“Oh Harry, Harry…Oh Harry Hood”: Part 29: Five-year wait for League Cup glory ends with another Dixie hat-trick
From the Athens Riviera, the Celtic party moved on to the Clyde estuary, for that weekend’s League match at Dumbarton. There was a reminder of another era, as sixties Celts John Cushley, Donald Watt and Willie Wallace all performed admirably for the hosts, Wispy pulling a goal back from the spot with 20 minutes remaining after Jimmy Johnstone and Dixie Deans had given the Hoops a 2-0 interval lead. The restored Ally Hunter then produced a crucial save from future Parkhead Bhoy Tom McAdam to prevent an equaliser, before the man Tom would in effect be signed to replace, Kenny Dalglish, began to put his disappointing display in Piraeus behind him with a stunning strike to make it 3-1 in the 82nd minute.
Four nights later, Wednesday, 9 October 1974, Hampden was the venue as Celtic faced Airdrieonians in the League Cup semi-final. The competition had faced increasing criticism over recent years, turning spectators off, with the ‘Snow Final’ of the previous December a real low point. Less than 20,000 bothered to turn up to see this last-four tie involving the country’s top club, another real cause for concern for the organisers.
Those who stayed away would not have too many regrets, a Steve Murray goal on the hour the only real highlight as the Bhoys booked their place in an incredible 11th successive League Cup final. Forty-five or so miles to the east, Hibernian were overcoming Falkirk by the same margin at Tynecastle, to set up a repeat of the 1968/69 showdown between the sides, which Celtic had won 6-2.
Murray was again the matchwinner in that Saturday’s home victory over Arbroath, just 16,000 supporters inside Celtic Park, perhaps reflecting some disappointment and disillusionment at the level of performances witnessed this season so far. As always, Jock Stein would take action to address the problem, the Celtic manager deciding to bring his players in for double-training sessions over the course of the following week. It would have a dramatic effect.
Hibernian had been level with Celtic, just a single point behind League leaders Rangers, when they arrived in Glasgow for a vital clash on Saturday, 19 October 1974, a dress rehearsal for the League Cup final seven days later. The fact that fans will turn up when they fancy the product on offer was once again demonstrated as almost 40,000 packed into Celtic Park for Part 1 of The Battle of the Greens, as the media loved to describe it back then. I remember the day so well, as out of nowhere, my Celtic were back, the Hoops rolling back the years with a vintage display of attacking football. Jock Stein had selected the following team.
Ally Hunter; Danny McGrain & Jim Brogan; Steve Murray, Billy McNeill & Pat McCluskey;
Jimmy Johnstone, Kenny Dalglish, Dixie Deans, Harry Hood & Paul Wilson.
Substitutes; Roddie MacDonald & Bobby Lennox.
For the third successive match, Steve Murray opened the scoring, this time from the penalty spot in 15 minutes, after Hibernian keeper Jim McArthur had hauled Dixie Deans down in the box. Deans and Jimmy Johnstone then began to run riot, Jinky scoring a glorious second five minutes later, nutmegging Derek Spalding before poking a low shot just inside McArthur’s post for 2-0. Within a further five minutes, the game was over, this time Dixie somehow squeezing the ball in at the far post from an acute angle, with Jinky following up to make sure.
The only negative in a scintillating first half was the accidental clash of heads between Jim Brogan and Billy McNeill which saw the former stretchered off, Roddie Macdonald introduced to partner the dazed Cesar in central defence as Pat McCluskey moved to full-back. With the huge crowd lapping it up, the Celts would go for the jugular after the interval, Deans making it 4-0 within 90 seconds as he hammered the ball past McArthur before rounding things off with a header 15 minutes from time, completing his second hat-trick against Hibernian. It had been a wonderful display, which few if any had seen coming, making it all the more special. Football has this incredible knack of changing your mood over the course of an afternoon.
It also has a rare habit of throwing up some incredible co-incidences, and there would be a classic case in hand, as Jock Stein named the same 13 men as the previous week in front of a disappointing crowd of under 54,000 at a damp Hampden for the Scottish League Cup final.
Folk remember this match mainly for two reasons, Dixie’s hat-trick and his third goal, perhaps three in fairness, as most recall that Joe Harper also scored a treble whilst losing the game.
I have an additional observation, the sheer quality of the six Celtic goals, which brought the League Cup home for the first time since Bertie Auld’s early strike had beaten St Johnstone back in October 1969. This would be a rare masterclass of attacking play from Stein’s men.
