“Oh Harry, Harry…Oh Harry Hood”: Part 31: It’s three cups for Celtic and a glorious finale for Cesar
Following the Scottish Cup semi-final victory over Dundee, the remainder of April 1975 saw that inconsistency of performance which had plagued Celtic all season continue to affect the final League fixtures. It began with a 1-1 home draw with Morton, which saw Kenny Dalglish captain the team for the first time, Danny McGrain score an own goal to level things after an early Paul Wilson strike and Brian McLaughlin come off the bench for his first appearance of the season, before we had the bizarre sight of George Connelly simply giving up on a chase with a Morton forward late on, an indication that all was clearly not well with the player.
That would be confirmed the following Saturday by his non-appearance at East End Park for Celtic’s 3-1 victory over Dunfermline Athletic, after his latest walkout. Winger-cum-striker Andy Lynch would be deployed for the first time in the left-back role which he would later make his own, whilst Paul Wilson and Bobby Lennox shared the goals and the honours up front.
As Connelly’s once-brightly shining star appeared to be on the wane, we had a first glimpse of another future Hoops legend as Dundee rolled back into Glasgow on League business on Saturday, 19 April 1975. Jock Stein named an unchanged starting line-up from Dunfermline but gave youngsters Andy Ritchie and Tommy Burns a seat on the bench, perhaps with a view to next season, whilst Harry Hood and Tom Callaghan joined Jimmy Johnstone, Dixie Deans, Ally Hunter and Jim Brogan in the vastly experienced reserve team which drew 1-1 at Dens Park, Hood the scorer.
Back at Celtic Park, Burns would come on for Paul Wilson to receive his Celtic debut on 65 minutes, just after makeshift striker Ronnie Glavin had headed the Hoops level at 1-1. The performance of the two goalkeepers would determine the destination of the points, Thomson Allan foiling Celts time and time again before Peter Latchford was caught stranded off his line by Wilson Hoggan in the dying moments, the ball sailing over the Englishman’s head from fully 35 yards to consign Celtic to a defeat which allowed Hibernian to leapfrog them into second place, as this special League season went from bad to worse.
That third-place finish was confirmed as Celtic went down to a second consecutive 2-1 loss in the final match of the campaign, at Muirton Park, Perth on Saturday 26 April 1975. Hosts St Johnstone were amongst a bunch of clubs scrambling for the last available places in the new Top Ten Premier Division due to commence in August, and they urgently required the two points from the clash with Celtic which would seal that for them.
For Jock Stein’s part, he had a Scottish Cup final the following Saturday to consider, with selection dilemmas throughout the team. He had an added problem with Paul Wilson sadly unavailable due to family illness. Stein’s choice was to recall the experience of Johnstone, Hood, Deans and Callaghan from the reserves but exclude Hunter and Brogan, as he went with the following 13 men.
Peter Latchford; Danny McGrain & Andy Lynch; Steve Murray, Billy McNeill & Roddie MacDonald;
Jimmy Johnstone, Ronnie Glavin, Dixie Deans, Tom Callaghan & Kenny Dalglish.
Substitutes; Harry Hood & Bobby Lennox.
Saints striker Jim O’Rourke had been a thorn in Celtic’s side as a Hibernian player and he would again play that role today, winning his team a penalty within three minutes as Roddie MacDonald blocked his run into the box. There was a reprieve for Celts as Duncan Lambie shot wide.
Ronnie Glavin was enjoying a decent spell of form having struggled badly earlier in the year and he provided Celtic’s biggest threat in the first half, crashing a shot off the crossbar before giving the Hoops the lead on the half-hour after a neat interchange with Dixie Deans. The hosts then enjoyed the benefit of a controversial decision three minutes from the interval, which changed the tide of the match, O’Rourke breaking from an offside position to beat Peter Latchford for 1-1.
There was a significant moment on the hour, as both Johnstone and Deans were withdrawn by Stein, both having struggled on an afternoon where cup final places were at stake. For Jinky, it would have even sadder implications, the man voted Celtic’s greatest-ever player in 2002 would never start in his beloved Hoops again. Substitutes Harry Hood and Bobby Lennox would fare better, only Perth keeper Derek Robertson preventing further goals for the visitors, however, as against Dundee, it would be a problem at the other end which would seal the fate of the points.
