“Oh Harry, Harry…Oh Harry Hood”: Part 30: No magic ten but a magnificent seven for Stein’s Celts!
Seven days after the stunning 6-0 victory at Dens Park in December 1974, which sent the Hoops to the top of the League on goal difference, there was a further sign that things were beginning to swing in Celtic’s favour, Rangers losing 4-3 at Broomfield to an Airdrieonians side upon whom the Bhoys had inflicted another six-goal defeat just five weeks earlier.
A dozen or so miles to the west, Jock Stein’s team had recovered from the loss of an early goal by former Hibernian striker Jim O’Rourke to beat St Johnstone 3-1 at Parkhead. The key moment in this match had been the dismissal of Perth striker Bobby Thomson, who would later make his name partnering Andy Ritchie at Morton. He took umbrage to a challenge from Pat McCluskey to adopt a Marquis of Queensberry response, 10 minutes into the second half. At that point, the sides were level at 1-1, McCluskey continuing his good record from the penalty spot midway through the first half after Danny McGrain had been brought down.
The 10 men would concede a goal within three minutes of that red card, Kenny Dalglish curling a delightful free-kick beyond Derek Robertson in the Saints goal. Celtic’s third, with five minutes to play, was less pleasing on the eye, Steve Murray’s header from a Harry Hood cross creeping between goalkeeper and defenders to give Celts some welcome daylight at the summit.
The last game of the calendar year saw the Hoops travel down the A77 to face Kilmarnock at Rugby Park on Saturday, 28 December 1974. Ronnie Glavin and Jim Brogan returned in place of Jimmy Johnstone and Pat McCluskey, whilst Dixie Deans was deemed fit enough to take a seat on the bench, following a 5-week injury absence.
Former Celtic legend Willie Fernie’s attractive Killie side included two young wingers making their name in the game, Davie Provan on the right and Gordon Smith on the left, whilst his strike partnership of Ian Fleming and Eddie Morrison had amassed 27 goals between them at the halfway stage of the season. Celtic’s defence would cope well with those threats, whilst at the other end, one moment of magic from Kenny Dalglish saw the points head back up to Glasgow. Seven minutes from the interval, Harry Hood’s left-wing cross was headed into the danger area by Steve Murray. King Kenny, as always, was a split-second ahead of his marker in both thought and movement, and that was enough to give him the yard he required to blast the ball beyond Jim Stewart.
The two-point lead at the top of the table was maintained after a comfortable 5-1 victory over Clyde at Celtic Park on New Year’s Day. Jimmy Johnstone and Dixie Deans returned with Harry Hood dropping to the bench and Steve Murray missing out, and it was Deans who started the year in some style, opening the scoring within seven minutes, Tom Callaghan adding a double either side of the break and Kenny Dalglish chipping in with his regular goal as the Hoops went four goals clear with more than half-an-hour remaining. Perhaps with the weekend match at Ibrox in mind, the Celtic feet came off the gas, Ronnie Glavin’s late strike ending the scoring after Peter Boyle had pulled one back for Clyde. As an aside, Boyle would emigrate to Australia in 1977, and three years later, he would be capped for the Socceroos against a Czechoslovakia side managed by Dr Jozef Venglos.
The game which turned the title tide against Celtic and their dreams of a tenth successive League championship took place at Ibrox on Saturday, 4 January 1975. With George Connelly recovering from a badly-cut leg sustained during the Clyde match, Pat McCluskey returned to partner Billy McNeill at the heart of the Hoops defence, whilst further forward, Steve Murray and Harry Hood were restored to the exclusion of Jimmy Johnstone and Dixie Deans, the latter not even on the bench. Jock Stein’s line-up in full was as follows.
Ally Hunter; Danny McGrain & Jim Brogan; Steve Murray, Billy McNeill & Pat McCluskey;
Harry Hood, Ronnie Glavin, Kenny Dalglish, Tom Callaghan & Paul Wilson.
Substitutes; Roddie MacDonald & Jimmy Johnstone.
This was the strangest of games, in the sense that Celtic could quite easily have won had they taken some gilt-edged opportunities in the first half yet ended up facing their biggest derby defeat in 12 years. The hosts got off to a great start, when Tommy McLean’s lofted cross to the far post was headed home by Derek Johnstone, however, Paul Wilson was thriving on Celtic’s left flank, beating defenders for fun before setting up Harry Hood then Kenny Dalglish for chances which would normally have been buried.
