The James Dean Allure of Borussia Mönchengladbach

“The Best of the Celtic View: the 100 covers that made you laugh, cry and cheer”; how could we resist a title like this when it was published a couple of years ago? The dear old Celtic View, brainchild and celebrated organ of the legend that was Jack McGinn, 40 years old and the raison d’être of the blatt that spawned this blog. “Here are,” the cover of the book gushes, “the 100 covers of the Celtic View that made us laugh, cry and cheer”. I don’t remember cheering at too many of the View’s covers (anybody who cheers when they see a Celtic View cover needs help) but I did laugh in a GIRUY way at some of the front pages during the dark days of the 90s, and I may even have shed an inner silent tear when I saw a picture of Martin Hayes grinning back at me from the cover of the View holding aloft the Celtic scarf for his signing on photo shoot.

From the early years, when it was an 8 page broadsheet, who can forget the Celtic Boy feature, the terrible cartoon that used to take up about half of the front page or the Spotlight on a Fan? Yet for all its many faults, Pravda did have one feature that left a lasting impression on me. Bob McDonald’s European football round-up I can genuinely claim to have given me a lifelong interest in the game beyond these shores. Every week Bob would have a page to round up the latest news from the major leagues on the continent. In the 70s his German coverage would mainly focus on the two teams toughing it out for the Bundesliga at the time, Bayern Munich and Borussia Moenchengladbach.


For no other reason than I liked the look of them in the grainy monochrome images that would accompany Bob’s German round-ups I was rooting for the Foals in those days rather than Bayern. In Germany it became a bit more complicated than that, with a football public that seemed to invest in both clubs a largely mythological aura, depending on one’s political viewpoint or even age. Holger Jenrich wrote: “All the reformers or progressives sided with Borussia instead of Bayern. They considered the team’s risky ‘look-out-here-I-come’ football a continuation of political change through football means.” According to Helmut Bottinger it was, “Gladbach or Bayern: radicalism or rationality, reform or pragmatism. if need be Bayern would win 1:0. They never played themselves into rapture, they won in a calculating manner. Contrast this with the young Foals who played free of all restraints, irresistably moving forward.”

It was all romanticised wishful thinking not backed up – indeed mostly contradicted – by the facts. But it helps to explain why a relatively small club from north western Germany became hugely popular. The Bayern – Gladbach dichotomy is explored in a chapter of Tor, Uli Hesse Lichtenburger’s essential read for anybody with an interest in german football. In this extract he examines the James Dean allure of the Foals:

“And that’s also the main difference between Gladbach and Bayern. Borussia, as a team, were more sexy. Apart from Netzer, this aura didn’t really have to do with the players themselves. After all, there were people like Horst Koppel at Gladbach, who played with a toupee for three seasons, and – but let’s not drag Berti Vogts into this again. What made Gladbach sexy in a James Dean sort of way was an element of tragedy counterbalancing all that gung-ho football and juvenile swagger. These players, one sensed, were somehow doomed, jinxed.

As always, Netzer comes to mind first. The most exciting German footballer of all time played only 20 minutes in a World Cup. And that was in the defeat against the DDR in 1974.

The things most people remember first about Gladbach are not their record victories, which never meant a thing anyway. Even the 12-0 win against Dortmund on the last day of the 1977-78 season was not enough: it would have taken another three goals to win the league. It’s the defeats. Gladbach’s two UEFA Cup triumphs (in 1975 and 1979) pale in comparison to their epic clashes with Liverpool in 1973 (UEFA Cup final), 1977 (European Cup final) and 1978 (European Cup semi-final), all of which were lost. Then there was the ill-fated penalty shoot-out against Everton in the 1970-71 European Cup, which could have been avoided but for a mistimed display of stereotypical German cleanliness. Gladbach were leading 1-0 in the first leg when goalkeeper Wolfgang Kleff decided to remove a roll of toilet paper from the box. Howard Kendall seized the opportunity and equalised from a distance.

Or how about the scandalous European Cup quarter-final against Real Madrid in March 1976? The first leg finished 2-2, at the Bernabeu it was 1-1. That second match was refereed by the Dutchman Leo van der Kroft, who disallowed two perfectly legal Gladbach goals in the second half. Netzer, then playing for Real, said even his Spanish team-mates had no idea why the goals weren’t given. UEFA suspended Van der Kroft.