Just seven minutes after the Celtic changes, that man O’Rourke broke clear after Billy McNeill and Danny McGrain had got in each other’s way, Peter Latchford bringing him down to concede a second penalty. Saints would now change their taker and receive the desired outcome, Gordon Smith sending Latchford one way and the ball the other to end Celtic’s poorest League campaign in a decade on another low note. St Johnstone and Motherwell would claim the final two places in the Top Ten for 1975/76, whilst Scottish Cup final opponents Airdrieonians’ last-day victory at Ibrox, which saw them complete a rare League double over champions Rangers, saw them just miss out in 11th place.
The build-up to Celtic’s seventh successive Scottish Cup final saw several off-field scenarios playing out. A number of the senior players were clearly still in contention for a place in the Hampden line-up, Harry Hood, Dixie Deans and Tom Callaghan again on reserve duty in midweek whilst Jimmy Johnstone was battling against an injury picked up at Perth. The saddest news involved Paul Wilson suffering the tragic loss of his mother, with the funeral taking place that week. He would then ask Jock Stein to consider him available for selection if required, such bravery bearing testament to the man he was, God rest him.
As the day of the match arrived, Saturday, 3 May 1975, the most momentous news of all was the decision of Billy McNeill to announce his retirement, after a wonderful 17-year career in the Hoops, commencing effectively after the game. I have mentioned previously how Cesar, like Jock and the League flag flying high above the Jungle every summer, were constants in my Celtic life. Now two of those would be gone. Things would never quite be the same again.
When Jock Stein made his selection, it would be good news for Harry Hood, Bobby Lennox, Pat McCluskey and the grieving Paul Wilson, all included in the starting line-up, whilst there would be disappointment for Jimmy Johnstone and Dixie Deans, the two men who had lit up Hampden in the League Cup final victory over Hibernian just six months earlier. Tom Callaghan and the young apprentice Roddie MacDonald would have the possibility of taking part at some stage from the bench, as the Celtic manager listed the following team.
Peter Latchford; Danny McGrain & Andy Lynch; Steve Murray, Billy McNeill & Pat McCluskey;
Harry Hood, Ronnie Glavin, Kenny Dalglish, Bobby Lennox & Paul Wilson.
Substitutes; Tom Callaghan & Roddie MacDonald.
God blessed us with perfect Scottish Cup final weather, the crowd of 75,000 no doubt swollen by the prospect of saying goodbye to a Celtic icon, hopefully adding a seventh winner’s medal in this particular competition, perhaps even another goal to add to his strikes in 1965, 1969 and 1972, a wonderful record for anyone far less a defender.
The goalscoring hero on this day though would be the grief-stricken Paul Wilson, with a double. Paul had scored in both finals in which the Hoops had featured this season, the Drybrough Cup shootout win over Rangers in August then the 6-3 destruction of Hibernian in the League Cup finale two months later. He would soon have the distinction of making it three when he headed past Dave McWilliams in the 15th minute, after a delightful combination between Danny McGrain and Kenny Dalglish down the right allowed the King to pick him out with a perfect cross.
With half-time imminent, the game exploded into life, Airdrieonians young winger Kevin McCann writing his own name into the history books as he lashed a shot high past Peter Latchford to square the match, after some heroic defending by the Celtic defence had blocked two previous efforts. Within seconds, the Hoops were ahead again, Bobby Lennox curling his corner-kick from the left into the danger zone, where Wilson timed his run to perfection to connect with the ball a split-second before the Airdrieonians keeper, sending Celts in 2-1 up at the interval.
Lennox would also be involved in the third and clinching goal, eight minutes into the second half. A quick throw-in from Dalglish sent the veteran Lion scampering down the left flank with a posse of Diamond defenders on his tail, a sudden burst of acceleration then taking him clear into the box before a desperate lunge sent him sprawling. As referee Ian Foote pointed to the spot, all eyes turned to Paul Wilson, now on a cup final hat-trick. But the striker was happy to leave it to the nominated penalty-taker, and up stepped Pat McCluskey to stroke the ball into the net and ensure that Cesar’s Last Stand would end the way of so many others since 1965, with green-and-white ribbons bedecking a major trophy.
There was many an irritant eye being scratched as, for the last time, the great man led his cup-winners up and down the Hampden pitch he had graced with club and country for the best part of two decades, scarf outstretched. Celtic to the core. And then it was that familiar climb up the steps, a brief handshake then the silverware is held aloft for his adoring support to raise the metaphorical roof. This is how it felt to be Celtic under Jock Stein and Billy McNeill.