Five minutes into the second half, those would come back to haunt the Hoops, McLean sent clear through the middle to squeeze the ball past Ally Hunter for 2-0. With Johnstone on for Hood but struggling to make any impact on the game, the crucial third goal would also occur at the traditional Celtic End, sadly a carbon copy of the first, McLean allowed the time and space to deliver another aerial bomb, this time Derek Parlane first to connect and send a header looping back over Hunter for 3-0. That would be significant, completing the six-goal swing which saw the Ibrox side go top. Now we had a problem, as the two contenders would not meet again in the League that season.
The two-goal deficit became two points, seven days later, as a late Willie Pettigrew strike saw Motherwell win 3-2 at Celtic Park. Pettigrew and partner Bobby Graham were an excellent striking duo, who seemed to save their best performances for matches against Celtic at that time, this being a case in point.
Each had scored within the first 20 minutes, leaving an already under-pressure home team facing a long afternoon, referee JRP Gordon not helping matters by ruling out a Harry Hood goal for offside then denying the Hoops a clear penalty when Paul Wilson was chopped down, seconds before Graham made it 2-0.
Hood did his best to correct the situation, pulling one back on the half-hour before levelling the match 10 minutes into the second half, after Kenny Dalglish had created the opening. As the Bhoys piled forward in search of that vital winner, there was always the fear of Motherwell pouncing on the break. That script was written, Pettigrew’s pace seeing him outstrip the Celtic defence to win the match with 15 minutes to go, plunging a dagger through our hearts and dreams of La Decima.
There was an opportunity to make up some lost ground the following Saturday, as Rangers home game with Kilmarnock was one of the casualties of the unrelenting January weather, Celtic’s visit to Somerset Park in Ayr one of the few fixtures to survive. Jock Stein brought back Jim Brogan, George Connelly and Tom Callaghan, with Pat McCluskey missing and Ronnie Glavin and Roddie MacDonald on the bench.
Three successive defeats looked a possibility as the other Dixie, Ayr’s Ingram, put the hosts ahead on the half-hour, before goals one minute either side of the break from Steve Murray and Harry Hood calmed a frustrated away support. Our Dixie – the Deans variety – then netted a much-needed double to secure the two points, a late Danny McDonald own goal finalising a rather unexpected 5-1 victory for the champions.
The last Saturday of the month was Scottish Cup third-round day, and I suspect the last thing Celtic wanted was an away draw to title challengers and League Cup finalists Hibernian. Jock Stein named the same team, and his faith would be rewarded as goals at either end of a 90 minutes dominated by the visitors sent the Hoops safely through. Harry Hood would be the creator as Celts took the lead in 12 minutes, his cross mishandled by Hibernian keeper Hugh Whyte to allow Dixie Deans the chance to nod the ball home, his seventh goal in three games against the Leith men that season.
With 10 minutes remaining, Steve Murray slid in at the back post to make it 2-0, the third goal the midfielder had scored in those three clashes. The main losers at this stage were Rangers, beaten 2-1 by Aberdeen in an Ibrox replay after a 1-1 draw at Pittodrie. Whilst this would be a major boost to Celtic’s chances of retaining the cup, it would also leave their rivals with only the title race upon which to focus all of their efforts.
Saturday, 1 February 1975 saw the fixture balance restored as Celtic’s home game with Dumbarton was called off before Rangers drew 1-1 at Cappielow, the Ibrox club nosing back in front by a point. It would soon be two. Seven days later, the Hoops travelled north to Gayfield to face a home side featuring new signing Jimmy Bone at centre-forward. He had left Parkhead just three weeks earlier in a £15,000 deal, half the price Jock Stein had paid Sheffield United less than a year earlier, a move that sadly for both parties had not worked out.
Of course, you would not have got a bet on Bone equalling his Celtic goal tally in one match, and this he duly achieved within 10 minutes of the kick-off to give the hosts the lead. Harry Hood’s right foot brought Celts level on 17 minutes, before Kenny Dalglish fired them in front just before the break, and the second half was a procession towards Alan Campbell in the Arbroath goal, that third goal just refusing to come along.
As we have seen this season, just as winning becomes a habit so does failing to see games through. Back in August 1972, Arbroath’s Derek Rylance had scored a hat-trick against Celtic in a League Cup sectional match played at Hampden, his first-ever goals for the club securing an unlikely 3-3 draw, after strikes from Hood and Dalglish had seen the Hoops coasting at 3-1. He would now come back to haunt the ailing champions again, as would Jimmy Bone, with 15 minutes remaining, the former Parkhead striker’s cross finding Rylance with all the time in the world to blast the ball past Ally Hunter and place another nail in the 10-in-a-row coffin, as the match ended 2-2.
