Bobby signs for Celtic – The incredible story of Celtic legend Bobby Hogg

The incredible story of Celtic legend Bobby Hogg

Part 7 – Bobby signs for Celtic

On Saturday, 2 May 1931, as Bobby Hogg and his Scotland Junior teammates were enjoying a 6-3 victory over Wales in Llandudno, some 300 miles to the north there was another match of significance taking place, as new Scottish Cup-holders Celtic played League Champions Rangers at Hampden in the first round of the Glasgow Charity Cup. The repeat of the previous year’s final drew 40,000 spectators to Mount Florida, with the teams lining up as follows.

John Thomson; Willie Cook & Peter McGonagle;
Bobby Whitelaw, Jimmy McStay & Peter Scarff;
Bertie Thomson, Alec Thomson, Jimmy McGrory, Charlie Napier & Willie Hughes.

Tom Hamilton; Dougie Gray & Bob McAuley;
Bob McDonald, Davie Meiklejohn & George Brown;
Sandy Archibald, Jimmy Marshall, Jimmy Smith, Bob McPhail & Alan Morton.

A Jimmy McGrory double had the Celts two goals ahead within 20 minutes, but Alan Morton reduced the deficit before the break from the spot after Peter McGonagle had been penalised for a challenge on Jimmy Smith. Ibrox centre-forward Smith equalised in the second half then Willie Cook was stretchered off following a dreadful challenge by Bob McPhail, one of many Rangers indiscretions which were allowed to go unpunished.

Reduced to 10 men and with several others struggling, Celts did well to take the game into extra-time at 2-2 but with no further scoring, the Ibrox side progressed on the basis of two additional corner kicks awarded.

The Glasgow Herald match report pulled no punches, no pun intended.

“Rangers took the victor’s spoils in this game at Hampden Park after an extra half-hour’s play, but the few honours that were going were carried off by Celtic. The exhibition was one that brought no credit to the great winter pastime, and incidents occurred – and were allowed to pass – which provided cause for censure for players and referees alike.

It was a charity game, and earned £1,580 for institutions doing noble work, but many of the 40,000 people present must have left the enclosure with a bad taste in their mouths. At times scenes developed on the pitch which made one think that the players had taken a sudden interest in the new all-in wrestling movement; there was a player who swung his boot at an opponent lying injured on the ground; there was a brutal tackle which resulted in Celtic losing the services of a player through injury; and fists were raised more than once.

And despite all this only one player went to the pavilion, and that was Cook, the Celtic right-back – carried off after a tackle by McPhail. The referee “talked to” the Ibrox man following the incident. Stronger action should have been taken by the referee. Had it been forthcoming early in the game, scenes that would have disgraced a juvenile match would probably not have occurred in this “first class” match.

Rangers were lucky to win. they got their first goal from a penalty kick, which was a just punishment on McGonagle for his unfair tackle of Smith. Later in the game, McGrory and A. Thomson suffered in a most obvious manner from the attention of Rangers’ defenders inside the box, but no penalty kicks came Celtic’s way. They were entitled to at least two.

Until he was injured, Cook was easily the best defender on the field, and no half-back worked harder than McStay. Following an injury to Napier early in the game, the sting was taken from the left wing of this Celtic front rank, so that Gray and McDonald had an easier task than they might have had. In the forward lines, the centre-forwards were the best men. McGrory was in great form, and at times it took three men to look after him. He got two clever goals. Thomson (R.) was the best of the wing players, but like Thomson (A.) and Napier, he was badly crippled ere the game finished.

So far as territorial play was concerned, there was little difference between the teams. Celtic, however, shot at gaol more often, with the result that Hamilton had more to do than Thomson, and the Ibrox goal had more narrow escapes than the Celtic one. Against wind and sun, McGrory scored for Celtic after eight minutes, heading the ball through following a cross by Thomson (R.), and a quarter of an hour later he scored a second goal.

Ten minutes from the interval Morton scored for Rangers from a penalty kick. With the wind and the sun behind them, Celtic opened in business-like fashion, but a goal came against the run of play when Smith headed the ball past Thomson. Celtic returned to the attack and McGrory seemed to be going through when tackled by Meiklejohn, and a claim for a penalty was disallowed. Then came the injury to Cook, and the Parkhead men battled on with ten men, and of these three were limping badly.

With only four forwards, Celtic were handicapped, but Hughes and McGrory were full of running, and Hamilton touched the ball against the crossbar following a McGrory header. Rangers’ goalkeeper certainly saved his side at this period. After the commencement of the extra half-hour, it was obvious that the strain of playing a man short had told on the Parkhead men. They laboured gallantly, however, and kept Rangers from getting a goal. The Ibrox club, however, scored three corners against one, so that they qualified to meet Partick Thistle on Wednesday night in the semi-final.”

