“Oh Harry, Harry…Oh Harry Hood”: Part 8: It’s high-scoring Harry at the Double
Reeling from the recent loss of his parents, the second day of 1971 would see Harry Hood play in a match which still sends a shiver through me 50 years later. The traditional Ne-erday fixture between Celtic and Rangers drew over 80,000 supporters to Ibrox on a foggy afternoon which those present will never forget. Jock Stein named the following side, as he sought to maintain his challenge to League-leaders Aberdeen, his captain Billy McNeill again passed over in favour of George Connelly, with Tommy Gemmell handed the armband.
Evan Williams; Jim Craig & Tommy Gemmell; Jim Brogan, George Connelly & Davie Hay;
Jimmy Johnstone, Harry Hood, Willie Wallace Tommy Callaghan & Bobby Lennox.
Substitute; Lou Macari.
In conditions which did football a huge disservice, the only goal action took place in the closing minute of the game. First Jimmy Johnstone followed up on a shot from his pal Bobby Lennox which beat Rangers goalkeeper Gerry Neef all ends up but crashed off the crossbar, the little winger then grabbing one of so many headed goals he would enjoy in these fixtures. He would not have time to savour this one though, as a long, desperate free-kick from Dave Smith was propelled into the packed Celtic penalty area for Colin Stein to scramble past the tracksuit-bottomed Evan Williams. Sadly, the match details would prove later to be pretty irrelevant.
My dad had decided, for his own reasons, that he was not going back to Ibrox, and as I was still considered in the ‘too wee’ category for such games, we were paying his brother a visit at his home in Barmulloch, as we did at New Year. Both men had teenage sons at the game, albeit not together, so when word came through of “trouble at Ibrox,” there was genuine concern for their safety.
Eventually, my cousin would arrive home, saying he had heard there had been “bother” at the other end, like most folk, I guess, assuming violence rather than the tragedy which later unfolded. I can recall watching the scenes on black-and-white television later that night – not sure if it was Scotsport or the news – then in the newspapers, bodies laid out on the Ibrox pitch and the expressions of Jock Stein, Neil Mochan, Bob Rooney and other club officials as they tended to the injured, with the thick fog and lack of colour only adding to the surreal scenario. Irrespective of who was to blame and why, or what colour their scarves were, on Saturday, 2 January 1971, 66 supporters went to a football match and didn’t return to their families, almost half of those teenagers or younger. May they rest in peace.
I made my way with 28,000 others to Celtic Park seven days later as some degree of normality was reintroduced by the playing of the next League fixture, Hibernian the visitors. An eerie silence descended over the ground as the players stood, heads bowed, for a minute’s silence before the kick-off, impeccably observed as if that required to be said.
Jock Stein brought back his Lions, Bobby Murdoch and Billy McNeill, with youngsters George Connelly and Davie Hay making way, the latter moving to the bench. Harry Hood would be the main man as Celts won the match 2-1, setting up Tommy Callaghan for a headed finish 10 minutes before the break before nodding home what would prove to be the winner himself, shortly after the restart. Pat Stanton would tap home a last-minute consolation goal for the visitors to produce a result which did not in any way reflect the domination of Celtic from start to finish.
As an aside, all three goals on the day would be scored by what I would describe as identikit Jock Stein signings for Celtic, proven experienced players in the Scottish game with creative or attacking flair and commanding a cheque in the region of £30/£40k. That would start with Joe McBride of Motherwell in the summer of 1965, his first major capture, then continue with Willie Wallace from Hearts the next year, Tommy Callaghan from Dunfermline Athletic in 1968 and Harry himself the following March.
He would go back to the well, literally, for Dixie Deans, before former Dundee and Aberdeen midfielder Steve Murray arrived at Parkhead. Ronnie Glavin from Partick Thistle would require the Celtic board to dig a lot deeper in 1974, as would Johnny Doyle from Ayr United two years later, however, they would then acquire the veteran Stanton from Hibernian that summer for the cost of Jackie McNamara senior’s contract, and he would repay that with a Double in his only season.
Whilst his ability to secure a goalkeeper of the correct standard for Celtic – only Ally Hunter from Kilmarnock in 1973 really fitting that particular bill, and only for a short time at that – was and is open to debate, there was no doubt that Jock got most of those outfield signings bang on the money.
Stanton and Hibernian would do Celtic a huge favour the following Saturday, 16 January 1971, defeating Aberdeen 2-1 at Easter Road to end both the unbeaten run of the Dons and their European record ‘clean sheet’ tally of 1,157 minutes. On the other side of the Fife peninsula, the Hoops were going goal crazy, beating Dundee 8-1 at Dens Park with Harry opening and closing the scoring for the visitors, Willie Wallace and Jimmy Johnstone also adding doubles, on the day Bertie Auld made his first appearance of the season.
