No More (Cult) Heroes

fwl mccourt

He was the Derry Pele, the man with the twinkle toes and the seemingly indestructible liver.

Paddy McCourt was signed by Gordon Strachan after having had spells with Rochdale, failing to impress Motherwell after a two week trial, Shamrock Rovers and Derry City (where his brother was a director). Not exactly a sparkling CV but the word from Ireland was that this guy was a major talent if he applied his mind to it. The footage on You Tube (admittedly never a foolproof test) suggested a player of some ability, and of course there was the odd fact that while with Shamrock Rovers he had three goals in contention for goal of the season in one year.

But on his arrival at Celtic Park he disappeared from view. Apparently his level of fitness was closer to pub league than SPL.

His debut in the Hoops was as a sub in a 4-2 win over Hibs but that was one of only 5 appearances we got off him that season (all from the bench).

The following season wasn’t a whole lot better under Mowbray. 14 run outs, although he did manage 3 goals, including an incredible solo run and chip again Falkirk. For the most part he was the star of the reserve team, which is probably the ultimate in being damned with faint praise.

The arrival of Neil Lennon changed how Paddy was used and the way the support viewed him. During season 2010-11 he made 31 appearances, scoring 7 goals. He was a key player in certain games and a couple of his goals will be long remembered: as a sub against Hearts he took on and left for dead 3 defenders before deftly lifting the ball over the diving keeper.

It was a goal that had class stamped all over it and the support responded warmly to the way he would always look to take on players not with pace but with guile and sleight of foot. Those were the trademarks of his finest goal, but it is one that is all but forgotten because it arrived in the game that, for my money, cost us the league – the game against Inverness. Not the one in April, the one in November, where we were 2-0 up and could only draw. The loss of those points wound up being crucial because you can always drop points in the highlands – the grounds there are tough – but when Celtic are 2-0 up at home with only about 20 minutes to go 3 points must be delivered, it’s that simple.

We were already a goal up when the ball arrived at Paddy’s feet about 25 yards out. He beat one man with a perfect switch of feet, dummied his way past another before taking the keeper out by feigning to shoot and then casually walking round him to roll the ball into an empty net. A joy of a goal and actually our 600th in the SPL, but one lost in the disappointment of such a poor result.

Even with that, the game that will live longest in his memory, the one he will relive the most, came two months later at Ibrox.

The common wisdom was that we were to be slaughtered. Celtic’s form had been shaky and the previous game had seen us narrowly beat Motherwell 1-0 only thanks to a deflected shot from Paddy. Hooper was injured, Stokes was out and Scott Brown had got himself sent off in the last minutes against Motherwell meaning he couldn’t face Rangers (1872-2012 RIP) either. The makeshift nature of the Celtic line-up can probably be best summed up by saying that up front we had Samaras and Paddy and up until that point of the season Paddy had probably gathered more game time than Sammy.

The first half was a bit of a siege. Samaras was running a lot but not seeing much of the ball. Paddy was being nullified by the sheer pace of the game, although he did produce one reverse pass that came very close to opening them up.

At half time the TV pundit opinion was that it was a matter of time until a Rangers (1872-2012 RIP) goal arrived. But during that halftime Lenny told McCourt to move closer to Sammy and work as a pair.

Within 5 minutes of the second half Paddy had shot just wide from a Sammy knockdown. Truth be told he should have done a lot better, but it mattered not, he became a presence in the game, not just as an attacking force and once Sammy had done his thing and we had established a 2-0 lead there was Paddy tackling on the right wing, chasing back and generally defying the wisdom that said he couldn’t last 90 minutes (although it could be argued that his first half efforts meant he hadn’t really put in a full 90).

That game was probably the high point of his time at Celtic Park.

He appeared as a sub in the cup final that May and would have had a clear view of goal if it hadn’t been for Stokes being a greedy sod. He had scored the final league goal of that season in a 4-0 win over Motherwell. But that was his last goal for us, despite making over 30 appearances in the following two seasons.

His last two seasons at Celtic were tales mainly of sub appearances. Very rarely was he started. His role was almost that of a kicker in American football, introduced only when the occasion called for it. With the increased role for Forrest and the arrival of Commons, together with the superior goal threat that these players carried, it was easy to see why.

One of the knock on effects of this was been the introduction of a modified Billy Ray Cyrus song in his honour. The punk wars were not fought for that kind of rubbish!

But the song acknowledged the fact that he was surplus to requirements. His main contribution in his final season was possibly as a sub at Tannadice in the autumn. He gave up the possession that led directly to their equaliser.

He had become the luxury player that we simply could not afford. When it became obvious that his days were numbered my only concern was that he didn’t move to another SPL club. We all knew what he could do when properly motivated and on his day no defence could stop him. The last thing we needed was that running at our back four.