The Hoops started where they had left off at Celtic Park seven days earlier, taking the lead within six minutes with a superb team goal. Pat McCluskey’s raking pass down the left picked out Dixie Deans with a marker tight on him, the striker producing a sublime flick which Kenny Dalglish took in his stride to drive past another Hibernian defender towards the byeline. The King then showed great composure to look up before sliding the ball across goal for Jimmy Johnstone to net his second League Cup final goal, almost a decade to the day he had scored his first in the 2-1 defeat by Rangers which had kicked off the present run of 11 appearances.
I felt that Pat McCluskey was an underrated player, often subjected to jibes about his weight which bordered on offensive for a man who wore the sacred Hoops in two European Cup semi-finals. Pat had started the move for the first goal, and he would be even more directly involved for Celtic’s second, 10 minutes before the break, taking a pass from Harry Hood before pitching the most perfect 40-yard ball into the path of Dixie Deans at the edge of the Hibernian box. Deans did not need to break stride as he slipped his shot past Jim McArthur.
There was a brief attempt to spoil the Celtic party just before the interval, a spot of head tennis following a Hibernian corner allowing Joe Harper to hook a shot over Ally Hunter from point-blank range to see the Hoops lead reduced to 2-1, however, within two minutes of the restart, Jock Stein’s men would produce another wonderful team goal. Danny McGrain fed Jimmy Johnstone on the right, the little winger totally wrong-footing Hibs sweeper John Blackley before slipping a lovely pass into the path of Paul Wilson, whose unerring finish across McArthur found the inside of the far post for 3-1. Fabulous stuff.
On the hour, the untidiest goal of the afternoon arrived, Pat Stanton sending Alex Edwards down the right and the playmaker’s cross deflecting off the outstretched boot of Billy McNeill to beat Ally Hunter with Joe Harper in close attendance. This was given as an own goal at the time, I’m fairly certain, and looking at footage now, it still appears to me that Harper did not get a touch, however, history has since recorded this as the striker’s second of the day. 3-2.
Within five minutes, that wouldn’t matter anyway, as Deans added a second Hampden hat-trick against Hibernian to his CV, a third in total after his exploits the previous Saturday. The first was another wonderful piece of football from a Celtic side now in full flow. Harry Hood did brilliantly to avoid a couple of challenges on the left before finding midfield partner Steve Murray on the opposite flank. Murray’s clipped pass into the feet of Dixie Deans left the striker with much to do, however, his superb swivel and second touch left his defender for dead and Deans one-on-one with McArthur. There would be only one outcome as he fired his shot through the keeper’s legs to find the far corner and restore the Hoops’ two-goal lead.
The next goal was either football genius or pantomime, depending on your mood or outlook. Harry Hood’s deep corner from the left cleared everyone except the lurking Jimmy Johnstone, wide of the far post. His instinctive volley was heading back towards Harry or Govanhill, whichever it struck first, before Deans launched himself McGrory-esque to connect and bullet a header past a bewildered McArthur in the Hibs goal. Johnstone’s reaction said it all, as he looked to the heavens and laughed. It was an “I was there” moment for all involved.
Hard to believe, perhaps, but there was still another sublime team goal to grace the final. With 15 minutes remaining, Steve Murray began and ended the move which put Celts out of sight at 6-2, a classic example of pass and move. His interchange with Kenny Dalglish via a slick one-two with Paul Wilson found the midfielder running at the left angle of the penalty area. As McArthur approached, Murray slipped a low left-foot shot back across the keeper into the bottom corner of the net for his fourth goal in as many games. Another wonderful strike, stunning in its build and execution, all of Celtic’s goalscorers from the previous week’s win at Parkhead having now repeated the dose at Hampden against the same opposition.
It almost felt like bad manners that the ninth and final goal of the afternoon fell to Hibernian. There were only seven minutes between Celtic and a first success in this competition of the decade when Iain Munro beat Danny McGrain to reach the left byeline. His low cross should have been food and drink to Ally Hunter, however, once again there was disappointment as the keeper spilled the ball onto the arm, shoulder or back of Harper and over the line for 6-3.
That would be a minor irritation on the day, as we watched Billy McNeill lift the League Cup high above his head to the delight of the Celtic support, a sixth such success for Cesar and a long-awaited first for Harry, six of his colleagues and Yours Truly. For the time being at least, all four trophies available for senior football teams in Scotland would sit proudly side-by-side in the Parkhead trophy room.