It was all strangely reminiscent of Gladbach’s semi-final tie with Milan in the Cup-Winners Cup two years earlier. The Germans needed three goals to win the tie, and they got one early. Then the Spanish referee denied them a penalty for handball, refused to send off Karl-Heinz Schnellinger (playing for Milan), who broke Christian Kulik’s ankle with an awful tackle, and crowned his performance three minutes from time by looking the other way when Bernd Rupp was scythed down in Milan’s penalty area. However, these outrages and hard-luck stories paled into insignificance compared to the pinnacle of the Borussia drama. That was a game hardly anyone saw, but everyone recalls.

On October 20,1971, Gladbach played Internazionale at home. It was the first leg of the European Cup second round, and Inter’s team featured four men who had played for I taly against West Germany in the unforgettable 1970 World Cup semi-final (marred, according to Germans, by disgusting Italian play-acting). There were 27,501) in attendance at Gladbach’s small ground, the Bokelberg, and they were the only people who really saw what happened that night. The club had demanded an extra payment of DM6,600 from German TV to cover sales tax which they refused to pay. So the most legendary match featuring a Bundesliga club was not shown on television.

It was 1-1 after 20 minutes, Roberto Boninsegna having equalised after Jupp Heynckes’s early goal. Led by an awesome Netzer, who had had his leg in plaster until a few days before the match, the Foals then stampeded across the pitch for 30 minutes that produced five goals against the fabled Inter defence. Netzer himself scored twice, first from free-kick, then a breathtaking chip with the outside of his right foot. The Italians were able to stem the tide until eight minutes from time, when even muscle-man Klaus Sieloff was allowed to score to make it 7:l.

“In the spring of 1971, the Bundesliga scandal had covered the game with its dark, deep shadows,” wrote Karl-Heinz Huba, “but then, right in the middle of the darkness, there came deliverance. Only once in a blue moon can a team somewhere on this planet manage a game like that.’ Matt Busby, watching the match for UEF A, said: ‘What a fanatastic team! Such pace, power and invention!’

Tbe second leg was won 4-2 by Inter, a rough affair that left four Gladbach players injured. And yet it was Inter who reached the next round and, eventually, the final against Ajax. That’s because after 29 minutes of the first leg, an empty can thrown from the stands had hit Inter’s Boninsegna in the throat. He was carried off the pitch and substituted, whereupon Inter filed a protest with UEFA. The match was replayed in Berlin and finished scoreless.

Most people who witnessed the incident swear that Boninsegna was acting, and the report of the Red Cross attendants stated there was no mark to be found on the player’s body. Max Merkel, the Austrian coach, later wrote: ‘He was having a natter with his mates while lying on the ground, telling them to complain to the referee. Since that day I know that, in football, an Italian lying down is often more dangerous than one standing up.’ Why Boninsegna should have done such a thing, at a time whlen it was only 2-1, is unclear. The investigating UEFA commission claimed that Busby visited Inter’s dressing room and found Boninsegna unconscious.

Whatever the truth, this match remains the best example of the mishaps that seemed to befall Gladbach with regularity when the stakes were highest, sometimes even in the league. In 1971, with seven games to go, Borussia led Bayern by a point and were playing Bremen at home Two minutes from time, with the scores level at 1-1, a cross sailed into Bremen’s box and Herbert Laumen rose to head it in. He missed the ball, fell into the net, and the sudden tug caused the left goalpost to break at the base. There was no spare goal available and no one connected with Borussia hurried to repair the damage, hoping for a replay, so the game was called off. Three weeks later, the DFB decided the home club was responsible for the equipment and awarded both points to Bremen. It may have been a correct decision, but it was typical, very hard Gladbach luck. Bayern, meanwhile, had lost (as always) at Kaiserslautern, but suddenly found themselves back in the running thanks to a rotten piece of wood. And that, somehow, was also typical.


There is a very good introduction to the emergence of Gladbach as a force in the Bundesliga by St. Anthony on Celtic Underground:

“The Best of the Celtic View” by Paul Cuddihy and Joe Sullivan

“Tor! – The Story of German Football” by Ulrich Hesse-Lichtenburger


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See the video below which features some of the incidents in the article. Nostalgia at its best.


Mythos Borussia Mönchengladbach

What Did Souness Ever Do For Us?

A strange choice to herald the rebranding of the Scottish League was Souness. Here’s an appreciation of his brief stint in Scotland, as manager of a club currently in the process of being liquidated, that appeared in a previous NTV.Image

Scrupulously fair, gracious in defeat magnanimous in victory, a man of principles, a true sportsman and a credit to the game. None of these are qualities that could ever be attributed to Grame Souness with regard to his five year stint as manager of Rangers (as they were known back then).

Having learned whatever football skills he had from Bobby Murdoch while a youngster at Middlesbrough, Sadam acquired for himself something of a tough reputation as part of the relentless Liverpool machine of the Seventies before perfecting his hard man routine in Serie A. Once he’d established himself in the same literal and figurative league as renowned international cloggers like Daniel Passarella, he returned to the Scottish Premier League in 1986 as player-manager at the Death Star.

