St Oliver Plunkett
Celtic Supporters Club
If You Know The History
A photograph of a slate from the roof of St Mary's Church (opposite) following its recent extensive renovation. It was in St Mary's church hall that Brother Walfrid held a meeting and Celtic Football Club was born.
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Celtic Football Club
A Brief History
The charity established by Brother Walfrid, who was originally from Ballymote, County Sligo in Ireland, was named "The Poor Children's Dinner Table".
Walfrid's move to establish the club as a means of fund-raising was largely inspired by the example of Hibernian who were formed out of the immigrant Irish population a few years earlier in Edinburgh. Walfrid's own suggestion of the name 'Celtic' (pronounced Seltik), was intended to reflect the club's Irish and Scottish roots, and was adopted at the same meeting.
The club has the official nickname, "The Bhoys". However, according to the Celtic press office, the newly established club was known to many as "the bold boys". A postcard from the early 20th century that pictured the team, and read "The Bould Bhoys", is the first known example of the unique spelling. The extra 'h' is said to reflect an Irish accent.
On 28 May 1888, Celtic played their first official match against Rangers and won 5–2 in what was described as a "friendly encounter". Neil McCallum scored Celtic's first ever goal. The squad that played that day was largely composed of players borrowed from Hibernian.
Celtic's first kit consisted of a white shirt with a green collar, black shorts, and emerald green socks. The original club crest was a simple green cross on a red oval background.
While Brother Walfrid had only charitable motives for the club, others saw huge financial potential. John Glass, a Scottish builder with Donegal family connections and Pat Welsh, a tailor who had left Ireland 20 years previously, observed the coming of professionalism in England in 1885 and correctly assumed that Scotland would follow.
In August 1888, without the knowledge of Brother Walfrid or the club committee, Glass signed eight of Hibs’ best players, having offered them cash inducements. The consequences for Hibernian were almost catastrophic.
It did not take long before Celtic established themselves as one of the strongest sides in Scotland. They won the Scottish Cup in 1892, were Scottish League champions in 1893, 1894, 1896 and 1898 and won the Cup again in 1899 and 1900. In the Edwardian period they adopted their famous green and white hoops, won the championship an astonishing six consecutive times between 1905 and 1910 and the Scottish Cup on four occasions. They went on to win four consecutive titles between 1914 and 1917 but after this it was their arch rivals Rangers who dominated, Celtic managing a mere four titles and six cup wins between 1920 and 1939.
Under their first manager, Willie Maley, the club won 30 major trophies in 43 years. He guided Celtic to six straight league title wins from 1904–1910, a Scottish record that stood for over sixty years, until 1971, when it was equalled (then surpassed) by Jock Stein's Celtic side. In 1939, Celtic also defeated Everton of England 1–0 at Ibrox Park to claim the Empire Exhibition Trophy, which, along with the Coronation Cup (won in 1953), is amongst the most highly-regarded by the club's support, due to its unique status as a one-off competition.
Maley's tenure was also marked by tragedy, when goalkeeper John Thomson was accidentally killed during an Old Firm encounter in September 1931. Thomson dived in bravely at the feet of Rangers player Sam English, suffering a skull fracture and died in hospital that evening. Maley's era also saw the arrival of the first player from the Indian sub-continent player at a major European club when he signed Mohammed Abdul Sal.Although football was not paid much attention in the World War I (1914–1918), many Celtic players went to join the war. A few of these men were William Angus and Leigh Richmond Roose.
Former player Jimmy McStay became manager of the club during the War years of 1940–1945. However, no official competitive league football took place during this time.
Ex-player and captain Jimmy McGrory took over in 1945. Under McGrory, Celtic defeated Arsenal, Manchester United and Hibernian to win the Coronation Cup, a one-off tournament held in May 1953 to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
On 19 October 1957, Celtic trounced Rangers a record 7–1 in the final of the Scottish League Cup at Hampden Park in Glasgow, retaining the trophy they had won for only the first time the previous year. The scoreline remains a record win in a British domestic cup final. The victory is still sung of by fans - Hampden in the sun to the tune of the Harry Belafonte song Island in the Sun. Billy McPhail grabbed a hat-trick after Sammy Wilson and Neilly Mochan had the Celts 2–0 up at the break. Mochans then added to his tally in the second period before Willie Fernie slotted away a penalty right at the end.
