Joe Kennaway – The goalkeeper who replaced John Thomson

The tragic death of Celtic goalkeeper John Thomson was one of the most devastating moments in the club’s history.

Rangers versus Celtic September 1931. The tackle that resulted in the death of Celtic goalkeeper John Thomson.

John Thomson is still rightly remembered to this very day by a generation who never even knew him, and will continue to be remembered by many future generations. His legend will never be allowed to die.

The goalkeeper who was brought in to replace John was a man by the name of Joe Kennaway. Joe isn’t as well known as John, but he more than made his mark at Celtic football club.

Joe Kennaway was brought to the club in late October 1931 and made his debut against Motherwell only 24 hours after arriving on a ship from the USA. Joe’s name is James, but went by Joe for some reason or another. He was born in Montreal to Scottish parents. The keeper impressed Willie Maley in the US tour a few months prior as he pulled off numerous impressive saves as his side Fall River beat Maley’s side 1-0.

Joe Kennaway

The club and supporters were still mourning the death of John Thomson, but a new keeper was needed and Maley remembered how impressed he had been watching the Canadian on the summer tour.

He turned out to be the perfect man to replace John in goal. He honed great handing skills and he was brave just like John. He had lighting quick reflexes and he was something of an expert in saving penalty kicks. He was everything you wanted in a goalie.

Joe would go on to play 295 games for the club winning two league titles and two Scottish cups. One of those cup wins coming against Aberdeen in front of a record crowd of 147,365, a record for a national cup final in world football that still stands to this day.

He also played in the famous Empire Exhibition trophy winning side of 1938. Joe was an integral part of the side who become unofficial British Champions as he conceded only one goal in four games as the hoops beat the best the country had to offer.

On the international front Joe had the honour of being capped by both Canada and Scotland at international level. Although he could have won more than a solitary cap for Scotland if other British nations hadn’t objected to a Canadian playing in goals for Scotland.

He does hold the unfortunate record of being in goal in the clubs biggest ever defeat which was an 8-0 thumping by Motherwell in 1937. But we won’t hold that against him as he contributed more good than bad during his eight years at the club. He was a fine servant indeed and will rightly go down as one of the finest keepers in the history of Celtic football club.

Just an Ordinary Bhoy

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About Author

An ordinary everyday Celtic supporters hailing and still residing in Govan in the shadows of the enemy. I’m a season ticket holder. I Witnessed my first Celtic game in 1988 and have attended when I can ever since. Growing up in the 90s I witnessed Celtic at their lowest, and now appreciate the historic success we enjoy today. I enjoy writing about this wonderful football club and hopefully will continue to do so. I’ve always been a keen writer and initially started this a hobby. My ambition is to one day become as good an author as my fellow Celtic Star colleagues.

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