He quickly made his mark in his first league match, away to Hibs at Easter Road – right down George McCluskey’s shin bone, which required more stitches in it than one of the mail bags at that time being cobbled together by Jeffrey Archer in HMP Belmarsh.

The resultant red card – the first of many waved under the blue noses of Souness and his compadres in the following seasons – set the tone for the remainder of his five year reign of terror.

As a player, his own personal tally of three red cards in a year (which would have been at least double that had Scottish referees any moral fibre at all) set an example for the likes of Butcher and Roberts to emulate.

Few players can count among their claims to fame that they provoked a mass withdrawal from an international squad by players from a club side. But that’s what happened to Romania when the Steaua Bucharest side downed tools in protest at a particularly disgraceful challenge by Sadam on one of their number in a European tie at Ibrox, a challenge which merited both a red card and a lengthy prison sentence.

As a manager, far from liberally sprinkling his side with the cream of imported talent to grace the SPL, he was responsible for inilicting on the country’s pitches the likes of Colin West, Avi Cohen, Dale Gordon, Bonni Ginsberg and John McGregor.

He also ensured that the nation’s physios were kept on their toes (unlike their wingers) by providing gainful employment for some human threshing machines; the aforementioned Butcher and Roberts had good company in John ‘Psycho’ Brown and Terry Hurlock.

In his brief career north of the border he managed to oversee unprecedented bad relations between Rangers (RIP) and almost every other team in the league, most notably Celtic, Hearts, Hibs and, of course, Aberdeen. He left a trail of damage on and off the pitch from Pittodrie to East End Park and even had a widely publicised spat with Aggie the St. Johnstone tea lady; all this while still finding the time to bludgeon the odd journalist on the way.

Hacks who dared criticise the Souness regime for their gamesmanship or shockingly bad disciplinary record soon found themselves with their noses pressed up against the outside of the Blue Room window as bans were distributed as freely as Terry Hurlock suspensions.

The revelation (once he was safely back home in his native country of course) by left-back Jan Bartram that he was sent out on occasion by his manager to deliberately clog opponents was hardly jawdropping stuff by the time it appeared in a Danish football magazine. Nor was Batram’s claim that he would sit quietly in the dressing room watching his manager erupt in psychotic outbursts and foul·mouthed ranting as tea cups and televisions went flying across the floor. This kind of thing might have shocked the sensibilities of civilised Europeans, but we were experienced Rangers (deceased) watchers. Nothing about them freaked us out during the Souness years.

His long overdue departure in 1991 brought forth risible suggestions from his toadies in the media that he was the victim of persecution directed at him from that notorious bastion of Rangers bashing, the SFA. The truth is that his persistent flaunting of touchline bans and his repeated breaches of the rules made the job of even the transcendentally feeble-minded Park Gardens Discipline Committee a fairly straightforward one.

The most nauseating aspect of his exit was the plaudits handed to him by his media sycophants, who still become misty-eyed whenever they get the chance to wallow in post-Souness revisionism.

Chick Young is one who merits a special mention. His artide for the Glaswegian headlined “Graeme Souness: The Most Remarkable Man I’ve Ever Met” could easily have been retitled “Graeme Souness: The Most Odious Stream Of Drivel I’ve Ever Written”. It prompted a suggestion at the time that Chick should really try to get out and meet more people instead of staying in the house watching Rangers videos. (Now the only way to watch ‘Rangers’)

Considering the amount of money squandered on mediocre players during his time in charge. the return in terms of trophies was hardly spectacular.

Europe was, as ever, a joke. His modest achievements pale into insignificance in comparison with Stein or Ferguson, managers who had a fraction of the resources available to Sadam .

Far trom heralding a renaissance in Scottish football, his antics in the transfer market, indulged by a reckless and short-sighted board, helped to overheat the Scottish football economy and established the pattern of provincial clubs buying over-priced foreign diddies which they are only recently attempting to reverse.

His win at all costs attitude merely pandered to the ‘No one likes us we don’t care’ mentality at the Death Star.

Even Sadam’s final claim to beatification among his acolytes is unconvincing. His crusade against sectarianism at Ibrox conducted hand in hand with David Murray was personified in the signing of Maurice Johnston. As Mo sat there at the press conference smirking with his tongue literally in his cheek it was hard to fathom how anyone couldn’t see through this tawdry publicity stunt carried out in order to stick the boot – successfully it has to be said – firmly in the nethers of a beleaguered Celtic set up and send it into terminal decline.

