Dublin in the Green – an Unlikely League Cup Hero

hero-dublin

For someone whose shelf life at Celtic was clearly going to be of the limited variety, big Dion certainly seemed to get some people agitated.

Signed on a free from Leicester during the 2006 January transfer window as a squad player, some people seemed to take this as an affront to all things Celtic and a sign that the club was in terminal decline. If this was supposed to be the replacement for Larsson or Sutton then Gord help us!

Personally, I couldn’t really see what all the fuss was about. In fact, my most recent memory of Dion Dublin until that point was from the pre-season friendly at the Walker Stadium when he and Mark de Vries had given Balde and Varga quite an uncomfortable evening.

On reflection, of course, that wasn’t exactly a glowing recommendation.

Like Telfer, Strachan knew what he was getting with big Dion. He got the experience, the professionalism and the enthusiasm and he didn’t have to pay much for it. He could come on as a sub when Hartson slowed down a bit (Are you trying to be funny here? Ed) or he could fill in as an emergency centre-half. It was always going to be a short-term arrangement and I don’t think we can quibble too much about what we got from him during the five months he was at Celtic Park.

He managed 11 appearances for Celtic in the SPL (only three of them were starts) and scored one goal, the fourth in a 4:1 victory at Rugby Park.

His only other goal came in the CIS Cup final, another tap-in to stoke the dying embers of the game and prove that all those years earning a living in the Premership were good practice for finally making the step up in Scotland.

He can also boast to his grandchildren that he played for Celtic against Rangers at Ibrox before they died. If he really wants the grandkids  to have sleepless nights then he can give them nightmares by describing all the scary people he could see round three sides of the ground.

At the age of 37 big Dion was a given a chance to play a very small part in the history of a great club. He took it and he seemed genuinely delighted at having done it.

 

AB MURDOCH

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Walfrid’s Dream…

Try this one to the tune of ‘Boys of the Old Brigade’…

Walfrid’s Dream

In the old East end, some Irishmen
With their pastor to the fore,
Had a daring dream, to found a team
And to give pride to the poor
T’was Walfrid’s aim to use the game
To unite the Scot and Gael
And he coined a name,
now blessed with fame
And gave ‘Celtic’ to the world;

Where are the bhoys who won that day
Beneath the Lisbon Sun?
The greatest team, we’ve ever seen,
When the Lions roared and won!

On a sunny day in the month of May
In a country far away
A man called Stein and his Celtic team
Showed the world how we could play
We sang with pride as his Celtic Side
Swept Inter all away
The cup was won, ‘neath the Lisbon sun
On the 25th of May

Where are the bhoys who won that day
Beneath the Lisbon Sun?
The greatest team, we’ve ever seen,
When the Lions roared and won !

Though years have passed, we still look back
With honour and with pride
On Walfrid’s dream and the great Jock Stein
Who won Europe’s greatest prize
Now Celtic fans, who’ve sang with me,
Of Larsson and McStay
Remember Stein and Walfrid’s dream
And the 25th of May

Where are the bhoys who won that day
Beneath the Lisbon Sun?
The greatest team, we’ve ever seen,
When the Lions roared and won!

PAT MARRINAN

lisbon mcneill trophy

That Time NTV Won Celtic a Cup (Kind Of)

 

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We don’t have too many claims to fame here at NTV Mansions, but this was the day we made the back page of a national tabloid. OK, it was only the Daily Mail, but we were there nonetheless.

On the morning of the 1995 Scottish Cup final when Celtic were due to play Airdrie you can imagine how upset we all were when we realised our pen pictures of the Airdrie team had offended then Diamonds manager Alex MacDonald. So incensed was the former Ibrox hit man that he brought along a copy of the fanzine to let his players read it before the game to “fan the flames of passion” (exclusive this was, by Gordon Simpson).

We could only picture the bemused look on Kenny Black’s face at being called upon to read anything more complicated than a yellow card or the Beano. “If the players can’t take anything out of it they must be dead from the toes up,” fumed MacDonald.

“If it was left to people like him,” ranted NTV, “football would consist of several hundred young men trying to boot a severed head from one village to the next.”