October’s purple patch for Dixie Deans and Jimmy Johnstone was recognised and rewarded with the inclusion of both Celts for Scotland’s friendly with East Germany at Hampden four days later, Dixie receiving his international debut at the age of 28 beside Parkhead colleagues Jinky and Kenny, whilst a young Graeme Souness, now receiving expert tutelage from Bobby Murdoch at Middlesbrough, wore his country’s colours for the first time in midfield. Dalglish would score Scotland’s third with 15 minutes to play, in a comfortable 3-0 victory on the night.
November opened with a couple of narrow and fortunate wins for Celtic as the race for 10-in-a-row resumed in earnest. Aberdeen winger Ian Purdie would see two shots come back off the woodwork, the second from a late penalty, as a Paul Wilson strike late in the first half saw Celts claim two points at home against the Dons on the opening Saturday. And it took a last-minute winner from Kenny Dalglish at Firhill in midweek to take Celts level with Rangers at the top of the table, both clubs now sharing an identical goal difference as well as points, the Ibrox club’s win at Parkhead in September now offset by draws at Somerset and Tynecastle.
Rangers would edge back in front seven days later, as Celts were held to a goalless draw at Tannadice, Dundee United keeper Hamish McAlpine crowning a fine personal performance by saving a Steve Murray penalty on the hour. The following week saw a number of positives at Parkhead, George Connelly restarting training after a two-month absence whilst Jock Stein broke the club’s transfer record to bring in Ronnie Glavin from Partick Thistle, the fee believed to be in the order of £80,000.
Glavin made his debut in the home game against Airdrieonians 24 hours later, an afternoon which saw Jimmy Johnstone return from the hip injury suffered against Aberdeen at the start of the month to take a seat on the bench. He would be introduced for Kenny Dalglish for the closing 25 minutes, just moments after a long-range shot from Glavin had allowed the new Celt to celebrate a debut goal, the green-clad Bhoys’ third of the day. Earlier, Ronnie had set Steve Murray up for the opener before Billy McNeill headed what would prove to be his final goal of a fabulous career to give Celtic a 2-0 interval lead. With the Diamonds down and out, further strikes from Murray, Paul Wilson and a Bobby Lennox spot kick would cap an excellent afternoon’s work at 6-0.
The next midweek saw Dixie Deans and Jimmy Johnstone start Scotland’s crucial European Championship qualifier with Spain at Hampden, with Kenny Dalglish on the bench. The Scots would see an early Billy Bremner strike cancelled out by a Quini double in front of 94,000. Deans would make way for clubmate Dalglish after the Spaniard’s second goal on the hour, having just played for his country for the second and final time. The full-time whistle would also bring the international career of the one and only Jimmy Johnstone to an end after a decade which saw him amass just 23 Scotland caps.
Celtic’s roller-coaster season continued three days later with a dropped point at Tynecastle, albeit it could be argued later it was a point gained after news came through of Rangers defeat by Hibernian at Ibrox. The key moment of the match occurred seven minutes before the break, with Celts leading by an early Paul Wilson goal. Bobby Lennox was brought crashing to the ground and dusted himself down to take the resultant penalty. Hearts veteran keeper Jim Cruickshank had saved a Tommy Gemmell spot kick to save a point for his team on my first visit there, the title-clincher four years earlier, and now he would deny another Lion by diving to his left to parry then smother Lennox’s shot. Within three minutes, Tynecastle striker Drew Busby would beat Cruickshank’s opposite number Ally Hunter to end the scoring at 1-1.
The month closed with another tricky away fixture, this time against Morton at Cappielow, a Steve Murray goal on the stroke of half-time following good work from the newlywed Kenny Dalglish the only counter as Celtic and Rangers continued to vie for supremacy at the top of the table, the Ibrox club now ahead only on the basis of goals scored.
Both sides would record 2-1 victories seven days later, Rangers at Pittodrie and Celts at home to Dunfermline Athletic. Harry Hood had not featured since the arrival of Ronnie Glavin the previous month, however, he would return to the bench before having the final say of the afternoon. With Jimmy Johnstone and Dixie Deans still recovering from injury, Jock Stein could have done without losing Pat McCluskey to a chest knock within the first 15 minutes, the powerful defender’s final contribution being to inadvertently set up an opening goal for the Pars.
With youngster Frank Welsh now in central defence, transfer-listed Jimmy Bone, in the team due to the absence of Deans, immediately equalised with his one and goal for Celtic. Billy McNeill and Harry Hood had managed a few between them, and they would combine in the dying seconds to secure a precious point for the Hoops. Kenny Dalglish had created the goal for Bone, and he would now claim a second assist, his curling corner-kick met by the head of Cesar, who knocked it into the danger area, Harry spinning to slam the ball past Dunfermline keeper Geir Karlsen and win the match for Celtic.