Jock Stein succeeded McGrory in 1965. A former player and team captain, Stein gained most of his fame as Celtic's manager, and is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest football managers in the history of the game. He guided Celtic to nine straight Scottish League wins from 1966 to 1974, which established a joint world record and Scottish record, and was not equalled until 1997. 1967 was Celtic's best ever year. The club won every competition they entered: the Scottish League, the Scottish Cup, the Scottish League Cup, the Glasgow Cup, and the European Cup. Under the leadership of Stein, and captained by Billy McNeill, the club defeated Inter Milan 2–1 at the Estádio Nacional in Lisbon, Portugal on 25 May 1967. The players that day subsequently became known as the 'Lisbon Lions'. Jimmy 'Jinky' Johnstone, Bobby Lennox and Bobby Murdoch formed part of that famous team, and now rank among the greatest ever Celtic players. The entire east stand at Celtic Park is dedicated to The Lisbon Lions, and the west stand to Jock Stein. The following year Celtic lost to Racing Club of Argentina in the Intercontinental Cup.
Celtic reached the European Cup Final again in 1970, but were beaten 2–1 by Feyenoord at the San Siro in Milan.
Billy McNeill (nicknamed "Cesar") the former player and captain of The Lisbon Lions, took over as manager in August 1978 and snatched the league title from Rangers in the final game of the season, with a 4–2 win. McNeill led Celtic to another two league titles in 1981 and 1982, along with the League Cup (also in 1982) and the Scottish Cup in 1980. However, an inability to gel with the then Chairman, and dispute over the transfer funds from the sale of Charlie Nicholas to Arsenal meant that the former hero's first stay as manager was short-lived, and he departed the club in 1983.
Another former player David Hay took over from McNeill in July 1983, but it was two years before Celtic saw success. In 1985 Celtic overturned a 1–0 deficit at half-time in the centenary final of the Scottish Cup to defeat Dundee United 2–1, thanks to a virtuoso free-kick from Davie Provan and a diving header from Frank McGarvey. The following year, Celtic clinched the league title on the last day of the season under the most improbable of circumstances. In order to win the title, Celtic were required to win their final game by a margin of three goals or more against St. Mirren, and hope Hearts would lose to Dundee. Hearts lost their match 2–0, while Celtic won 5–0 and sealed the league championship title at St. Mirren Park on Love Street in Paisley. Hay left the club the following season, and was replaced by Billy McNeill, at the board's behest.
When Billy McNeill returned to manage the club in 1987, Celtic embarked on a 31-game unbeaten run, culminating in a historic League Championship and Scottish Cup double win in the club's centenary season. However, the success generated by McNeill's return was followed by a dismal performance in the league the following season, along with a 5–1 defeat by Rangers. They did retain the Scottish Cup in 1989 though, beating Rangers 1–0 through a Joe Miller strike. The 1989–90 season was a very disappointing one. Celtic's new Polish striker Dariusz Dziekanowski scored four goals in a first round UEFA Cup encounter with Partizan Belgrade but the team still went out of the competition under the away goals rule. The team's league campaign was poor and despite reaching the Scottish Cup Final in 1990, Aberdeen beat them on penalties.
The following season saw their league fortunes fall away fairly quickly, despite their centre-back Paul Elliott being voted Players' Player of the Year. They reached the Skol Cup Final only to be beaten in extra time by Rangers. However, they would finally get their revenge in a 1991 Scottish Cup quarter-final tie with their rivals, beating them 2–0 through Gerry Creaney and Dariusz Wdowczyk goals. It was a wild St. Patrick's Day encounter which saw three Rangers players (Terry Hurlock, Mark Walters and Mark Hateley) and one Celtic player (Peter Grant) get the red card. However, the joy was short-lived as Motherwell knocked them out of the semi-final 4–2 and the beleaguered McNeill left the club for the last time at the end of the 1990–91 season.