Hmm. On second thoughts, maybe we owe him one!


Gigi Buffon – Boyhood Celtic fan!

Some positive quotes doing the rounds in the chip wrappers today on the eve of the second leg of the Cliftonville match. Juventus superstar Andrea Pirlo, no less, telling Platini and Blatter that, “It’s an insult Celtic have to enter the qualifiers this early on. It is an insult to the history of the club — and to all they have achieved in Europe recently. As champions they should not need to qualify. It is not fitting for a club of their size.”

“My admiration for Andrea Pirlo grows daily,” tweeted the manager in response on Monday.

Stop mucking about Neil and sign him. And while you’re at it, might as well get Gigi Buffon as back-up to Fraser Forster. Back in February 2012 Italy’s number 1 gave an interview to the German football magazine Kicker. The opening paragraph read:

“It is hard to believe that Gianluigi Buffon rates Borussia Moenchengladbach among the five teams for which he had once loved to play. In addition to Real Madrid, Celtic, West Ham and his first love Genoa.”

Good luck to Neil Lennon and the Bhoys tonight as they look to finish the job against Cliftonville and gear up for an encounter with another variant of the Borg.


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Bert Trautmann RIP

We are planning a series of articles for this season’s issues on some of the remarkable characters who have kept goal for Celtic over the years. As we all know, ‘keepers really are a breed apart, and so it was sad to read of the passing of Manchester City legend Bert Trautmann, a man who had a story that was even more extraordinary than most of his fellow custodians.

Nick Hazlewood recounts Trautmann’s most famous exploit in his book, “In The Way”. Think about Vitor Baia’s antics in Seville as you read how Bert played nearly 20 minutes of an FA Cup final with a broken neck!

Goalkeepers can be protected, and are protected, from the deliberate foul, the misplaced barge, the kick, the dig in the ribs and the late hack, but so much of the goalkeeper’s vulnerability is to the unpremeditated. The goalkeeper is an accident waiting to happen and it may as well be written into his contract when he decides to sign up as a professional.

There were too many deaths in Europe and Japan in the 1940s to worry about a few dead keepers, but the war years were important in the development of another major goalkeeping injury.

In the 1956 FA Cup final against Birmingham City, Bert Trautmann, keeper for Manchester City, did a ‘John Thomson’. With 17 minutes of the game left and his team 3-1 up, Trautmann sped out to deprive Murphy of a certain goal. As he dived at the striker’s feet his head crashed into his opponent’s knee. He lay unconscious on the pitch, ball in hands, the goal protected and a broken neck for ffis efforts.

He didn’t die – in fact he finished the game, having to make several more saves in the process. But then what was a broken neck to a man like Trautmann? Here was a man who had joined the Luftwaffe’s parachute regiment and been one of only 90 (from an original 1,000) to survive the war, a man court-martialled and imprisoned for a casual and trivial act of sabotage, a German who was captured by the Russians, but who escaped, and was later captured by the French Resistance but escaped. A man who was one of only a handful of survivors of an allied bombing mission on the town of Kleve, who just days later had had a hand-grenade blow up in his face, giving him superficial scratches, but terribly wounding a friend. Here was a man who, according to Alan Rowlands’ Trautmann: The Biography, had escaped from the Americans when two GIs pretended to execute him and who, in jumping a fence to escape them, had landed at the feet of a British soldier whose first words were ‘Hello Fritz, fancy a cup of tea?’

Imprisoned as a PoW in Britain, Trautmann joined his camp’s football team as a centre-half, but following an injury retired to the nets. It was a position he excelled in and made his own, putting down much of his ability to the training he had received as a parachutist. In 1949 he signed for Manchester City in the face of a threatened boycott of the club by Jewish and ex-servicemen supporters. ‘When I think of the millions of Jews who were tortured and murdered I can only marvel at Manchester City’s stupidity,’ said one begrudging but typical letter to the press.

Racism was to be a continuing burden for Trautmann in the coming years. As late as 1956 the Manchester Evening News led on its front page, under the headline ‘POISON PEN LETTERS TO TRAUTMANN’, with a story that irate Spurs fans, claiming that the German had fouled one of their forwards in the dying moments of the FA Cup semi-final, had been sending him vile letters telling him to go back to his own country. Trautmann is reported as saying, ‘They are very upsetting, but I am trying my best to forget all about them.’

By this time, though, Trautmann had done more than enough win over the great majority of supporters and letters flooded into the Evening News. The Globetrotters from Ardwick summed up the ill feeling: ‘It was a darn bad show and left a nasty taste in the mouth. Both Manchester City and Manchester United fans are proud of Bert’s record, both on and off the field. And if ever he walks into our pub – or any other pub for that matter – he
would find that all the lads are with him and think a lot of him.’

