Coronation Cup – Part 12 – 21st May 1953

Celtic’s victory was obviously well-received by their fans but the quality of the play in the final and the fact that both clubs came from North of the Border gave Scottish football in general an enormous boost. Rather than rely on newspaper reports, let’s give the final words to some stars who played that night.

Firstly, Jock Stein; –


Hibs had a tremendous side at the time. When you look at the forwards they had – the Famous Five – they were well named. But we had played well in the competition and I don’t think we were too worried about them.

John McPhail was a revelation for us. He played in mid-field and had a sort of free role, like the one Jim Baxter would later play. He was the playmaker for us. Bertie Peacock worked hard for us and Charlie Tully obviously was on the wing for the early rounds. He wasn’t fit for the final and Willie Fernie came in.

It was a big job for us because Hibs were a good side and had played well throughout the competition. But on the night – lots of people said we were lucky and that John Bonnar saved us – but that’s what he was there for. Celtic played good football that night and played good open football. We scored a goal – if my memory serves me right – in the first half. I made a tackle on Lawrie Reilly on the halfway line and the ball broke to Neilly Mochan. He just dragged it in and from the inside-left position – I still say it was 40 yards but he says it wasn’t as far as that – he hit it with his right foot. Tommy Younger was in goal for Hibs that day and I’m sure the first time he saw the ball was when it came back out of the net.

One outstanding feature for us was Johnny Bonnar’s display in goal. He had some unbelievable goal-line saves. John wasn’t a good keeper off his line; I had charge of everything that came across. The whole team played well that night. I played particularly well myself against Lawrie Reilly. But Bonnar that night had some tremendous saves and in the end, we ran out worthy winners.

Let’s also hear from John ‘Hookey’ McPhail; –


They had the Famous Five forward line and loved to move about, so I said to myself, anything we do, we’ve got to do it early on. If we don’t do something early on, this team will smother us. I kept feeding Neilly Mochan with the ball and he eventually scored that glorious goal just before half-time. In the second half, they absolutely came on top of us like an avalanche. How they didn’t score, I’ll never know. With five minutes to go, Gordon Smith beat a couple of men, crossed the ball and Lawrie Reilly had a shot. It hit Johnny Bonnar on the head, then hit the crossbar before dropping down into Johnny’s hands. I just stood there with my hands on my hips, hysterical with laughter, as Reilly did his nut. I quickly took a look at that old Hampden clock, then suddenly, there was a shout from the other end and Jimmy Walsh had put us 2-0 up!

Neilly Mochan scored a memorable goal that evening.


I once asked him just how far out he had been when he hit the ball;-

“Never 40 yards…..I would say about 35 yards….yes, 35 yards”.

“With the big brown ball” I reminded him.

“Aye, Jim, the big brown ball”. He reflected for a moment then in typical, vintage Mochan mould, blew through his cheeks and waved both hands in a dismissive gesture, “some of these modern guys couldn’t have kicked that ball 35 yards!”

For the final words on the whole competition, though, let’s hear again from Jock Stein;-

‘The victory was a crucial one for Celtic. The important thing for the club and the supporters was that we had been in the competition. There had been a Victory Cup, there was the Exhibition Cup in 1938 and then this Coronation Cup. Each time a cup had been put up for competition, Celtic had won it and this time round, we had won it well’.


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