Twelve months earlier, Willie Maley’s men had seen the trophy awarded to Rangers on the toss of a coin. Anyone with Celtic at heart could perhaps be forgiven for thinking that at this point in time, charity most certainly did not begin at Hampden. It was a highly unsatisfactory end to what had been an incredible season for his young team, with the Scottish Cup secured in the most dramatic of circumstances and within touching distance of a long-awaited Double.

In any case, the thoughts of the Celtic manager and his players could now turn to far distant horizons, with a trip to the USA and Canada scheduled for later that month. But before they set sail on that most exciting of adventures there was business to be attended to at home, as Maley signed up two of the most promising Junior footballers in the country.

On Tuesday, 5 May 1931, the Celtic manager snapped up Scotland winger Tommy McGunnigle from Maryhill Hibernian. The Kelvinvale Park club – the ground lay between Duart and Kilmun Streets in what is now Shiskine Drive in Summerston – enjoyed a great relationship with Celtic, indeed Peter Scarff and Charlie Napier, two of Maley’s cup-winning side, had developed their craft there after signing up at Parkhead, whilst a clutch of stars from Maryhill Hibs’ own Junior Cup-winning side of 1928 – goalkeeper Dave Nicol, defenders Jack Ferguson and Willie Brown, and forwards Joe Riley and Willie ‘Wuggie’ Gray – had all stepped up to the senior grade with Celtic afterwards.

Incidentally, Gray had scored four and Riley one of Hibs’ goals as they beat Burnbank Athletic 6-2 in that Junior Cup final at Firhill on Saturday, 26 May 1928. Happily, the man in the firing line that afternoon was not our old friend Willie Kenny, as Burnbank’s keeper was a reserve with the Scotland Junior International squad by the name of Lindsay.

McGunnigle would join at least one familiar face at Celtic Park, his elder cousin being long-serving full-back Peter McGonagle, the spelling of Tommy’s surname often misquoted as McGonagle or McGonnigle in media reports.

Celtic on tour in the USA in May 1931, with Peter Scarff, Charlie Napier and Peter McGonagle all prominent.

He would soon be joined by another, this time a Junior international teammate and club opponent.

Five days later, Bobby Hogg celebrated his 17th birthday and as great gifts go, I guess that signing for Celtic the following day would be right up there. You may recall that Bobby had been provisionally signed by the club two years earlier, following Chief Scout Steve Callaghan’s visit to Larkhall to watch someone else play!

Now, despite being wanted by no fewer than 25 clubs across the UK, Bobby Hogg would become the youngest professional footballer in Scotland.

A young Bobby Hogg in Celtic colours

Bobby’s signing seems to have gone largely under the radar that week, but it was captured in the Linlithgowshire Gazette on Friday, 29 May 1931, with some prophetic words.

“In signing “Bobby” Hogg the International right full-back of Royal Albert before he set sail for USA, Mr William Maley forestalled a few rivals. It is known that Motherwell and Hamilton Academicals could have been doing with his services. Hogg has just turned 17 years of age, and he promises to develop into a first-class defender.”

He would indeed. It would prove to be the start of the most incredible senior career.

The new Bhoys would receive a first mention in the media when they represented Celtic in a Glasgow Civic Week five-a-side competition at Firhill on Monday, 1 June 1931, the day after goalkeepers Joe Kennaway and John Thomson stood at opposite ends of a football field for the one and only time, thousands of miles away in Tiverton, Rhode Island, both men blissfully unaware that their fates would be so tragically and intrinsically linked within a few months.

The Celtic goalkeeper at Firhill was young Joe Coen, another who would play his own part in the aftermath of that tragedy in the autumn, whilst making up the team with Bobby and Tommy McGunnigle were Paton and Millar, the latter I believe having joined from Motherwell Juniors in 1930. Millar scored Celtic’s only goal as they were beaten 2-1 by St Mirren, whilst in the other matches Dundee defeated a Leith Athletic side featuring former Hoops striker Jimmy ‘Sniper’ McColl 3-2, Morton knocked out Partick Thistle by 2-0 and Albion Rovers did likewise to Rangers with a solitary O’Neill goal.

To be continued.

Hail, hail!

Matt Corr

This series includes extracts from Matt’s forthcoming book covering Celtic in the 1930s. Watch this space…

Follow Matt on Twitter/X @Boola_vogue

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About Author

Having retired from his day job Matt Corr can usually be found working as a Tour Guide at Celtic Park, or if there is a Marathon on anywhere in the world from as far away as Tokyo or New York, Matt will be running for the Celtic Foundation. On a European away-day, he's there writing his Diary for The Celtic Star and he's currently completing his first Celtic book with another two planned.

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