When Trautmann broke his neck it was seen by his supporters as the ultimate sacrifice. In 1961 they showed their appreciation by turning out for his testimonial in huge numbers, almost 50,000 of them.

His survival had been touch and go, but by the time he knew just how bad it was, he was in safe hands. As his team-mates celebrated their victory throughout the night, Trautmann, believing that he had a muscle strain, took an aspirin and sat watching the festivities in grim agony. Almost the worst of it had been on the final whistle when team-mate Bill Leivers supported him as he climbed the stairs to get his winner’s medal, thousands of joyous fans slapping him on the back as he ascended.

Next day an x-ray revealed no damage and a few days later an osteopath, diagnosing five misplaced vertebrae, slammed Trautmann’s head back and forth. Only when the pain became too much did the German go into Manchester Royal Infirnary for another x~ray – this time it showed that a cracked second vertebrae had split in two. Trautmann was only alive because the third vertebrae had been slammed against it and was wedging it into position.

And here’s where the stupidity of the goalkeeper becomes sublime. There’s an old John Wayne movie where the great man breaks his neck and spends the next few months repeating, ‘I’m goin’ ta move that toe’. Exhausted at the banality of his mantra, the paralysis breaks and the toe wiggles. Trautmann must have, gone through a similar process. Despite having his skull drilled to provide bolt holes for a calliper, preventing the movement of his head, and despite having his back mummified in plaster and metal, Trautmann forced the pace. By November, just six months after his accident, he was training again. On 1 December he played for Manchester City Reserves and two weeks later he was back in the first team.

RIP Bert Trautmann.


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Euro Update and NTV Competition

In terms of away performances by the seeded teams in Qualifying Round 2 for this season’s Champions League (seven of the seeded teams were away for their first leg ties) Celtic’s 3:0 victory against a gallant Cliftonville side in Belfast last night was the second best of all the results. Dinamo Zagreb did best of all, exfoliating the Luxembourg champions Fola Esch by 5:0 in the Stade Municipal, Differdange, a match refereed by Scotland’s Bobby Madden, the closest any of the spectators will ever see to the late Harry Lauder. If we’re looking for any form in this one it might be interesting to note that for all it’s a result that looks good on paper, the Croats were unable to score until the 59th minute. They rattled in another four in the following 19 minutes right enough.

Legia Warsaw went behind against the New Saints – starring Roger More as Simon Templar – before eventually taking home a 3:1 win, while Maccabi Tel Aviv won by a similar 2 goal margin, keeping a clean sheet in their victory against the Less Than Mighty Magyars of ETO Györ.

Molde looked decidedly mouldy at times in a stodgy performance against the Rovers of Sligo, although they too will be happy not to have conceded in their win by the narrowest of margins. Sligo’s European record of one win in 18 European games (it was in the Cup Winners Cup against Floriana of Malta back in the 90s) will doubtless give Molde hope that they can have the Irishmen singing the Norwegian Blues (Any more dreadful puns like that and you’re fired – Ed).

It’s debatable which of the two away draws were worst. NK Maribor, the Sovenian club that hammered one of the nails into the coffin lid of the late Glasgow Rangers a couple of years ago, couldn’t score against the honeycomb-centred Maltesers of Birkirkara while Partizan Belgrade managed to score against Shirak Gyumri in Armenia. To put that in some perspective, the Armenians had to qualify for the minnows section of the draw for this round via the plankton round. They did beat Tre Penne on San Marino on aggregate (3:1) but lost 0:1 in the principality against a team that sounds more like an antipasto dish than a football team .Nevertheless, both of these seeds should make short work of their opponents in the respective home ties. Maribor are potential opponents for Celtic in Q3.

This particular round is not renowned for shocks but this year certainly threw up a few interesting first leg scores for the seeds playing at home in the first leg. Steaua are almost certainly through after a 3:0 win against Vardar Skopje of Macedonia and there was a big win for Elfsborg against Latvian champions Daugava Daugavpils (7:1) but there might yet be a stewards inquiry into this one as rumours of unusual betting patterns have been circulating. Watch this space.

Spare a thought, too, for fans of EB Streymour (the Faroese football club, not the writer of Scandanavian detective novels). Another qualifier from the first round (the Group of Shite) they managed to sink Lusitanos of Andorra 7:3 on aggregate – despite being held to a 2:2 draw in the Pyrenees – then were drawn to play Dynamo Tbilisi, a round trip of flight of 5,034 miles last done by Charles Lindberg. Any supporters making the 18 hour, £2,500 journey would have arrived in the Georgian capital just in time to see EB on the receiving end of a 6:1 trouncing before having to do it all in reverse to be home for the league game this Saturday.

