Tommy McInally, a player who I learned about through the wonderful David Potter

I was saddened to hear of the death of David Potter, a knowledgeable man who wrote so many books on our beloved club. One of those books was about Tommy McInally. A former Celtic favourite who most folk wouldn’t know about if it wasn’t for the writing and research of David.

A fellow writer at The Celtic Star, I wasn’t fortunate enough to meet David, but I more than knew about his work and is someone I respected well. The world has lost a good author and most importantly a good man. This piece I wrote was only possible through the knowledge of David…

Tommy McInally a so called bad bhoy was a favourite of the Celtic supporters in the 1920s. He was a favourite of the great Willie Maley who reckoned he was one of the best players he had managed, once quoted as saying he was the greatest. Very high praise indeed.

Very little Is known about the early years of Tommy’s life due to lack of records, but they reckon he was born in Glasgow with Irish heritage due to his love for the Irish cause. He had many siblings as many families did in that era. He was the youngest of a large brood and was raised in Barrhead.

Tommy signed for his beloved Celtic in 1919 from junior outfit StAnthony’s despite interest from many clubs including Rangers. He scored a hat trick on his debut, in fact he scored four trebles in total that season netting an overall impressive 39 goals in his debut season, his highest total in a season with Celtic.

Tommy was more of a creative player than goalscorer with many players such as the great Jimmy McGrory benefiting from Tommy’s industry. In his time at Celtic Park he helped Celtic win two league titles. a Scottish cup, two Charity cups and two Glasgow cups, trophies that were a big deal in those days. He had two spells at Celtic with a stint at Third Lanark sandwiched in between.

He also represented Scotland on two occasions as well as having spells down south with Sunderland and Bournemouth, and as his career drew to a close, spells with Morton, Derry city and Armadale.

Celtic’s Tommy McInally in action against East Fife

Tommy was a bit of a handful, a rebel you could say. He had a fondness for the bevvy and liked his grub, as was noticeable in the later end of his career as the skinny young frame that he carried in his younger years turned into a much larger one. Something he was teased quite a lot about.

Tommy himself would often make jokes about his weight, he was quite the joker, it was often said he would have made a decent stand up comedian had he not pursued a career in football.

His larger than life character often got him into bother with Willie Maley and referees. Despite having a reputation as a bit of a bad boy, Tommy would often go to chapel, and a swear word was never heard leaving his lips, unheard of in a football player.

He was also quite generous and often helped out with charity events. Tommy was a firm favourite of the Celtic crowd, but they could sometimes be left frustrated with him too. He was that type of player, when he was on form he was a joy to watch but on the other hand if he couldn’t be bothered he was poor.

Tommy was a bit of a mammy’s boy, not surprising being the youngest, and he once turned down a move to England which would have been financially very rewarding. All down to his mother who didn’t want him to move.

After he finished playing he regularly appeared in charity games and wrote newspaper columns as well as being a Celtic scout before passing away at the age of 56 in 1955.

They say his lack of discipline stopped him from having a better career, but he did play for the club he loved winning trophies while being worshiped by the Celtic supporters which I’m sure was all he ever wanted.

Tommy McInally

All in all Tommy was a bit of a rascal, but also a kind generous man and a true Celtic hero. With 213 appearances and 127 goals to his name as well as winning trophies and entertaining the Celtic crowd for many a year, Tommy can rightly go down as an iconic figure in the history of Celtic football club, just like his biographer David Potter.

Just an Ordinary Bhoy

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor David Faulds 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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