|The Bhoy in the Picture - Frank McGarvey|
|The Bhoy in the Picture - Frank McGarvey|
|Written by St Anthony|
|Sunday, 13 December 2009 14:23|
Around 1981 my Father took me to see a Celtic film show in the old Saint Gerard’s school hall in Govan. Before the advent of video and DVD these film shows were a most popular form of entertainment and were organised by the volunteers of the Celtic film club, who travelled all over Scotland, and further a field, showing classic Celtic matches from the past in schools, parishes and clubs throughout the land.
If you were particularly fortunate then a Celtic player from the past or present would attend to sign autographs or pose for pictures. Difficult to imagine modern day Celtic players doing such things as they now come from every continent, but in those distant days the signing of Brummie goalkeeper was regarded as being cosmopolitan. Celtic players then were mainly local boys and the players felt an obligation to those of us who paid their wages, and they would willingly turn out at supporters’ club functions. The story of the Celtic film club which ran through the years is one deserving of an article of its own in the future.
The Saint Gerard’s film show was arranged by the Brighton (Street) Celtic supporters club and they had arranged for Frank McGarvey to attend. That night Frank was a credit to Celtic as he patiently signed autographs and spoke to his adoring public. However, my first impression of seeing my hero at close quarters has always stuck with me to this day. He was around 5 feet 9 inches, slight looking and wiry thin. I couldn’t believe that this was the same guy who bravely led the Celtic forward line and crossed swords each week with such physical brutes as Tom Forsyth, Gregor Stevens, Colin Jackson, Willie Miller, Craig Paterson and an assorted selection of European defenders. However, despite being on the small side, Frank was blessed with the heart of a lion and seldom came out second best, be it in a physical tussle or one of a more technical footballing variety.
McGarvey had first sprung to prominence as part of Alex Ferguson’s fine young Saint Mirren side of the 1970’s. His fine form and eye for goal had earned him a £300,000 move to Liverpool in 1979 but he returned north to Parkhead nine months later having never played for the Anfield side’s first team, for a reduced price of £250,000. Celtic could only afford to sign him due to having reached the European Cup quarter final against Real Madrid and having had the finance from several huge crowds at Parkhead in the process.
His first few months were not easy and Celtic blew a considerable lead to lose the League title and there were rumours of unrest in the Celtic dressing room over his salary which was rumoured to be considerably more than the other players. Despite this things settled down and by the autumn of 1980 Frank was a huge favourite with the Celtic fans and had found his best form.
He had an ungainly running style and a great knack of getting out of tight positions with his excellent touch and close control. This led to some of his opponents to claim that they could not hope to tackle him because he himself did not look as if he knew what he was doing. However, this is insulting, as McGarvey had great technique and control and, more importantly, a good football brain and a striker’s knack for scoring goals which cannot be coached.
He was the perfect foil for Charlie Nicholas and George McCluskey, whom he partnered in attack. Billy McNeill tried different permutations but found that Frank was to be the constant in any pairing as his work rate and effort was always greater than the other two, whose styles were very similar.
There were many great goals that Frank scored for Celtic but perhaps the best remembered came against Saint Mirren in March 1981. Receiving a pass with his back to goal 30 yards out, he beat one man, stumbled past another and then when it looked as if he had lost possession, he quickly regained his balance and fired a spectacular shot high into the top corner. The half time whistle went minutes later and the Celtic fans were still loudly cheering that goal. Celtic went on to win 7-0 that day which was a notable achievement against a Saints team, who were regarded back then as a top four SPL side.
Between 1980 and 1985 McGarvey was one of Celtic’s best and most valuable players. For three consecutive years (1982, 1983, 1984) George McCluskey, Charlie Nicholas and Brian McClair, respectively, were the top scorers in the SPL and the common denominator was that they were all partnered in attack by Frank McGarvey. Despite being a great striker he was also a great provider and his unselfish play and off the ball runs, created many goals for his strike partners.
After David Hay became Celtic manager in 1983 he signed an assortment of strikers in Jim Melrose, Alan McInally and Mo Johnston, and the suspicion was that Davie did not rate Frank as a player. In May 1985 Celtic took on Dundee United in the Scottish cup final with Hay’s position as Celtic manager in grave jeopardy. With time running out and the sides level, Frank launched himself at a Roy Aitken cross to score a spectacular late winner to spark joyous scenes of celebration amongst the Celtic support jammed into Hampden.
Unfortunately Hay did not show much appreciation for Frank’s efforts and controversially sold him to Saint Mirren the very next week for a derogatory £70,000. McGarvey still had many good seasons left in him and when Hay brought Mark McGhee from Hamburg as his replacement, the Celtic fans were perplexed at best and livid at worst. McGhee was no replacement for McGarvey, who was to have remarkable success at Love Street by leading the Buddies to the Scottish Cup in 1987.
In his later years Frank McGarvey was to have two more notable encounters with his beloved Celtic. In August 1991 Queen of the South came to Parkhead and gave a great account of themselves despite going down 2-1. McGarvey was exceptional that night, dragging Celtic defenders all over the park with his clever play.
In January 1993 Liam Brady took his struggling Celtic side to Douglas Park to play Clyde, who were than ground sharing with Hamilton Accies. It was a game Celtic were expected to win easily but struggled badly in. With minutes remaining, Frank went on a spectacular run down the right wing and cut the ball back to an unmarked Clyde player (Jamie McCarron if I recall correctly) who incredibly missed an open goal with Pat Bonner well beaten. The game finished 0-0 and Clyde had literally missed their chance. Despite the Celtic fans’ anger at such a wretched display many of them stayed on to give Frank a deserved standing ovation at full time.
It’s no secret that Frank has had problems in his personal life and these were well documented in his excellent, recent autobiography. Celtic fans will wish him every good wish for the future and for those of us who recall his fine displays in the hoops, Frank McGarvey will always be remembered as a Celtic great.
Pic 1- Frank scores an acrobatic header from a cross by the grounded Tommy Burns.
Pic 2 – Frank is chosen at outside left for Roy Race’s star team in 1981.
Pic 3 – This is a drawing of Frank’s marvellous goal against St Mirren in March 1981.
Pic 4 – Shows Frank up against St Mirren centre half Mark Fulton.
Pic 5 – Is the ubiquitous Shoot magazine ‘focus’ series from 1983 in which Frank answers a range of questions…
|Last Updated on Sunday, 13 December 2009 15:26|