The following story is likely to strain the belief of anyone, but I am assured by one of the characters that it did happen. It really could only have happened to Celtic in the mad days when Bob Kelly was in charge of the club, and it goes an awful long way to explain why it was that Celtic with talented youngsters like Pat Crerand and Billy McNeill, and experienced, wily old pros like Neil Mochan and Bertie Peacock on board, still could not win anything.
It was October 1 1960. It had generally been agreed that Celtic were off to a bad start this season. In the all-Glasgow Scottish League Cup section, Celtic, after seeming to have had it all won, collapsed in the final two matches, to Third Lanark and then Rangers in the last game and were out of the competition.
They had then lost again to Rangers in the Scottish League, and on the Monday night before this game, they had exited the Glasgow Cup to Partick Thistle. It was fair to say that the team were not impressing their grumbling supporters, but everyone consoled themselves by saying that they had a young side, and they still needed time. It was an excuse however that was now wearing a little then.
But today Celtic were on the team bus making the short trip to Broomfield to play Airdrie, and optimism was in the air that maybe this could be the day that the corner was going to be turned. There was the usual jokes and banter. Suddenly someone said “There’s Willie Goldie!”, and there he was with his green and white scarf round his neck waiting for a bus at Monklands Hospital.
Willie was the reserve team goalkeeper, the reserves weren’t playing today, (they had beaten Airdrie reserves 2-0 on the Friday night) and Willie was a supporter, like everyone else. Mr Kelly, impressed by Goldie’s enthusiasm, told the bus driver to stop and they gave him a lift to the game, and a seat in the stand with the official Celtic party.
But it went even further than that. John Fallon, the man who thought he was playing in goal, went out to have a look at the pitch and both goalmouths, as goalkeepers do. He chatted away to the rest of his team mates, and then came back into the Away dressing room to discover that his boots had been removed, and that Willie Goldie was getting ready to play in the game.
Goldie had played for Airdrie in the past, and Mr Kelly seemed to be impressed by his “local knowledge” that would help Celtic today. Fallon was of course shattered by this, but the real victim was Willie Goldie.
Celtic proceeded to lose 0-2, and Willie Goldie, in the unkind words of a reporter, gave away goals “like soap coupons”, being badly positioned for the first and failing to grasp the second one cleanly.
He was a bag of nerves, and never played for Celtic again. It was an astonishing day for Celtic, Goldie and Fallon. Everyone had just assumed that Fallon must have picked up an injury, and when the truth came out, it was first of all one of these typically Glasgow urban rumours with everyone saying “Naw! I’m no believin’ that!”
But it was true!
* Colour photo at top of this article courtesy of by Hearts historian Tom Purdie.