Hood would grab another brace seven days later, scoring either side of the interval, as Celtic’s bid to regain the Scottish Cup commenced with a home tie against Queen of the South, the first time I had watched the Dumfries side in action. They would head south with a cheque and no disgrace, having been on the end of a 5-1 defeat.
The pressure of a tight title race was beginning to tell as February opened with defeats for both contenders. Aberdeen lost 1-0 at East End Park whilst St Johnstone edged a five-goal thriller with Celtic at Muirton, Harry Hood equalising a goal from teenage Perth striker Jim Pearson before the hosts moved into a 3-1 lead. Willie Wallace provided hopes of a comeback with an 81st minute strike, however, it would prove to be too little too late as the Dons maintained their two-point advantage at the summit, Stein’s men with a vital game in hand.
The Pars would travel through to Glasgow the following Saturday on a high after that win, and they would leave with a replay after Joe McBride once again scored against his boyhood club, the equaliser as the sides fought out a 1-1 draw in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup. Harry would be the matchwinner in the Fife replay, scoring the only goal of the game on 20 minutes, following a cross from Bobby Lennox, in front of 23,000 spectators.
As Scotland moved into a new Decimal Age, it was back to league business on Saturday, 17 February 1971, Airdrieonians the visitors to Celtic Park on another pivotal day in the title race. Aberdeen would drop a point in a goalless draw at home to Rangers, whilst the Hoops closed the gap to one point with an emphatic 4-1 victory over the Lanarkshire outfit. Harry made it 3-0 with 20 minutes remaining after a Willie Wallace double had put Celts in the driving seat. Visiting striker Drew Jarvie and home substitute Lou Macari would complete the scoring late on.
Both of the top two would slip up the following Saturday, the Dons held again at Pittodrie, this time 1-1 by St Mirren, whilst Celts could only manage the same result at Tynecastle, despite Harry’s headed opener on the half hour, a goal disputed by Hearts, who claimed that their defenders had stopped after a whistle was blown, presumably by someone in the crowd.
The old ‘6/-’ entry sign on the boundary wall as you approached from Janefield Street was replaced by ‘30p,’ as decimal prices were displayed at Celtic Park for the first time on Saturday, 6 March 1971. Raith Rovers were the visitors in the quarter-final of the Scottish Cup as, for once, Harry was not amongst the scorers in a 7-1 home win, Hood replaced by George Connelly as Bobby Lennox notched his latest hat-trick for the club. Aberdeen’s hopes of a first-ever League and Cup Double would be ended by their 1-0 defeat at Ibrox the same afternoon.
It was then Celtic’s turn to be disappointed in midweek, as a collapse in the last half hour saw Ajax build up a 3-0 lead in the first leg of their European Cup quarter-final in Amsterdam, Harry Hood missing out as Jock Stein unusually went for a cautious defensive formation. Hood did start in the return a fortnight later, played at Hampden as work began on refurbishing the main stand at Celtic Park. Almost 84,000 turned out on a wild night to see Jimmy Johnstone briefly restore hope with a goal on the half hour, however, there would be no further scoring as Celtic’s European aspirations were dashed by a Dutch club for the second successive year.
Progress continued on the domestic front with away wins over bottom-dogs Cowdenbeath then Kilmarnock, Hood with doubles at Central Park in a 5-1 win – where the restored John Hughes came in from the cold to star after withdrawing his recent transfer request – then again in Ayrshire, as the Hoops fought back from a goal down at the interval to win 4-1, Ally Hunter between the sticks for Killie. Harry would then grab a third successive brace as March ended with a 4-0 victory over Falkirk at Parkhead, Celts now three points behind Aberdeen with two vital games in hand, third-place St Johnstone, in turn, trailing a remote nine points behind the Hoops. The two-horse title race would now enter the final furlong in April.
Before that, there would be Scottish Cup business to attend to, Harry Hood, quite remarkably, scoring a fourth consecutive domestic double as Celts twice blew a two-goal lead to share six goals with Airdrieonians in the semi-final at Hampden, on Saturday, 3 April 1971. He would have to be content with just the one goal in the midweek replay, rounding Broomfield keeper Roddie McKenzie for the clincher with seven minutes to play, after Jimmy Johnstone had continued his own excellent form with the opener early in the second half.
Celtic’s opponents in the May final would be Rangers, who had edged past Hibernian after a replay at Hampden two nights earlier, the Hoops win setting up a repeat of the 1969 season’s showpiece finale.
Whilst Celtic had been involved in the clashes with Airdrie, Aberdeen had dropped a surprise point at home to Motherwell. The Bhoys would then follow suit with a 1-1 draw at Parkhead with Dundee United on Saturday, 10 April 1971, as the Dons were winning at Cowdenbeath, only a late equaliser from Willie Wallace preventing even more damage for Celtic’s title hopes.
