“Charlie Gallagher? What a Player!” – Another Cup Final, another Celtic Triumph, this time over Rangers

Charlie’s next first team game was at Stark’s Park, Kirkcaldy in the first leg of the Scottish League Cup quarter final. It was a real thumping for the locals who were mesmerised by the sheer power of the Celtic forward line. Celtic were well served by the guile of Gallagher as they won 8-1 against a Raith Rovers team, now in the Second Division and who had seen better days.

Gallagher however did well to avoid the game at Ibrox in the Scottish League on the Saturday after. He had picked up an injury and the number 8 position reverted to John Divers. The interest in this game was tremendous with the gates at the Celtic End locked, and hundreds compelled to climb the wall! They might as well not have bothered for Rangers won 2-1 in what was a very disappointing sub-standard Celtic performance.

Gallagher’s injury kept him out of the return game against Raith Rovers and the 7-1 beating of Aberdeen, as the team recovered from their Ibrox disappointment. He did get a game, however, in the Cup Winners’ Cup game against the quaintly named Dutch team Go Ahead Deventer and played well in the 6-0 victory in Holland.

The Dutch side were no real problem, but a far more difficult game approached on Monday 4 October 1965 against Hibs at Ibrox in the Scottish League Cup semi-final. It was a game not without its political side however, for when Hibs objected to playing the game at Ibrox because the floodlights were not good enough and that Ibrox was on the wrong side of the city for their supporters to get there, Celtic were only too keen to join in and embarrass Rangers.

Those who claimed that this was NOT a Parkhead eccentricity, in a rare piece of collusion with Hibs, designed to discredit Ibrox were naive in the extreme! However, the Scottish League said no.

50,000 braved the rain to see one of the best ever games played between Celtic and Hibs. Hibs were in fact the better side and with the time running out, they were leading deservedly 2-1. Celtic’s efforts began to flag on the sodden pitch and Gallagher, playing at inside right – Divers was now completely out of favour and Bertie Auld who might have played there was injured – was beginning to toil for the heavy ground did not lend itself to Charlie’s inch perfect passes, especially in the latter stages when the pitch became all the more churned up. It was Tommy Gemmell who created the equaliser for Celtic when he managed to get the ball into the penalty box, Hibs failed to clear it properly and Bobby Lennox was on the spot to give Celtic and their drenched legions (those who had not yet gone home!) a lifeline so that they were still in the Scottish League Cup.

Extra time brought no resolution although both teams came close, and the replay date caused all sorts of problems with Scotland playing next midweek and Celtic playing their Second Leg of their European tie against Deventer in three days time. In addition, we had the repeated protest from both teams about the venue with no other desire, apparently than to annoy and embarrass Rangers. Celtic supporters joined in, writing letters to newspapers about the lack of parking and how they had to peer to see any of the game under Ibrox’s “inadequate” floodlights, but the Scottish League refused to be bullied.

The replay was scheduled for Ibrox yet again on Monday 18 October – only five days before the date set for the final. Rangers would be the opponents, for they had now won their semi-final against Kilmarnock. It had been played at Hampden, where both Celtic and Hibs argued their game should have been played.

Gallagher had two games to play before the replay to consolidate his place in the team. He had missed the irrelevant European game – the tie was already well won – but turned out to play against Hearts at Parkhead on 9 October. Oddly, as The Celtic View pointed out, although Charlie had played many games this season for both the first XI and the reserves, this was his first home game at Parkhead.

The 35,000 crowd saw just exactly what they had been missing, for he was superb that day as Celtic beat Hearts 5-2. Gallagher sprayed passes throughout, had several shots that just whistled over the bar and scored the 5th goal with a 20-yard curler that deceived Jim Cruickshanks. Hearts scored two irrelevant counters late on, but it was truly a great Celtic performance.

Next week, the team was at that bogey ground of Falkirk. This was a great game with Celtic showing all the character in the world by coming back from 2-0 down and then 3-2 down to win 4-3. It was really too fast a game for Charlie to star, but he did well enough to stay in the team for the game that really mattered at this time – the replay against Hibs.

This was a totally different game from the first one, for Gallagher was on song, the pitch was a lot drier than the first game, and Celtic won 4-0 when it could have been a lot more. Charlie would have been upset to see his old team mate John McNamee, now playing for Hibs, being sent off near the end for a piece of petulance and arguing back to referee Bobby Davidson. McBride, Hughes, Lennox and Murdoch scored the goals. Charlie played a significant part in the third goal when he sent over a lovely cross to find the head of John Hughes who in turn headed the ball on to the onrushing Lennox.

The 51,000 crowd went home delighted, Celtic were in the final of the Scottish League Cup and no-one said any more about the Ibrox floodlights, which, if truth be told, were not all that bad with European teams like Real Madrid having had no complaints in the past!

