The 4-2 game – When ten men won the league

There’s been many games in the history of Celtic that a lot of us wish we were alive or old enough to have witnessed in the flesh.

There is a long list with the favourites being the first ever game in the clubs history which was of course a 5-2 victory over Rangers in 1888. The famous 7-1 Hampden in the Sun thumping over Rangers to win the League Cup Final in 1957, still a record score for a national final.

Then of course that famous day on the 25th May 1967 when we won the European Cup in Lisbon. Or the European cup semi-final win over Leeds United in the famous Battle of Britain clash three years later at Hampden.

One other famous win was 45 years ago this very day, when the Celtic side of 1979 won the league against Rangers at Celtic Park in the most dramatic of circumstances. The game is often referred to as “the 4-2 game, when ten men won the league” and that sums it up perfectly.

The match was played on a Monday night, and was a rearranged game as the original fixture was postponed back in January. The game was also victim of a TV blackout due to a snap strike by TV technicians. So any footage of the game is fuzzy at the best for us future generations, with the technology at hand for amateur cameramen not as reliable and efficient as we take for granted today.

As for the game itself, Celtic needed a victory to guarantee the league title as this was our last game of the season. While Rangers still had two games remaining. With only two points for a win in those days, a victory would leave Celtic five points ahead and the title in the bag, so there was no margin for error.

Things didn’t go to plan and Alex Macdonald gave Rangers after only nine minutes and then with the hoops still trailing Johnny Doyle was sent off in the 52nd minute.

It looked as if we were down and out, but Roy Aitken gave us hope when he equalised in the 66th minute. Then just eight minutes later George McCluskey sent the Celtic support into euphoria when he struck to put us into the lead.

However it was short lived as just two minutes later Bobby Russell equalised for Rangers and such is football, we went from elation to deflation in the matter of minutes. Things were now looking bleak and the Rangers supporters celebrated wildly as it looked as if the title would be heading to Ibrox.

But with Celtic you never rule anything out, and a Colin Jackson own goal fired us ahead with just five minutes remaining and the title was ours once more.

Then in the dying seconds Murdo MacLeod scored a stunner of a strike to make sure the title was heading to Celtic Park. What a moment, and what a night for all who were present!

Ten men won the league and added yet another glorious chapter into the illustrious history of Celtic football club.

Just an Ordinary Bhoy

About Author

An ordinary everyday Celtic supporters hailing and still residing in Govan in the shadows of the enemy. I’m a season ticket holder. I Witnessed my first Celtic game in 1988 and have attended when I can ever since. Growing up in the 90s I witnessed Celtic at their lowest, and now appreciate the historic success we enjoy today. I enjoy writing about this wonderful football club and hopefully will continue to do so. I’ve always been a keen writer and initially started this a hobby. My ambition is to one day become as good an author as my fellow Celtic Star colleagues.


  1. Well, delighted to say that I was one of the lucky ones, old enough today to be at that game!
    Absolutely fuming at the cheap cheating tactics of Alex MacDonald even back then! Sure, Johnny Doyle kicked him and had to go. But the little hun had been punching Doyle as he lay on the ground, instigating the whole thing. The ref of course, just like today’s corrupt crew, couldn’t wait to send wee Johnny off!
    But little did he know that all he accomplished was to fire up the rest of the guys!
    It blew up in their faces!
    We were magnificent! This was a night I will not forget.
    Hail Hail.

  2. Thomas Davidson on

    I was at the 4-2 match along with the late Kevin McCarra. As we came along Janefield Street beforehand, STV’s outside broadcast vans were outside the Jungle. STV must surely have recorded the match. I presume that the result didn’t please those responsible for the transmission….. When Kevin organised an exhibition on the history of Scottish football some time afterwards, he was able to obtain footage of professional quality and the match was shown in full as part of a ‘Celtic Night’ at the Third Eye Centre.

    • Hi Thomas, I was in the Jungle that night as a 14 year old! Loved it! Still my favourite game. It would be great to hear more about that footage and perhaps get it to Celtic. Any other details would be greatly appreciated.