Obviously hurt and demoralised by their slagging in print, the Airdrie players – those that could read – were pronounced dead from the toes up at about 4.45 that afternoon.

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Jimmy McGrory vs The SFA

An extract from a chapter of Tom Campbell’s excellent book Celtic’s Paranoia – All In The Mind? entitled “Celtic and Scotland” in which the author discusses the puzzling lack of international recognition afforded to one of the game’s all-time greats by the SFA.

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Until the World Cup of 1954 in Switzerland, Scotland did not have a manager and, in fact, the first manager (Andy Beattie) quit abruptly halfway through that tournament and returned home to leave the thirteen players to fend for themselves. The squad went to Switzerland without a backup goalkeeper and at the first training session one player, noting that the players had been forced to practise in their club strips, commented: ‘We look like liquorice all-sorts.’ The expedition turned out to be a thoroughly amateurish exercise, leading inevitably to a 0-1 defeat by Austria and a humiliation from Uruguay by 0-7. Among the criticisms later levelled was the accusation that more SFA offkials were present on the jaunt than players. Neil Mochan, the Celtic centre forward, was chosen for the event and commented later: ‘It was treated more like an end-of-season tour than anything else.’

Later advertisements for the position of manager suggested that the SFA had still not wakened up to the reality of the modern age as they suggested the post could be carried out successfully ‘on a part-time basis’. The early ‘managers’ still had to deal with the members of the Selection Committee who were most reluctant to give up any of their power or influence. Ian McColl (ex-Rangers) apparently was unable to announce his side for one match until the selectors had voted between Willie Henderson and Alec Scott both of Rangers. The latter had been a regular for Scotland at outside right but had recently lost his place in Rangers’ team to the newcomer Henderson. Rangers were able to solve that particular dilemma by transferring Scott to Everton and retaining Henderson.

It is generally believed that the first Scottish manager to insist on his right to pick the side was Jock Stein, when he took over for a few months in 1965 to help the SFA out in a crisis situation.

Thus, if any bias was shown against Celtic players, the blame lay for years with an unwieldy committee, and later by individual Scottish managers. Some Celtic supporters insist that such a bias has continued and exists even at the present. Perhaps it is time to examine the facts objectively.

The most obvious example of the existence of such discrimination lies in the shabby treatment of a genuine Celtic hero, Jimmy McGrory. Signed by Celtic from St. Rochs Juniors in 1921, McGrory, a shy youngster, took some time to adjust to the senior game and was farmed out to Clydebank in 1923; but, after returning to Celtic Park for the start of the 1924/25 season. he embarked upon a magnificent career as a centre forward.
He was a one-club man, a jersey player, totally loyal to Celtic and their supporters, who personally resisted efforts by the club to sell him to Arsenal for a British record transfer fee in 1928. In the 1920s and 30s football was more physical than at present, and the stocky McGrory, although on the short side for the spearhead of the attack, was frequently the target of crude tackles and rough treatment. Despite that, and the inevitable toll of injuries, he played for Celtic until 1937 averaging almost a goal a game for fifteen seasons, He ended up with the amazing total of 410 goals in 408 league matches, a figure which includes twelve goals for Clydebank, and the overall tally of 550 goals in the top flight of senior football. It was truly an incredible career as, uring many of those seasons, Celtic were an inconsistent side and McGrory frequently lacked genuine support up-front.

The major surprise lies in the meagre number of caps won by this legendary performer. Jimmy McGrory played only seven times for Scotland, despite smashing almost every scoring record in British football, and in those seven games he scored six times.

The issue was clear-cut to partisan Celtic followers; they argued that there was a bias against McGrory simply because he was a Celtic player. On the other hand, apologists for the SFA committee which chose Scotland internaal sides could argue that McGrory was unlucky to be a near-contemporary of Hughie Gallacher.

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Hughie Gallacher (centre) pictured here in his Chelsea days flanked by two other Scotland players, Alex Cheyne (left) and Andy Wilson (right).

This latter argument is worth considering in some detail.