Stein’s men were now a daunting five points behind Turnbull’s Reds, albeit with three extra games to play, leaving absolutely no margin for error as they faced Motherwell at Celtic Park two nights later, Monday, 12 April 1971. The Hoops boss rang the changes and got the desired outcome, as goals from Willie Wallace, Bobby Lennox and Harry Hood earned a 3-0 victory over the Lanarkshire side. Harry would be replaced late on by Bobby Murdoch, his 30th strike of the campaign having taken him to the top of the Scottish scoring charts.
The scene was now set perfectly for the match of the season, five days later, as Aberdeen hosted Celtic at Pittodrie. The Dons were now three points clear, with Celtic having just three games to play beyond the trip north, a home victory on Saturday, 17 April 1971 thus leaving Aberdeen requiring only to win their final game at Brockville to secure a first title for the Granite City since 1955 and end Stein’s hopes of matching Willie Maley’s six-in-a-row record which had stood since 1910.
On the other hand, a draw or Celtic win would see the advantage remain with the defending champions, albeit they would still require points from their final matches. The full house 36,000 crowd included the 10-year-old Matt Corr, an overnight stay with the supporters’ bus in Aberdeen the stuff of childhood dreams. For just £1, the dads on the Cairn CSC could bring one of their kids to see a virtual title decider. Happy days. We would be on the road by 8am, in those days before motorways and bypasses, stopping for lunch at Forfar before arriving at Pittodrie in good time for kick-off. I will always remember, as we approached the Granite City, one of those dads, Harry Docherty, bursting into a spontaneous version of “The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen,” and the rest joining in. Wonderful times.
Our seats were in the back row of the main stand, looking along the six-yard box at the Merkland Street end, and we would have a perfect view as Harry Hood opened the scoring right in front of us within two minutes, following a corner on the far side.
Aberdeen had won in Glasgow back in December, as they had done the previous May and again in the Scottish Cup final a few weeks later. They were going for a fourth successive victory over Stein’s men, unheard of in those days, and they would not be giving up their tilt at the title without a fight. There was pandemonium all around us seven minutes before the break when the Dons equalised, Springburn-born Alex Willoughby – the former Rangers striker now partnering his cousin Jim Forrest, a Garngad man and scourge of Celtic so often in the early 60s, at Pittodrie – taking advantage of an error from Evan Williams to blast home at the Beach End for 1-1.
Celtic’s title hopes would now hang in the balance over the final 45 minutes of football in the cauldron of Pittodrie. There is a defining moment in every season, and this one came 10 minutes into the second period. Castlemilk teenager Arthur Graham was enjoying his tussle with his hero, Celtic captain Billy McNeill, and history beckoned as he rounded Williams and prepared to give his side a precious lead. With the goal gaping and 15,000 Celtic supporters holding their breath, Cesar made a miraculous recovery to block the ball on the line. Celtic would not look back. Harry would limp off near the end, replaced by Jimmy Quinn, as Stein’s men showed all the experience of those previous big games to hold out for the point required. Now it was advantage Celtic.
As an aside, the match programme that day states that Aberdeen had tried to buy Harry Hood from Clyde in November 1967 but had failed in a bid for his services. I hadn’t appreciated that. Here’s some photographs of the Pittodrie programme for you to enjoy.
The final fatal blow to Aberdeen’s championship hopes occurred the following Saturday. With Celtic’s ‘home’ match against Ayr United postponed due to a waterlogged Hampden pitch, the Dons lost their final League game 1-0 to Falkirk at Brockville. I am trying to ascertain if the goal that day was scored by their experienced centre-forward, a certain Alex Ferguson! This meant that the Hoops required three points from their last three matches, home games with Ayr United and Clyde and away to St Mirren. It was all but finished now.
Those games would all take place in the coming week. On Tuesday, 27 April 1971, Harry Hood returned to Love St, Paisley, the scene of his Celtic debut 12 months earlier, equalising after 20 minutes with his 32nd goal of the season. St Mirren would take the lead again on the hour in a game they had to win to avoid relegation, sending Dunfermline Athletic down instead, however, within 60 seconds Bobby Lennox made it 2-2 with the final goal of the night, as the Buddies took the dreaded drop and Jock Stein’s men moved to within one victory of history.
A groin injury sustained at Paisley would rule Hood out of the rescheduled match with Ayr United, played at Hampden two nights later, Thursday, 29 April 1971. I have to confess I never really understood why this game was moved here, as the 25,000 crowd could easily have been accommodated in the three open sides of Celtic Park, as they would be in the final fixture against Clyde two days later.
