“Oh Harry, Harry…Oh Harry Hood”: Part 24: No League Cup blues as Celts go goal crazy in the quest for the Double
The Hampden hangover from the League Cup final defeat by Dundee was clearly in evidence as only 11,000 hardy souls turned up for the first of a Parkhead double-header either side of Christmas, which would conclude a mixed calendar year of 1973.
Those who didn’t attend would be the losers, as Celts chalked up scores more associated with Wimbledon in south-west London than the east end of Glasgow, the Hoops hammering both Falkirk then Dunfermline Athletic by the same margin, 6-0 6-0.
My dad recorded the Golden Goal time for the club competition at that time, sat next to his CSA colleague Jim Divers who did the Hospital Broadcast at the back of the stand. From time to time, I would head over early with him to the stand, rather than travel with the supporters’ bus to our normal Celtic End spot.
As a 12-year-old boy, it was exciting to park in the old school where the players left their cars then met up with their families afterwards. VIP stuff. Dad had a pass to get in there, albeit that didn’t stop ‘George the Janny’ from peering in our car window suspiciously as we approached every week. It became part of our routine, keeping a straight face before bursting into laughter as he finally and reluctantly let us through. These two matches were cases in point and remain firm and fond memories almost five decades on.
For the game against Falkirk on Saturday, 22 December 1973, Jock Stein recalled Dixie Deans and Bobby Lennox, with Paul Wilson and Tom Callaghan dropping to the bench, whilst Hampden substitutes Jimmy Johnstone and George Connelly travelled to Brockville with the reserves. The visitors were struggling at the foot of the table after a dreadful run of results and they would feel the full power of Celtic’s wrath on a horrible, wet afternoon. Their game plan did work for 35 minutes, in fairness, before the roof caved in, Kenny Dalglish heading the League leaders in front following a wonderful exchange with Danny McGrain, comeback man Lennox then adding a second after Harry Hood had created the opportunity.
The teams turned around at 2-0 before Dixie Deans, making his first start since scoring a post-war record six goals against Partick Thistle in October, decided to put his back injury problems behind him, literally, by joining the goal trail again. Cometh the hour, cometh the prolific Celtic striker, Deans burying two shots behind Ally Donaldson within eight minutes before saving his best for the final 10 minutes. In memory’s view, I can still see him diving McGrory-esque to meet Lennox’s cross for 5-0, before repeating the feat from Dalglish’s assist in the dying moments to make it a personal tally of 10 goals in two games.
Dixie would make that 12 in three matches seven days later, denied a hat-trick by a linesman’s flag against Dunfermline Athletic. His double arrived in a seven-minute spell either side of a Kenny Dalglish strike on the half-hour, all three headed goals flying past Pars keeper Geir Karlsen, who had faced the Hoops the previous season with Rosenborg before arriving in Fife via a trial period at Parkhead.
With Celts enjoying a 3-0 interval lead, there was more perfect symmetry in the second half, this time Dalglish’s second goal splitting a pair of superb Harry Hood efforts. Celtic’s sixth and final goal was a devastating piece of play involving 17-year-old substitute Andy Ritchie, who had replaced Billy McNeill with 20 minutes remaining to make his senior debut. He had it all, and there were huge hopes for his future at Celtic Park, as the calendar year 1973 ended on a high, having been a real mixed bag of two painful cup final defeats and the securing of an unprecedented eighth consecutive League title at Easter Road.
Tuesday, 1 January 1974 saw the now traditional bi-annual trek to Shawfield to first-foot east end neighbours Clyde, for once Dixie Deans not on the scoresheet as goals from Bobby Lennox and Kenny Dalglish without reply allowed Harry Hood to enjoy a return to his first senior ground.
Five days later, it was the turn of Rangers to cross the city, the Ibrox club looking to avoid a third successive defeat at the hands of Celtic, whilst seeking the win which would be required to keep any remote hope of stopping the march of Stein’s machine to nine-in-a-row.
The Celtic boss named the following line-up as he sought to pull nine points clear of Rangers, the players wearing black armbands as a gesture of respect for former captain and manager, Jimmy McStay, who had sadly passed away on Hogmanay.
