The Maestro, Paul McStay – ‘His contribution to Celtic is unquantifiable’

The Bhoys at 90 Minute Cynics summed it up perfectly this morning when they said this about Paul McStay, “His contribution to Celtic is unquantifiable.” It’s Paul’s Birthday and I know that he is a regular reader of The Celtic Star, so Happy Birthday Paul from each and every one of our readers. Your contribution to Celtic really was unquantifiable.

I was with you every step of the way, from your debut up at Pittodrie in January 1982 when you scored the third goal in a 3-1 win. It was never easy going to Aberdeen and the truth is in that era we took some painful defeats up there, but that was a joyous January day.

David Potter wrote about the McStay Dynasty last week. Here’s a recap on what he had to say about The Maestro…

Paul McStay was generally recognised as being one of the best players of his day. A succession of Scotland team managers certainly thought that, for he was capped 76 times, and his paltry collection of medals (disproportionately low in comparison with his playing ability) can be explained by the undeniable fact that he came at a bad time of internal political strife and team managers who were visibly not of the Maley or Stein mould.

The best of these Managers, Billy McNeill gave him his chance in early 1982. Paul was a creative midfield player with great passing ability, an eye for goal and a clear desire to do well for the club that he loved and never left, however hard the media tried to persuade him to go.

It was a pleasure to be at Paul’s debut at Pittodrie at the end of January 1982, he scored and Celtic won 3-1 after conceding in the first minute.

He had first come to the world’s attention for the Scottish Schoolboys when they beat their English counterparts at Wembley in 1980, and, unlike a few of his contemporaries, Paul did live up to his promise, looking particularly good in 1982 when he very soon established himself as one of the best players in the country.

But the Nicholas fiasco of 1983 and the departure of McNeill soon after gave McStay his first taste of the problems that would beset Celtic for most of his career, namely political instability, power seeking and the club in the hands of people who knew little about football and even less about what the club meant to so many people.

Paul scoring at Ibrox as Celtic took a giant step to the title in the Centenary season with a 2-1 win.

Paul’s best season was of course the Centenary Season of 1987/88 when he played his full part in the glories that unfolded, but that was short-lived and after many heartbreaks, especially after he became captain in 1990, he may have thought of leaving the club in 1992, on one famous occasion at the end of the season throwing his shirt into the Jungle.

Paul’s problem was that he was not naturally aggressive nor a glory-hunter. Possibly he lacked some of the “devil” that other players of commensurate ability, like Jim Baxter or Denis Law had, but he still brought to the game some fine play. Even in the days when Celtic played badly, supporters could rely on at least a flash of genius from Paul McStay. He limped off the field at Stark’s Park, Kirkcaldy in April 1997 and disappeared out of the game altogether. He now lives in Sydney, Australia.

David Potter

Celtic are always capable of disappointing the support but when the club knocked back Paul when he’d applied for a job after his playing days were over as a Youth Coach, that seemed to show a lack of class and indeed gratitude from the club towards the most honourable Celtic man of his generation. Football can be a tough business.

Today there’s plenty of appreciation for the Maestro in his 55th birthday with the club leading the way.

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email

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