Liam Brady took charge of Celtic shortly after McNeill departed and became only the eighth manager in over 100 years, but the first to have not previously been a player at the club. Despite his credentials as a player with Arsenal, Juventus and the Republic of Ireland, he failed to bring any measure of success to the club in a managerial capacity, and on 22 October 1991, in the first leg of an away UEFA Cup encounter against Swiss minnows Neuchatel Xamax, Celtic lost 5–1, one of the worst European defeats in the club's history. In the return leg at Celtic Park, they could only manage a 1–0 victory and crashed out of the tournament 5–2 on aggregate. With a defeat against Airdrie in the CIS Cup a few weeks earlier, Brady soon departed, and the so-called "barren years" at the club continued under the new manager, another former player, Lou Macari.
The Bank of Scotland informed Celtic that it was calling in the receivers on Thursday 3 March 1994 as a result of exceeding a £5million overdraft. However, expatriate businessman, Fergus McCann, wrested control of the club, and ousted the family dynasties which had controlled Celtic since its foundation. According to media reports, McCann took over the club as little as eighteen minutes before it was to be declared bankrupt.
In order to alleviate the club's considerable financial debt, McCann reconstituted Celtic as a public limited company - Celtic PLC - resulting in one of the most successful stock market flotations in British financial history. The share issue netted £14million towards the refinancing of the club and saw the redevelopment of Celtic Park into a 60,832 all-seater stadium to rival the best in Europe. During this period, Lou Macari was sacked by McCann and replaced by former Celtic player Tommy Burns, who restored a more attacking style of play.
In the early McCann years the club was under pressure to invest heavily, as Rangers were doing with the signing of Paul Gascoine and Brian Laudrup, in playing talent to thwart their rivals attempts to equal and surpass the 9-in-a-row record Celtic held. Fans at times became frustrated by a perceived frugality from McCann, who refused to cave in to what he saw as excessive demands by foreign, mercurial talents. Under Burns' leadership, the side won the Scottish Cup in 1995, but failed to end Rangers' dominance in the Scottish Premier Division. After the near-miss of 1995–96 when Celtic were defeated only once, and with just three weeks left of the 1996–97 season, Burns was sacked, along with the club's entire coaching staff.
Also during this period was an incident in which Jim Farry, acting as the Chief Executive of the SFA, deliberately delayed the registration of former Portuguese Internationalist Jorge Cadete, leaving Celtic without the services of this player for a series of vital matches. Fergus McCann complained to the SFA, who subsequently found Jim Farry guilty of gross misconduct in relation to his behaviour in this matter.
After Burns' dismissal, Aberdeen manager and former Celtic defender Roy Aitken was widely tipped to take over as manager. However, the club's directors made a surprising choice in Dutch coach Wim Jansen. Furthermore, it was announced that the traditional manager's position at Celtic Park had been abolished, with the responsibilities to be split between the new roles of head coach (Jansen) and general manager. The office of general manager was somewhat controversially taken up by solicitor and former football commentator Jock Brown. Jansen was joined by former Celtic player Murdo MacLeod as assistant head coach.
With a number of new signings (including club legend Henrik Larsson for a fee of £650,000 from Dutch team Feyenoord Rotterdam), Celtic won the Scottish League Cup, before overcoming Rangers to win the Scottish Premier Division title for the first time in almost 10 years (although a slump late in the season required a final day victory against St. Johnstone at Celtic Park).
Despite the triumph, the title-winning celebrations soon turned sour when Jansen made good his long held threat to resign, in part due to a perceived issue in working with Jock Brown and McCann, in part due to a refusal to work along McCann and general business practice such as preparing budgetary requirements for players in the subsequent season. Jansen resigned just two days after the club sealed the title, with Brown, who had become the villain of the piece in some eyes, leaving shortly afterwards.