Ally Hunter; Danny McGrain & Jim Brogan; Pat McCluskey, Billy McNeill & Davie Hay;
Harry Hood, Steve Murray, Dixie Deans, Kenny Dalglish & Bobby Lennox.
Substitutes; Jimmy Johnstone & George Connelly.
The talk in the media beforehand had all been about the monopoly Celtic currently enjoyed in the League and the remote prospect of that ending anytime soon, such dominance being blamed as the major factor in dwindling attendances, which would see the introduction of a new 10-team Premier League from summer 1975.
The 90 minutes which followed would do nothing to dispel that argument, despite the misleading 1-0 scoreline in favour of Celtic. Jock Stein’s men would once again enjoy the majority of possession, skilled players on view and clear goalscoring chances.
The goal which did count once again came from the boot of derby specialist Bobby Lennox, however, it owed much to Harry Hood in terms of creation. Midway through the first half, he picked up the ball 40 yards from his own goal before slipping it to Steve Murray on his right. The former Dundee and Aberdeen midfielder then showed great courage to release the ball up the touchline to Kenny Dalglish, a split second before he was ‘rollerballed’ by Tom Forsyth in front of the dugouts. The King would continue the move by passing the ball around the Rangers defence to pick out Hood, who had sprinted another 40 yards to the edge of the Rangers box. As Peter McCloy approached to narrow the angle, Harry clipped the ball perfectly to his left where Bobby Lennox was sprinting clear of his marker. There was nothing faster on two legs than the Buzz Bomb in full flight, all those sessions on Saltcoats beach giving him pace others could only dream about.
Often that would cost he and Celtic goals, linesmen raising flags assuming he must have started ahead of the defender he had just outstripped, and yet again there would be calls for offside as he slid in to win the match, however, the goal would stand as Celtic took a massive step towards nine-in-a-row.
Having missed out on the 3-0 home victory over St Johnstone on Saturday, 19 January 1974 with his third injury of the season, this time a foot problem, Dixie Deans recommenced his reign of terror on opposition defences as Sunday football received an introduction eight days later.
Almost 30,000 spectators rolled up to Celtic Park for the Scottish Cup third-round tie with Clydebank, a combination of the novelty and the drought of football during a weather-ravaged month perhaps the main factors in such a higher-than-average attendance. Deans would mark the occasion and his return with a first-half hat-trick, as Celts scored six goals at home for the third time in six weeks.
The Hoops striker was actually unlucky not to better the double treble he had scored personally against Partick Thistle two months earlier, being denied by the woodwork no fewer than four times, missing another chance by inches then being blinded by the sun late on as he shaped to head home in an incredible performance. Bobby Lennox added a brace either side of the break before substitute Vic Davidson made it 6-0 with 25 minutes still remaining. As Deans tried and failed to increase his tally, the only remaining goal arrived at the other end in stoppage time, Bankies defender Jim Fallon scoring against his boyhood heroes to a storm of booing, after referee Kyle had awarded a ludicrous penalty for a shot driven against the arm of Jim Brogan at point-blank range.
There was another contentious and this time costly refereeing error as February opened with a League visit to Fir Park. Celts had been coasting at 2-0 an hour into the game thanks to goals from Steve Murray and Bobby Lennox either side of the break, before Alex Martin pulled one back for the hosts. With 20 minutes to play, Dixie Deans appeared to have sealed the points against his old club when his perfect header sailed past Stuart Rennie in the Motherwell goal. With no flag raised from the linesman, why Kilmarnock referee McCririck decided to rule the goal out for offside will be between him and his God, Kenny Dalglish booked in the follow-up. Within two minutes, Bobby Graham beat Ally Hunter with a header to equalise before a late rally saw John Goldthorpe score his third goal of the season against Celtic to win the game.
The first Sunday League game at Celtic Park followed eight days later and would end in defeat for the Bhoys for the second successive week, this time League Cup winners Dundee shocking a 40,000 crowd by beating the Champions 2-1. The continuing problems behind the scenes with George Connelly had seen the wonderfully talented Fifer placed on the transfer list, however, he was preferred to Pat McCluskey beside Billy McNeill in central defence to make a first-team appearance for the first time since November.
