“Charlie Gallagher? What a Player!” – Celtic’s “Seven Year Itch”

Season 1960/61 saw Charlie Gallagher break into the team in the second half of the season, but the season was dominated by one tragic event – the loss of the Cup final to Jock Stein’s Dunfermline on that terrible night of 26 April. There had also been a false dawn at the start of the season in the Scottish League Cup, but the Scottish Cup final defeat was particularly hard to take because the team had shown definite signs of improvement in the approach to the final.

As far as Charlie was concerned, his form mirrored that of the team. He had broken through in January on the right wing, which was by no means the ideal position for him, but he had played well until the final itself, after which he was side lined and would stay out of the team for some considerable time.

That he was struggling to find a place at the beginning of the season 1960/61 became apparent when he was in the “whites” (ie the Possibles) rather than the “green and whites” (the Probables) for the public trail before the start of the season. He was not chosen for the first few games, and thus he cannot be held responsible for this particular one of the Celtic horror stories. The Scottish League Cup was an all-Glasgow section of Rangers, Third Lanark and Partick Thistle. Celtic, for whom a superstar called John Hughes seemed to be emerging, were off to a bright start beating Third Lanark (twice) and Rangers before succumbing to the almost inevitable by blowing up in the last two games, including a tragic game at Parkhead to Rangers. We thus did not qualify for the League Cup quarter final, and then, as frequently happened after a reverse, went down 1-5 to Rangers at Parkhead in a particularly shocking performance in the first Old Firm Scottish League game.

But there was still the Glasgow Cup and Charlie Gallagher was very much involved in that. In their whirlwind start to the season Celtic had defeated Rangers without Gallagher’s help, but he did play in the two semi-finals against Third Lanark. The first game at a gloomy Cathkin (where the floodlights were decidedly sub-standard) Gallagher mirrored the floodlights. He “started well but faded badly” in a 0-0 draw that was dull in more senses than one, but then in the replay at Parkhead, he was brought in to change the forward line after the League Cup collapse to Rangers, and attracted a good Press, scoring a goal in the 3-1 win over the experienced Third Lanark side

One might have thought that that performance would have been enough to guarantee him a run in the team, but he did not play in the Scottish League game against Rangers on the Saturday after, nor the Glasgow Cup final against Partick Thistle. Perhaps tellingly, Celtic lost both these games. The only game in which he played at that time was a goalless draw against Aberdeen at Celtic Park, a desperately awful game in front of a small and disillusioned crowd of little more than 10,000. The poor display was on the Saturday immediately before the Glasgow Cup final, and probably militated against his selection.

It was however a dreadful atmosphere in which a youngster had to learn his trade. There was nothing vaguely approaching a team selection policy, and everything seemed to have been done on the whim of the Chairman.

The story is well known about the young reserve goalkeeper standing at a bus stop to go and support the team at Airdrie, being given a lift by the team bus and ending up playing for the team that day! Similar things would happen with the forward line as well with the team being changed between arrival at the ground and the exchange of the team lines. It would be laughable if it were not so serious, and things would give no indication of any improvement for the rest of 1960, as any possible League challenge evaporated in the general inconsistency of Celtic’s play in November.

Training was “not very good” as Charlie himself delicately puts it. Stories are told of player being given old, sub-standard, unhygienic training gear and told to do nothing other than run round the track. The “wily old
pros” got wise to this, and were known to nip into the Jungle, (no-body was there to oversee their exercises) and hide, even smoking cigarettes!

There was little in the way of development, and it was a very rare occasion that the players were given a ball to practice with. The thinking behind this strange concept was the bogus one that players would be all the more determined to kick a ball on a Saturday in a game if they had been deprived of one in midweek! It was unbelievable, and the end result was that Celtic, although full of potentially very fit youngsters, were often outpaced and overrun by the opposition.

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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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