A number of high-profile names were proffered as the replacement for Jansen,but the man eventually appointed by the Celtic board was Slovakian Jozef Vengloš. Many fans, swayed doubtless by the local media, were disappointed and angry at the decision, citing Vengloš' poor record in charge of English club Aston Villa. Following early exits in the European Cup, UEFA Cup and League Cup, Celtic recovered and challenged for the title until the penultimate game of the season - including a famous 5–1 victory over Rangers early in the season. However, the side seemed incapable of challenging Rangers for the title, and a defeat in the Scottish Cup Final only confirmed the team's ongoing lack of progress. Shortly after the end of the season, Vengloš resigned on health grounds, but he remains a European scout for the club. His lasting legacy undoubtedly was the signing of Lubo Moravcik.
The 1999–2000 season is widely considered to be one of the biggest disasters in the club's history. Kenny Dalglish returned to the club to fill the general manager's post (which had been vacant all throughout Vengloš' tenure), while the head coach position was filled by former England and Liverpool player John Barnes.
Barnes had never managed a professional club, and the fans' worst fears were realised when Celtic's title challenge drastically faltered shortly after the winter break. Following a series of poor results - including elimination from the UEFA Cup and a broken leg in Lyon for Henrik Larsson - Rangers dramatically increased their lead at the top of the SPL table and demands for Barnes to be sacked commenced.
On 8 February 2000, Celtic hosted a rearranged Scottish Cup tie at home to Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Caley Thistle were an in-form side, fourth-placed in Division 1, although only in the Scottish Football League since 1994, and the match was widely expected to be an easy victory for Celtic. However, Caley Thistle won the match 3–1 in one of the biggest Scottish Cup upsets ever, which sparked a protest involving over a hundred Celtic fans outside the stadium. The memorable headline in a down market tabloid newspaper the following day, attributed to a junior sub-editor read: "Super Caley Go Ballistic, Celtic Are Atrocious". Having refused to speak to the press after the match, Barnes held a press conference the next day, and implied that a dispute between him and Mark Viduka at half time had badly unsettled the team and been responsible for the defeat. Barnes was sacked the following morning.
Kenny Dalglish took over as head coach until the end of the 1999–2000 season, and brought Tommy Burns back to assist him. While Dalglish generally retained the respect of the supporters, Celtic's league form deteriorated further and the club finished 21 points behind Rangers at the end of the season. A League Cup victory over Aberdeen was the only consolation in one of the most embarrassing periods of the club's history.
Martin O'Neill, a former European Cup winner with Nottingham Forest, from Kilrea in Northern Ireland arrived at the club in the wake of the Barnes and Dalglish fiasco. Under his leadership, Celtic won three SPL championships out of five and in his first season in charge, the team also won the domestic treble, being only the second Celtic manager to do so after Jock Stein.
The 2000/01 season was additionally memorable largely because of some excellent results against rivals Rangers. A famous 6–2 victory in the opening Old Firm encounter of the season at Celtic Park proved to everyone that the balance of power in Scotland had shifted. The match became known as the Demolition Derby. Two further league victories against Rangers: 1–0 (at Celtic Park), and 3–0 (at Ibrox) ensured O'Neill's first league title was won by a considerable distance. In the same season, Celtic won their first domestic treble since 1969, winning the CIS League Cup and the Scottish Cup.
On three occasions, his Celtic side qualified for the group stage of the UEFA Champions League, and on the only occasion they failed to qualify for Europe's biggest club football competition, they went on to reach the final of the UEFA Cup. Under O'Neill's leadership, teams such as Juventus, Porto, Valencia, and Barcelona all visited Glasgow to face Celtic and returned home defeated. Celtic also commenced an unbeaten run of 77 home matches, which spanned from 2001 to 2004 and notched up an SPL record for the most consecutive wins in a single season.