I mentioned earlier about football throwing up co-incidences and there was yet another example of that in midweek, Wednesday, 11 December 1974, as Benfica arrived at Celtic Park for a charity match in aid of Unicef. The former European champion clubs had clashed once before, in the second round of the European Cup in November 1969. On that occasion, both sides had won their respective home legs by 3-0, with Billy McNeill twice guessing correctly in the coin toss lottery which sent Celts through to a quarter-final match with Fiorentina, and, eventually, to a second European Cup final in May 1970.
Sadly, the great Eusebio would miss out on a second appearance at Celtic Park through injury. Portuguese keeper Jose Henrique had lost three goals at Parkhead that night and he would do so again, whilst McNeill would again decide the issue, albeit not in the way he would have liked. Benfica had started on the front foot to open up a two-goal lead within 10 minutes, thanks to striker Vitor Moia’s double, before Celtic, who included George Connelly beside McNeill for the first time since his walkout in September, fought back superbly. Paul Wilson won a penalty from which Pat McCluskey beat Henrique, then the returning Connelly picked out Jimmy Johnstone expertly for the winger to level things at 2-2.
When Ronnie Glavin and Harry Hood weaved magic through the Benfica defence to allow the former Partick Thistle midfielder to edge the Hoops in front, it looked like that fightback had produced the desired outcome, but within minutes, we were back at the 3-3 aggregate score from 1969, thanks to a goal from legendary Portuguese striker Nene. Nene is Benfica’s Bobby Lennox, a one-club man scoring over 200 goals for a star-studded club over three decades, amassing 11 League titles together with a host of personal and team honours. Celts would go close to winning the match with 10 minutes remaining, Hood crashing a shot off the crossbar with Henrique beaten, before a penalty shootout was required to decide the outcome.
Celts would go first and would see the first four kicks all successfully converted, Pat McCluskey, for the second time on the night, followed by Paul Wilson, Tom Callaghan and Jimmy Johnstone. Benfica would do likewise, to create a sudden-death situation. Despite the presence of dead-ball experts George Connelly, Ronnie Glavin, Harry Hood and Kenny Dalglish on the pitch, perhaps it was fate who chose Billy McNeill to take the final kick, the Celtic skipper playing his part as he stroked the ball past the post, allowing Toni to seal the victory. The real winners would be the children’s charity though, a 30,000 attendance on the night producing a £20,000 windfall.
Three days later, we witnessed perhaps the last great Celtic performance of the Jock Stein era as the Bhoys travelled to Dens Park on the winter’s afternoon of Saturday, 14 December 1974. Those of us privileged to be there that day will never forget it, that number including Rod Stewart, sitting nearby in the main stand, the first time I can recall him being at a Celtic match. His love for the Scottish national team had presumably triggered a friendship with Jimmy Johnstone and Kenny Dalglish, and if that were the case then he chose his fixture well. The duo were simply sublime that day, although the game got off to a difficult beginning as Harry Hood laid claim as the earliest-ever Celtic substitution when he replaced the injured Ronnie Glavin in the first minute.
Within five minutes, Jinky had taken advantage of a Thomson Allan error to give the Bhoys the lead, the keeper making another faux pas on the half-hour to let Johnstone in for his second. Between those strikes, King Kenny had served notice of what was to follow from him, finishing off a great team move to beat the Dundee keeper for 2-0. The Scotland star then turned provider, robbing former Parkhead target Iain Phillip to set up Paul Wilson for a lethal strike which saw the Hoops head down the tunnel at the interval with a four-goal cushion. The highlight of the day arrived in front of us in, appropriately enough, the 67th minute, Dalglish beating Dundee defender George Stewart with a sublime dummy before clipping the ball over Allan for the most wonderful goal. As the old Dens Park stand shook to the sound of a delirious Hoops support, King Kenny then delivered the coup de grace, taking Steve Murray’s pass to waltz around the shellshocked Dundee keeper to make it 6-0, sending the Bhoys three goals clear of Rangers at the top of the table.
A few weeks earlier, Scottish pop band Pilot had created a huge chart hit with their single “Magic,” the song quickly adapted and adopted by the Hoops support, declaring our belief that the mythical 10-in-a-row was on its way. That performance sent hopes of The Ten through the roof, sending out a chilling message to the challengers that Jock Stein’s champions were now back in the groove.
I have written previously that I believe this is the day that Rod Stewart fell in love with Celtic.
We had been there for a while before him, and days like this were part of the reason why.
Thanks, as always, to the wonderful Celtic Wiki.
Follow Matt on Twitter @Boola_vogue