Elsewhere, Viktoria Plzen of the Czech Republic did score 4 at home, but they let in 3 against Zeljeznicar Sarajevo so this one could go either way (hopefully the way of the Bosnians for reasons we can hopefully explore in a future post) as could the game involving Slovan Bratislava who could only manage a narrow 2:1 win in Slovakia against Bulgaria’s Ludogorets Razgrad.

As if to prove that the coefficients are a pretty accurate form guide, the three worst ranked of the seeded sides obtained the three worst results of the night: Neftchi Baku drew 0:0 with Albanians Skënderbeu Korçë in Azerbaijan, HJK Helsinki travel across the Baltic with the same scoreline to take on Kalju Nomme in Estonia next week and Ekranes visit Iceland to play FH Hafnarfjardur, who are close to announcing that their new honourary chairman will be Steve Martin, reprising his role as Doctor Hfuhruhurr from The Man With Two Brains. FH Hafnarfjardur have a coefficient of 1.190 which puts them right down in the Eurobasement.  FK Sutjeska Niksic aren’t much better at 1.300 yet they ran Sheriff out of town with a 1:1 draw in Moldova.

The dubious distinction of most depressed support today probably goes to the fans of BATE Borisov. 3-1 conquerors of Bayern Munich in the Group Stage in 2012, the Byelorussians are the highest ranked of all the seeds in this round of the tournament with a coefficient of 39.175 (Celtic are 2nd – 37.538) yet they managed the almost unthinkable feat of losing at home to Shakhtyor Karaganda of Kazakhstan (coeff – 2.941). The most uncomfortable trip to the Caucasus since General Paulus stopped off at Stalingrad awaits them.

Looking ahead to tomorrow’s draw for the third round, here are the teams we might face in order of my preference (i.e. lowest coefficient first):

  • Neftchi Baku or Skënderbeu Korçë (pref Korçë)
    Ekranas Panevezys or FH Hafnarfjardar (pref HF)
    HJK Helsinki or Kalju Nomme (pref Kalju)
    Maccabi Tel Aviv
    Slovan Bratislava or Ludogorets Razgrad (pref Ludogerets)
    NK Maribor
    Sheriff Tiraspol or Sutjeska Niksic (pref Sutjeska)
    Levski Sofia

Champions League Qualifying Round 2
First Leg

(Seeded teams in bold)

Neftchi Baku         Azb           Skënderbeu Korçë     Alb         0-0
Steaua Bucuresti     Rom     Vardar Skopje         Mac           3-0
Viktoria Plzen     Cze             Zeljeznicar Sarajevo     Bos     4-3
Sheriff Tiraspol     Mol        Sutjeska Niksic     Mon             1-1
Birkirkara         Mlt                   NK Maribor         Slo              0-0
Sligo Rovers         Irl                 Molde FK         Nor                  0-1
IF Elfsborg         Swe             Daugava Daugavpils     Lat       7-1
HJK Helsinki     Fin             Kalju Nomme         Est              0-0
Ekranas Panevezys  Lit     FH Hafnarfjardar     Isl            0-1
The New Saints     Wal           Legia Warsaw     Pol              1-3
Cliftonville         Nir                 Celtic             Sco                      0-3
CS Fola Esch         Lux            Dinamo Zagreb     Cro          0-5
ETO Györ         Hun                Maccabi Tel-Aviv     Isr        0-2
BATE Borisov     Bls          Shakhtyor Karaganda     Kaz     0-1
Shirak Gyumri     Arm           Partizan Belgrade     Srb      1-1
Slovan Bratislava     Svk   Ludogorets Razgrad     Bul      2-1
Dinamo Tbilisi     Geo        EB Streymur         Far               6-1

Bert Kassies site is essential for keeping up

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The Life and Death of Belfast Celtic

With the Hoops in Belfast this week on European qualifying duty, we take a brief look back at the life and death of their now defunct Belfast counterparts in a potted history of the club and an extract from Barry Flynn’s book on the Celts in which he describes the seminal moment in that history when Jimmy Jones was attacked on the field of play, an incident that led to Celtic withdrawing from the league.

 At the foot of the Donegal Road in Belfast there stands a bright, modern shopping complex. But for those old enough to remember, it will always evoke a certain sadness, because the shops were built over the site of Celtic Park – ‘Paradise’ to the faithful – for 58 years the home of Belfast Celtic.

