“Charlie Gallagher? What a Player!” – The Day Charlie scored for Celtic direct from a corner

Two League Cup games of little interest remained – Kilmarnock at Parkhead on Wednesday and then Queen of the South at Palmerston the following Saturday. The Kilmarnock game kicked off at 6.30 pm rather than 7.30 so that it could finish in daylight because of the fault in the floodlights which had not yet been repaired – barely credible, but then we are talking about Celtic in 1963! – and it attracted a paltry, unhappy crowd of little more than 10,000.

In fact, they saw a performance by Celtic which was just about worthy of the name. It was a 2-0 win, and Gallagher scored the second with a marvellous drive when he met a cross from Paddy Turner from the left. That at least brought a smile to some faces. More goals should have been scored, but it was at least a win.

The final game of the section at Dumfries saw another win. The crowd was once again meagre with a noticeable paucity of green and white favours in the crowd, but Gallagher converted a penalty kick and the team won 3-2 to bring to the end a League Cup campaign which had revealed once again that the Rangers complex was still in full swing. Yet as journalists like Gair Henderson would never tire of pointing out, Rangers were not all that good. Real Madrid would soon prove that very point.

The bruised and battered Celtic team could have done with someone else for their next week’s League fixture. It was Rangers at Ibrox! But Gallagher was dropped from the right wing position in favour of Bobby Lennox, the naturally left sided Bobby Lennox! It was a miserable day of rain, but Gallagher had his moment of glory at Parkhead when, playing in the inside left position, he scored the only goal of the game in the Reserve Match, while the first XI went down yet again to Rangers. Admittedly, it was a more respectable (and even unlucky) 1-2 defeat at Ibrox, but it was another day of misery for the dwindling support with much talk about the “thinly populated Celtic end” while at Celtic Park for the Reserve game, Charlie’s goal was greeted with a louder cheer than one would expect at a Reserve game. The crowd was given as 10,000, clearly many Celtic fans having decided to spare themselves the agonies of Ibrox.

For Gallagher, reserve team football would become the norm once again for several weeks. The first team had a dreadful September, but rallied a little in October with a win in the European Cup Winners’ Cup over Basle, a boost being given by Real Madrid’s tanking of Rangers in the other European competition. It was ironic, incidentally, that Celtic’s awful Scottish Cup final of last May had gained them entry to Europe!

In the meantime, the Celtic Supporters Association had managed to have a meeting with Mr Kelly. Mr Kelly had listened politely, taken on board some of the points well made by the supporters and had basically promised to
improve the performance. It may have been coincidence, but things seemed to settle down after that. By the time that Gallagher came back into the first team, Celtic had had two successive 3-0 victories over Aberdeen and
Dundee United. They were picking up, and Charlie would not have got into the team on 26 October had it not been for Jimmy Johnstone picking up a dose of flu. He was therefore back on the right wing!

It was an odd match to come back to as well. Although Celtic may have had a couple of good results and may have survived their first round in Europe while Rangers had blown up spectacularly in Madrid, nevertheless Celtic’s game against Airdrie attracted a crowd of 13,000 while a mile up the road at Hampden Park a six figure crowd were watching Rangers win the Scottish League Cup over Second Division Morton. The fact that Morton were a Second Division team, incidentally, spoke volumes about the standard of football in the First Division, the lack of any resistance to Rangers, and how much the game in Scotland was crying out for a good Celtic team to offer some kind of a challenge to Rangers.

But the meagre crowd at Parkhead that day enjoyed a treat, for Celtic beat Airdrie 9-0. Gallagher scored the first goal and a spectacular one it was as well, a 20-yard volley. He then played superbly throughout but so too did the rest of the team, playing with confidence and panache as the two Johns, Divers and Hughes each helped themselves to hat-tricks. Late in the game Celtic were awarded a penalty and in response to cries from the crowd, Billy McNeill asked goalkeeper Frank Haffey to take it. This would have made double figures, but Frank, out of respect for a fellow goalkeeper, perhaps, duly missed it!

