, we always wanted to win, of course. We were playing the Rangers. That was a very important game for the Final of the League Cup. All games are important but a game like that against Rangers had extra importance in the eyes of the spectators.
We went out and we were quite surprised ourselves how easy it was. You get games, you know, when everything goes right for you. You’re finding your team-mates with a pass, there’s nothing going astray, you’re playing well but the other team’s struggling. I have to say, you’re only as good as you’re allowed to be. I think on that day every player contributed. Every sector of the team was playing well which is unusual because the team might play well and yet you might point to a player and say, He wasn’t so good.

And all this in spite of the Fight of the Century a few days before in the dressing room, Tully versus Evans? 17 October?

Ach, the things I’ve heard about that! I was there! They’re supposed to have knocked the massage table over. The entire team couldn’t have turned over that table! Bobby hat taken offence about something in Charlie’s newspaper column. Charlie was pretending he wanted to get at Bobby. Bobby really wanted to get at Charlie. Charlie was no fighter. His body wasn’t built for fighting. We were holding on to Charlie, that was the easy part. The problem was holding Bobby down. Bobby would have killed him. Charlie’s newspaper column was ghost-written. He had probably no idea what was in it till Bobby lost his temper.

Sean, ten million thanks.

Eugene, thank you. It’s always a pleasure talking to you.