Pat McCourt was probably the most naturally gifted player we’ve had the club since Lubo, capable of turning an entire defence with one pass, taking a defender out of the game with one perfect first touch and seeing all the angles of the pitch, all the possibilities before anyone else.

The downside was always the murmurings about his lifestyle. Put bluntly, for the talent he possessed he should have been playing at SPL level for a hell of a lot longer and possibly at an even higher level.

His final appearance was in the 2013 cup final – as a sub obviously – but the esteem that his teammates had for him can be gauged by the fact that as he came on he was given the captain’s armband. He signed off his Celtic career as captain of the team that won the cup. Cool.

He left with 2 SPL winners medals and 2 Scottish Cup winners badges.

fwl mccourt with cup

AB Murdoch

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2015 16 issues

Yalta Conference CSC

Good luck for the new season to Brendan and the Celts from all the Bhoys at the Yalta CSC. Down with the fascists and Keep the peace!

ht yalta hats

Gentlemen v Players

We hear that there’s something of a dispute going on with regard to the selling of blue strips in Glasgow this season. Is it not an ideal opportunity to at least consider this as an alternative to the Puma gear?

earwig-130-royals-big

Some years ago NTV’s Royal correspondent Jenny ‘Flute’ Bond snapped this pic while on a trip to the wee but an’ ben the Windors keep at Sandringham.

That particular Boxing Day the Family played a friendly football match against the Sandringham Estate workers. Harry, Wills and Peter Philips all featured in the Windsor’s line-up (‘We get first pick and shoot down the hill’ etc) who took to the field sporting the natty strips shown here.

Asked if he’d ever consider wearing the strip in public Harry said that he’d rather be caught by the press dressed as a Nazi Obersturmbahnfuhrer, complete with swastika armband.

The workers, by contrast, chose as their strip the green and white hoops.

Despite the fact that any Sevconians leering over this picture might be drooling (even more than usual) at the thought that William might actually be one of ‘Ra Peepul’, he is, in fact, an Aston Villa supporter. We even hear that on one memorable visit to Villa Park he let slip that apart from the Clarrie Blues his favourite team is Celtic.

All of which leaves us looking forward to the day when Wills has finally inherited his granny’s tiara and rolls up at CP to start a rousing chorus of ‘There’s only one King Billy and that’s me!’

For the record, the final score in the match was Royals 4 Workers 1. According to Jenny ‘Flute’ Bond, ‘If you think the refs are bad when the Hoops were playing the Sons of William, you should have seen them when William’s actually in the team… along with his brothers and cousins!’

Earwig

 

 

Throwing It All Away

The salutary tale of 7:1 ‘keeper Dick Beattie and his part in English football’s worst ever match-fixing scandal

goalie beattie

Dick Beattie played his first game for Celtic against Clyde at Shawfield on October 20th 1954.

He arrived with flaws in his game – an inability to cope particularly well with cross balls being one of the more notable – but was prepared to work hard and learn his trade. As a result he made his way into the team that will be forever associated with October 19th 1957 when the Hoops not only retained the League Cup but shared an eight goal thriller with their then very much alive and kicking Glasgow rivals.

As Johnny Bonnar’s successor he was brave, athletic and skilful. He had three impossible saves against Hibs at easter Road early in the match on December 29th 1956 and then the game of his life at the same venue versus the legendary Reilly, Baker and Ormond forward line on November 23rd 1957, a match during which he even saved an Eddie Turnbull penalty kick.

There was the occasional bad day, of course. He was having a magnificent game for a ten man Celtic side against Clyde in the Glasgow Cup on August 20th 1958 when he hit a short goal kick to Dunky Mackay with five minutes left to play. Dunky played it back to him, Dick fumbled it (this was in the days when ‘keepers could pick the ball up from passbacks remember) and in came Johnny Coyle to make it 1-1. Beattie had been cutting out Tommy Ring’s crosses all night, but a minute after his passback blunder he missed his first cross and it was 2-1 for Clyde.

Against Motherwell on January 2nd 1959 he lost another two goals in the last two minutes in a game which ended up a 3-3 draw and that signalled the end for Beattie as Celtic’s ‘keeper.

Dick and his distinctive orange jockey cap (he was a keen gambler on horse racing) took off to England where he landed at Portsmouth, and in a whole heap of trouble in the shape of a weasel by the name of Jimmy Gauld.

Nick Hazlewood recounts the subsequent fall from grace of Dick Beattie in his book “In The Way”:

“Dick Beattie was an accomplished custodian who had played for Scotland at both junior and under-23 level. His career had him to St Mirren, Celtic, Peterborough and Portsmouth and he was considered by some to have been one of the finest goalkeeper of his generation. But on 19th April 1964 he was exposed by The People newspaper – he may have been one of the best at saving, but he doubled up as the undisputed king of not saving.

