Celtic’s greatest team: Pre-World War 2 – Two centre-forwards

Celtic’s greatest team: Pre-World War 2 – Our twin centre-forwards…

In today’s article, we will complete our shortlist of selections for the unique Willie Maley XI line-up by looking at the options for our twin centre-forwards, the men tasked with leading our attack and scoring those vital goals.

Once again, we have some absolutely outstanding candidates, so here is our shortlist, as always displayed in chronological order. Note that the number of appearances does exclude Charity Cup matches and friendlies and can occasionally differ by a small margin in different record sources, however, it will give you a sense of length and consistency of service etc.


John Madden

The dapper John Madden with his Slavia charges and their haul of trophies
Slavia board chairman Jaroslav Tvrdik, centre, unveiled the memorial plaque to John William Madden and named the stands after him, prior to the friendly match SK Slavia Praha vs. Celtic Glasgow, in Prague, Czech Republic, on Tuesday, July 4, 2017. (CTK Photo/Vit Simanek)

Debut for Celtic: v Queen’s Park, September 1889
Final game: v Dundee, February 1897
Total appearances: 155

Celtic’s first-ever centre-forward enjoyed League and Scottish Cup success as a player and would later find fame as the ‘Father of Czech football’ following a spectacular coaching career, most notably with Slavia Prague.

Sandy ‘Duke’ McMahon

Sandy McMahon

Debut for Celtic: v Vale of Leven, January 1891
Final game: v Rangers, February 1903
Total appearances: 261

Originally a winger, The Duke became one of Celtic’s earliest superstars, a wonderful player who was a member of the first ‘Stripes’ team to bring the League title and Scottish Cup to Celtic Park in the late 19th century.

Jimmy Blessington

Jimmy Blessington

Debut for Celtic: v Pollokshaws, September 1892
Final game: v Third Lanark, January 1898
Total appearances: 127

Celtic eventually prised Jimmy from Leith Athletic after a tug-of-war which the saw the SFA suspend the player for several weeks. Scotland’s ‘Blessed’ centre-forward was a double title-winner with the Bould Bhoys at Celtic Park.

Jimmy Quinn

Jimmy Quinn
Jimmy Quinn, Willie Maley, Jimmy McGrory and Patsy Gallacher

Debut for Celtic: v St Mirren, January 1901
Final game: v Heart of Midlothian, January 1915
Total appearances: 369

The Bhoy from Croy. Another who was originally a winger, the Mighty Quinn is one of Celtic’s all-time great centre-forwards, with over 200 goals including cup final hat-tricks on his CV.

‘Trooper’ Joe Cassidy

Joe Cassidy

Debut for Celtic: v Motherwell, March 1913
Final game: v Hibernian, April 1924
Total appearances: 212

Joe’s early years at Celtic were significantly interrupted by loan spells then the First World War, where he earned a Military Medal, but he would go on to become a tremendous centre-forward for the club, the highlight perhaps his winning goal in the 1923 Scottish Cup final.

Jimmy ‘Sniper’ McColl

Jimmy McColl

Debut for Celtic: v Dundee, October 1913
Final game: v Dundee, January 1920
Total appearances: 173

This powerful centre-forward was another vying to be the successor to the great Jimmy Quinn as Willie Maley’s side racked up several League titles whilst the First World War raged on and beyond. Jimmy later became a legend at Hibernian.

Jimmy McGrory

Jimmy McGrory
4 January 1928: The Great Jimmy McGrory scores eight goals against Dunfermline to create a record which stands to this day
IMAGO / Colorsport  Jimmy McGrory pictured on 07/11/1928.

Debut for Celtic: v Third Lanark, January 1923
Final game: v Queen’s Park, October 1937
Total appearances: 477

The Prince of the Garngad. The greatest top-flight goalscorer to ever walk these islands. Celtic’s all-time top scorer and third manager devoted his life to the club.

John Crum

Johnny Crum
Johnny Crum

Debut for Celtic: v Motherwell, October 1932
Final game: v Motherwell, June 1942
Total appearances: 299

This legendary centre-forward had the toughest job in football, to succeed the Great McGrory following his retirement, yet Johnny is a Celtic icon in his own right, not least as scorer of the Empire Exhibition trophy-winning goal.

So what an incredible list of candidates we have for this vital role, with over 2,000 games for the club between them. Who will be the chosen centre-forwards for our unique Willie Maley Celtic XI?


If you’re just catching up with this intriguing selection, here’s a very brief reminder of the story so far, a recap of the shortlists already published exclusively on The Celtic Star and be found HERE.


Dan McArthur, Davie Adams, Charlie Shaw, John Thomson or Joe Kennaway

Right-sided defender 

Barney Battles, ‘Sunny Jim’ Young, Alec McNair, Willie McStay or Bobby Hogg

Joe Dodds (right) and Alec ‘Icicle’ McNair against Aston Villa at Celtic Park in April 1912 with the old Jungle in the background

Central defender 

James Kelly, Willie Loney, Peter Johnstone, Jimmy McStay or Willie Lyon

Left-sided defender 

Dan Doyle, Willie Orr, Jimmy ‘Dun’ Hay, Joe Dodds, Willie ‘Peter’ McGonagle or Jock Morrison

Defensive midfielder 

John ‘Jean’ McFarlane, Peter Wilson, Chic Geatons, Malcolm MacDonald or George Paterson

Attacking midfielders (x2) 

Peter Somers, Jimmy McMenemy, Patsy Gallacher, Tommy McInally, Alec Thomson, Peter Scarff or Willie Buchan

Outside right

Alec Bennett, Andy McAtee, Paddy Connolly, Bertie Thomson or Jimmy Delaney

Outside left 

John Campbell, Davie Hamilton, Adam McLean, Charlie Napier or Frank Murphy

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Hail Hail,

Matt Corr

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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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