John Keane – “The man who saved Celtic. May he rest in peace.”

Yesterday morning we heard the news on social media that Celtic hero John Keane had passed away. We didn’t want to post until Celtic FC officially confirmed the sad news and that happened late last night. “It is with sadness that Celtic Football Club today confirmed the passing of former Director and Honorary Chairman, John Keane. RIP, John. YNWA” the club tweeted.

Just some of the reaction to the sad news posted by Celtic supporters…

“One of the most important men in Celtic’s history, putting his hand in his pocket at a time when £1m was a significant figure for businessmen, with no certainty he’d get it back he walked the walk, he might have been happy to stay in the background, but he’s one of the immortals.”

“Unconditional support by John Keane to Celtic and our support when we needed it most (borne out of his unconditional love for the club). As well as being a real Gentleman, John was an absolute Celtic Legend and will never be forgotten. Thank you John and God Bless.”

“A beautiful man who saved our club Rest in Eternal Peace John.”

“Sad news. A true gentleman. Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him, may he rest in peace. Prayers for his family.”

“An understated legend who stood up when the club needed him.”

“The man who saved Celtic. May he rest in peace.”

“This is the man who saved Celtic. Sad news may he rest in peace.”

“A man who stepped up for his club. Truly commendable.”

“RIP. Without him Celtic would’ve been no longer.”

“RIP John. Thank you for your big part in saving our club forever in debt to you.”

“RIP, the board missing someone of his caliber and integrity today.”

“An unsung hero in the history of Celtic RIP John”…and many, many more.

Here’s an article from The Celtic Star that tells the story of how John Keane, quietly and without seeking any plaudits, saved Celtic FC by lodging his own funds into the Bank of Scotland to save the club from administration ahead of the arrival of Fergus McCann…

‘Administration was unthinkable,’ – Thanks a Million, John Keane, Celtic Hero

On the 5th July 2019 John Keane retired from his role as Director and Honorary Chairman of Celtic Football and Athletic Club. As we’ve been looking back on the anniversary of the Fergus McCann takeover of our great club, a big thanks goes to Celtic Star reader, Mike, who commented on our earlier piece with the following words.

“John Keane? pledged that £1 million pounds – Thanks to Johns speedy contribution trading continued and the wages paid, Administration was averted. THANK YOU JOHN KEANE”

Mike’s words reminded me of an article we had written at the time of John Keane’s retirement, and today seems as good a day to revisit that article and that wonderful quote from the man himself:

“Administration was unthinkable. It would have been a slur upon the name of the Club,” John Keane.

Here’s that article for you again, it’s well worth a read..

‘Administration was unthinkable. It would have been a slur upon the name of the Club,’ John Keane

Willie Falconer wasn’t a player to particularly make you sit up and take notice. He was alright and pretty indicative of the standard of player that Celtic had filling their squad in March 1994. He was one of many who were average at best, but Willie is a player who nearly became the most infamous Celt in history. That he didn’t become that is down quite substantially to a man who retired with a great many platitudes from Celtic and beyond today.

While the Celtic board was trying to cling on to power as the club slipped from their grasp under a mountain of debt and orchestrated fan boycotts, the board made a play that became one of the most embarrassing and cringe worthy episodes in the history of Celtic.

Celtic decided they were moving to Cambuslang. No more Paradise. David Smith, Patrick Nally and Kevin Kelly of the Celtic board appeared and addressed the assembled press to announce that alongside the secured financial backing from London they had already instructed a company to build Celtic’s 3rd stadium.

The accompanying share issue would see Celtic extend into a bright new dawn. An Emergency General Meeting would see the whole grand plan become a reality. Sadly, it was myth. The last desperate hand of a board struggling to come to terms with its own demise.

It’s attempts at smoke and mirrors was uncovered in a few short days by a press who simply contacted the named backers to find though some had been in discussion, none had given any assurances whatsoever. Gefinor and Superstadia who were to be the finance and builders respectively announced in very public statements that absolutely nothing, bar an agreement to continue to talk, had taken place. The gleeful reporting of the attempted con was nationwide across TV, radio and the printed press.

With Celtic’s finances already precarious the Bank of Scotland didn’t take kindly to the attempted hoodwink. They had received an altogether understandable request from Middlesborough to settle the outstanding sum due from the agreed transfer of Willie Falconer. The bank refused to foot the bill.

The Bank met the Board and despite some disbelief from some who perhaps felt the bank were simply trying some strong-arm tactics, the board were left a message in no uncertain terms. The Bank of Scotland were going to call in the receivers, they no longer believed Celtic could be run as a going concern. It was rumoured at the time that Celtic were valued at a quarter of that of Partick Thistle.

Though the long-term saving and security of the Club deservedly belongs to Brian Dempsey and ultimately Fergus McCann, it was the action of John Keane that secured its immediate survival. Then Chairman Kevin Kelly swallowed his pride and picked up the phone to John Keane after the bank had delivered their chilling message.

