Tough Stuff – Celtic’s first American Tour in summer 1931

Brendan Rodgers and his players will soon be heading on a three match pre-season tour of the USA, with all the games being shown live on Celtic TV alongside the two pre-season games in Scotland against Ayr united and Queen’s Park.

Celtic are no strangers to touring in North America having done so on a few occasions in our illustrious history. The first time the club made the trip across the pond was way back in late May 1931.

The man in the centre is the Mayor of Philadelphia Harry Arista Mackey and the match is the first on the tour against Pennyslvania All Stars

Willie Maley took his squad which included the great Jimmy McGrory to North America and they departed in the luxury surroundings of a Caledonian steamship which departed Yorkhill Quay on the long route to New York.

It was during the Great Depression and times were ultimately hard on both sides of the Atlantic as was shown in a game against Montreal Carsteels, which saw Celtic inside left Peter Scarff forced to wear a green dress shirt as there weren’t enough hooped shirts to go around.

It didn’t deter him from putting in a five star performance though as he banged in five goals as the bhoys cruised to a 7-0 victory.

Celtic weren’t exactly welcomed with open arms by their American counterparts and the term ‘friendly’ went out the window in most games, none more so than a game against Hakoah All-Stars in New York which saw Jimmy McGrory suffer a broken jaw while Peter Scarff and Charlie Napier were sent off along with two Hakoah players. The game ended in a 1-1 draw.

On another occasion a game in Providence Rhode Island against a side who went by the name Pawtucket Rangers was so intense that the Celtic team required a police escort after the game!

The game ended in a 3-1 defeat for the hoops and manager Willie Maley was less than complimentary about the surroundings. Maley said “The ground was like a furnace, the dressing room conditions disgraceful, and the referee had no control whatsoever”.

Celtic played a total of thirteen games during the tour winning nine, drawing one and losing three. 48 goals were scored while 18 were conceded in a trip that saw the Celtic team visit places such as New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, Detroit, Toronto and Montreal.

The trip saw Willie Maley acquire two new players as Canadian goalkeeper Joe Kennaway signed for the club not long after as did Scots born centre half James McGuire who joined the club immediately after the tour.

The manager and his players departed the US in late June aboard the anchor lined steamship (joint Cunard-Anchor lined service) Transylvania. A ship that would later be converted to an Armed Merchant cruiser at the start of WWII. The cruiser was unfortunately torpedoed and sunk by a German U boat U-56 nearly a decade later in 1940.

It would have been quite an eye opener for the players back then to have travelled and played in such surroundings, but football such as life has changed so much in the last century. The current squad will be glad they don’t need to experience similar scenarios.

Just an Ordinary Bhoy

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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.

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