“Oh Harry, Harry…Oh Harry Hood”: Part 27: World records and domestic Doubles
There was no time for Jock Stein or his Celtic players to mull over the events in Madrid, or for that matter in Glasgow, two weeks earlier. Three days after that late defeat in the Vicente Calderon the Hoops were on their travels again, this time the much shorter journey to Falkirk.
The final scheduled League programme of the season had thrown up a Top v Bottom clash at Brockville, on Saturday, 27 April 1974. For the home side it was win or bust, only the two points on offer for an unlikely victory over the champions-elect giving them any hope of avoiding relegation, in what was their 34th and final match of a difficult campaign. They also needed results involving East Fife, Clyde and Dunfermline Athletic to go their way. Having won only four of their 33 League games to date, it was a long shot at best for The Bairns.
In contrast, Celtic would still have three games to play after Falkirk, due to their Scottish Cup commitments, and had the luxury of knowing that they required only a single point from these four matches to secure a ninth title in succession, and even that assumed that second-placed Hibernian would pick up wins in each of their final three fixtures. It had long since been a matter of when and not if the holy grail of nine-in-a-row would be clinched by Stein’s side.
Celtic, of course, had been setting and breaking domestic records since the days of The Bould Bhoys, following on from Dumbarton – who had shared then won the first two Scottish League titles – by claiming the next two, then becoming the first side to win three, and then four of the first eight competitions by 1898. No new club has ever had such an impact in Scotland.
Celtic would create a new record under Willie Maley by winning five-in-a-row in 1909, then extend that to six the following season, benchmarks which stood for six decades until Stein’s Hoops eclipsed those in the early 1970s. One point would see that stretched to a magical nine.
Achieving ‘The Nine’ would allow Celtic to match the world record for successive League Championship wins, something only two other clubs in history could claim. Old European foes MTK Budapest had lifted the Hungarian title between 1916/17 and 1924/25, before bitter rivals Ferencvaros stopped the 10. Strictly speaking, the first two of those were wartime titles, which unlike many other countries were recognised by the Hungarian FA. In the interests of balance, MTK had also won the last national championship before war broke out in 1914.
As an aside, Willie Maley’s Celtic had faced English FA Cup-winners Burnley in Budapest in May 1914, the Lancashire side wearing the blue-and-white jerseys of MTK at the request of the organisers to contrast with Celtic’s green-and-white, the colours of Ferencvaros, thus adding a bit of spice to the contest. It clearly worked, as no prisoners were taken in a match which ended with players swapping punches on the pitch. This is the infamous Budapest Cup game.
The other team to have claimed nine successive League titles before 1974 was CSKA Sofia. The Bulgarian Army club had won the national championship between 1954 and 1962, albeit, ever the pedant, I should point out that this included a transitional ‘half-season’ in the early part of 1958, to facilitate a move to the more traditional autumn-spring calendar favoured by most European nations.
To win that particular competition, CSKA played just 11 games, as opposed to the normal ‘home and away’ 22, with no promotion or relegation taking place. By the time the Plovdiv duo of Spartak and Botev had finished ahead of them in the spring of 1963 to end CSKA’s run, the top division had been extended to 16 teams. They would have to wait until May 1966 to reclaim their crown, just as Celtic’s reign was commencing in Scotland.
So, it is a fact that no club from any of the western European Leagues had ever achieved the level of dominance enjoyed by Jock Stein’s wonderful sides in Scotland from the mid-sixties onwards, and there would be no intention of stopping anytime soon. The Celtic manager sent out the following team to ensure the world record was matched at Brockville.
Denis Connaghan; Davie Hay & Jim Brogan; Steve Murray, Billy McNeill & Pat McCluskey;
Harry Hood, Kenny Dalglish, Dixie Deans, Tom Callaghan & Bobby Lennox.
Substitutes; Danny McGrain & Jimmy Johnstone.
