Celtic Icon Series: Bertie Peacock, The Little Ant

Celtic Curio posted another outstanding Celtic graphic this morning fin his Celtic Icon Series and this time featuring the one and only Bertie Peacock…

Here’s Liam Kelly writing about Bertie Peacock for The Celtic Star…

Bertie Peacock: Celtic’s Great Captain Of The 1950s

Bertie Peacock earned 31 caps for Northern Ireland, and whilst managing the statelet in 1964, he gave an international debut to George Best against Wales. A statue of Peacock was unveiled in Coleraine by former NI and Spurs goalkeeper Pat Jennings, who also gained his first Northern Ireland cap under Peacock in that same match. The bronze statue, designed by artist Ross Wilson, depicts Peacock, who died in July 2004 at the age of 75, wearing his international kit. Jennings said that taking part in the ceremony was one of the biggest honours of his career.

After Bertie Peacocks playing and managerial careers ended, he was instrumental in starting the annual Milk Cup tournament in Coleraine. The tournament has since developed into one of the leading youth football competitions in the world, which Celtic have participated in. Tournament Chairman, Victor Leonard, said that having the statue in place was a fitting way to kick-off the 25th anniversary of the competition.

Bertie Peacock was born in Coleraine in September 1928. He worked as a plumber whilst playing football with Glentoran, before signing for Celtic in May 1949. His debut came against Aberdeen in the League Cup that August; a disappointing 3-1 home defeat.

Initially, Bertie played as an inside left and formed a great partnership with Charlie Tully. The latter once said to Bertie “If you’re the Irish coffee, I’m the cream.” However, he was moved to left half at the 1953/54 season and it was in this position that Peacock made his name.

Incredibly, when Peacock first came to Celtic, he had a small frame, and to bulk him up, Bob Kelly told him to drink a bottle of Guinness every lunch time. What he lacked in stature, he made up for in work rate. This industrious style cured him the nickname of “The Little Ant”. In addition to his effort, Peacock also had excellent control and passing. His unassuming demeanour and unmatchable labour made him a great choice to captain the club. Therefore, it came as little surprise when he had the honour of succeeding Jock Stein in the role.

As a skipper, Peacock came into his own. He reached out to young players coming through such as Billy McNeill and Pat Crerand and even used to coach pupils at the London Road Primary School.

In total, Bertie played 453 times for Celtic and scored 50 goals. He won the League and Cup double in 1954 and captained the club to the 7-1 League Cup Final victory over Rangers in 1957. He departed Celtic in 1961, having suffered a terrible knee injury against Hibs in the Scottish Cup that season. He left Parkhead with a league title, two Scottish Cups and two League Cups to his name.

After seeking new pastures, Peacock was named Northern Ireland Manager and became Player Manager at his native Coleraine FC, where he guided the club to their first ever Irish Cup in 1965 and first Irish League title in 1974.

Retiring from the game as a Celtic, Northern Ireland and Coleraine legend, Peacock took up a position as a Coleraine Director and was appointed Team Assessor for Northern Ireland’s successful 1982 World Cup campaign. Away from the game he ran a local public house, owning the establishment until 1990, when he sold it and devoted his time to the game of golf. Ironically, Bertie’s pub, actually named Bertie’s Bar, became home to a local Rangers Supporters Club when he departed.

Bertie Peacock had been honoured with an MBE award in 1986 for his services to football but was given lasting recognition after his death with the statue unveiled in his hometown in 2007.

Liam Kelly

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

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