In this article we will look at the sometimes uneasy relationship between Celtic and Scotland. Despite the fact that Celtic has produced more players than most and that a lot of Celtic fans follow Scotland it has to be admitted that Celtic’s Irish roots has meant that our players and fans have not always been accepted by those in Scottish football and Scots society in general.
Celtic historians recall that the great James McGrory, the greatest goal machine that British football ever produced, was never given an opportunity to appear in the showcase England – Scotland game at Wembley during the 1920’s and 1930’s much to the disbelief of the English whose major clubs would have signed Jimmy in an instant had it not been for his undying loyalty to his beloved Celtic. McGrory won only a handful of caps but there should be no paranoia in view of this. Firstly, internationals were few and far between in those days as the home nations took a conceited attitude that Johnny Foreigner couldn’t possibly compete with us Brits and also that an archaic selection process of an SFA selection committee (no team manager in those days) meant no continuity of team selection.
This led to accusations that Celtic players were being deliberately
overlooked and by the 1960’s things were to worsen. My Father reckons
that the Crerand-McNeill-Baxter Scottish half back line of the early
60’s was the best he’s ever seen. They had some noticeable results
during that period but inexplicably McNeill was dropped for Ian Ure and
the conspiracy theorists amongst the Celtic support were out in force
again. Perhaps because of their success under Jock Stein Celtic players
then became targets of a section of the Scots support congregated in
the Rangers end of the ground who gave terrible abuse to several Celtic
players of the period, coincidentally from a big newly erected covered
enclosure which gave them more volume. Jimmy Johnstone suffered
particularly from this as well as Davie Hay and Tommy Gemmell. It is
said that Jock Stein had to be physically restrained in 1970 after the
then Scotland manager Bobby Brown withdrew Hay for Rangers’ Sandy
Jardine to the glee of the Mount Florida end of Hampden who had been
singing for Jardine’s appearance for the entire game. Happily, there
were some in the press corps such as Ian Archer who were by this time
printing their contempt of such behaviour though, incidentally, Jinky
always maintained that his finest performance for Scotland came at
Pittodrie against Belgium where the neutral Aberdonians cheered him to
the rafters. The Tartan Army these days have their faults but it’s
unlikely that a Celtic player would suffer a similar experience in the
In May 1976 Celtic captain Kenny Dalglish was one game away from
equalling ex Rangers captain George Young’s long held record of
consecutive games for Scotland. The game was a low key home
international game at Hampden and unaccountably Dalglish was kept on
the bench for the entire game and lost the chance to create a new
record. Mind you Willie Ormond felt it necessary to recall Kenny for
the big game against England the following week and the Celtic man
showed he was the biggest talent in Britain by playing superbly and
scoring the winning goal. It is because of these reasons that a
generation of Celtic fans grew up with suspicion of the SFA, the
Scottish team and its supporters. It’s also worth pointing out that
around this time neither Jimmy Johnstone nor Kenny Dalglish was ever
deemed worthy of winning the player of the year award whilst John Greig
won it twice. Try working that one out.
Celtic fans always highlight the dearth of caps that the Lisbon Lions
received as anti-Celtic prejudice and yet that is an unfair accusation.
Scotland had a remarkable amount of talent at its disposal in those
days. Jinky for example had to vie with Willie Henderson, Charlie
Cooke, Willie Morgan, Peter Lorimer and Eddie Gray, all remarkable
talents and Bobby Murdoch had to compete with Pat Crerand, Dave Mackay,
John Greig, Billy Bremner and Pat Stanton, quite an abundance of
competition most people will agree.
There were certainly high spots for Celts in Scotland’s blue. My own
favourite was the night in September 1973 when Scotland defeated
Czechoslovakia to qualify for their first World Cup for 16 years. My
Father was always keen to see Scotland win but although he never showed
as much emotion as when he followed Celtic I recall his delight that
night as Joe Jordan headed Scotland’s winner and his joy was doubled
three weeks later when ‘The Poles knocked England out the cup…Gertcha
!’ (c. Chas and Dave 1980). That night Celtic provided Hunter, McGrain,
Connelly, Hay and Dalglish for Scotland, a remarkable record in view of
the talent Scotland then had at its disposal and the fact that England
didn’t qualify made it all the sweeter.