The club was formed in the summer of 1891 and the first Chairman, James Keenan, provided the first and only suggestion for a name, Belfast Celtic. The origin of his choice stemmed directly from Glasgow Celtic, then three years old, and the Belfast men realised that they would have to live up to all its expectations. The chairman added that the purpose of the team would be to, “Imitate their Scottish counterparts in style, play and charity”, but their main aim was to win the Irish Cup!

They didn’t have long to wait before they won their first league title, which came in season 1899-1900, the first of fourteen leagues and eight Irish Cups.

The club became an institution on the Falls Road and in the Twenties they were certainly the team to beat. At one time Celtic had five international goalies on their books at the same time, and no international select was complete without two or three celtic players.

Towards the end of the First World war Celtic had broken most of the records in Irish football and things seemed set for continued domination after World War II, until disaster struck in 1948.

Unlike their local rivals Linfield, celtic were never a sectarian club, but the fact that they and the majority of their supporters came from west Belfast meant that derby matches were inevitably fraught with tension.

Until Boxing Day 1948, terracing violence had never affected the players, but on this day that was all about to change.

The Celtic v Linfield match had been a scrappy affair, with a player from each side being sent off. But the storm broke ten minutes from time. With Linfield leading by a goal to nil Celtic were awarded a penalty. As Walker stepped up to take it hundreds of Linfield supporters rushed on to the pitch and attacked some of the Celtic players, resulting in a broken ankle for one of them.

The following day the directors issued a statement part of which said, “The attack on our players was without parallel in the annals of football. The protection afforded to our players was quite inadequate.”

Rumours that Celtic were going to withdraw from the league were soon confirmed, and Belfast Celtic ceased to grace the competitive scene at the end of the 1948-49 season.

Thereafter they played only exhibition games, one of which was against the Scotland national team, which Celtic won by 2:1.

After this tour Celtic ex-stars came together just twice more. The first occasion was an emotional match at Celtic Park on 17th may 1952 against Glasgow Celtic, whose team included ex-Belfast Celtic man Charlie Tully and the great Jock Stein.

It has been widely agreed that, since the departure of Belfast Celtic, Irish football has generally never recovered from the loss. The fighting spirit seemed to go out of the game and attendances sank dramatically.

Every Irish football fan wanted to see the Celtic because they knew they would see football at its best. There are no such events now, no crowds and no team even remotely similar in style. The game in Northern Ireland is dying and has been since 1949.

In any history of Irish football there will be a chapter devoted to the glory and triumph of Belfast Celtic, 1891-1949. For it is only the glory that remains – the glory, the memories and and a shopping centre built on what was once Celtic Park.

Political Football – The Life and Death of Belfast Celtic by Barry Flynn

On 27 December 1948, rioting broke out during a match between Belfast Celtic and Linfield. Jimmy Jones, a prolific goalscorer for Belfast Celtic, was dragged from the pitch by the opposing fans, and beaten so badly that his career was ended. And with that ended the existence of Belfast Celtic after fifty-eight years in the game.

In Political Football Barry Flynn traces the development of the team from its beginnings, in an attempt to discover the reasons behind the tragic events.

Like that of every football club, the story of Belfast Celtic is one of victories and defeats. Theirs, however, is a story riddled with violence and hatred culminating in near-murder.

Political Football reveals how the political and social unrest that took hold of the city of Belfast was reflected in the history of the club, how tensions between two communities spilled onto both the pitch and the terraces, with devastating consequences.

Political Football is a valuable reference for anyone with an interest in the famous Belfast counterpart of our own club, and in this extract the author describes the events surrounding the brutal assault on Celtic’s Jimmy Jones:

On 21 April 1949, the legendary Belfast Celtic resigned from Irish soccer four months after one of the ugliest incidents in the history the game. On Boxing Day, 1948, violence spilt onto the pitch at a Belfast Celtic v Linfield match at Windsor Park. The events of that day were the beginning of the end of one of the most successful Irish football teams ever. Sports historian and writer Barry Flynn looks back….

For two teams whose grounds were less that half a mile apart, Belfast Celtic and Linfield could well have existed in different universes. The sectarian divide kept both communities encased within their own areas and in front of 27,000 feverish spectators, a bruising and bad-tempered encounter ensued.

One player’s name became synonymous with the events that fateful day; his name was Jimmy Jones, the bustling Celtic forward from the Co Armagh town of Lurgan. In a twist of terrible fate, an accidental collision between Jones and the Linfield defender Bob Bryson in the thirty-fifth minute of the game, led to Bryson being stretchered off the field with a broken ankle. Mid-way through the second half, it was announced on the public address system that Bryson’s ankle had been broken. Given the tinderbox that existed within the ground, it was, to say the very least, an irresponsible act.