Hughie Gallacher was undoubtedly one of the most gifted strikers ever to play for Scotland. After his start with the strong Airdrie side of the 1920s Gallagher’s career flourished following his move to England and his appearances with Newcastle United, Chelsea, and Derby County. In fact he was a member of the most famous of all Scottish sides, the Wembley Wizards who thrashed England by 5-1 in 1928. The ‘Anglo’ also had the advantage being the man in possession, having won his first cap in 1924, at the time when McGrory’s career was just starting with Celtic. Gallacher, a scorer at international level, went on to make twenty appearances for his country.

I would have to agree reluctantly with the SFA’s position with regard to the dilemma posed by having two such gifted players competing for the position. In addition, this was a time when international matches were rationed, the three fixtures against the other home countries being the norm. Gallacher, a man who had never let Scotland down, was still at his prime in the period when Jimmy McGrory was emerging as a star in Scottish football and deserved to be chosen more frequently than the Celt.

However, consider what happened when the veteran Gallacher’s talents began to erode with age and the contributory factor of a dissolute lifestyle. Gallacher made a further five appearances for Scotland during the 1930s, four in the home internationals and one cap against France awarded in an unimportant European tour. Such loyalty by the selectors was understandable and commendable.

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By the early 1930s Jimmy McGrory was at the height of his powers. He scored two goals to help win the replayed Scottish Cup final against Motherwell in 1931, having inspired Celtic to an unlikely recovery in the first match. He scored the only goal of the1933 final also against Motherwell despite losing two teeth in the opening minutes of the match. And notably, in a rare appearance against England at Hampden Park in 1933 McGrory scored both Scottish goals in a 2-1 victory; the second, when he crashed the ball past Harry Hibbs, being generally recognised as the start of the famous ‘Hampden Roar’ as 134,170 Scots celebrated.

Despite his outstanding form for Celtic (and Scotland), McGrory, the logical successor and heir-apparent to Gallacher, was capped only six times in the 1930s and had to share the representative honours with a variety of men: Jimmy Fleming (Rangers) who played against England in 1930; Benny Yorston (Aberdeen) chosen against Northern Ireland in 1931; Barney Battles (Hearts) fielded against Wales in 1931; Neil Dewar (Third Lanark) who played against England in 1932 and Wales in 1933; Willie McFadyen (Motherwell), selected against Wales in 1934; Jimmy Smith (Rangers), chosen against Northern Ireland in 1935; Matt Armstrong (Aberdeen), fielded against Northern Ireland and Wales in 1936; and Dave McCulloch (Hearts and Brentford) who was preferred in 1935 against Wales and in 1936 against England. McCulloch’s appearance against England must have been a particularly bitter blow for the veteran McGrory as it meant that the greatest scorer in British football was denied a last chance to play at Wembley Stadium – and during a season in which the Celtic player had scored fifty league goals!

The purpose of the above paragraphs is not to disparage the other players chosen for the internationals: for example, Neil Dewar was a prolific scorer at club level for Third Lanark; Jimmy Smith ended up as Rangers’ all-time highest scorer in league matches with 225 (excluding the war-games); Jimmy Fleming, a versatile player who often played as a winger, ended up with a tally of 177 league goals for Rangers; and Willie McFadyen, as a member of a classic Motherwell side, still holds the Scottish record of fifty-two goals in a single season.

However, any objective historian of football would have to admit that none of the men who shared the representative honours with McGrory during those seasons was the equal of the Celtic player in terms of ability, effort and achievement.

Only one other argument in favour of the selectors might be forwarded: the fixtures against Wales and Northern Ireland were regarded as relatively unimportant, and were frequently used to reward players and clubs. Sometimes the selectors – usually seven in number and drawn from various parts of Scotland – were capable of ‘regional voting’ to encourage local interest throughout the country. This might well have accounted in part for the selection of the two Aberdeen players (Yorston and Armstrong) in preference to McGrory. As the selectors met infrequently and probably saw only those fixtures in which their own clubs were involved, a disproportionate influence was exerted by the SFA secretary. George Graham was appointed to the post 1928 and no doubt saw the advantage in ‘regional voting’ as a sure-fire method of promoting his own career within Scottish football.