Thus six months on from his first triumph in the Scottish Cup final, Charlie found himself in another Hampden Cup final The fact that it was against Rangers was an added dimension of course, but the Celtic community now began to look forward to Saturday’s game with a mixture of emotions and apprehensions. The stakes were higher than ever before, far higher than any ordinary Old Firm game (if any such game could be called “ordinary”) and far higher even than most League Cup finals.

At the end of the semi-final replay, the Celtic dressing room understandably was in euphoria. Stein coming along the corridor heard the laughter and sounds of triumph, so he decided that they must be taken down a peg or two. Incredible as it may seem, he slapped his own face to make it red and to simulate anger, and then tore into the team telling them that what had happened tonight would count for nothing if they did not win at Hampden on Saturday.

Kerrydale in The Celtic View paraphrased (and presumably sanitised!) what Stein said to the players. “You’ve done a fine job tonight, but you’ve not even half completed it. You showed great grit and determination against Hibs as well as much skill, but I want even more – if that is possible – in the final on Saturday. I want the Celtic eleven
who play Rangers in the League Cup final to be the most determined team ever to have worn the green and white striped shirts. I want a win over Rangers – nothing less. I’m sure you want that also. So let’s concentrate on Saturday”.

The new Celtic’s credibility was certainly at stake here. The revival of the winning of the Scottish Cup would count for a lot less if they lost this game. The Celtic death wish remained of course very real in the face of Rangers, as was witnessed when Rangers had defeated them at Ibrox only a month ago. Last year at this time, Celtic had been in the ascendancy but they had lost last year’s League Cup final and then had collapsed for more or less the rest of the season destroying their League campaign as well. There were however a few differences. One was that they had now actually won a trophy; another was that they now had a Manager who was definitely not prone to believing that Rangers were some sort of supermen. And of course, a major difference as far as Gallagher was concerned was that in 1964 he was not playing in the League Cup final; in 1965 he would be.

He and Bobby Murdoch had picked up leg knocks in the Hibs semifinal, (Gallagher had to move to the left wing for a spell rather than his now favoured inside right position) but after some treatment at Celtic Park on the Tuesday morning, they were pronounced fit. Stein had no hesitation in naming the same team that had beaten Hibs in the semi, with the forward line reading Johnstone, Gallagher, McBride, Lennox and Hughes. Glasgow now braced itself for a six figure crowd at Hampden on Saturday. Celtic had won the tournament twice, but Rangers had won it twice in the 1940s, had failed to win it at all in the 1950s, but had won four years in the last five, including of course last year against Celtic.

The referee was Hugh Phillips of Wishaw, generally reckoned to be one of the better referees, even though he was none too popular at Celtic Park! Only the Stands were all-ticket – as Celtic had only reached the final on Monday, there would have scarcely been enough time to get tickets printed, distributed and sold anyway – and it was pay at the turnstiles (5 shillings = 25pence) for everyone else.

Nerves were a real problem for the players, but Jock played it well. After Sean Fallon, presumably with Stein’s approval) wrote a grossly over-optimistic column in The Scottish Daily Express, little more was said, other than what had been said in The Celtic View and everything was decidedly low key. Gallagher and the others appreciated this, for although there was always pressure on someone playing for Celtic, it was not a good thing when the Manager publicly piled even more on by saying things like “must win” and “credibility at stake”. Little more was said than “quietly confident”. Indeed a few things were said about the League championship being even more important.

The weather was good, a gentle autumn day, and 107,608 (a record which stands to this day and only the second ever six figure crowd for a Scottish League Cup final) turned up. It was not the good, clean game – a “showpiece” as the saying went – that everyone would have liked, although it did not go to the other extreme of an “orgy of crudeness” or the “X Certificate final” that some of the press, The Sunday Post in particular described it as being. It was tough, but credit must be given to Mr Phillips for not letting things get totally out of hand.

The teams were:
Celtic: Simpson, Young and Gemmell; Murdoch, McNeill and Clark; Johnstone, Gallagher, McBride, Lennox and Hughes
Rangers: Ritchie, Johansen and Provan; Wood, McKinnon and Greig; Henderson, Willoughby, Forrest, Wilson and Johnston

Gallagher’s name is seldom mentioned in Press reports. This emphatically did not necessarily mean that he did not have a good game, except in so far as no-body had a good game because of the constant stoppings for mainly petty fouls. The tone was set in the first five minutes when Ian Young brought down Willie Johnston and earned a booking. This apparently haunted Young for many years, but it was simply setting out Celtic’s stall in that there was to be no more “Mr Nice Guy”.

