Willie Fernie doubled Celtic’s lead six minutes after the restart before Christmas came early for Jimmy Rowan with 20 minutes remaining, the young winger in the right place as Brown’s attempted clearance was played off him into the net after Charlie Tully’s effort had come back off the crossbar. Dundee continued in the festive spirit by donating an own goal for 4-0 within three minutes, albeit they did manage a consolation strike through George Merchant in the closing stages. That kept Celtic in third spot behind Aberdeen and Rangers, both of whom they had beaten in the League already that season. However, five disappointing draws and a 4-2 defeat at Firhill had cancelled out that advantage.
Celtic’s bizarre selection policy through much of the 1950s was highlighted again seven days later. Alex Boden had made his name and the vast majority of his Celtic appearances as a centre-half and had failed to score a single goal since his Hoops debut in August 1947, so it would be something of a surprise to see him listed at outside-right in place of Jimmy Rowan. Still, what do I know, Boden scoring Celtic’s first equaliser with “a terrific left-foot shot” five minutes before the break in the 2-2 Christmas Day draw with Clyde at Celtic Park. The two old east end rivals would meet again in the Scottish Cup final later that season.
Jimmy headed back to the reserves for the remainder of that season and was retained for the 1955/56 campaign. He would feature in the annual public trial at Celtic Park on Tuesday, 9 August 1955, replacing Sean Fallon’s future brother-in-law Billy Craig in the second half but would have to wait 10 long months for his next opportunity in the first team.
That arrived in the toughest of circumstances, as Celtic faced the trip to Tynecastle on Saturday, 8 October 1955 minus Bobby Evans, Bertie Peacock and Bobby Collins – all involved in the Ireland v Scotland international in Belfast – and injured captain Jock Stein. The following team ran out in front of 30,000 spectators that day to face a Hearts side boasting their Terrible Trio of Alfie Conn, Willie Bauld and Jimmy Wardhaugh. Alex Boden was at right-back that afternoon!
Dick Beattie; Alex Boden & Sean Fallon; Frank Whyte, John Jack & Neil Mochan;
John Higgins, Willie Fernie, Jim Sharkey, Jimmy Rowan & Charlie Tully.
The makeshift Celts looked down and out by the interval, by which time they were 2-0 down to strikes from Urquhart and Conn with Sean Fallon struggling with an injury. To their credit, they did not give up the fight, Jimmy and Charlie Tully switching positions before Willie Fernie reduced the leeway with 15 minutes remaining. That triggered an onslaught on Duff’s goal which on another day would have brought some reward.
That would prove to be Jimmy Rowan’s second and final first-team appearance for Celtic. On Tuesday, 20 December 1955, he was one of a number of young Celts sent out on loan, in his case to a Stirling Albion side struggling at the foot of the First Division. He made his debut four days later in a goalless draw with Dundee at Annfield, up against many of the Dens Park men who had featured in his maiden Celtic appearance 12 months earlier and alongside defender Duncan Stanners, who had played for Rangers in that match at Petershill Park in August 1954.
Celts had already faced Albion twice in the League that season, but Jimmy did return to Paradise for a friendly on Saturday, 7 April 1956, the Hoops taking the opportunity to give some injured players a run-out ahead of the Scottish Cup final with Hearts later that month. Celts recovered from the loss of an early goal to win 3-1 thanks to second-half strikes from legendary trio Charlie Tully, Neil Mochan and Willie Fernie. Jimmy would manage two goals in 18 League appearances for Stirling Albion as the Annfield club took the drop to the Second Division with Clyde, who had won the Scottish Cup just 12 months earlier.
April would end in further disappointment as Jimmy found himself on Celtic’s list of released players. Former captain John McPhail was the biggest name on that list, fringe players Jimmy Docherty, Frank Whyte, Hugh Fletcher and David Duffy also freed by the club.
Continued on the next page…