That would also be the score three nights later, Tuesday, 11 February 1975, as Celts failed to beat another side struggling at the bottom of the table, having established a winning position, this time Dumbarton at home in the rescheduled fixture. Harry Hood was again first on target for Celtic, cutting in from the left to curl the ball beyond Sons keeper Ian McGregor just after the half hour. And within five minutes the points should have been safe when Paul Wilson headed home Kenny Dalglish’s cross for 2-0.
Then the old failings returned. Ally Hunter and Danny McGrain engaged in a spot of “after you, Claude” to allow John Bourke to pull one back 10 minutes into the second half, before Tom McAdam atoned for a series of earlier misses by nodding a rebound past Hunter for 2-2 with 20 minutes remaining. Yet again, Jock Stein’s men had failed to capitalise on a night when their opponents were idle, the Hoops now one point behind Rangers having played a game more.
Not surprisingly, Stein rang the changes as Scottish Cup business recommenced with a home tie against a fast-improving Clydebank outfit five days later, Saturday, 15 February 1975. Out went skipper Billy McNeill, Jim Brogan and big-money signing Ronnie Glavin, Steve Murray being handed the captain’s armband on the day, however, the biggest surprise was between the sticks, with Bothwell teenager Graham Barclay wearing the gloves for what would prove to be his only first team appearance.
Perhaps the most unusual Celtic team selection of the 1974/75 season lined up as follows.
Graham Barclay; Danny McGrain & Pat McCluskey; Steve Murray, Roddie MacDonald & George Connelly;
Harry Hood, Jackie McNamara, Dixie Deans, Kenny Dalglish & Paul Wilson.
Substitutes; Tom Callaghan & Jimmy Johnstone.
The Bankies fielded the nucleus of the side which would win successive promotions in the new League set-up introduced the following season, regular defensive stalwarts Jim Gallacher and Jim Fallon supporting an attacking duo of Davie Cooper and Mike Larnach. They had knocked out top-flight Dunfermline Athletic in the previous round and boosted their chances of a much bigger upset when Joe McCallan’s opportunist strike gave them the lead midway through the first half.
Three devastating shots from outside the box ruined that dream as the interval approached, first Jackie McNamara levelled things from a Dixie Deans pass before Kenny Dalglish produced two sublime efforts within 60 seconds which flew past Gallacher to send the teams inside at 3-1. The final goal would not arrive until the 83rd minute, Roddie MacDonald opening his Celtic account with a far-post effort to conclude the scoring at 4-1.
The next week saw the arrival of a new goalkeeper at Parkhead. Peter Latchford was one of three Birmingham-born brothers to make a career in professional football. Whilst striker Bob and fellow keeper Dave were learning their trade with City at St Andrews, Peter was working his way up the ranks at nearby West Bromwich Albion. His breakthrough season of 1972/73 would be bittersweet, Peter’s 26 appearances in England’s top division ending with a first relegation for the Baggies since the Second World War.
He would then be a stand-out as West Brom battled for instant promotion, Latchford an ever-present between the sticks, his form attracting the notice of the England selectors. In October 1973, just 24 hours before that famous match at Wembley which saw Poland eliminate Alf Ramsay’s men from the World Cup, Peter would make his international bow in the under-23 clash between the two sides at Home Park, Plymouth, the match ending goalless. He would then face the third team in England’s section, Wales, at Bristol City’s Ashton Gate in February 1974, this time alongside his brother Bob on a proud evening for the Latchford family, the game again finishing 0-0.
The following season would not go so well, West Brom making a disappointing start to the League campaign which would see Peter lose both his club and international place. By January 1975, he was a peripheral player at The Hawthorns, Jock Stein agreeing a loan deal with his Baggies counterpart Don Howe which saw Latchford move to Glasgow until the summer.
Latchford would make an immediate debut, as Celtic returned to Easter Road just four weeks after their Scottish Cup victory at the same venue, the keeper surprisingly the only change from the win over Clydebank. It would not be the most auspicious of starts, Peter picking the ball out of his net twice in the opening 15 minutes as an Arthur Duncan double piled on the agony for Celtic’s support and their fading title hopes, Latchford and young centre-half Roddie MacDonald both at fault for the first goal. A late Paul Wilson strike was scant consolation on the day, as even the most fervent optimist now struggled to make the case for 10-in-a-row, Rangers now four points clear with nine games remaining after their narrow win at Shawfield.