I had been attending Celtic games since the autumn of 1965, so had not known anything other than Celts being champions in my young lifetime. It was a given, just as Jock was the manager, Billy was captain and Dad went to the match on a Saturday afternoon. I had been too young to go to Motherwell or Ibrox to see the first two flags being secured, or the school night games at Dunfermline and Kilmarnock which saw the run stretch to four, however, I had been very fortunate to witness three of the last four, at Tynecastle, Hampden and Bayview, as Maley’s record finally ceded into the history books. Last April at Easter Road was the exception, Dad, probably wisely, feeling that was a risk not worth taking with 50,000 supporters expected.
We were both in Falkirk today though, stood in the higher of the two ends behind the goal. Up behind us on a gantry was a TV camera crew, this being perhaps the only match I can recall being recorded from behind the goal for the BBC Sportsreel highlights programme later that night. We would see Celts get off to a dreadful start, as home striker Kirky Lawson took advantage of some hesitancy in the Hoops defence to put The Bairns 1-0 up within three minutes.
The hopes of the home support would not last long, dashed by a goal which will live long in the memory of Celtic fans of a certain vintage. As we approached the 20-minute mark, there seemed little danger as Kenny Dalglish picked up the ball in midfield, however, The King was now displaying the full range of powers which would mark him out as world-class long before he ever wore the red of Liverpool. As the Falkirk defenders backed off, he advanced menacingly towards the home goal, before unleashing a shot which left keeper Ally Donaldson helpless as it nestled in those old curved stanchions just a few yards in front of us.
It was a goal fit to clinch a world record, albeit out of keeping with much of the other play on offer. There was little else on the pitch to entertain the bulk of the crowd, the remainder of the afternoon consisting of a celebratory singsong, the old stuff, the good stuff, the impromptu concert only ended by the referee’s whistle which made Celtic champions and consigned Falkirk to Second Division football the following season.
Over the wall went the youngsters and a few of those who might have known better, much to the displeasure of Dad and most of the ‘old team’ in our company, a view I am certain would have been shared by Jock Stein. Rather reluctantly, it seemed to me, the Celtic team reappeared from the tunnel to take their well-earned lap of honour around Brockville, their facial expressions not those normally associated with such an occasion, perhaps as a result of their uninvited escort.
This would mark a low point in the career of Falkirk manager, John Prentice. He had captained the Brockville club to a Scottish Cup victory over Kilmarnock back in 1957, completing his own domestic set of honours after a spell at Ibrox had seen him claim League and League Cup medals there. He moved into management with Arbroath in 1960 and was the man who signed Harry Hood for Clyde two years later, then sold him to Sunderland in 1964.
He had succeeded Jock Stein as Scotland manager by the time his old skipper Davie White brought Harry back to Shawfield in 1966. In the small world that is Scottish football, Prentice had given up his role as Dundee manager in 1971 to commence a second spell in charge at Brockville, his replacement at Dens Park being…Davie White! This season had seen White lead the Dark Blues to a League Cup final victory over Stein’s Celtic, whilst his old boss would be relegated against Harry’s new team.
Bizarrely, two of Celtic’s remaining three League games would be squeezed into a 24-hour period in the midweek before the Scottish Cup final. On Monday, 29 April 1974, a much-changed side travelled to Aberdeen, teenage centre-half Frank Welsh awarded a first-team debut. Harry Hood would come off the bench to replace Dixie Deans for the final 20 minutes of a drab goalless draw at Pittodrie.
And the following evening, Morton were the visitors to Parkhead as Harry unusually donned the number four shorts in the never-to-be-repeated half-back line of Hood, McNeill and Welsh. With the scoreline blank at the interval, there would be a welcome return for Brian McLaughlin, missing from first-team action since the brutal assault by Clyde’s Willie McVie almost eight months earlier, Andy Lynch making way.