Far too often in the past, Celtic had played the game like gentlemen, earning the approbation of Mr Kelly and indeed the Press and all neutrals – but had lost the game. Stein clearly thought that it was more important to win,
something which Celtic fans agreed with. The first half had gone about 15 minutes when Ron McKinnon of Rangers unaccountably and under no apparent pressure stuck up his hand and handled the ball. It was going nowhere but it was inside the box. “Penalty” said Celtic and more importantly Mr Phillips agreed.

Up stepped the lumbering, occasionally temperamental figure of John Hughes. (According to his own admission, Hughes had taken the field that day praying that there would not be a penalty kick which would require his services) Behind the goal at the Celtic End, 50,000 fans held their breath, but John slotted the ball home. Celtic were now one up, and the defence which had been hesitant before suddenly gained confidence, McNeill in particular winning everything in the air.

About 10 minutes later, Celtic whose fans had often complained that they did not get enough penalties, got another one. This time there was a degree of doubt about it with Rangers protesting bitterly, but a penalty it was, and once again Yogi did the business, although Billy Ritchie got a hand to this one. Celtic thus went in at half-time 2-0 up, but Gallagher was aware that the next 45 minutes were going to be very long indeed, as he listened to Stein’s talk about getting the basics right. Football in essence is a simple game, and if you pass the ball to someone in your own side, you will usually be OK.

This however was no ordinary football game. Charlie’s inclination was always to get the ball, beat a man and then pass the ball. He would have loved to have been able to find someone like Jimmy Johnstone or John Hughes to inflict further damage on Rangers. But this was hurly burly stuff and twice Gallagher was the victim of a rash tackle or what was euphemistically called a “challenge” from a Rangers midfielder. He knew better than to let them know that it hurt and continued as well as he could, making sure that he did not retaliate.

Slowly, painfully slowly the second half wore away. More and more Gallagher was being deployed as an extra defender or at least a “holding midfield” man as Rangers attacks grew ever more desperate. Sometimes only Bobby Lennox was left up in the Rangers half, although Gallagher was very aware that a goal from Celtic would effectively kill Rangers off.

Then with 8 minutes to go Rangers got a goal which even their best friends would have to describe as fortuitous. TV replays did not make it clear but it seems that when John Greig and Ian Young went up for a ball, the ball went into the net off Ian Young’s face, as the distant Rangers end which had been contemplating departure now became animated for the first time in the game.

It was what was then called “kitchen sink” time as Rangers threw everything at that King’s Park goal with Gallagher now back as an out and out defender, occasionally dribbling the ball out of the penalty area but more often resorting to the tried and tested expedient of howfing the ball up the park or out of play. But Celtic were lucky in that they had all the experience in the world in goal in the shape of Ronnie Simpson, already the proud possessor of two English Cup medals. Ronnie took charge of the situation, giving instructions to everyone including captain McNeill, as 50,000 behind that goal died a thousand deaths every time a blue shirt got the ball.

But full time came at last and Celtic had won the Scottish League Cup for the third time. Amidst all the hugs and kisses from the triumphant, the gentlemanly Gallagher was always careful to shake the hands of the vanquished and to offer them a word or two of encouragement. After all, he had been there himself in 1961, and he knew what it was like.

The drama of that day, however, was not quite over. The Cup was presented, the players received their medals and the team came out to show their trophy to the exultant fans on the East Terracing, some of whom were shedding unashamed tears of joy. But then as they turned to show the Cup to their fans in the North Enclosure, they suddenly saw a cavalry charge of about 100 mentally challenged youths coming at them with hostile intent from the Mount Florida end.

Mercifully, the players and the trophy were undamaged by these people who were showing the world just exactly why they would soon be called the you-know-whats, and equally mercifully, the Celtic fans did not retaliate. They
had clearly taken to heart Jock Stein’s strictures about hooliganism, and Celtic emerged from that day with the Scottish League Cup and a great deal of credit. Celtic’s players also deserve a certain amount of credit for their self-restraint for big powerful well-trained athletes like John Hughes and Tommy Gemmell might have made an awful mess of these undernourished and pitiful specimens of humanity. It was however a nasty example of the ugly and unacceptable face of Scottish football.

It was of a great deal less importance to Gallagher than that he had now won three medals in that calendar year of 1965 as a League Cup medal joined a Scottish Cup one and a Glasgow Cup one. Not at all bad for a man who had entertained serious doubts about any kind of future for him at Celtic Park. In spite of all the unpleasantness, it had been a great day for Charlie. Life had turned for Charlie and Celtic.

It was also very nice to see Ronnie Simpson win his first Scottish medal, and Jimmy Johnstone and Joe McBride win their first ever medals.

David Potter

To be continued…

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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