Right up to the early years of the 1960s, each season opened with a match involving the players on the signed list of the club. These games were common throughout the UK and came in a variety of headings – First Team v Reserves, Probables v Possibles etc. However, at Celtic Park, it was always the Greens versus the Whites and the photo below shows how both these sides lined up in the summer of 1960 at Parkhead for the annual clash.
The Greens – or Hoops, to be precise – contained a few guys coming to the end of their Celtic careers. Bertie Peacock by then was 32 and starting his final season before heading back to Northern Ireland and a player/manager role with Coleraine. Neil Mochan was even closer to the exit door; in November of that season, in his 33rd year, he would move to Dundee United.
The majority, though, were youngsters, like Bobby Carroll, scorer of Celtic’s first goal in major European competition – against Valencia in the Fairs Cities’ Cup in September 1962 – who had just turned 22; or Billy McNeill-20, Pat Crerand -21, John Hughes- 17, Dunky MacKay -23, Stevie Chalmers- 23 and Frank Haffey -21. At 25, Jim Kennedy was almost a veteran.
The Whites’ team had only four players who went on to have extended careers with Celtic. Goalkeeper John Fallon, at that time 20, Charlie Gallagher – also 20, John Clark – 19 and Alec Byrne – by then 27 and in his 6th season with the club. The prize for the most unlucky player must surely go to John McNamee. When your rival for the centre-half berth is Billy McNeill, then your chances of selection are going to be slim. ‘Big Mac’ made 38 appearances for Celtic before heading off to star at Newcastle.
Of the others, John Curran made 4 first-team appearances, John Kurilla 9, Dan O’Hara also 9 and Jim Conway 43. Only Jim Upton and Tommy Carmichael missed out on a top team start.
There was a good attendance at Celtic Park for the game, as was the case with matches played throughout the country in the first part of that season. Scottish football had received a great boost from – and the spectating public’s appetite had been whetted by – a match played earlier that summer, ironically without the involvement of a Scottish side. On the 18th May, a crowd of 127,621 – including yours truly in the schoolboys’ enclosure – had packed into Hampden for the European Cup Final, when Real Madrid met Eintracht Frankfurt. The West Germans were very talented but Real were quite wonderful on the evening, winning 7-3, hardly anybody leaving before the end of the match in case they missed something!
And that brings me back nicely to a photograph I showed earlier in the season and have re-produced here.
It was taken at the City Chambers in Glasgow on 14th May 2002, the day before Real Madrid met Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League Final. As former winners, my team-mates and I were among the guests that morning and this photo was one of many taken in that impressive edifice. SFA secretary Ernie Walker is in the light suit, I am in the Lions blazer and between us is left-winger Francisco Gento, who won six European Cup medals and starred in that 1960 final.
Seven years after I watched him that night at Hampden, he was my immediate opponent when Celtic took on Real Madrid in the Bernabeu Stadium in Alfredo Di Stefano’s testimonial match, only two weeks or so after winning the European Cup in Lisbon. By that time, Gento was 34 and still quick! Thank goodness I played against him in the declining years of his career – he must have been something else in his prime!