Football fans all over the world have been missing the opportunity to attend matches at stadiums. It has been well over a year since Celtic supporters enjoyed that privilege and the only saving grace this summer has been the Euros on television to get us through to the new campaign. With our reliance on watching football in some capacity in mind, I began to explore the history of Celtic playing in competitive tournaments in June. I soon realised that summer football became a prominent feature of the Scottish game during World War II.
Celtic’s short experience of summer football began on 7 June 1941 with a venture into the Summer Cup against Hibernian. The first leg was held at Paradise and the first Celt to touch the ball was John Hunter, when he picked it out the net after 12 seconds! Celtic hit back from that shock goal by Milne, with an attack of their own. But Back came Hibs with Anderson hitting a beauty just over the bar.
All that action occurred within a minute and was symptomatic of what the 8,000 fans witnessed throughout. Celtic’s goals were opportunist strikes, whilst Hibs racked up five to give themselves a huge advantage to take back to Easter Road. Jimmy McStay was furious with his front line, particularly as Motherwell had just launched a bid to sign John Gillan from Alloa, but the Hoops fought tooth and nail to ensure that he would stay at Parkhead permanently after a successful season as a guest player.
Full time: Celtic 2-5 Hibernian.
Scorers – Milne (1, 66 and 72), Anderson (14 and 70), Divers (30 and 63)
Celtic: Hunter, Hogg, Dornan, MacDonald, McLaughlin, Collier, Lynch, Divers, Crum, Gillan, Murphy.
Hibs: Kerr, Shaw, Hall, Finnigan, Baxter, Keane, Adams, Combe, Anderson, Milne, Nutley.
The second leg was expected to be a foregone conclusion, but Celtic made a good fist of things. There was a new name on the visitor’s team sheet. James McDonald had been signed from Celtic’s Fifeshire nursery, Blairhall Colliery, by Willie Maley, before the War. He was released at the outbreak of conflict and signed for St Anthony’s, until the Junior Association banned returned seniors. After performing well in a practise match on the Tuesday, McDonald earned himself a spot at outside right in the Celtic team, coming in for Crum, who was dropped after his performance in the first leg.
Crum wasn’t the only victim of McStay’s displeasure, as Lynch and Murphy were also dropped – being replaced by Conway and Riley.
Hibs had secured the guest signatures of international stars Matt Busby, Jimmy Caskie, and John Cuthbertson in midweek, but the trio watched from the stands as the Easter Road men were confident that they had done enough to win the tie in Glasgow.
Celtic took the lead on the day (14 June 1941) and scored what turned out to be the only goal of the game ten minutes after kick-off. From a pinpoint James McDonald cross, Divers struck the ball cleanly beyond Kerr. That goal inspired Celtic to keep fighting and they were unlucky not to get more. Although, Anderson missed a sitter for Hibs after a great pass from Milne. The hosts also went close when Finnigan belted a 40-yard effort which the fans thought was in, only to silence their cheers when the ball whistled past the post as well as the outstretched arm of Hunter.
The damage had been done in the first leg and, as Celtic turned down the chance to play against the Army in a charity match in Dundee on 28 June, the Hoops’ season was over. The Celtic faithful could take some consolation from the fact that Hibs went on to win the Summer Cup, beating Rangers 3-2 in the Final on 12 July of all days.