With the assistance of the voting public, ACSOM were able to select Celtic’s Team of the Decade from the 1950s recently. Now it’s time to jump back in that time machine and land in one of the most successful eras of Celtic’s history – the 1960s.
From winning trebles to lifting the European Cup in Lisbon, the 1960s will undoubtedly be reflected upon as one of the most successful times in Celtic’s long and illustrious history. Legends of the club were made in this era and today we start to put our side of the ‘60s together, starting with the man between the sticks – with number 1 on their shorts – the goalkeeper!
The 1960s saw some of the greatest ever Celts pull on the famous jersey throughout the decade. Players like Bertie Auld, Jimmy Johnstone, Billy McNeill, Stevie Chalmers and many more – all legends within their own right.
For today’s vote looking at the goalies, we are going to highlight just three men – those who made the most appearances for the Hoops throughout this era. Lisbon Lions, Ronnie Simpson and John Fallon, as well as Frank Haffey.
Player 1 – Ronnie Simpson
Appearances in the 1960s: 196
Trophies: 4 league titles, 1 Scottish Cup, 3 League Cups, 2 Glasgow Cups and 1 European Cup.
Ronnie Simpson already had a great career behind him by the time he rocked up at Celtic Park. Having won two FA Cups whilst in the colours of Newcastle United in the 1950s, Simpson made almost 300 appearances for the Magpies before moving north to join Hugh Shaw’s Hibernian.
Simpson appeared 168 times for Hibs before Jock Stein decided to sell him to Celtic due to his lack of effort in training. Signed originally as cover for John Fallon, Simpson’s chance of a fresh start at the Hoops seemed to be over when Jock Stein made the move west to join Celtic as manager in March 1965. However, a poor performance from Fallon in the 1964 League Cup final led to Simpson being given the No. 1 berth and it was a position he was to hold on to for years to come.
Four league titles in-a-row followed along with a plethora of awards including the SFWA Footballer of the Year in 1967 as Simpson cemented his name amongst the greats of Celtic Football Club. The crowning glory, of course, is that night in Lisbon, the night that will live on forever in the memories of Celtic fans, new and old, when Celtic became the first Scottish, British and non-Latin side to win the European Cup.
Simpson suffered a dislocated shoulder in 1969, an injury which forced him to miss the 1970 European Cup final against Feyenoord and, ultimately, an injury which forced him to retire from the game at the ripe old age of 39.
A man who had made over 600 club appearances, yet he only had five caps for his country. Simpson was ahead of his time and his foot movement and distribution would be sought after in today’s football market.
Simpson passed away in 2004 aged 73, a footballing icon who will be remembered for many, many years to come.
Player 2 – John Fallon
Appearances in the 1960s: 179
Trophies: 6 league titles, 2 Scottish Cups and 5 Scottish Cups.
For many, John Fallon is the forgotten Lisbon Lion. His contribution throughout the 1960s was extremely important and yet some would say vastly under-appreciated.
Fallon was taken on as a junior by Celtic, and soon was promoted to cover for the famously eccentric keeper Frank Haffey. Fallon played his first full game for the Celtic first-team in 1959 and replaced Haffey completely in 1963.
However, in spite of a successful European campaign in 1964, he lost his place as first choice keeper to the more experienced Ronnie Simpson after Jock Stein arrived as manager. He good-naturedly understudied Simpson for the next couple of years, playing only occasionally against ‘easy’ opponents. When interviewed, John said that it was more nerve-racking sitting on the bench as substitute than it was being on the field.
John’s first Celtic success came in the Scottish Cup final of 1965, which Celtic won 3-2 against Dunfermline. A Celtic man through and through, John was seen swinging wildly on the crossbar at the Kings Park (Celtic) end as he celebrated Billy McNeill’s dramatic last-minute winner, however, he lost his place in the autumn of 1965 when Ronnie Simpson took over. Simpson is regarded by many as possibly our greatest ever goalkeeper, so it was to be a difficult task for Fallon to make his way back into the side ahead of him.
John Fallon was the twelfth man at the European Cup final of 1967, played in Lisbon between Celtic and Inter Milan. He is thus the only Lisbon Lions player not to have actually played. Some people, unfairly, leave him out of the Lisbon Lions entirely, but this is partly due to substitutes only being utilised for injuries in those days, so they weren’t regarded in the same way as they are now. Throughout the 1966/67 campaign, John only played a single match (a 2-0 win over Kilmarnock in May 1967).
John Fallon did play one small part on the day for the Lions. As the substitute in Lisbon, he was famously sent out early to claim the bench nearest the half-way line, as a shrewd psychological move by Jock Stein to show Inter Milan that this Celtic team were defiant and not going to be bullied by anyone. “We Shall Not Be Moved!” Indeed.
Player 3 – Frank Haffey
Appearances in the 1960s: 168
Trophies – Nil
Haffey is best remembered as one of Celtic’s more eccentric keepers (and we’ve had some erratic performers in our history), yet he still played more than one hundred matches for his club and was generally liked. However, he had the ignominy to play at a poor time for the club, and he has become synonymous with that period.
After the League Cup final in 1957 up until the Scottish Cup win in 1965, Celtic very much underachieved, and that was Frank Haffey’s time at Celtic. His spell at the club wasn’t easy and he played in some heart-breaking matches, such as the Scottish Cup final defeat to Jock Stein’s Dunfermline in 1961, and the 1963 Scottish Cup final defeat to Rangers.
He is mostly remembered for some humorous moments (which likely lightened the mood at what was otherwise a difficult time for the club):
* February 1962: In a game against St. Johnstone, Frank went to take a bye-kick and angled it sharply towards the Celtic right-back Dunky McKay, but Frank managed to mess it up big time and kicked the ball into his own net – the referee deemed that the bye-kick should be re-taken as the ball had to move forward;
* March 1962: Rowing with his own players (Crerand and McNeill), only for the referee to step in and calm things down.
* March 1963: He threw a pass-back between his legs to Jim Kennedy as he staggered out of the penalty box with the ball.
* October 1963: Celtic were 9-0 up against Airdrie. The support called for Haffey to take a penalty. He took it, firing it like a cannonball, and it was saved by the goalkeeper (Haffey applauded the save).
Beyond Celtic, he is most often associated with Scotland’s 9-3 loss to England at Wembley in 1961, which unsurprisingly would be Haffey’s final match for Scotland, and typically he had to carry the can for that debacle. This was even though he wasn’t at fault for all the goals (some say just the two). He won just the two caps for Scotland, and will always be remembered by the ‘Tartan Army’ but sadly more for the disastrous aspect of that 9-3 defeat.
Colin WattWatch Professor Willy Maley with A Celtic State of Mind