Charlie also played in the next game, another strange one. It was at the unusual venue of Firs Park, the home of East Stirlingshire who were in the First Division that year. Celtic won 5-1 without a great deal of trouble but Billy McNeill was sent off by referee Mr Rodgers of Stenhousemuir for reasons that no-one seemed to understand. This happened when McNeill was playing on the left wing because he had been injured! Charlie however had played well and had earned a few ripples of applause from the Celtic fans in the covered enclosure.

Jimmy Johnstone was restored after the East Stirlingshire game, and Charlie, without having done anything wrong, now found himself back in the Reserves. A couple of weeks after his time in the first team he was in the dressing room at Kilmarnock before a Reserve game one Friday night (Reserve games were often played then and attracted reasonably large crowds) when someone came in with the news that someone had shot the President of the United States.

At half time the story was that he was now dead, and at full time, after the Reserves had lost 4-2, the story was confirmed that John F Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. It was an event that took over everything, and the following day there was an impressive tribute paid to the President in a minute’s silence. Celtic then went on to win 5-0 over Kilmarnock in one of their best performances of the season.

Charlie however played only one other game for the firsts before the New Year, and that was in a 1-1 draw at Dens Park, when Johnstone was suspended. Once again he played well enough, but he was not Jimmy Johnstone and could not complain at having to give way, for Johnstone was in sparkling form and already well on his way to becoming a hero with the Celtic support. The team finished 1963 strongly and their good form included a fine win in Europe over Dinamo Zagreb, but everyone knew that it could only really be called a revival if they could beat Rangers who were due to appear at Celtic Park on New Year’s Day.

The team duly lost on New Year’s Day, unluckily and frustratingly for the fans, not least Charlie Gallagher who must have felt that he could make a difference to that feckless forward line who did everything but score. A penalty kick should have been awarded when Chalmers was brought down – but it wasn’t, and when Rangers scored in the second half against the run of play, the inferiority complex took over and Rangers won again.

So much of this game was psychological. Coming into this game, Celtic’s form had been quite impressive – certainly far better than the start of the season – but crucially, they had not been playing Rangers! Whenever the blue jerseys appeared on the horizon, Celtic seemed to believe that the fun was over, and it was time to lose again!

In those days at New Year, footballers played another game on 2 January, and for this one Gallagher was drafted in to take over from the injured Bobby Murdoch for the game against Third Lanark at Cathkin Park. The game had all the atmosphere of a public library, for Celtic fans were so visibly disappointed at yesterday’s failure, and only 14,000 appeared.

The weather was dull as well, the ground was hard and Celtic, who were also without Billy McNeill and John Clark, were lucky to get a draw. There was little doubt, however, that it was Rangers who were in absentia preventing them from scoring, for such are the ingrained feelings in Glasgow about the Old Firm.

How the other member of the divide is doing inevitably plays a vital part. A few shattered Celtic supporters turned on their team with boos and slow handclaps, and Gallagher although he had had no part in yesterday’s defeat, was not spared.

A 7-0 thrashing of Falkirk may have dissipated a few woes and cleared a few New Year hangovers, but Charlie wasn’t playing that day. He played in a Glasgow Cup game against Third Lanark (an appalling 1-1 draw) and then in the replay which was a much better performance, Celtic winning 3-0. He also played on the day that Eyemouth of the East of Scotland League paid an unprecedented visit to Celtic Park on Scottish Cup business. He scored a good goal with his head in the 3-0 win after the Borderers had stunned all of Scotland by holding out until half-time.

When the half-time scoreboards at the other grounds showed that the score after 45 minutes was Celtic 0 Eyemouth 0, there was a certain amount of disbelief. Booing and whistling were heard at Parkhead, a particular cause of frustration being Celtic’s tendency to be caught offside. The second half was a different matter altogether, however.

