As Christmas ‘66 approaches several Celtic strikers present and future are making the headlines…
December 1966 opened with the announcement of a ‘round the world’ tour for Scotland’s footballers to take place at the season’s end the following spring, with Israel, Iran, Malaysia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Australia and Canada listed as the exotic destinations. The news was greeted with disdain in the media, with criticism of the level of opposition involved and benefit to be gained, whilst SFA Secretary Willie Allan was at pains to paint a different picture.
“We will be taking some of our bright young players who are expected to be of great value to Scotland in coming internationals. With them, we will have a nucleus of our established stars and at least one of the ideas will be to introduce new men to the international scene.”
Whilst that news would no doubt provoke some excitement for one of those young prospects, Harry Hood, there was domestic disappointment for the player as Clyde’s excellent winning sequence came to a halt at home to bottom-of-the-table Ayr United on the opening Saturday of the month. The hosts actually had Eddie Mulheron to thank for salvaging a point in the goalless draw, the defender twice kicking the ball off the line in the second half with Tommy McCulloch beaten. That result saw Dundee leapfrog Clyde into fifth place in the League table.
The two clubs would meet the following Saturday, 10 December 1966, at Dens Park, Clyde edging a seven-goal thriller to reclaim their spot after an incredible afternoon. The host squad included former Shawfield stars Jim McLean and Alex Bryce but there was no old pals act in evidence as Clyde raced to a 3-0 lead by the interval, Joe Gilroy and Sam Hastings with early counters before Harry rounded Dundee centre-half Jim Easton and fired past keeper John Arrol seconds before the break.
Harry grabbed his own second goal with a low shot from a tight angle with 20 minutes remaining, after Dundee had fought back to 2-3, Clyde returning home with the points despite the hosts grabbing a third in the closing stages.
Elsewhere, having watched Celtic’s midweek victory over Nantes from the stand, Joe McBride again missed out with a knee injury in the eventful 4-2 win over his former club Motherwell at Celtic Park. Scotland’s top scorer was replaced by midweek signing Willie Wallace from Hearts, the £30,000 player on the verge of emigrating to Canada before opting for Glasgow, dashing Gilroy’s hopes of a widely touted dream move to Parkhead.
But it was two other strikers who grabbed the headlines, Stevie Chalmers with a hat-trick whilst John ‘Dixie’ Deans was sent off following a foul on future friend and teammate, Jimmy Johnstone.
Midweek would see the Clyde players swap their football strips for tuxedos, as the club held its annual dance in one of the function suites at Shawfield. That would provide an opportunity for trainer Bruce Hay to say his farewells, ahead of his move to, ironically enough, Dens Park. Hay would replace Bobby Seith there, the Dundee trainer having agreed to a switch to Ibrox.
There was a touch of deja-vu the following Saturday as Clyde once again headed to Tayside and built up a 3-0 lead, this time Bobby Brown’s St Johnstone the victims as goals from Sam Hastings, Harry Hood and Ian Stewart effectively sealed the points within 17 minutes at Muirton Park.
As at Dens Park the previous weekend, the hosts then pulled two goals back, before Ian Stewart relieved the late pressure with a last-minute strike. With 11 points gained from six League games, Clyde now replaced Kilmarnock in fourth spot in the First Division table, with only Celtic, Rangers and Aberdeen above them. This progress prompted manager Davie White to review his previously set ‘one point per game’ target, as the Shawfield club started to dream about the possibility of European football the following autumn.
The snow which arrived in Glasgow ahead of a white Christmas put paid to the clash between Clyde and Rangers on Saturday, 24 December 1966. That meant the Bully Wee players had to wait until the home match with Stirling Albion on Hogmanay for their next taste of action. It would not quite be the end to the excellent first half of the campaign envisaged by anyone at Shawfield, as the struggling Binos inflicted a shock 1-0 defeat on the hosts to bring the long unbeaten run to an end. Dundee’s point at Ibrox enabled them to replace Clyde in fourth spot in the table, albeit the Tayside outfit had played a game more.
However, the biggest shock of the day involved their neighbours, Dundee United, who came from 2-1 down at Tannadice to become the first team to beat Jock Stein’s Celtic in any competition that season, thanks to Ian Mitchell’s late winner. Another prize scalp for Jerry Kerr’s men to add to their home and away victories over Barcelona. Although it was not known at that time, there would be a greater concern for those whose heart lay at Parkhead. An injury sustained at training 24 hours earlier had ruled Joe McBride out of the Tannadice game. Sadly, Scotland’s top goalscorer would not feature again in that incredible campaign.
* An extract from Harry Hood: Twice As Good, the official biography by Matt Corr.