And so to the fans. When I was a youngster growing up in Govan I recall
someone telling me that ‘This is no’ your country’. Was I annoyed by
such an attitude ? No. Was I perplexed ? Absolutely. At such a young
age I knew nothing of the act of settlement with regards to Catholic
restriction to being Monarchs or Prime Minister or reputedly Home
Secretary also. It was George Galloway who a few years ago said that
you could fell proud being Scots, British, of Irish heritage and
European and that all of them where compatible. Well said that man. The
same Rangers fans who excluded me from their ‘country’ now have sons
and grandsons who run around in England shirts and maintain a
preference for the English over the Scots, presumably to show their
‘Britishness’. There must be a few cemeteries with overturned graves
because Rangers and their fans had always prided themselves with their
‘Aye Ready’ Scots identity. Rangers always boasted of their record of
providing a record number of players for the Scots team and rightly so.
They regarded themselves as the establishment club though perhaps the
rise of Scottish nationalism in political circles in recent times has
created something of an identity crisis amongst the Rangers support.
Celtic fans have remained fairly constant. Yes we want Scotland to win
and a great number of Celtic supporters follow Scotland avidly but
because of our Irish heritage we have always looked fondly on the
Republic of Ireland side, sometimes perhaps too fondly. In 1987 when
Scotland faced the Republic at Hampden in a European Championship
qualifier the Celtic end of the ground was segregated between Scots and
Irish fans and yet when Mark Lawrenson scored the winner a huge cheer
came from both sections of the same end. In 1988 when Ireland were in
Germany for the European championships the SFA secretary Ernie Walker
was astonished to find that a number of Irish fans thought he was Andy
Walker’s uncle and presumed that was his reason for being at Ireland’s
games. This brings us on to the controversial decision by Aiden McGeady
to choose Ireland in front of his native country of Scotland. I wish
Aiden had chosen Scotland but I also wish that Scotland hadn’t picked
the likes of Don Hutchinson, James Morrison, Kris Commons and Jay
McEveley who don’t have one ounce of Scottishness in them. Aiden broke
no rules and yet the same hypocrites who jeer him all over Scotland
will cheer the afore mentioned players to the rafters and will also
entertain the notion of Nacho Novo pulling on Scotland’s blue.
And yet we should keep this simple ; we all want Scotland to win.
During the years Celtic players have served up some magic moments. From
Delaney’s last minute winner against in 1946 which reputedly started
the Hampden roar, to Lennox’s goal in ’67 when Ramsey’s World Champions
were humbled at Wembley ; Murdoch’s pile driver against West Germany in
1969 on the night he outshone Beckenbauer ; Jinky’s magnificent
performance at Hampden in the 2-0 win over the English in 1974 to
Dalglish’s shot through Clemence’s legs in ’76 ; Nicholas’s lob against
the Swiss at Hampden in 1983, Paul McStay’s thunderbolt against Iceland
in 1984, the magnificent displays from Davie Hay in 1974 in West
Germany which earned him a record transfer to Chelsea that summer ; The
performance of Danny McGrain throughout the 1970’s when he was rated
the best right back in European football. In recent times Tom Boyd,
John Collins, Jackie McNamara and Paul Lambert all represented their
country with distinction. Celtic can be rightly proud of its
contribution to the Scottish team throughout the years…and by the way
never forget that it’s our country as well.
Image 1 shows Bobby Murdoch taking the field in 1969, Tommy McLean behind him.
Image 2 shows a young Lou Macari who perhaps was sponsored by Clearosil
in those days. As you can see the close up photos are not always
Image 3 is a montage from the great night in ’73 when the Scots beat the Czechs to qualify for West Germany 1974.
Image 4 shows Danny McGrain at Wembley 1981.
Image 5 shows Kenny Dalglish in action from 1975.
Remember to click on the images to see the larger picture.