Legend has it Mr Keane when told of the genuine threat of administration called his own bank manager at The Bank of Ireland in Dublin, authorised the withdrawal of £1million, and on Monday morning that same manager was waiting at opening time at the Bank Of Scotland in Glasgow. He simply deposited that money and Celtic avoided the very real threat of Administration.

When you consider the factions involved, sides taken, lobbying for influence etc that was going on in the vacuum of the financial implosion, there appeared no thought from Mr Keane to think of any political advantage or leverage that he could engineer in return for releasing this huge donation. His immediate thought was that for the saving of his football club.

It was £1 million he would in no way have had any confidence whatsoever that he’s ever see a penny of again. It was as close to an altruistic act as you’ll ever see. Can you imagine such a thing happening in this day and age?

Perhaps someone would come up with the money but it’s nigh on impossible to consider it happening without it being offered with many strings attached to advance the individual’s wealth, shareholding and influence.

John Keane bought the club breathing space and nothing more with that act. It bought off the bank temporarily and it purchased the time required to bring factions together and allow the Rebels to purchase enough shares to win the battle. Despite this John Keane remained in the background. I could only find one quote attributed to the man himself on the matter.

“Administration was unthinkable. It would have been a slur upon the name of the Club.”

John Keane did what he did to save the great name of Celtic Football Club being muddied and for no other reason.

Wages were not going to be paid, administration was inevitable without a financial shot in the arm. Mr Keane simply arranged for such a significant sum to be paid to protect the dignity and continue the history of Celtic. He’d have had no idea whether that would be for 5 weeks, 5 months or forever. He just knew to protect the security and the honour of Celtic he had to do it.

John Keane didn’t finish there. He was already a shareholder at the time of his gifting of the £1 million and he invested further into the Fergus McCann vision for Celtic. All the time staying in the wings, never courting publicity and allowing others to take the limelight and the adulation as the saviours of Celtic.

In 2012 Mr Keane became Honorary Chairman of the historic Celtic Football & Athletic Club board which handles relations with supporters and of which he was a long-standing member. It is from this role that he resigned from today.

In 2013 he unfurled the championship flag on the opening day of the season. A fitting honour bestowed upon one of Celtic’s greatest men. A moment in the limelight for a man who hid his own light under a bushel.

His comments when told? Modesty personified. “I love the club. I have supported it and nothing will change me from that. This is a great honour. I hope I don’t trip and that they don’t boo me too much!”

Today his own quotes on his retirement have perhaps been lost under a sea of well-wishers and reminisces. As such they’re worth repeating. ”It has been an honour and privilege to be part of Celtic, a Club I have loved so dearly all my life. I would like to thank Dermot Desmond, Ian Bankier and Peter Lawwell and all other directors, past and present, who have worked together and so tirelessly in the best interests of the Club.

“I also wish to pay tribute to all other staff at the Club and, of course, our supporters who give so much to Celtic and make it the wonderful institution it is today. I will always be a Celtic supporter and I wish the Club nothing but continued success for the future,” John Keane said to the official Celtic website.

For me there is a quote from Adam Smith that encapsulates the actions of John Keane.

“How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it.”

That Celtic are as strong as they are today has been a long hard road. Many have invested time energy, money and emotion in growing Celtic from new beginnings in 1994. It’s difficult to comprehend now, but without John Keane’s actions it may well be that Celtic would look altogether different today.

Thank you, Mr Keane. The respect and admiration for what you did for Celtic burns strong with the Celtic support. Then, now and forever.

Niall J

‘Good Guy’ – Celtic Legend John Keane retires, Fergus McCann leads the tributes

Yesterday Celtic announced that John Keane has retired as Director and Honorary Chairman of Celtic Football and Athletic Club. Speaking to the official Celtic website John Keane said: ”It has been an honour and privilege to be part of Celtic, a Club I have loved so dearly all my life. I would like to thank Dermot Desmond, Ian Bankier and Peter Lawwell and all other directors, past and present, who have worked together and so tirelessly in the best interests of the Club.

“I also wish to pay tribute to all other staff at the Club and, of course, our supporters who give so much to Celtic and make it the wonderful institution it is today. I will always be a Celtic supporter and I wish the Club nothing but continued success for the future.”

It’s well worth quoting The Celtic website’s tribute to John Keane.

“John should forever be regarded as one of the Club’s saviours and, for that reason, all Celtic supporters owe John an eternal debt,” the official site noted.

“In the 1990s, an immediate £1million was needed to save Celtic from the ignominy of administration. To avoid such a catastrophe, John pledged this amount to the Club. Thanks to John’s contribution, trading was maintained, the wages were paid and administration was averted. The rest is history.

“John then went on to back Fergus McCann’s takeover with further crucial investment. Now, both as supporter and investor, he enthusiastically endorses the stability and commitment that Dermot Desmond has brought to the club, making it the force it is today.

