A Celtic State of Mind’s Team of the Decade – The 1950s Midfield

Following on from ACSOM’s highly debatable but massively successful Celtic Cult Hero XI, we are now on a quest to establish your team of the decade from the fifties right up to the present day.

Starting with the 1950s, this journey will capture some of Celtic’s greatest ever players whilst also highlighting some of the unsung heroes who have graced the famous green and white hoops. Today we take a look at the heart of the park to establish the two midfielders who will partner Bertie Auld in the engine room of this side.
 
The 1950s saw some of the greatest ever Celts pull on the famous jersey throughout the decade. Players like Bertie Auld, Neilly Mochan, Willie Fernie, Bobby Collins and Charlie Tully were all legends in their own right. Today’s vote pitches Neilly Mochan up against Bobby Collins, Willie Fernie and a young Paddy Crerand.

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Player 1 – Neil Mochan
 
Neil Mochan was a powerful performer, who established his eternal place in Celtic folklore just weeks after joining the Bhoys.
 
The Larbert-born player signed for the Hoops in May 1953 from Middlesbrough and remarkably he went on to win two trophies before he ever made his home debut. Mochan’s first Celtic appearance came in a Glasgow Charity Cup final victory over Queen’s Park at Hampden – he scored twice – and he was to play his next three games at that same ground as Celtic claimed the Coronation Cup. His jersey was on display at the People’s Palace Centenary Exhibition in 1988.
 
With pace and power in abundance, Mochan also possessed a famously fearsome shot which he used to excellent effect. These attributes made the robust Mochan exactly the type of forward Celtic had been crying out for. A constant goal threat and an inspiration to team-mates and fans alike Mochan could play on the left-wing or through the middle but, despite an excellent scoring record, he was not always an automatic first-team starter – much to the bewilderment and anger of the Parkhead faithful. He became somewhat of a utility player, filling in at inside-left and even left-back when required, the reason he has been included in this poll twice!

Player 2 – Bobby Collins
 
Bobby was brought up in Toryglen Street, Polmadie. He was the eldest of six children and followed his local club, Third Lanark, as a boy, often squeezing under the fence to see them play, accompanied by brother Davie.

Both Everton and Celtic chased his signature and the Merseysiders offered his Pollok club a £1,000 transfer fee. The 17-year-old initially agreed to the deal, but quickly changed his mind when he heard that Celtic manager Jimmy McGrory was after him and signed on as a part-timer at Parkhead in 1948 for a weekly wage packet of £8.
 
Collins made his debut against Rangers on 13 August 1949 in a League Cup clash with Rangers. 70,000 Parkhead supporters saw the youngster perform admirably on the right-wing, tormenting Rangers veteran Jock Shaw. Collins was a fighter, a terrier, the archetypal tough wee Scotsman so loved by the fans.
 
It wasn’t until the arrival of Jock Stein into the side that things changed, and the team finally managed to achieve the silverware that was so lacking for a generation if not longer. Firstly, Celtic won the Coronation Cup in 1953, a national competition which helped to give Celtic the exposure that the club found to its benefit. However, it was the 1953/54 season that was important, with Bobby Collins playing a pivotal role in the midfield that landed us the golden league and cup double.

Ridiculously, one of Chairman Bob Kelly’s most baffling and ridiculous decisions was to leave Bobby Collins out of the 1954 Cup final v Aberdeen. Celtic still managed to win the game 2-1, but many will never forget how outraged everyone was at the omission of the ‘Wee Barra’. It was a slap in the face.

Collins was transferred to Everton – a transfer he was not happy with – on 12 September 1958. The reason for his sale was never made public, but the club were likely to have sold him for financial reasons to fund the new floodlights system.
 
Player 3 – Willie Fernie
 
Fife-born Willie Fernie was an important player for Celtic during the 1950s. He saw the transformation from the lows to the highs, from the best seat that even money couldn’t buy – by being there on the pitch or on the trackside – in a long relationship with the club.
 
Willie signed for the Bhoys in October 1948, and he would go on to make in excess of 300 appearances during a Parkhead career in which he firmly established himself as a Celtic favourite and great. Fernie moved to Glasgow from ‘Leslie Hearts’ and eventually made his competitive first-team debut in a 1-0 league victory at St Mirren on 18 March 1950. Over time, he displayed a remarkable versatility which saw the club deploy him as a right-half, inside-forward and outside-left as the need arose.
 
A tireless runner, Fernie gave 100% until the final whistle by which time opposition defenders would be at the point of exhaustion at having to track the hard-working Celt. His wonderful talent with a football made the Fifer a huge favourite with the Celtic support but also a marked man with the opposition who would regularly treat Fernie to excessively rough treatment. It was a credit to the Celt that he never retaliated to the often vicious fouls employed to stop him.
 
Despite his talent, the club generally underperformed, which was not helped by a meddling board and a decent but powerless manager. Things could have been so much greater at the club when talent such as Willie Fernie is considered.
 
There is little doubt that, without the brilliance of Willie Fernie, such iconic Celtic triumphs as the 1953 Coronation Cup victory, 1954 league and cup double and the back-to-back league cup triumphs (including the 1957 League Cup final 7-1 rout of Rangers) would simply not have been possible.

The most celebrated game for Willie was the 1957 League Cup final, where he scored a penalty and many considered him to be man of the match in one of Celtic’s greatest victories of all time.

Player 4 – Pat Crerand
 
A boyhood Celtic fan from the Hoops’ heartland of the Gorbals, Pat Crerand attended Holyrood Secondary in Glasgow’s south side along with his cousin, another future Celt Charlie Gallagher. Pat was a talented attack-minded half-back who had the ability to go on to become a Celtic legend.
 
He signed for the Hoops in August 1957 from Duntocher Hibs and made his debut in a 3-1 league victory over Queen of the South at Parkhead on 4 October 1958. Crerand quickly established himself as a key member of the Celtic side and a firm favourite of the support.
 
A lack of pace didn’t prevent him from pushing forward and his ability to deliver defence-splitting balls was second to none. He loved to get forward and shoot from distance. Apart from this willingness to attack, Crerand was a steely type and added some real bite to the midfield, he was a player who never shirked a tackle.
 
Pat’s biggest problem was that he too frequently lost his discipline on the field and he was at the centre of several disciplinary issues while on international duty with Scotland. Celtic Chairman Robert Kelly clamped down hard on these indiscretions and the relationship between player and chairman was frosty and fragile.
 
During the 1963 Ne’erday game at Ibrox, Crerand had a poor first-half and subsequently had an explosive half-time row with Sean Fallon. Fallon believed that Crerand was not pulling his weight and that the Bhoys needed to go out and all-out attack in the second half (they were 1-0 down). Crerand took great exception to Sean’s attack and went on the attack himself. Into the midst of this walked Robert Kelly.
 
From that moment, his time at Parkhead was all but over. He found himself dropped and his place taken by John McNamee. Crerand claims that he had been making his way back to his mother’s house from mass at St. Francis in his native Gorbals when he was approached by the reporter Jim Rodger. It was through the reporter that Pat first heard that he was being offloaded to Manchester United.

Whether Pat was pushed or jumped is entirely up to whose side of the story you believe.
 
Colin Watt

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