The opening goal was scored on the hour by young Greenock winger Alex McGhee, however, within seven minutes, McLaughlin would light up Celtic Park, beating future teammate Roy Baines in the Morton goal with a delightful lob to end the scoring at 1-1. As an aside, this match featured recently in a trivia question, as apparently it marked the only League starts for two Celtic players during the Jock Stein nine-in-a-row sequence. I’ll let you have a think about that one for a few minutes.
Three successive League draws in four days marked the beginning of the build-up to that Saturday’s Scottish Cup final against Dundee United. This would be a first-ever appearance in a national showpiece for the Tayside club, Jim McLean becoming the first manager to lead a team into its maiden Scottish Cup final since a certain Jock Stein at Dunfermline in April 1961.
Stein had an incredible record in the competition, following up that success with the Pars by leading Hibernian into the last-four in March 1965, then taking over at Celtic to guide The Bhoys past Motherwell in the semi-final then his old Dunfermline players in the final the next month. He would then reach the Scottish Cup final with Celtic in all but one of the next nine seasons, the only exception being 1968, when the Hoops were beaten in the third round at home by… Dunfermline Athletic, who went on to beat Hearts in that year’s final. Of those nine Hampden appearances with his two clubs, Jock had won six, losing out in 1966, 1970 and 1973, whilst the recent record in the League Cup finals, where Celts had contrived to lose four-in-a-row, had dented a record and reputation previously thought to be invincible. It was time to get back on track, the game with Dundee United also offering the opportunity for Stein and his men to add to their tally of four League and Cup doubles since 1967.
Harry Hood had experienced mixed fortunes in Scottish Cup finals since joining Celtic in March 1969. Having played against the Hoops for Clyde in the fourth-round ties the previous month, Hood would be ineligible for that April’s 4-0 hammering of Rangers, and despite making 46 appearances in his first full season at Parkhead, he would lose his place at the critical run-in stage to miss out on the Scottish and European Cup final defeats 12 months later. Harry would bounce back from that disappointment to score the winning goal in the 2-1 win over Rangers in May 1971, the last of the 33 he had netted in that top-scoring, Double-winning season.
An injury sustained at Tynecastle in late March effectively ruined Hood’s chances of featuring in the 6-1 destruction of Hibernian in the 1972 Scottish Cup final, whilst an illness suffered in the build-up to the 1973 semi-final with Dundee would ultimately see Harry drop out of the team which lost 3-2 to Rangers in the centenary cup final. But today would be a good day.
The teams lined up as follows on a damp afternoon at Hampden on Saturday, 4 May 1974, in front of 76,000 spectators.
Denis Connaghan; Danny McGrain & Jim Brogan; Steve Murray, Billy McNeill & Pat McCluskey;
Jimmy Johnstone, Harry Hood, Dixie Deans, Davie Hay & Kenny Dalglish.
Substitutes; Tom Callaghan & Bobby Lennox.
Sandy Davie; Pat Gardner & Frank Kopel; Jackie Copland, Doug Smith & Walter Smith;
Graeme Payne, Archie Knox, Andy Gray, George Fleming & Doug Houston.
Substitutes; Tommy Traynor & Andy Rolland.
Whilst this was United’s first Scottish Cup final, full-back Pat Gardner was looking for his second winner’s medal in the competition. Playing alongside Tom Callaghan, he had scored the second and decisive goal at Celtic Park in January 1968 which saw the Pars eliminate the European champions and cup-holders before going all the way to the final, where Gardner would score twice as Dunfermline Athletic beat Hearts 3-1 to claim a second – and to date last – success. Gardner had helped to knock his old side out in a quarter-final replay in this season’s Road to Hampden, after a 1-1 draw at East End Park, the Tangerine Terrors having earlier beaten both Airdrieonians and Morton at Tannadice before defeating Hearts in the last four.