The defeat of Eyemouth put Celtic into the next round of the Scottish Cup and the draw threw up the game that had all Scotland talking, the newspapers printing hysterical rubbish, and the real feeling that there might here be a genuine upset. Celtic were drawn against Greenock Morton at Cappielow. Morton were in the Second Division but were absolutely paralysing the opposition. They had played 23 games and had won them all. Granted, the opposition was occasionally a little less than top notch, but a record like that demanded respect. They had also of course reached the final of the Scottish League Cup before losing 5-0 to Rangers.

They were well managed by Hal Stewart and had some fine forwards like Allan McGraw and Jimmy Wilson. Clearly they could inflict damage on Celtic, and this was now a vulnerable Celtic who had impressed in November and December but had let everyone down on New Year’s Day. There were additional factors as well – the tight little ground, the traditional feelings of animosity towards Celtic in Greenock generated by trouble in the past and the feeling that the Scottish Cup might just provide a great upset. The Press continually played this up and the good people of Greenock might have been forgiven for thinking that they had already won.

Charlie was given a game when John Divers called off with an ankle injury. The forward line was the fairly settled one of Johnstone, Murdoch, Chalmers, Divers and Hughes but Charlie had covered for Divers when he had flu earlier in month, and now he was called in again. It was probably as well for Celtic that he was. It had been a fairly last minute decision, however, and Charlie had travelled to Greenock with the team on 25 January, unaware if he would be playing or not.

The precaution was taken of starting the game at 2.30 pm so that the game could finish in daylight. Before an excited, chanting, all-ticket crowd of 22,000 (tickets had been changing hands for phenomenal prices on the black market outside the ground), Celtic started off playing towards the higher terracing at Cappielow and the game was played at a rapid pace with loads of fierce tackles on both sides. But the game was well controlled by Tom “Tiny” Wharton.

It was a typical Scottish Cup tie, not really very suited for Charlie’s more leisurely, controlled, elegant passing
type of football. Morton drew first blood through Allan McGraw, but then John Hughes scored one of his classic goals where he beat several men, then crashed home a thunderbolt from about 20 yards. Jimmy McGrory would later describe it as “one of the greatest goals I have ever seen.”

And then came the moment when Celtic fans feared that it had all been thrown away, and that was when Bobby Murdoch, by at least a couple of yards, missed a penalty, awarded when John Hughes was brought down. Half time came with the teams locked at 1-1 and only a brave man would have predicted the winners of the tie. But Celtic started more strongly in the second half and in the 52nd minute came the moment that swung the tie in Celtic’s favour.

They had forced a corner on the left, on the other side of the packed ground from the main stand, and Charlie Gallagher trotted across to take the kick. He decided to use his right foot, try an inswinger and hope to find the head of Chalmers or Hughes perhaps. He did so, putting a curl on the ball which deceived the right back in the first instance, deceived his own forwards as well, eluded the despairing dive of goalkeeper Miller and ended up in the back of the net!

Scoring a goal direct from a corner kick is an unusual way of scoring. Charlie Tully had famously done it twice at Falkirk in 1953, as had Alec Cheyne for Scotland against England at Hampden in 1929, but it was not common. Some spectators even wondered whether it was legal, but it certainly was. There was a brief split second until everyone realised what had happened before mayhem broke out. The Celtic fans on that small packed terracing went crazy, hugging each other and jumping up and down in a green and white sea of noise and ecstasy, while the Celtic players all rushed across to congratulate Charlie. A few spectators invaded the field as well, but they were soon calmed down and ushered off by the Greenock police.

Gallagher had put Celtic ahead, and now there was no stopping Celtic. About five minutes later Jimmy Johnstone hit another goal after some fine work from John Hughes, and Celtic finished the game well on top. There was even a moment of light comedy when goalkeeper John Fallon was given a reprimand by a promotion hunting policeman for holding his arms up in triumph to the Celtic crowd! Celtic got another two corners in that second half, and although the crowd shouted “Again! Again!” Charlie was unable to reproduce his first corner. It was however a great day for Celtic.

David Potter

To be continued shortly…

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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