One outstanding – and influential – player who championed McGrory’s cause was the Rangers inside forward Bob McPhail. He played against McGrory in many Old Firm clashes, and alongside him in several internationals; it was his pass that provided the chance for one of McGrory’s goals against England in 1933. McPhail was critical of the selectors’ repeated failure to chose McGrory, and it was rumoured that he had gone as far as to withdraw from one international ‘through injury’ as a protest.

In view of the oft-repeated claims that Rangers are ‘a Scottish club’ and Celtic are ‘an Irish club’, it is ironic to note McPhail’s own admission in his excellent autobiography Legend: Sixty Years at /brox (Edinburgh, 1988) that he was actively encouraged by his club manager to withdraw from the national side in order to conserve his energy for important Rangers matches: ‘Bill Struth made sure I suffered no financial loss any time I had to pull out of an international squad.’

McGrory himself, of course, was a shy, retiring type of personality and a genuinely modest individual; he would never have resorted to complaining about his treatment at the hands of the selectors. Perhaps this diffidence contributed to the meagre total of caps won by this most whole-hearted of all players although he was hurt, as this excerpt from his own autobiography A Lifetime in Paradise (London, 1975) suggests: ‘Despite my goal-scoring feats the SFA overlooked me for the game against England at Wembley – my last chance to play on that famous ground which had always eluded me. But, as I’ve said, we Celts were used to being overlooked in those days, unfair as it was. It is very refreshing in these modern times [1975] to see the club so well represented in the Scottish team whose jersey I was always proud to wear.’

‘Jaymak’, a columnist for the Evening Times, pointed out on 1 April 1936 that McGrory’s surprise omission ‘has brought me many expressions of indignation’ and cited one letter as an example: ‘ … up till last weekend he was a certainty. What went wrong? There is no doubt that he is showing as good, if not better, form than any of the players chosen. It seems to me that the selectors are determined McGrory shall never play at Wembley.’

Some apologists for the SFA had suggested that McGrory, by then in the veteran stage, had been rejected this time on account of his age and ‘Onlooker’ attempted to refute this argument in the Glasgow Observer of 4 April 1936: ‘Age becomes a decided handicap, especially in soccer, when one is playing against such youthful talent as [Bob] McPhail, who played with Airdrie who won the 1923/24 Scottish Cup final. Seems this handicapping according to age only applies if those concerned wear the green-and-white jerseys, for McGrory didn’t become a Celt until the following year.’ The columnist’s argument is weakened somewhat by the fact that Jimmy McGrory was eighteen months older than Bob McPhail, although the latter had indeed broken through as a senior earlier.

It is interesting to note that Bob McPhail also never played at Wembley.

The Ranger played five times against England at Hampden Park and it is believed that he was encouraged to withdraw from some international matches against England because the stamina-draining effects of the famous Wembley turf might have reduced his efficiency for Rangers in forthcoming Scottish Cup final appearances (in 1930, 1932, 1934 and 1936).

Nothing can convince older Celtic supporters that Jimmy McGrory was not treated shabbily by the Scottish selectors, and that the neglect was due solely to the fact that he played for Celtic. The Evening Times printed an anonymous poem submitted to its ‘Gossip and Grumbles’ column on 6 April 1936:

If he hadn’t played for Celtic
and he’d worn the jersey blue,
I’m sure he’d be at Wembley
to the delight of me and you.
But, because a good man’s Irish,
sure it’s always been a sin.
Why! They wouldn’t give us credit
for our champion Jimmy Quinn.
Long life to you, McGrory,
you’re the best we’ve ever seen.
You’re the finest centre forward
who wore the white-and-green.

 

2015 16 issues

Heroes Are Forever

If you’re tempted to read more about the Golden Crust then you should get hold of John Cairney’s ‘Heroes Are Forever’.

rev-heroes

This is the second biography of Jimmy McGrory and since the first – Gerry McNee’s ‘A Lifetime in Paradise’ – is no longer obtainable, if you buy this book hold on to it.

John Cairney began writing it on September 1st 2004, the day Wayne Rooney left his beloved Everton. All things are relative, but it took The Golden Crust 15 years on a wage of £8 a week to earn what the Scouser will just by turning up at Old Trafford each morning to report for training.