“A man of true humility and dignity, and a lifelong Celtic supporter, John played a hugely significant role in preserving the Club’s history, success and, above all, continuity. John played a pivotal role in saving Celtic for us all.

“John has served as a non-executive director of Celtic Football and Athletic Club for well over 20 years, and his crucial role was recognised at Celtic’s AGM in 2013, when he was confirmed as the Honorary Chairman of CFAC.

“In August 2013, John was given the magnificent and highly deserved honour of unfurling the League Championship Flag, a moment we know will always be very dear to John and his family.
John now stands down from the position of Honorary Chairman of CFAC to enjoy his retirement and in this everyone at the Club wishes him well.”


Celtic Chairman Ian Bankier: “When the Club’s very survival was in doubt, John was there to play a crucial role and he is someone who should forever be regarded as one of the most important figures in the Club’s history.

“I know with John standing down from the Board, our supporters will take this opportunity to applaud the fantastic contribution of a great Celtic man and join me in wishing him well on his retirement.

“I know, too, that John will continue to support the Club as passionately as he always did. John will always be a friend of the Club and we sincerely thank him for all he has done for Celtic.”

Dermot Desmond: “John has been a lifelong, passionate and steadfast supporter of our great Club. He came to Celtic’s rescue in its hour of need. I wish John well in his retirement and thank him for his enormous contribution.”

Celtic Chief Executive Peter Lawwell: “I would like to thank John sincerely for all he has given to the Club over such a long period. He has been a tremendous friend and support to me personally but above all he is a man who put the Club ahead of anything else.

“He made such a wonderful contribution to Celtic in the 1990s – ultimately a gesture which saved Celtic – and ever since has been a hugely important part of the Club’s fabric.

“A man always with the best interests of Celtic at heart, across more than two decades, he has provided invaluable support and counsel to the Club. As Celtic supporters, we all owe John an enormous debt of gratitude for everything he has done for the Club, in protecting our continuity, in preserving our history and ultimately in bringing Celtic to where it stands today.

“We all wish John, Kathleen and the whole family all the very best for the future.”


“I just saw the news of John Keane’s retirement as Honorary Chairman of The Celtic Football and Athletic Company. The Club owes – and I owe – John Keane a great debt. He was a major and steadfast partner in the rescue and rebuilding of Celtic,” Fergus said to the official site.

“His commitment never wavered, from long before and during its darkest hour and later, when the hard decisions and hard work had to be done. Unlike some others who promised support then fell away, John was always there.

“He avoided the limelight, never claimed credit, and continued to financially support the growth of the Club without seeking personal profit. His special interest was the development of young players – and that has served Celtic well with years of onfield success.

“Like Brother Walfrid, he came from County Sligo in the ‘Oppressed West’ of Ireland. And he left his mark in a different way. Like every true supporter he understood what Celtic means and its importance to so many people – and was there when it counted.”


“Every bit as crucial to Celtic as the ‘bunnet’ and should be remembered as Such. True Celtic man.Thank you Mr John Keane. HH” The Galway shawl

“A true Celtic man in every sense who answered the call when the forces of darkness sought to destroy us. God Bless you John Keane you will never be forgotten.” Imatim

“I know the family, and know many people who worked for him over the years, still never heard anyone say a bad word about the man. Fair play to him, hope he enjoys his retirement.” Benignus

“A legend who stood in the background, never sought the limelight, quietly secured the future of our club. Wish you all the best John,” Kelly

“The war is over…the Rebels have won,” Imatim

“Was fortunate to meet him, complete gentleman. We remember your contribution. Thank you, HH.” Lmcbhoy

“Thanks for everything John,” Michael Duffy.

“Cheers John hope you and the Family enjoy your Retirement. And a huge thanks from all Celtic fans. HH,” JamSam67

“Agree with the sentiment guys. Well said. John Keane, Brian Dempsey, Fergus, and Dermot Desmond, who some don’t appreciate, – these guys stood up/walked the walk. It’s easy to judge, find fault, and look for motives, but I don’t think any of these guys wanted the recognition (unlike the previous board). I think they genuinely wanted the help the club. Even Dermot Desmond now, who’s worth much much more, than he was then. I think he’s happy to take a back seat and only get involved when he feels things aren’t up to the standard they should be. He can make a lot more money outwith football, if that was his sole intention.” Ronin79

*Celtic Noise is a friendly Celtic forum where all Hoops fans are welcome to join and contribute. Signing up is quick and easy – join HERE.


In 1994 the emotional man in this video risked £1,000,000 of his own money to keep Celtic afloat! The vultures were circling and 107 years of history were at stake. His name is John Keane and he is without question a Celtic legend He retired from @CelticFC today. God bless him – Celtc Nation , 5 July 2019.

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor David Faulds 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

Comments are closed.