Life after Cesar began with another Hampden cup final, just seven days later, this time it was the conclusion of the recently resurrected Glasgow Cup against Rangers. The absence of the Celtic legend wasn’t the only obvious difference from the previous week, the match played in a constant downpour as opposed to glorious sunshine, however both teams served up a fast, entertaining first-half, despite the atrocious conditions.
As expected, Roddie MacDonald came in for Billy McNeill, whilst Jock Stein’s other enforced change was to recall Jim Brogan for Ronnie Glavin – the midfielder cup-tied with Partick Thistle just weeks before his transfer and thus ineligible – following a seven-week absence. The award of the captain’s armband to the long-serving defender was a sure sign that all concerned were aware Jim would be playing his last game for Celtic. Jimmy Johnstone came in for his farewell appearance on the bench, as a fabulous era truly ended with the following Celtic line-up.
Peter Latchford; Danny McGrain & Andy Lynch; Pat McCluskey, Roddie MacDonald & Jim Brogan;
Harry Hood, Steve Murray, Kenny Dalglish, Bobby Lennox & Paul Wilson.
Substitutes; Tom Callaghan & Jimmy Johnstone.
With the 70,000 spectators still shuffling into position, Celts took the lead, Rangers full-back Sandy Jardine celebrating his Player of the Year award by passing the ball back beyond his own goalkeeper, Stewart Kennedy, the ever-alert Paul Wilson running in to gleefully knock the ball into the empty net. By doing so, he created a record which will surely never be beaten, Paul scoring in his fourth Hampden cup final that season.
By the seventh minute, it was 1-1, Colin Stein the last link in the head tennis chain as he beat Peter Latchford from Tommy McLean’s corner kick, however the best goal of the game arrived 10 minutes later. Kenny Dalglish advanced to the edge of the Rangers box before slipping a pass to Paul Wilson on his right, the talented Celt leaving Colin Jackson sprawling on the sodden turf with a shake of his hips, before rounding Kennedy and slamming the ball between John Greig and Tom Forsyth into the Hampden net for a quite stunning goal. A strike fit to grace any occasion, completing Wilson’s second cup final double in seven days and taking his tally at the national stadium to six in four games in this, the best season of his career.
The fourth goal by comparison was a scrambled effort, partly down to the conditions, Tommy McLean’s shot skidding off Pat McCluskey to wrongfoot Latchford just before the break. The first half would prove a tough act to follow, the second period memorable perhaps for the wrong reasons. Jim Brogan’s Celtic career had ended on the saddest of notes with the skipper-for-the-day being stretchered off, his replacement Tom Callaghan later making way for Jimmy Johnstone, as the genius from Viewpark brought the curtain down on his own magical spell at Parkhead.
With the teams still level at 2-2 after 90 minutes, somewhat bizarrely, there would be no extra-time or penalties to decide the outcome, the powers-that-be no doubt aware of the potential for another huge payday early in the new season. If this all sounds uncannily like the scenario at the 1909 Scottish Cup final between the clubs at the same venue, then thankfully, we did not witness the ensuing riots and burning of goalposts. It was probably too wet to be honest. And that replay never did take place.
As a final footnote to the bittersweet campaign of 1974/75, the wonderful Celtic Wiki throws up a piece of trivia which I had never been made aware of and which may be of interest.
Four nights after the Glasgow Cup final, on Wednesday, 14 May 1975, Celtic sent a team comprising free transfers, senior players and a trialist to face East Kilbride Thistle in a benefit match for one of the Lanarkshire club’s players, Dougie Thomson. The Hoops forward line makes interesting reading, as follows.
Andy Ritchie, Harry Hood, Mark McGhee, Dixie Deans & Bobby Lennox.
After Bobby Lennox had opened the scoring, Celtic’s 17-year-old trialist Mark McGhee added a second, the Hoops going on to win 6-2. Sadly, McGhee would not be offered a professional contract at Celtic, moving to Morton during the close-season. Following spells in Greenock then Newcastle United, he would come back to haunt Celtic many times in the colours of Aberdeen, before moving to SV Hamburg after scoring the winning goal in the Scottish Cup final against the Bhoys in 1984. He would later sign for Celtic and be a key member of the wonderful Centenary double-winning team under Billy McNeill. One that got away, perhaps.
It’s a funny old world sometimes is football
Thanks, as always, to the wonderful Celtic Wiki.
Follow Matt on Twitter @Boola_vogue