McGrory was a Garngad boy who made good with the team he supported all his life as player, manager and, finally, Public Relations Officer. Compared with Rooney, McGrory typifies another breed entirely. He could not believe his luck in receiving a weekly wage from Celtic for doing what he would have gladly done for nothing.

Jimmy was born on April 26th 1904 at 179 Millburn Street and was baptised at St. Mungo’s on May 2nd. Like many an Irish immigrant of the time, his father harry could only witness the birth certificate with his mark, a cross. Hugh Hilley’s father and mother were godparents to the babe.

Jimmy was 12 when his mother died. Kate McGrory was a Glasgow tenement wife, the workhorse of the family, a victim of hard, physical labour in conditions that must have been almost unendurable. Big brother Hughie McGrory arrived home on leave from the trenches and was taken to see his mother’s grave, a shock from which he never really recovered.

McGrory signed provisional forms for Celtic as an inside-right through the good offices of his parish priest, father Lawton of St. Roch’s. He had no idea how much money he was on per week. He signed full professional on £5 a week in the pavilion at Cathkin Park (look at it again now with awe renewed) on June 10th 1922.

Another of Celtic’s India rubber men? For a while it looked like it. He was loaned out to Clydebank but did his training at Celtic Park. He walked it to training with Hugh Hilley with Garngad’s unemployed dogging him every step of the way. Jimmy’s big sister would habitually check his pockets and remove the shillings, the florins and the half-crowns. The pennies and threepenny bits she would leave for Jimmy’s handouts.

Joe Cassidy was transferred to Bolton on 9th August 1924 and Jimmy was pushed into the big team as Celtic’s centre-forward. Tragedy struck almost at once with the death of his father ‘accidentally stoned to death (!) as he sat on a park bench near his work during a break’. The cause of death was cerebral tumour. Harry was only 65 years old.

It seemed a cause of physical hurt for Willie Maley to part with money but on the occasion of Harry McGrory’s death he did ask Jimmy (who was now the breadwinner) if he needed money. He did not propose a wage rise however.

Celtic had banked £5.000 for ‘Trooper’ Cassidy. Now the Arsenal were offering a blank cheque for Jimmy McGrory and Maley and the Celtic board could not resist. The wonder is that McGrory, working-class Glasgow boy that he was, could and actually did. His finest hour, surely?

In 1931, maybe after the Scottish Cup celebrations, Jimmy proposed to Veronica Green of the Green’s Playhouse people and ‘Nona’ accepted just before Celtic set off for the USA. Jimmy did the most extraordinary thing for a footballer (I’m not being condescending), he kept a full but private diary during the American tour, something he never did again. Did Nona encourage him? It’s reproduced here in chapter six and makes for a very interesting read.

There are very few errors in this book but Jimmy McGuire, the man who broke McGrory’s jaw against Brooklyn Wanderers was a centre-half and not a goalkeeper. He came home with Celtic in 1931 and his name is misspelt Maguire in the story of John Thomson’s tragedy on p.115 (and by the way, it was Charlie Gallagher took the corner versus Dunfermline on 24 April 1965, not Willie).

On the way home the huge transatlantic liner anchored in the Foyle and Jimmy came off by tender, something I could never have countenanced, and was married in Moville, whereas this reviewer always thought it was Letterkenny.

As a married man, Jimmy was now living in Ayr and had Maley’s special permission to drive up to Glasgow and back by car. But no lifts for other players!

Jimmy had that rare thing for 1931 in his Ayr house – a telephone, and it was via the ‘phone he received Jimmy McStay’s news of the death of John Thomson on the night of 5th September at Glasgow’s Victoria Infirmary.

Now here’s a mystery – solve it if you can. When John Cairney was researching his book he was much helped by Jimmy McGrory junior at his home in Glasgow. Jimmy junior showed Cairney a sheet of Celtic official notepaper dated June 1st 1933. This represented a receipt (Maley’s signature over two penny-halfpenny stamps) stating that the Celtic Football Club ‘had received from James McGrory, Miller Road, Ayr, the sum of eight hundred pounds stg as a loan to this club at interest from date of five per cent per annum’.