The opening day of March involved a home clash for Celts with Bertie Auld’s Partick Thistle, Billy McNeill and Ronnie Glavin returning to the team at the expense of Roddie MacDonald and Jackie McNamara. It would again be an afternoon Peter Latchford would want to forget, the Englishman inexplicably allowing a Danny Kellachan free-kick from the halfway-line to float over his head and put Thistle 2-1 up midway through the first half, after future Celtic striker Joe Craig’s early goal had been cancelled out by a Pat McCluskey penalty.
The rescue act would commence with 20 minutes to play, Kenny Dalglish equalising before he and Harry Hood lined up to take a free-kick in the final minute. The King had broken Bertie’s heart at Firhill in the earlier League clash back in November, scoring the winner in the dying seconds, and no doubt a Jags defence which included Alan Rough and both Hansen brothers would be aware of that as they prepared for the attack. This time, though, Dalglish would shape to shoot then run over the ball, Hood expertly clipping it over the wall and into the opposite corner for a sensational winner, a rare ray of hope and light amidst some dark times.
The quarter-final draw of the Scottish Cup sent Celts along the Clyde coast to Dumbarton, the following Saturday, 8 March 1975, the big news being the exclusion of Dixie Deans and George Connelly, which saw Andy Lynch and Roddie MacDonald start at Boghead, whilst Tom Callaghan replaced flu victim Steve Murray.
The Thistle free-kick ruse worked again within five minutes, this time Harry Hood playing the decoy and Ronnie Glavin the ball, to beat Laurie Williams in the home goal. Three minutes later, the Ghosts of Parkhead Past and Future combined to level the tie, Lisbon Lion Willie Wallace setting up Tom McAdam for another goal against the Hoops. Hood was again involved in the move which decided the contest on the hour, playing in Paul Wilson for 2-1. In the tie of the round, Aberdeen were beaten at home by Motherwell, Celts later drawn to face either Hearts or Dundee in the semi-final, whilst the Steelmen would have a local derby with Airdrieonians in the last four, if the Broomfield outfit could overcome Arbroath in the other replayed match.
The Scottish Cup would sadly be the only focus for Celtic by the end of March, as three defeats in four League games finally crushed our dreams of La Decima. Four days after the cup victory over Dumbarton, the Hoops headed to Pittodrie to play their game in hand, the defending champions now six points behind Rangers.
With George Connelly restored for young Roddie MacDonald, this would be a night when the headlines would be made by players not normally in the spotlight. Dumfries-born Billy Williamson had spent the majority of his five years at Aberdeen as a full-back, whilst left-winger Andy Lynch had struggled to secure a regular place at Celtic since his transfer from Hearts in 1973. Transfer-listed Williamson had only recently been used as a midfield player by Dons boss Jimmy Bonthrone, and he would now enjoy the greatest 90 minutes of his career by scoring the hat-trick which defeated the Hoops. Twice Lynch would reply for Celtic to bring the visitors level by the hour, his first League goals for the club, before Connelly hauled Aberdeen substitute Duncan Davidson down in the box with 13 minutes to play. Up strode Williamson to beat Peter Latchford via an upright to complete a most unlikely treble and put another huge dent in Celtic’s championship aspirations.
George Connelly and the previously ever-present Paul Wilson would be the two men dropped for the home match with Dundee United three days later, the big Fifer missing completely, whilst the striker would at least have the opportunity to maintain his record from the bench beside Dixie Deans. Roddie MacDonald and Jimmy Johnstone were the incomers as Jock Stein hoped for the miracle which would salvage their title record, a championship having been delivered in each of his nine full seasons in charge at Parkhead.
Even that sliver of hope had disappeared as Celtic slumped to another defeat against a team they had destroyed in the Scottish Cup final 10 months earlier. The only goal of this Glasgow clash was scored by a Drumchapel teenager with a preference for the blue half of the city, Andy Gray, his header from a corner on the half-hour bouncing over a posse of defenders on the line. Deans would replace Tom Callaghan at the interval before Wilson was introduced for Pat McCluskey as Stein went for broke, however, the best chance of the second chance again fell to Gray, this time Peter Latchford producing an excellent save.
Meanwhile, 90 miles to the north, Rangers recovered from a goal and a man down to beat Dundee 2-1 at Dens Park, to move eight points clear at the top of the table with just six games remaining.
There was some respite in midweek as the Glasgow Cup made a return to the schedule after a four-year absence, Jock Stein fielding a strong team as he tried to get performances back on track for the bigger matter of Celtic’s defence of the Scottish Cup.
