Charlie Gallagher – Once you’ve played Glasgow Juniors, you are afraid of nothing

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But this was still a golden age for Scottish football. Granted, there did seem to be a problem with beating England. At Hampden, 1956 saw Scotland very unlucky with a late Johnny Haynes goal denying victory, but
1958 was a shocking 0-4 defeat, and both 1957 and 1959 had seen narrow but deserved victories for England at Wembley – but the team qualified for the 1958 World Cup in Sweden and tended to beat Wales, Northern
Ireland and continental opposition more often than not. The country was not yet the worldwide laughing stock that it would become 50 years later.

Domestically, as we have seen, Celtic were more than a little disappointing, but Rangers at least were challenged by Hearts in the League, the Tynecastle side winning the League in 1958 and 1960. The Scottish Cup was very competitive with Clyde winning it twice in 1955 and 1958, Falkirk in 1957 and St Mirren in 1959. Clyde, indeed had a remarkable four years. Between their two Scottish Cups, they were relegated to the Second Division and then promoted back again to the First!

Floodlights began to appear at a few grounds enabling teams to play in the evenings on a winter’s night, and allowing games to start at 3.00 pm on a Saturday afternoon even in the darkest of December days. Celtic had never really challenged for the Scottish League after 1954, although they had been a good second to Aberdeen in 1955. An astonishingly bad team selection and performance on the field cost them the Scottish Cup in 1956 to Hearts, but better times were forthcoming in the Scottish League Cup, this new tournament which had only arrived on the scene after World War II. In Celtic’s first League Cup final in October 1956, they were lucky to survive the first game against Partick Thistle, but then delighted their fans with an impressive 3-0 win in the replay.

Charlie enjoyed that, but enjoyed the following season’s Scottish League Cup even more, for that was the occasion that Celtic walloped Rangers 7-1 – and it should have been a lot more! But one event dominated football more than anything else in the mid 1950s. Snow was beginning to fall in Glasgow on the afternoon of
Thursday 6 February 1958 when stories began to spread about an air crash at Munich affecting the Manchester United team which was returning from a successful European Cup tie in Belgrade. In tune with the grim news which grew worse every hour, the weather got worse and worse so that by Saturday 8 February, not a single game was played in Scotland.

The games might have been off in any case to mourn the devastation of Manchester United. Matt Busby, the Scottish Manager, survived after a prolonged fight for his life, but men like Duncan Edwards, Roger Byrne
and Tommy Taylor were never seen again. The whole business raised many questions about air travel to European Cup matches, and it was a long time before anyone could fly to a game without serious apprehension.

However, money would eventually talk rather more loudly than concerns for public safety, and the European
Cup was not postponed, being won again by Real Madrid for the third year running.

The snows of 8 February did have one beneficial side-effect for Charlie, however. The Scotland Youth International team were due to play their Ireland counterparts on that day. Charlie was not selected for that game – he would have been the travelling reserve – but by the time that the game was rescheduled for 12 April 1958 at Stair Park, Stranraer, Charlie was in the team!

The legendary Willie Maley of Celtic had died some 10 days previously at the advanced age of 90, and on this very day that Gallagher was playing for Scotland Youth, Hearts were winning the Scottish League for the first time since 1897, by an odd coincidence the year that Maley had become the Manager of Celtic! The Evening Times of that day has a small snippet of information to the effect that Jock Stein “who now looks after youngsters at Parkhead” was going to Stranraer to see the Scotland Youth game – “not talking, just watching” said Jock.

The game finished 2-2, and Press reports say that Ireland were the better team. The Scottish team was Neil, Provan and Lynch; C. Brown, McConnachie and Nicol; H. Brown, McCulloch, Lochhead, Gallagher
and Burns. The team was interesting for the future of the game. Apart from Charlie, there was Ian Lochhead, also destined to become a “Kelly Kid” (albeit a very unsuccessful one), Davie Provan at right back who went on to play for Rangers in the early 1960s (not to be confused with Celtic’s Davie Provan of the 1980s) and the right half was no less a person than Craig Brown who would become the Manager of Scotland after a less than totally successful playing career with teams like Dundee. The team may have only drawn 2-2 with Ireland, but they did a great deal better than their senior counterparts a week later who managed to go down 0-4 to England at Hampden in one of the worst of their many thrashings from England at that time. A week after that Clyde won the Scottish Cup for the second time in four years by beating Hibs 2-0.

Charlie’s father Dan was proud of his son representing Scotland in the Youth International. Dan, like many Irishmen, was no great football fan and seldom went to games, but he did keep a scrapbook of the games
that Charlie played in, and he knew enough about the game to know that Charlie was doing well, and continually teased him. If Charlie’s team had won 3-0, he would say that it should have been 4-0 and things like that,
but it was all good natured.

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About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor David Faulds 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

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