The First World War made a real difference to football in Scotland. Headlines began to appear in the papers about footballers enlisting. Letters commented on the great boost there would be to recruitment if popular footballers led the way. During matches, the slogan ‘Kitchener Wants You!’ was carried round at half-time on placards and there were many appeals for recruits to ‘join the fun before it is all over!’.
In 1914, the Football Association and the Scottish Football Association agreed to abandon International matches. The SFA also decided to scrap the Scottish Cup competition. Players’ wages were to be reduced by 25% and later fixed at £1 per week. No wages were paid during the close season and footballers were expected to take their place alongside the other workers in the munitions factories and shipyards. League matches were confined to Saturdays and holidays and players could only take part if they had worked the rest of the week.
In season 1916/1917, after having won the previous two league titles, Celtic started promisingly, with a series of performances which delighted the manager Willie Maley, the Board of Directors and the fans. By the third week of December, the playing stats were;-
P W D L F A Pts
17 13 4 0 38 6 30
On this day in 1916, Celtic travelled to the north of Glasgow, to Firhill, where they would meet Partick Thistle in a league match. This was the second clash of the clubs in this competition that season, the first one at Parkhead ending in a goalless draw. Because of that and due also to the fact that the Jags were doing quite well in mid-table, Willie Malay put out a strong side of Shaw, McNair, Dodds, Wilson, McStay, Brown, McAtee, McMenemy, McColl, Cassidy and Browning.
Thistle certainly put up a good show but Celtic were always the more fluent team. They made a number of good chances and eventually scored with two of them, thanks to Jimmy McColl and John Browning, gaining another two points in their drive towards another championship.
NB From the start of season 1913-14 to halfway through season 1924-25, the name of Charlie Shaw was an almost ever-present in goal for Celtic. During those years, he made 436 appearances, in 240 of which he kept a clean sheet, an incredible ratio of 55%.
NB2 The ‘McStay’ at centre-back for Celtic that afternoon was Willie, the older of the two brothers who were mainstays of the Celtic defence from 1912 to the early 1930s. Willie had joined Celtic in 1912 but then had loan spells with Vale of Leven and Ayr United before coming back to Celtic in July 1916. He got his chance that season because the regular incumbent, Peter Johnstone, had decided to join the forces, being called up to
the 14th Battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland, playing his final match for the club in the Glasgow Cup Final win over Clyde on 7th October 1916. In the summer of 1917, Peter Johnstone lost his life at the Battle of Arras, leaving a wife and two children, Nellie and Peter.