History will record that Celtic won six consecutive League titles for the second time in their 83-year lifetime that night, as goals from Bobby Lennox and Willie Wallace either side of the interval gave them the two points required to match Aberdeen’s final tally of 54 points. And the Celtic supporters would no doubt enjoy the moment – including Ayr United’s second-half substitute, a teenage Johnny Doyle – albeit I recall being inside Hampden that night and feeling a slight sense of anti-climax, the match at Aberdeen regarded by pretty much everyone around me as the day it would be won or lost.
However, I have a slightly different take on this. If a catastrophic defeat in the final League game of the season had to be avoided at Motherwell in May 1966 and Dunfermline two years later, days recognised as title-clinchers, then exactly the same scenario existed in May 1971, where a 12-goal defeat at home to Clyde would have seen the flag flying at Pittodrie rather than Parkhead. Improbable? Absolutely, however, mathematically possible, just like the others.
Thus, I believe the historic record-equalling 1970/71 League Championship was clinched on Saturday, 1 May 1971…by the Lisbon Lions making their final appearance together. Now that’s truly ‘fairytale club’ stuff.
Jock Stein’s decision to field the Lions one last time was a PR masterstroke, drawing 36,000 supporters to pay homage for the last time and affording those youngsters like myself to say, “I was there,” 50 years after the event.
The retired Ronnie Simpson, wearing that iconic green keeper’s kit, led Celtic’s greatest-ever team down a makeshift ramp through the old enclosure onto the pitch, ‘Faither’ warming up then passing the gloves to Evan Williams before kick-off as the crowd roared its approval. The game had been postponed from New Year’s Day, fate now decreeing we would witness a final 90 minutes from this magical team as they destroyed a Clyde side featuring a young Dom Sullivan 6-1, Bobby Lennox with a hat-trick, Willie Wallace with a double and the last word going to Stevie Chalmers, just as it had in Lisbon. There was not a dry eye in the house as the Immortals finally waved goodbye to their adoring support.
Seven days later, Jock Stein’s men attempted to secure a third League and Cup Double in five seasons by beating Rangers in the Scottish Cup final at Hampden, at the same time looking to avenge their defeat by the Ibrox side in the League Cup final the previous October.
The Celtic manager selected the following team on Saturday, 8 May 1971.
Evan Williams; Jim Craig & Jim Brogan; George Connelly, Billy McNeill & Davie Hay;
Jimmy Johnstone, Harry Hood, Willie Wallace Tommy Callaghan & Bobby Lennox.
Substitute; Lou Macari.
The first meeting of the clubs since the Ibrox tragedy four months earlier drew more than 120,000 spectators to Hampden. They would see Rangers start well before Celts gained the advantage just before the interval, Harry Hood’s clever reverse pass sending Bobby Lennox in for another cup final goal. With five minutes remaining, that looked like being enough before Derek Johnstone’s header forced a replay, Celts appealing in vain to referee ‘Tiny’ Wharton that the teenage striker had been offside.
So it was then, that four days later the two sides went head to head again, a mere 103,000 this time present on a beautiful May evening in the old stadium. Stein made one change, Harry wearing the number nine shorts with Lou Macari and Willie Wallace swapping places, a cup debut for the Ayrshire teenager which would be made unforgettable as he put Celtic ahead midway through the first half, tapping home from a Bobby Lennox corner. Jimmy Johnstone was in one of his unstoppable moods, and he would force Rangers centre-half Ron McKinnon into a rugby tackle to prevent him from scoring, after an exquisite through ball from Tommy Callaghan. Up stepped Harry in front of the massed ranks of the expectant Celtic support at the King’s Park end of Hampden. It could have been a training exercise as Hood placed the ball on the spot, before coolly and expertly sending Peter McCloy the wrong way to give the Hoops one hand on the cup.
There would be just one blip in the second half, a comedy cut goal we sadly all to often associate with our club as Evan Williams’ parry struck one Celtic defender before Jim Craig sliced the ball into his own net to give the Ibrox side some hope of saving the match. However, just as at Pittodrie a few weeks earlier, the experience and expertise of the Hoops would prevail, and it was once again Billy McNeill who lifted the famous old trophy above his head to the roars of the Celtic faithful, just as he had done in 1965, 1967 and 1969 and would so again many times in the future.
But for all the positive performances we had witnessed over the previous nine months, there was no doubt that the man of the season was Harry Hood. His 33 goals in 49 starts had now included the effective title-clincher at Pittodrie and the Scottish Cup-winner at Hampden, a hat-trick in his European debut and another in the mud of Motherwell, and no fewer than seven doubles, four of those in successive domestic matches in the crucial run-in to glory. Now in possession of the full suite of domestic medals, it would be time for another assault on the European Cup.
Thanks, as always, to the wonderful Celtic Wiki.
Follow Matt on Twitter @Boola_vogue