In an article by Michael Gabbert and Peter Campling headed ‘I took bribes to let goals through’, Beattie was named as the ‘worst offender in the whole gigantic scandal of bribed soccer players’.

The newspaper went on to say: ‘He was the most persistent of those who have thrown matches, and the most successful in making it appear that he was playing to win. And he certainly made handsome profits in direct bribes and in betting on matches that he had fixed. He could have been the finest goalkeeper in Britain. But he was a big spender and greedy for money. He was easily tempted.’

In a confession extracted by the People’s investigative team, Beattie was to admit to a whole litany of malpractices. According the keeper, another footballer at Portsmouth had introduced him to a bookmaker who promised good money for every Portsmouth game that the Scotsman could throw.

One example Beattie gave the paper was a match against Peterborough in April 1962, when his bookie watched from the stands as Beattie contrived to let in three goals. Sitting in the bookie’s car outside Bedhampton Station, Portsmouth, Beattie was handed £100 in used fivers.

There was a big irony here, too, for so impressed with Beattie’s performance were Peterborough, that two months later they splashed out and bought him.

Not that this instilled in him a newfound sense of loyalty – the Scotsman continued to throw games and The People sympathised with Peterborough by paying Beattie a backhanded compliment: ‘He was an artist at deliberately letting in goals while appearing to have unluckily missed making a miraculous save.’

goalie beattie gauldGauld (left) was described by trial judge Mr Justice Lawton as an “unpleasant rogue and the spider in the centre of the web”.

How were Peterborough to know?

Jimmy Gauld, the ‘Mr Big’ of the fixed-odds scandal, didn’t know of Beattie’s connection with the bookmaker. Beattie’s involvement with Gauld was in addition to the fixed games and involved straightforward betting on matches. Players fixing scores for Gauld would be obliged to bet on the matches in which they were playing, using their own money. In this way bribes could be disguised and the players involved became more committed to keeping their word.

It was a very lucrative practice. For fixing the Portsmouth v Peterborough game, Beattie received £100 from his own bookmaker and a further £300 from Gauld – for his very own bet that he could help Portsmouth to lose. Conversely, there was also big money to be lost if things didn’t go right. Beattie was betting £50 a time, a huge amount that was probably the equivalent of half his match fee. It made him all the more hungry to make sure that things went to plan – but it wasn’t always easy.

One weekend Gauld and Beattie bet on the result of the Peterborough v Queens Park Rangers game in which Beattie was playing and doubled it up with a bet that Brentford would beat Exeter, a game in which they had absolutely no influence in.

The latter half of the double was a straightforward bet on current form, and it was the part of the bet that went to plan. The part involving Beattie wasn’t so simple, as The People pointed out: ‘It was touch and go whether he could contrive a defeat for Peterborough. At one point the score was 1-1 with only a few minutes left to play. Then he managed to throw the ball straight to the feet of a QPR player who banged it into the net. “It was a very near thing,” said Beattie, “and there was a hell of a row about it in the dressing-room afterwards.’”

After the game Beattie met Gauld outside a hotel in Nottingham to receive another £200. Gauld told The People that the keeper was ‘flat broke’ when he arrived – ‘he didn’t even have the money to buy petrol to get him home if I failed to turn up’.

Beattie was eventually sunk when Gauld started blabbing to the press. Any honour among thieves rapidly evaporated when the newspaper offered soccer’s Mr Big £7,000 to name names. A registered letter from Beattie to Gauld connected the goalkeeper to the case and a recording Gauld made of Beattie finished him off.
At the trial in Nottingham ringleader Gauld was fined £5,000 and sentenced to four years imprisonment.”

Beattie was found guilty of match-fixing and spent nine months in prison. He was also banned from football for life. On his release he took up a new trade and spent many years away working as a welder in Saudi Arabia and Iran mong other places, but died of a heart attack in Scotland in 1990. He was 52.

Beattie’s entry in the pages of the Celtic Wiki ends on a sympathetic note: “It was a sad end to the career of a man who was commonly regarded by team mates as a hugely warm and likeable character. An ex-Posh team mate had described him simply as “..a hell of a nice guy”. In these times when even the most mediocre of players are millionaires it is easy to condemn all those involved in what became known as ‘The Fix’. But it has to be remembered that these were mostly players whose short and physically demanding career was largely during the time of the maximum wages.

Richard Beattie’s career should have been defined by his memorable seven finger salute. Instead the shadow of scandal is forever cast across his moment in the Hampden sun.”

1966 World Cup Tribute

Anyone know where we can see a performance of McGlashan’s tour de force, ‘Traveller in Time’? (@2.30)

 

Pink Kit Launch

Anybody who even thinks of slagging the pink kit should have a look at this first.

(Watch out for George of the Jungle near the end… his first – and last – modelling assignment)

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