In 2003, around 80,000 Celtic fans travelled to watch the club compete in the UEFA Cup final in Seville in southern Spain. Celtic lost the match 3–2 to FC Porto after extra time, despite two goals from Henrik Larsson during normal ply. Celtic's cause was not helped by the booking of Alan Thompson early in the match, and the late sending off of defender Bobo Balde. However, the exemplary conduct of the thousands of travelling Celtic supporters received widespread praise from the people of Seville (not one single supporter was arrested) and the fans were awarded prestigious Fair Play Awards from both FIFA and UEFA "for their extraordinarily loyal and sporting behaviour". UEFA did, however, also express disappointment at the jeering by the Celtic support during the presentation of the cup to Porto.
In 2004 Celtic reached the UEFA Cup quarter-finals but lost to the Spanish side Villarreal (3–1 on aggregate), winning the SPL and Scottish Cup double. The Scottish Cup final was the last match Henrik Larsson played for the club, and he scored two goals in a 3–1 defeat of Dunfermline. In that 2003/04 season Celtic set a new British record of 25 league victories in a row. O'Neill also saw Celtic win 7 consecutive games against Rangers.
Season 2004/05 saw Celtic retain the Scottish Cup but lose out on the SPL title which they looked set to win, only losing out after being beaten by Motherwell in a match they were winning with 2 minutes normal time remaining. At the end of the season Martin O'Neill parted ways with the club, to care for Gordon Strachan was announced in June 2005 as Martin O'Neill's replacement, after apparently being recommended by O'Neill himself. Strachan faced a number of challenges, not least in inheriting an aged squad who were highly expensive and one that had still failed to replace the talismanic Henrik Larsson. Despite an unpromising start, Celtic went on to become the fastest team to win the SPL championship ever, along with the Scottish League Cup in season 2005–06. The title was clinched before the league was split (for the first time ever) with a 1–0 home victory over second-placed Heart of Midlothian.
In 2006–07 Celtic continued their domination of the Scottish Premier League, despite a huge effort by Strachan and the club to reduce the wage bill. Expensive mainstays of the O'Neill years such as Hartson and Sutton, who on average delivered 40 goals per season between them, were moved on and replaced by far younger, and less expensive, players. The team proved unerringly consistent, as had O'Neill's, despite their youth and comparative lack of experience. By the close of the January transfer window Celtic were 19 points ahead of second-placed Rangers, something which may have been a large contribution to a complete loss of form and partial loss of points in the second half of the season. They completed their quest for back to back titles on 22 April 2007 with a 2–1 win against Kilmarnock. Shunsuke Nakamura ensured the victory with a freekick from 25 yards in the final minute, leaving Celtic 13 points clear of Rangers with four matches remaining. That season also saw Strachan guide Celtic into last 16 of the UEFA Champions League for the first time. They lost 0–1 in extra time to the eventual winners of the cup A.C. Milan. On 26 May 2007 Celtic again won the Scottish Cup, for a 34th time, beating Dunfermline 1–0.
On 28 September 2007 it was announced John Rei would become Chairman of Celtic and he took over from Brian Quinn as on 7 November. Reid is a lifelong supporter of the club and described the appointment as "the greatest honour of my life". His appointment was approved by a large majority of shareholders, though a small group opposed the motion at Celtic's annual general meeting over Reid's role in the British Government during the Iraq war.
On 22 May 2008 Celtic won the SPL for the third year in a row with a victory over Dundee United at Tannadice. This ensured Strachan's place in the history books of Celtic, becoming only the third manager to achieve such a feat, behind Maley and Stein.
In the summer of 2009, Strachan left the club and was replaced by former Celt, Tony Mowbray, from West Bromwich Albion. His early performance augured well to maintain the reputation of Celtic Football Club as an entertaining team. However an indifferent period meant that extensive team re-building was urgently needed and began with unprecented activity in the January 2009 transfer window.
Before the end of the season Tony Mowbray left and was replaced on an interim basis by former Celt, Neil lennon. After a successful period in charge Neil was apponted the Manager of Celtic Football Club and has transformed the team.
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