The era from 1945-1951 is not much cherished or loved by Celtic supporters. In a word, Celtic were poor, even thought they had some really good players like Charlie Tully, Bobby Evans and John McPhail.
There was the odd good moment, several absolutely awful moments and most of the time it was about mediocrity. A book called “Celtic in the 1940s” is not likely to become an instant best seller, except of course for sadistic Rangers supporters!
And yet Celtic won the very first post war trophy! It was on the second night of peace at Hampden Park. Germany surrendered on 7 May, VE Day was 8 May and VE Day+1 was 9 May. With commendable speed, the Glasgow Charity Cup committee organised a game and a trophy for VE Day+1. It was meant to be Celtic v Rangers, and it was all for charity. Rangers however declined because they had a Summer Cup game on Saturday (Aw! Poor things! How could they possibly be asked to play two games in a week?) and at short notice Queen’s Park stepped in.
The historian is handicapped in his efforts to research the details of this game, because Scottish newspapers had decided to give their staff a holiday to celebrate the end of the war, and no dailies appeared on Thursday 10 May. A few evening ones did though, and morning papers were back to normal on the Friday, so we can piece together a few details.
Glasgow had of course been in party mode for two days. Not all the trains were running, and it was difficult to get to Hampden but a reasonable crowd turned up, some of them fairly well oiled, for although some pubs were closed, others weren’t.
But everyone was happy and cheerful. Glasgow had suffered its fair share of casualties in the various theatres of war, but had largely avoided being bombed to any great extent and as the queues formed for entrance to Hampden that night, supporters sang Vera Lynn favourites and the now famous army song about Hitler being less well equipped than other men in a vital and intimate area.
It being a charity game, loads of collectors rattled boxes at spectators and were normally well rewarded, for everyone felt generous. Indeed there was a lot of money to go around, for contrary to popular belief, perhaps, war is not a time of poverty. Everyone had a job, and there was normally loads of overtime!
Both teams were cheered to the echo as they appeared.
Celtic’s team was Miller, Hogg and P McDonald; Lynch, Mallan and McPhail; Paton, M McDonald, Gallacher, Evans and McLaughlin.
Celtic had had a poor war, but there had recently been an improvement, it was hoped and tonight they were better than the young Queen’s Park side.
As was the habit of the time, corner kicks were counted in the event of a draw and Celtic won by having the extra corner. Johnny Paton scored the goal, and he and John McPhail together earned the corner kick which made all the difference.
Full time signalled a new trophy for Celtic supporters to boast about with jokes about Rangers being shot for cowardice because they ran away from playing Celtic!
Thus it was a pleasant walk home singing a quaint medley of John McCormack and Vera Lynn songs, “Erin’s Green Valleys” mingling incongruously with “Bluebirds Over The White Cliffs of Dover”.
Thus Celtic had won the very first trophy of the post-war era.
It was maybe as well, however, that the supporters did not know what the next few weeks, months and years would bring to Celtic.