Celts found themselves 2-0 down to early strikes by Duncan Lambie and Hoops target John Duncan before Davie Hay reduced the deficit 10 minutes from half-time, then try as they might, they could not find a way past Thomson Allan in the visitors’ goal in the second period. The Dundee keeper’s old club, Hibernian, had stumbled at basement-dwellers Falkirk, 24 hours earlier, leaving Brockville with a disappointing draw which would now see the gap at the top of the table reduced to just three points, Scotland’s top two teams scheduled to meet at Easter Road in a fortnight.
It was Groundhog Day the following Sunday as Celtic repeated their 6-1 Scottish Cup thrashing of Clydebank by doing the same to Stirling Albion at Parkhead, albeit this time only 23,000 bore witness to that one. The tie was over by half-time, by which time Celtic were 4-1 ahead, goals from Kenny Dalglish and Paul Wilson followed by a Harry Hood double, after Mickey Lawson had pulled one back.
Steve Murray would add his own brace in the second half, having recovered from the toe problem which would later effectively end his career, however, the biggest cheer of the afternoon was reserved for full-time, word coming through that Dundee had followed up their victory at Celtic Park the previous week by hammering Rangers 3-0 at Ibrox. That would no doubt have been a real source of satisfaction to manager Davie White, sacked from his Ibrox post four years earlier, and indeed captain Tommy Gemmell, a Lisbon Lion in the lion’s den. There were no real lions there, obviously, and there would be no repeat of the 1973 Scottish Cup final in May.
Saturday, 23 February 1974 was a red-letter day in my young Celtic-supporting life, as we travelled through to Edinburgh for the much-anticipated ‘title decider’ with Hibernian at Easter Road, having missed the clincher 10 months earlier at the same venue. Against a tide of dwindling attendances, the desire to watch this one play out live drew almost 50,000 to the Leith ground, by some distance the largest crowd I have ever seen there. We were seated in the covered enclosure behind one of the goals, the scene of much unrest as a terracing when I had first visited Easter Road in October 1971. It was an incredible atmosphere and a truly awesome sight, to see that vast bank of bodies to our left and behind the other goal.
Jock Stein had, perhaps surprisingly, moved into the transfer market in midweek to sign twice-capped Scotland striker Jimmy Bone from Sheffield United for £25,000. With Bobby Lennox failing to recover from an injury against Stirling Albion, former Partick Thistle star Bone would be given an immediate seat on the bench at Easter Road. Billy McNeill had also been a fitness doubt with the back injury which saw him forced off in the same match, however, Cesar would be in his normal place for the vital clash as Stein opted for the following 13 men.
Ally Hunter; Danny McGrain & Jim Brogan; George Connelly, Billy McNeill & Davie Hay;
Harry Hood, Steve Murray, Dixie Deans, Kenny Dalglish & Paul Wilson.
Substitutes; Pat McCluskey & Jimmy Bone.
The titanic game got off to a sensational start when Dixie Deans hammered the ball past Jim McArthur in the opening minute to draw first blood for the Hoops. In a thrilling match with twists throughout, Hibernian winger Arthur Duncan would equalise midway through the first half, only for Kenny Dalglish to score a second goal for Celtic eight minutes before the break, the King showing all the poise, balance and control which would become his trademark throughout a world-class career to sidefoot home. There was nothing quite like King Kenny.
Eight minutes into the second half, Jim O’Rourke levelled things for the second time, a third Hibernian goal having the potential to totally derail the quest for nine-in-a-row, however, once again the Champions dug deep. Just after the hour, Paul Wilson squeezed a third home off McArthur’s post, the coup de grace arriving in stoppage time as Deans stretched those neck muscles to beat the Hibs keeper for a second time from an impossible angle, just a few yards in front of us, striking the most decisive blow yet to the hopes of the title contenders. The celebrations at the full-time whistle, which blew seconds later, reflected the now 5-point gap with a dozen games remaining, suggesting that the hard work had largely now been done.
Thanks, as always, to the wonderful Celtic Wiki.
Follow Matt on Twitter @Boola_vogue