1957 – The Year Christmas came early for Celtic supporters


“Piling On The Agony

Putting On The Style

That’s what Glasgow Celtic have been doing all this while!

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven ways to make you smile

Watching Willie Fernie putting on the style!”

If Celtic were slow starters to the Scottish League Cup, they made up for it very soon. Having won the tournament once, they promptly won it again and did so in what is now regarded as the second most famous Celtic game of them all (after Lisbon) … but, yes … I’m coming to it!

The path to the final was impressive. Airdrie, East Fife and Hibs were no pushovers, but Celtic won 5 games out of 6 (losing to Hibs at Easter Road) with Billy McPhail showing his value once again and a young man called Bertie Auld making his mark as well. Bertie Peacock was now the captain, having replaced Bobby Evans whose play seemed to improve now that he was divested of the responsibility and now that he had moved to centre half rather than right half. The team was playing with enthusiasm and panache, passing well to each other and scoring some fine goals.

There was, of course, no lack of talent in that side, and if anyone was in any doubt about that, the two quarter final games against Third Lanark would convince them. The aggregate score was 9-0 with Billy McPhail, Bobby Collins and new arrival Sammy Wilson, a hitherto disappointing player with St Mirren who had looked as if his career was over, among the goals. Then on September 28 at Ibrox, Celtic beat Clyde 4-2 in the semi-final. Bobby Collins was at his most irrepressible scoring a goal himself and laying on one each for Fernie, McPhail and Wilson.

Last year’s League Cup final was played with the possibility of nuclear war hovering in the background because of the Suez crisis and the Russian invasion of Hungary. This year the menace was different in the shape of a flu epidemic. Clyde had been obliged to play their semi-final with a weakened side, and some games had even been postponed. It was curious, for it was not really the time of year for the flu germ.

Some folk thought it was to do with the Russians launching their sputnik into space. It was all a Communist plot to damage the air and therefore the health of western society, as Mr McCarthy in the USA might have said! A more realistic assessment might have suggested that the flu epidemic may well have had its origins in the foul atmosphere and industrial pollution that hung permanently over Glasgow. In 1957, the authorities were surprisingly slow to grasp the link between fresh air and good health.

Fernie made it seven with a penalty kick

The flu germ may well have played a part in reducing the crowd for the final to 82,000. It was the first Old Firm Scottish League Cup final and the first in a national competition since 1928. But those who were there on October 19 1957 will never forget what they saw. The smart money was indeed on Celtic – they had beaten Rangers in the League at Ibrox a month ago – but the sheer extent of the 7-1 victory was simply astonishing.

It was astonishing but it was by no means undeserved. Indeed it could have been a lot more. Every one of the seven goals (fortunately all available on You Tube – see below) was well worked as Celtic simply showed the world what they could do with Fernie, Evans and Peacock constantly supplying the forward line. Billy McPhail scored a hat-trick, Neil Mochan two, Sammy Wilson one and Willie Fernie scored a penalty awarded by referee Jack Mowatt whose sense of justice exceeded any sort of compassion for Rangers. Celtic simply ran riot, and poor John Valentine, the centre half of Rangers never played again.

This game is a “John F Kennedy assassination” kind of game where everyone recalls where he was when he heard the result. In my case, too young to be allowed to go to the game I came home from the Saturday matinee at the cinema to meet my father, ashen faced, trembling and incoherent (he wasn’t normally any of these three!) talking deliriously about 7-1.

It is also a game that has its own culture. Songs and books have been written about this game. Evans and Tully had come to blows at training a day or two before and had had to be separated talked to most severely by the charming Bertie Peacock. The silver tongued Bertie clearly had a way with words! BBC’s failure to show highlights was probably just a genuine mistake by some fool in London leaving a lens cap on a camera rather than any conspiracy involving handshakes, flutes and the rolling up of trouser legs, and then there was poor Billy Simpson, Rangers centre forward who can claim to have scored Rangers’ only goal in a League Cup final between 1951 and 1960! Poor Geordie Niven (not a bad goalkeeper incidentally) but whose name rhymed with Seven. So what’s the time? Seven past Niven!

But there was a sad side to it as well. Almost immediately, Celtic dismantled that fine side, and seven and a half years had to pass before another trophy was won. Something biblical about that, was there not? The supporters bragging about “Seven” all the time in fact masked the inadequacies of the side from 1958 until 1964, and there was almost something pathetic about it, for there was little else to be happy about. But no-one thought about that as the Celtic heartlands celebrated that night of October 19 1957.

As in the Coronation Cup triumph of 1953, there was dancing in the streets of the Gorbals that night! And many of those at death’s door with flu on Saturday morning were up and about on Sunday, and back to work on Monday.

Years later it was my pleasure to talk to a charming South African at a cricket match in Prestwick. This was Johnny Hubbard who played at outside left that day for Rangers. He talked at length about cricket, and indeed about his Rangers career about which he was rightly proud including his incredible record from the penalty spot. Funnily enough when I mentioned 7-1, he changed the subject! But he later came back to me and said “Nobody, but nobody on earth could have handled Willie Fernie that day!”

The teams were;

Celtic: Beattie, Donnelly and Fallon; Fernie, Evans and Peacock; Tully, Collins, McPhail, Wilson and Mochan
Rangers: Niven, Shearer and Caldow; McColl, Valentine and Davis; Scott, Simpson, Murray Baird and Hubbard

Referee: Jack Mowatt, Rutherglen

About Author

I am Celtic author and historian and write for The Celtic Star. I live in Kirkcaldy and have followed Celtic all my life, having seen them first at Dundee in March 1958. I am a retired teacher and my other interests are cricket, drama and the poetry of Robert Burns.

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