With No Games For A Month, Celtic Head To Portugal

The SPFL recently suspended football until at least the end of April, a month today (give or take 24 hours). This isn’t the first time that Celtic have been in this scenario. Indeed, the big freeze of 1979 ensured that Celtic didn’t play a competitive match from 23 December 1978 to 31 January 1979. Faced with the propsect of a month without football, Billy McNeill took his Celtic team away from the dreadful winter weather by travelling to Portugal.

The heavy snow and freezing conditions had forced many postponements in Scottish football, with lots of clubs also having to deal with flooding due to burst pipes. Hibernian took their players to Israel to escape the cold and Aberdeen went to Portugal.

Billy McNeill did like wise, taking his squad to the resort of Estoril in Lisbon, where he had been with his teammates ahead of the European Cup final in 1967. McNeill took the team on an emotional video to the Estadio Nacional, where he relived his memories of lifting the big cup.

Celtic would then play FC Estoril in a friendly to keep them ticking over. The Portuguese club were owned by Torres, who was formerly a player for Benfica. He kindly offered to assist McNeill and the match went ahead on 16 January 1979.

The Hoops lined up as follows:

Baines, McGrain, Lynch, Aitken, MacDonald, Edvaldsson, Provan, MacLeod,McCluskey (Lennox), Burns (Conroy), Doyle (McAdam)

Note the ommitance of Ronnie Glavin. He was the only Celtic first team player not to travel to Portugal, as he was up in front of Hamilton Sheriff Court on a charge of arson for setting fire to his East Kilbride sports shop. The case carried on for five days with an eventual verdict of ‘Not Proven’.

Celtic went on the offensive from the start. MacDonald and Doyle gave the Celts a 2-0 first half lead. Then McAdam and Edvaldsson scored an additional two goals in the last ten minutes to give Celtic a 4-0 victory.

Word came through that the weather may be on the turn in Scotland, so the Bhoys jetted back to Glasgow the following day. However, it would be another two weeks before a competitive fixture could be played.

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About Author

Hailing from an Irish background, I grew up in Bournemouth with the good fortune to begin watching Celtic as a young child during the Martin O'Neill era. Still living on the south coast, I have a season ticket at Paradise and also travel to European away matches when possible. At the age of 19, I published my first Celtic book (Our Stories & Our Songs: The Celtic Support). Then, last year, I published my second book (Take Me To Your Paradise: A History Of Celtic-Related Incidents & Events), which is sold in Waterstones and official Celtic FC stores.

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