McGrory was on £8 a week even allowing for bonuses. He was married to a Green but this did not put him in a position to offer £800 (a hell of a lot of money at the lime) to a limited liability club like Celtic, many of whose shareholders possible were walking about with as much In their wallet. According to her son, Jimmy’s second wife, Barbara, always fretted over this loan although she would never say why.

Jimmy’s last League match was on 16th October 1937 versus Queen’s Park (Desmond White in goal) at Celtic Park. He got a goal with a flick of his head in Celtic’s 4-2 win.

As manager of Kilmarnock he was at the helm when Killie put Celtic out of the Scottish Cup in 1938. He went up to see Maley in his office before he left the stadium. Maley refused to look up from his desk or even to shake hands.

Jimmy lost Nona on 24 April 1944 as the result of an operation at Redlands Nursing Home off the Great Western Road. She had gone under the knife in an attempt to discover why she could not conceive.

Celtic appointed Jimmy manager to succeed Jimmy McStay on 24 July 1945 and I can remember the ovation when he appeared in the stand at the Public Trial in August.

One year on, he married again, a nurse this time, Barbara Schoning, at her home parish of St. Andrew’s, Braemar, on 2 July 1946.

At Celtic Park he had inherited Jimmy McStay’s poisoned chalice and Jimmy Delaney, that Celt of Celts, was the first the board wanted to sell from under his nose. Matt Busby took him to Old Trafford. Malky MacDonald left for Kilmarnock.

When Bob Kelly took over as chairman, it is hard to realise that McGrory had once defied Maley and Herbert Chapman. He was certainly incapable of standing up to ‘Mr. Celtic’.

Jimmy’s first daughter, Barbara, was born on 6 April 1951 and to celebrate, Celtic beat Motherwell 1:0 in the Scottish Cup Final. Elizabeth was born on 2 March 1953 and Celtic (with Jock Stein) won the Coronation Cup. James Hubert Gerard McGrory was born on 20th October 1955 and on Boxing Day at Hampden Celtic beat Rangers 5:3 in the Final of the Glasgow Cup.

Jimmy was beloved of the men who played for him. Believe it or not he made up their wage packets and in all his time at Celtic Park he was little more than a glorified office clerk, cautious, accommodating and safe, the incarnation of the Peter Principle.

John Cairney talks of all the players McGrory signed. He may have signed them but Jimmy McStay scouted them.

Jock Stein arrived to take over at Parkhead on 8th March 1965. McGrory got not an extra penny as PRO.

Bob Kelly died on 21 September 1971. Not long before he sent John Cairney his all-time Scotland Xl: Brownlie (Third Lanark); Hutton (Aberdeen) and McNaught (Raith Rovers): Meiklejohn and Young (both Rangers) and Mackay (Tottenham Hotspur): Jackson (Chelsea) A Walker (Hearts): (Gallacher (Newcastle Utd); James (Arsenal) A Morton (Rangers).

Notice anything?

Danny Park

McGrory Stands Tall Among Game’s Giants

A tribute from FIFA which appeared on the anniversary of the great man’s death in 2012

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Pele, Puskas, McGrory, Muller. For the majority of readers, and certainly those outside Scotland, one name in this quartet might be considered a little less illustrious than the others. As it is, and while Jimmy McGrory is undoubtedly the least-known of these goalscoring greats, the Celtic legend nonetheless stands proudly alongside Pele et al in the list of football’s ten most prolific marksmen.

A staggering tally of 550 goals from just 547 competitive appearances ensures his place amid such legendary company and, when it comes to league goals, only six players in the history of the game have managed more. Muller isn’t among them, nor indeed are any of his fellow countrymen, with McGrory’s colossal haul still a record in the United Kingdom, 171 higher than that of England’s all-time leading scorer, the Everton great Dixie Dean.

It’s a benchmark that will now surely stand forever, as indeed will two other McGrory milestones: 63 goals in one season (1927/28) and eight in a single game, Celtic’s 9-1 win over Dunfermline Athletic in January 1928. The ball with which he achieved the latter feat is now on display at the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park, while the great man himself has a well-deserved place in the Scottish Football Association’s Hall of Fame.

