Celtic’s Entertainers, from Bobby Templeton to Paddy McCourt

The term “The Celtic Way” is a cliche, but is a true part of the club’s identity. Over the years the fans have come to demand an attacking style of entertaining football. One of the originators of total football, before Ajax immortalised the philosophy, Jock Stein conquered Europe with a brand of play that revolutionised the sport. The club’s finest manager once said: “Without fans who pay at the turnstile, football is nothing. Sometimes we are inclined to forget that. The only chance of bringing them into stadiums is if they are entertained by what happens on the football field.”

Entertainment can come in a variety of forms. Brendan Rodgers’ Invincibles entertained with slick passing and ruthlessness in front of goal. However, sometimes fans love to see skillful players… those who think and play the game differently – mavericks.

Throughout the years Celtic have boasted an array of these talents; players who move so elegantly with the ball that they personify poetry in motion as they glide past defenders. It’s football in its purest form, espoused and displayed only by Messi in the modern game.

The list of skillful entertainers include George Best, Tony Currie and Diego Maradona among others. Though these players wanted to win, to play with such style requires an almost care-free attitude. Therefore, it’s no surprise that such talents are often great characters.

In Celtic terms, probably the club’s first wizard with the ball was Bobby Templeton. As ever, he had a personality as incredible as his skill.

Bobby Templeton

A real fan favourite, Templeton dazzled on the wing during the early 20th century. During a European tour in 1906,  Celtic played against a København Select side, who defied the odds and defeated the Hoops 2-1. Although their team overachieved with their performance, the Danish supporters screamed for Bobby Templeton to continue his dribbling exploits throughout the match, such was the show that the Scottish international was putting on.

Bobby’s compliance with the crowd infuriated Willie Maley, for if such genius artistry did not result in goals then it was futile as far as the Celtic boss was concerned. Nevertheless, Templeton continued showboating. Dribble after dribble. Dummy after stepover. This defiant behaviour comes as no surprise when one explores the character of the man.

Afterall, he was the footballer who once famously took a bet at Bopstock & Wombwell menagerie in New City Road, to step into a lion’s cage and twist its tail!

An incensed Maley, whose Celtic team had travelled to Denmark without a recognised goalkeeper, punished Templeton by placing him between the sticks for the remaining two matches of the tour.

Celtic oversaw the same København Select side 5-1 and 4-2 respectively in those closing games, yet by the time the squad had returned to Glasgow, Willie Maley had announced that Bobby Templeton would be transfer listed. Despite being surplus to requirements, he did play a handful of matches at the beginning of the new season.

Although, he was finally sold when an offer from Kilmarnock was accepted on 18 October 1907.

Patsy Gallacher

Patsy Gallacher

One of Celtic’s all-time top goalscorers, and widely regarded as the club’s greatest player before Jimmy Johnstone, Patsy was something special. Jimmy McGrory said, years after Patsy retired: “Many people have asked me how Patsy would have stood up to the rigours of the modern game. He would have strolled through it. There is no present day player in this country that I would put anywhere near his class.”

To re-iterate the great Donegal man’s talent, Bob Kelly once said: “So long as there is a Celtic the name of Patsy Gallacher will be revered, and his sons and their families can rightly be proud of that.”

Patsy Gallacher is immortalised at Parkhead. He is remembered in the Willie Maley song with the line “Gallacher and Quinn have left their mark,” whilst contemporary fans nicknamed him The Mighty Atom.

Gallacher, like so many special talents, thought outside the box. No moment epitomised this more than in the 1925 Scottish Cup Final, when he was chopped down by a challenge in the penalty area, rose up and somersaulted into the net with the ball between his feet!

Jimmy Delaney

Jimmy Delaney is the grandfather of current first team coach, John Kennedy. He represented Manchester United and Scotland, whilst he has the unique distinction of winning national cups in England, Scotland and Ireland.

He was an absolutely phenomenal outside right, who carried Celtic in the difficult inter-war period. He was reported as being a “fine dribbler” and “mesmerising” in the Scottish press, whilst he was inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame in 2009.

Charlie Tully

Charlie Tully on the ball

So much could be said about Charlie Tully, on and off the field. He was thought to be the man behind the lyrics to the Celtic Song, which originated at Belfast Celtic (Tully’s former club). He was the original cheeky chappy, earning him the nickname of Cheeky Charlie. He was a magnificent entertainer on the wing with incredible talent, one of Celtic’s few shining lights in the 50s.

Tully’s most iconic moment came at Brockville against Falkirk when he scored directly from a corner. The referee disallowed the goal and made him retake it. Tully obliged, and did the exact same from the retake!

This was not the only occasion that he scored from a corner. Indeed, he did the same for Ireland in an international match against England!

Many feel Tully was Celtic’s greatest player, who could have easily been a Lisbon Lion if he was slightly younger. When asked if he would have got in the Lisbon Lions team, the man himself said: “Sure, I could have taken the corners!”

Jimmy Johnstone

A man who needs no introduction, Jimmy Jinky Johnstone was voted the Greatest Ever Celt. He absolutely tormented defenders and brought the Bernabeu to it’s feet with chants of “Ole,” every time he touched the ball against Real Madrid.

Jinky came third in the Ballon D’Or one season and is probably the most skilfull player ever to don the hooped jersey.

Paddy McCourt

Aiden McGeady was probably the next big hope in terms of skilful entertainers. He showed flashes of skill, including the famous “McGeady Spin.” However, the most recent proper entertainer, Georgie Best/Jinky style player in the Hoops has to be Paddy McCourt.

Nicknamed the Derry Pele, McCourt was famed for being fond of a drink and having terrible fitness. So many entertainers are plagued by alcohol – Jinky and Best were certainly fond of a pint!

McCourt won trophies at Parkhead and racked up almost 100 appearances despite not being a regular starter. He was an absolute cult hero with the Celtic faithful and the most gifted player I have seen in my Celtic supporting life.

Liam Kelly

About Author

Hailing from an Irish background, I grew up on the English south coast with the good fortune to begin watching Celtic during the Martin O'Neill era. I have written four Celtic books since the age of 19: Our Stories & Our Songs: The Celtic Support, Take Me To Your Paradise: A History Of Celtic-Related Incidents & Events, Walfrid & The Bould Bhoys: Celtic's Founding Fathers, First Season & Early Stars, and The Holy Grounds of Glasgow Celtic: A Guide To Celtic Landmarks & Sites Of Interest. These were previously sold in Waterstones and official Celtic FC stores, and are now available on Amazon.

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