Given the festive season, there could be no doubt that a significant number of supporters had ‘drink taken’ before the match and many came with bottles to fortify themselves against the cold. A small detachment of RUC officers patrolled the ground and kept their eyes on the spectators but nothing untoward was expected that December day. The Belfast correspondent of the Irish Times reported that police moved through the terraces with batons drawn to try and stamp out any disorder before the game began. The signswere ominous as referee Norman Boal blew his whistle in the cauldron that was Windsor Park.

The game intensified and the tension in the ground rose considerably as rain began to fall and the light began to disappear. Ten minutes from the interval, the crowd erupted as the clash between Jones and Bob Bryson saw the Linfield defender writhe in agony as a stretcher was called for to take him from the field. The net result, given that no substitutes were then permitted, was that Linfield were now down to ten men and at a disadvantage as the game approached half-time.

Shortly afterwards, Linfield forward Jackie Russell was pole-axed and taken from the field after he had been hit full-on by the football and as the whistle blew for the break, Linfield had only nine fit players on the field. The opening forty-five minutes had laid the foundations for the chaos to come. The ground possessed an undertone of serious violence and sectarian hatred was bubbling below the surface.

When it was announced over the public address system that Bryson’s leg, rather than his ankle, had been broken, the genie was most certainly out of the bottle. This act of folly shortened considerably the odds of a backlash against Jones and the Celtic players. The game resumed in gathering darkness with Linfield still two players short. Russell had been sent to the Royal Victoria Hospital with severe bruising, while Bryson had a broken ankle.

With the game poised and scoreless, the temperature reached perilous heights when Celtic’s Paddy Bonnar and Linfield’s Albert Currie were sent off after they clashed with eighteen minutes left. Gaps opened up on the terraces as fighting broke out among spectators on the Spion Kop and the police again drew their batons. With ten minutes to go Linfield full-back Jimmy McCune upended Celtic’s Jackie Denver in the box and to the roar of the Celtic fans, Boal awarded a penalty from which Harry Walker scored. The situation was now bordering on the brink of chaos as Celtic seemed certain to take the points.

Many thousands of supporters sensed that there would be trouble and headed for the exits as the match entered its closing stages. However, Linfield attacked in search of an equaliser and were rewarded four minutes from time when Isaac McDowell burst down the wing and found Billy Simpson in the box.

The Linfield forward made no mistake as he finished past Kevin McAlinden to square the game. Immediately, masses of Linfield fans surged from the terraces and invaded the pitch in celebration. The police present battled to clear the field and the remainder of the game was played out amid a deafening roar. The final whistle saw the Linfield mob on the Spion Kop overrun the field and they began again to attack the Celtic players.

Furthest from the pavilion, at the far end of the field, was the solitary figure of Celtic’s Jimmy Jones. In addition to the ‘sin’ of being involved in the Bryson incident, Jones was targeted as he was, quite simply, a sublime footballer who had already scored twenty-six goals that season. By the time Jones had made his way to the running track at the side of the pitch, the ringleaders from the Spion Kop had reached him and he was dragged over the parapet into the terrace below the main stand.

The 20-year-old was now at the mercy of the baying mob as police elsewhere tried to clear the field. In the stand watching in horror were Jones’ mother and father who had travelled up from Lurgan for the occasion. What followed in the terrace was brutal and prolonged. Jones was trapped and hidden in a sea of bodies while the rest of the Celtic team battled through the raging crowd.

The beating was merciless on Jones. He was punched in the back of the head. However, as he tried to make his way up the terrace away from his attackers, he was tripped and dragged back down the steps.

The core of the mob now consisted of about thirty men and unhindered they set about the prostrate Jones.

The attackers knew what they were doing and immediately began to jump on the legs of the player to ensure maximum damage was inflicted on his career.

Heavy hob-nailed boots danced on Jones’ leg and ankle as the frenzied crowd took turns to jump on the hapless player. He was kicked around the terraces like a rag doll.

After what seemed like an age, a police constable arrived and tried to intervene.

Immediately, he shouted at the mob, ‘If you don’t stop kicking him I’ll use my baton!’ Not surprisingly, he too was beaten back as the attack continued unabated.
Despite the danger, a close friend of Jones – Ballymena goalkeeper Sean McCann – waded into the madness from his seat in the grandstand.

He wrapped himself around the screaming player, guarding his leg, which was badly broken. Finally, a dozen police officers arrived to aid Jones and the mob dispersed post-haste. It was too late, the damage had been done and the repercussions were about to begin.

Taken from ‘Political Football – the Rise and Fall of Belfast Celtic’ by Barry Flynn, published by Nonsuch priced £14.99


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