Snubbing Arsenal, snubbed by Scotland
Though he measured in at just 5ft 6ins, no more than average for the time, this supreme predator’s great strength was his unrivalled ability in the air. Broad-shouldered and brave, McGrory – who passed away on October 20th 1982 – was also blessed with an extraordinary leap, earning him the nickname ‘The Mermaid’. Indeed, headers accounted for almost a third of his goals, with journalist Hughie Taylor writing of the “tingling feeling” of watching the striker “hover hawk-like, then twist that powerful neck, and flick the ball as fiercely as most players could kick it.”

Team-mate Johnny Paton also had vivid memories of these impressive physical attributes. “Jimmy was all strength and muscle, and he had a great bull neck,” said the former Celtic and Chelsea forward. “If he had been a boxer, you couldn’t have knocked him out. He was the hardest header of a ball I ever saw – along with Tommy Lawton at Chelsea – and had a great shot in his right boot.”

Yet, for all these attributes, McGrory started out his career playing at inside-right and inside-left before Celtic, in this third season with the club, finally decided to experiment with him as their central spearhead. The results were the stuff of legend, with McGrory’s final tally over double those of his closest rivals in the club’s all-time scoring list, Bobby Lennox and Henrik Larsson.

“My mind was set on scoring goals,” the great man himself told The Observer in 1971. “I got into positions from which I could head or shoot. When the ball did come, I did not have to waste any time. I hit it. I see players trying to control and manoeuvre the ball when it comes to them, then looking up to see what they are going to do with it. They waste so much time.”

Despite their talisman’s Herculean efforts, Celtic somehow contrived to remain in Rangers’ shadow throughout the 1920s and ‘30s, winning the league just twice during McGrory’s goal-laden 15-year career. In hindsight, perhaps this lack of success can be attributed to the same dearth of ambition that led to the Bhoys attempting to offload their prize asset to Arsenal when he was at the peak of his powers.

So devoted was McGrory to Celtic that the club’s board even went to the extreme of luring him under false pretences to London, where a meeting had been arranged with the Gunners’ renowned manager, Herbert Chapman. However, despite the prospect of becoming Britain’s highest-paid player, and his own unhappiness at the conduct of the Celtic board, McGrory snubbed Arsenal to continue a love affair that would endure for many years and decades to come. “McGrory of Arsenal just never sounded as good as McGrory of Celtic,” he would later remark.

His mother and father had been poor Irish immigrants, specifically the kind of people Celtic had been founded to help, and his love for, and loyalty to, the club – his club – remained absolute. Many believe that it cost him greater recognition at international level, with a paltry haul of seven caps attributed to perceived anti-Celtic sentiments among the Scotland selectors of that era. Nonetheless, on the few occasions he did pull on the dark blue jersey, McGrory succeeded in replicating his club form, famously scoring twice in a 2-1 win over England in front of over 134,000 fans at Hampden.

Moving into management
That was in 1933, and within four years he had moved into the dugout, learning his trade at Kilmarnock before inevitably returning to Celtic in 1945 to begin a 20-year reign. However, McGrory the manager was very different to McGrory the player, with his dynamic, forceful style on the park belying an affable and gentlemanly demeanour off it.

As Billy McNeill, the club’s European Cup-winning skipper, recalled: “He was always Mr. McGrory to me – and to all the other players. A lovely man with a pipe. Always smartly dressed in a collar and tie, it was hard to tell he was such a dynamo of a player in his day. But then a player changes as soon as he runs on to the park. He didn’t just love Celtic – he was Celtic.”

With team selection controlled by the club’s then chairman, he struggled to revive Celtic’s fortunes and contemplated resigning within three years of taking charge as the team narrowly avoided relegation. There were triumphs though, most notably victory in the 1953 Coronation Cup – a competition contested by four English and four Scottish sides – and in a famous 7-1 trouncing of Rangers in the 1957 League Cup final.

In 1964, McGrory also led an audacious, if ultimately unsuccessful, bid to bring Alfredo Di Stefano to Celtic Park, and he went on to work as the club’s public relations officer until his retirement. When he died, in 1982, it prompted an outpouring of genuine sadness as Scotland mourned one of football’s true gentlemen, and the beautiful game lost one of its greatest-ever strikers.

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