Doug Houston had spent a decade along the road at Dens Park from the early 1960s, much of that in the company of Steve Murray. The pair had lined up for the Dark Blues against Celtic at Hampden in the League Cup final of October 1967, as the Hoops won 5-3, but, like Gardner and Callaghan, they would now be in opposite camps for Scottish football’s 1974 showpiece.
On the back of three Hampden cup final defeats in the past 12 months, there was a certain anxiety as we took our spots on the Kings Park terracing before the match. Two years earlier, I had sat on a stanchion high up in that same section to watch Dixie and co beat Hibernian to record my only cup final victory to date, defeats either side of that against Aberdeen, Partick Thistle, Hibernian and Dundee giving me a record which placed me at serious risk of adoption. But today would be a good day.
The destination of the 1974 Scottish Cup was effectively decided in a five-minute spell midway through the first half, with Harry Hood and Dixie Deans to the fore. Both men had enjoyed that special feeling of scoring for Celtic in a winning Scottish Cup final, indeed Deans had followed up his 1972 masterclass by doing everything other than find the net 12 months later against Rangers, setting up Kenny Dalglish for the Hoops opener before being cruelly robbed of the goal his performance had deserved when John Greig dived to punch his netbound shot off the line, the Rangers skipper conceding the penalty kick from which George Connelly equalised.
As the clock moved on to 20 minutes, Dixie would again be the provider, his lobbed pass leaving Harry Hood and United keeper Sandy Davie in a race for the ball at the edge of the box. We had a fantastic view as Harry timed his leap perfectly to meet the bouncing ball and nod it over Davie for 1-0, a second cup final goal for Hood.
Five minutes later, the pair combined brilliantly again to seal the game, this time Harry playing a one-two with Deans on the left side of the box before slicing the ball towards Jimmy Johnstone on the penalty spot. The little winger, in turn, nudged it right to the feet of Steve Murray, whose low drive beat Davie at his near post to give The Bhoys a two-goal lead.
United would work hard to claw their way back into the final, their best spell coming immediately after the interval, the efforts of Andy Gray and Archie Knox up front foiled by a combination of Denis Connaghan as gradually Celts regained the initiative. With the ribbons being laid out for the imminent presentation, there was one final, wonderful twist of the afternoon. Kenny Dalglish had never – and would never – score in a cup final which Celtic won, so perhaps the fates or the King’s conscience persuaded him to pass to Deans when clean through in the dying moments of the match.
Dixie would draw Davie before clipping the ball over him towards goal, the back-peddling Walter Smith looking back in anguish as he raced to cover the other post, the ball passing him on its way into the corner of the net. 3-0.
At full-time, we had that fabulous and familiar sight of Jock Stein rushing on to the Hampden turf to embrace his captain, Billy McNeill, the man who had walked up those stairs so often to receive the silverware earned in this current, unsurpassed era of success. Before he did so, he would lead his players on a lap of honour to thank the supporters. Such traditions had been suspended following an invasion of the pitch by those wearing Rangers colours after the Celts had defeated their favourites in the League Cup final of 1965, the players getting around the ban by doing so without the cup, much to the displeasure of SFA supremo Willie Allan. Then it was time to make their way up the famous steps to provide the images for the Sunday newspapers and lifetime memories for the tens of thousands who filled Hampden praying for this very moment.
‘Our Cup’ was back in Paradise, after a 12-month hiatus, for the sixth time in a decade under Jock Stein. The League and Cup double had been secured for the fifth time in that period, that feat having only been achieved four times in the 80 years which preceded his arrival as Celtic manager, the last of which when he had been the captain of the club back in April 1954.
For Harry Hood, it was a second Scottish Cup winner’s medal in two final appearances, the skilful Celt having scored crucial goals in both games.
And for me…well, those adoption papers could perhaps go on hold meantime.
Thanks, as always, to the wonderful Celtic Wiki.
Follow Matt on Twitter @Boola_vogue
PS: The answer to the trivia question was Andy Lynch and Jackie McNamara.