Partick Thistle made a second visit of the month to Parkhead, and again lost by a single goal, however, there was no cute, last-minute free-kick from Harry Hood involved this time around. Danny McGrain is one of the most incredible footballers I have ever seen play the game. He had everything, strength, pace, touch, plus the capacity to fight back from the most dreadful of setbacks, the fractured skull at Brockville three years earlier and more recently, his diagnosis as a diabetic on his return from the World Cup in West Germany the previous summer.
Well, he had almost everything. He rarely scored a goal. In fact, most of Danny’s goals are items of note, due to how seldom he managed it. JFK moments. McGrain would make an exception this night by scoring what The Celtic Wiki described as the best goal of his career. As we approached the half-hour, he picked the ball up on the halfway line, charging into the box to beat several Thistle defenders before placing his shot past former Scotland keeper Jim Herriot, sending Celts into the final.
As birthdays go, my 14th on Saturday, 22 March 1975 was bittersweet. Celtic’s form collapse since the New Year had coincided with the first spell in my life when I had not been attending games, following my decision to resume playing instead, a huge call. Together with friends, I had started training with St Roch’s Boys Guild in the Garngad, and unfortunately their games were played at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon. We tended to do really well at home, urged on by the men pouring out of the old Hibs Club on Royston Road at 2.30, but less so on the road. Sound familiar?
On that particular afternoon, we would break our away duck by hammering Our Lady & St George 4-1, somewhere in the Penilee or Cardonald area. Behind enemy lines, if you like. Sadly, that news was tempered as we heard that Celtic had lost at Broomfield and were now a massive 10 points behind Rangers following their win over Motherwell at nearby Ibrox. They were now just a point away from winning the League for the first time in my Celtic-supporting lifetime. If Carlsberg did birthdays, it would certainly not have been that one.
Jock Stein had again shuffled his pack for the trip to Airdrie, making five changes from the side who lost to Dundee United as he sought to avoid a third successive League loss for the first time in his tenure. A revamped defence saw the loss of the injured Billy McNeill and Danny McGrain covered by George Connelly and Jim Brogan, whilst young Frank Welsh had done enough in the midweek Glasgow Cup-tie to see him preferred to Roddie MacDonald. Further forward, Dixie Deans and Bobby Lennox came in for Harry Hood and Andy Lynch. The changes would not have the desired effect, as Willie McCulloch’s shot beat Peter Latchford to bounce home off the post seven minutes from the interval, for the only goal of the game.
There was a certain irony about the fact that having toiled for most of the year to throw away the chance of 10-in-a-row, Celts then produced an excellent performance at home to Hearts seven days later on the day Rangers secured the point they required at Easter Road. The Hoops had welcomed back Billy McNeill, Danny McGrain, Harry Hood and Paul Wilson, with Jim Brogan, Frank Welsh, Dixie Deans and Bobby Lennox making way, and were four goals clear and coasting before Drew Busby headed a late consolation goal for the visitors.
The main damage was done in a 15-minute spell just after the break, Kenny Dalglish looking more like his old self as he blasted a double past Jim Cruickshank before laying on a third for Paul Wilson then a fourth for Ronnie Glavin. The King then left the field to a standing ovation, on this strangest of days, Stein choosing to rest him ahead of the midweek Scottish Cup semi-final.
Cup favourites Celtic and Motherwell had been kept apart in the semi-final draw, the Hoops instead facing Dundee at that stage for the third successive season, a fourth time in six years. The Dark Blues had been seconds from elimination in the quarter-final at Tynecastle, before a Gordon Wallace equaliser set up a replay at Dens which they would edge by the odd goal in five.
The latest chapter in the by now annual series took place at Hampden on Wednesday, 2 April 1975, Celts protecting an unbeaten record over these fixtures and choosing to make just one change from Saturday’s winning line-up, Bobby Lennox replacing Jimmy Johnstone. Tommy Gemmell had been a teammate of Jinky and the Buzz Bomb for that first meeting in March 1970, Lennox netting the winner after the prolific Wallace had equalised for Dundee, and fate would deal the big full-back a cruel blow on this night. With the match still goalless after an hour’s play, Dens skipper Gemmell would suffer a fatal lack of concentration as he dallied with the ball at the edge of the box.
The lurking Ronnie Glavin had struggled to justify the club record fee paid by Jock Stein five months earlier, however, he would now start to repay that in some style, dispossessing Gemmell to slot the ball past Thomson Allan for the only goal of the game. Thus, Celts would end the 1974/75 season with no League title for the first time in a decade but with a place in a seventh consecutive Scottish Cup final, a ninth in 10 years under the legend that is Jock Stein, a quite incredible record.
Thanks, as always, to the wonderful Celtic Wiki.
Follow Matt on Twitter @Boola_vogue