Our Foundation, The Celtic Way – Willie Maley was his name

Our Foundation – The Celtic Way

Willie Maley was his name…

Few men have done more to further the cause of Celtic over the years than Willie Maley, but just how well do we know him? Here are a few facts about the great man…

Willie Maley was born in Ireland, in Newry Barracks, County Down to be precise, on 25 April 1868. His father Thomas was a serving soldier in the British Army at that time, albeit he was Irish, a son of County Clare. Willie’s mother Mary was born in Canada to Scottish parents.

Willie could perhaps be described as an accidental Celtic signing, as the club was pursuing the signature of his elder brother Tom – an established amateur player who had featured for a number of senior clubs, notably Hibernian and Third Lanark – when the party arrived at the Maley family home in December 1887. The teenage Willie was more interested in athletics than football but agreed to come along with Tom and…well, he stayed for the next 52 years! A real sliding doors moment.

Brothers Willie and Tom Maley played together in Celtic’s first-ever match, a 5-2 win over Rangers at the original Celtic Park on Monday, 28 May 1888. Indeed, Tom scored the club’s first hat-trick that day, with Neil McCallum and James Kelly also on target.

Although perhaps better known as a manager, Willie could play a bit as well. He was in the Celtic sides which won the club’s first Scottish Cup (1892) and first three League titles (1893, 1894 & 1896). He made over 100 competitive appearances for Celtic between 1888 and 1896.

More inclined to defence from his wing-half berth, Willie netted just four times in national competitive matches. One of those was against Rangers at Second Hampden (later known as Cathkin) in the Scottish Cup final of 1894. He had also scored as Celtic won its first-ever trophy, in the 6-1 defeat of Cowlairs in the final of the Glasgow North Eastern Cup in May 1889.

Despite being born in Ireland, Willie represented Scotland at senior level twice, courtesy of his Scottish maternal grandparents. He made his full international debut against Ireland at the second Celtic Park in March 1893, another 6-1 win, then was part of the Scotland team which went down 5-2 to England at the Richmond Athletic Ground in Surrey seven days later.

After combining his playing duties with the role of match-secretary for nine years, Willie was appointed as Celtic’s first-ever manager on 1 September 1897. No-one could possibly have envisaged that he would still be in the role as Celtic took on Rangers on the opening day of January 1940. He announced his retirement soon afterwards, as he approached his 72nd birthday.

At 42 years and 5 months, he is second in the all-time list of managerial reigns. Only Fred Everiss of West Bromwich Albion, with 45 years and 10 months of service, can beat that. In February 1940, Willie’s former captain Jimmy McStay resigned his post at Alloa Athletic to become the second manager of Celtic, more than 50 years after the club played its first game.

Football management was clearly in the Maley blood. Willie’s elder brother Tom Maley was the manager of Manchester City when they beat Bolton Wanderers at Crystal Palace to win the FA Cup in April 1904, the club’s first-ever major honour. And their younger brother Alex Maley was in charge at several clubs, notably taking both Clyde and Hibernian to the Scottish Cup final. On both occasions Alex’s teams lost to Celtic…managed by his big brother Willie!

Willie built many wonderful, record-breaking Celtic sides over the years, producing some of the club’s greatest-ever players. In total, he delivered 16 League titles, 14 Scottish Cups, 14 Glasgow Cups and 18 Glasgow Charity Cups, plus two UK-wide one-off trophies, the British League Cup of 1902 and the Empire Exhibition Cup in the club’s Golden Jubilee Year of 1938

In any list of all-time Celtic greats, Willie Maley is right up there.

Willie’s glorious career with Celtic is one of the key themes of a very special event being held in Glasgow’s Crowne Plaza hotel next month, on Saturday, 23 March 2024 to be exact. Under the banner of Our Foundation – The Celtic Way, it will be a night full of fun, music and unique Celtic content, commencing with a champagne reception, a four-course meal, and including entertainment from the excellent Celtic Punk band The Wakes.

We will also be giving away some incredible prizes via a raffle and live and silent auctions, whilst we will be including some wonderful surprise elements, which will only be revealed on the night.

Willie Maley’s book The Story of Celtic

And as if you needed any further encouragement to snap up the remaining tickets, best news of all perhaps is that all profits from the event will be passed to Celtic FC Foundation. For the past six months or so, the volunteer Celtic FC Foundation Supporters Committee has been working hard to pull this event together, and it promises to be something else.

As an appetiser for the event, we will be providing news of a very special competition exclusively in The Celtic Star over the coming days. So, watch this space!

Our Foundation – The Celtic Way will be THE most unique Celtic event of 2024. It’s an excellent way to get through an international weekend with a Celtic fix, have yourself and your company a load of fun whilst raising money for the wonderful work carried out in our name by Celtic FC Foundation.

You can pick up your tickets by clicking on the image below….

Hail Hail,

Matt Corr

Follow Matt on X/Twitter @Boola_vogue and keep up to date with progress and news of this fabulous event on our social media platforms @CFCF_Supporters

Help raise funds for Celtic Youth Academy by playing the Celtic Pools Weekly Lottery and you could win up to £25,000. The lottery is £1 per week.

About Author

Having retired from his day job Matt Corr can usually be found working as a Tour Guide at Celtic Park, or if there is a Marathon on anywhere in the world from as far away as Tokyo or New York, Matt will be running for the Celtic Foundation. On a European away-day, he's there writing his Diary for The Celtic Star and he's currently completing his first Celtic book with another two planned.

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