Colin Watt with A Celtic State of Mind – Team of the Decade: 1950s Left-Back

ACSOM continues on our journey through the years to find out your greatest Celtic team of the decades. Starting with the fifties, this ongoing feature 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 four men who made a big impact at left-back during this decade – Mochan, Fallon, Kennedy and Rollo.

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Option 1 – Neil Mochan (first of two nominated positions)
 
Neil Mochan was a powerful forward 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 appearance for Celtic 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 is included in this poll.
 
Mochan will appear later on in the series for other positions in this team of the decade, such was the adaptability of this great player!
 
Option 2 – Sean Fallon
 
Sean’s Celtic story began quite literally, by an accident. The son of the Celtic legend Jimmy McMenemy (Joe McMenemy) saved Fallon’s sister, Lilly, from drowning at Lough Gill. Fallon invited Joe McMenemy back to his house and the Scot returned the compliment by sending Sean presents of a Celtic shirt and Willy Maley’s book ‘The Story of the Celtic’.
 
Sean Fallon started his football career with St. Mary’s Juniors and also played Gaelic football for Craobh Ruadh. He also played for McArthurs, Sligo Distillery and Longford Town before he arrived at the Showgrounds in 1947 to play for Sligo Rovers. He then joined Glenavon in the north before impressing Celtic F.C. with his performance for the Irish League against the League of Ireland
 
He signed for Celtic and made his debut in the last game of the 1949/50 season and almost a year to the day later, he won the Scottish Cup. In 1952 he was made Captain of Celtic.

“I was just an ordinary player with a big heart and a fighting spirit to recommend me.” – Sean Fallon.
 
One of Fallon’s greatest moments in a Celtic jersey was the famous 7-1 League Cup final victory in 1957. f you were to walk down Suchiehall Street in the middle of the ‘50s it would not be strange to pass the window of Ferrari’s and see Jock Stein, Sean Fallon and Bertie Peacock all sitting in, talking players and tactics.
 
Fallon was forced to retire in 1958 through injury but his influence and importance at the club continued. Stein and Fallon’s friendship and mutual respect, however, were to come together in later years to provide all the faith, training, discipline and self-belief required to lead a troupe of young local players to the immortal European Cup success in 1967.

Option 3 – Jim Kennedy
 
Jim Kennedy can be deemed as ‘The Reluctant Footballer’, and fortunate we are that he chose to take up the game with Celtic professionally. He signed for Celtic in 1955, and was then farmed out to Duntocher Glencairn, earning a reputation as a tough tackling no-nonsense left-back.
 
Having played a few reserve games for Celtic, he came in for his debut against Partick Thistle on 23 April 1956 where he was up against the gifted Jags and Scotland right winger Johnny McKenzie, and Celtic duly lost 2-0 in what was to be his only appearance that season. He did play for Celtic in a Charity Cup match versus Clyde in May 1956 and it was said that “Celtic fans were in raptures” over his performance. Nevertheless, he wasn’t even in the first team photograph in the 1956/57 season and didn’t make a second appearance till 2 January 1957 in a 1-1 draw against Kilmarnock.
 
He finally started to make a good number of appearances for the first team in the 1959/60 season. However, it was not until April 1961 that Jim gave up his day job in an Elderslie carpet factory, having taken nearly six years to decide that playing football full-time was a fit and proper way to make a living.
 
Jim over his time saw little success in the league and in the Scottish Cup, despite some fine runs to the finals; Celtic were perennially the bridesmaid and never the bride. In the 1961 and 1963 Scottish Cup finals, Jim played good games to see Celtic take the matches to replays but his luck ended there. In 1961, he was laid out of the replay due to appendicitis, and Celtic lost the rematch.
 
Option 4 – Alex Rollo
 
Alex Rollo followed the well-beaten path of the aspiring footballer in the 1950s – sign for a junior team of good repute then step up to the seniors. It was the time of long apprenticeships and it was January 1951 before he made the first team. It was the not the most auspicious debut and it involved a 3-1 defeat at Fir Park, in Motherwell.
 
The following three matches against Aberdeen, Hibernian and Dundee brought three more defeats for the team, but the newcomer held his place against the ebullient Roy Milne, who at that time seemed to have a permanent lease on the left-back position at Celtic. He was a player whose career you wrote off at your peril. At a time when many great Scottish players had scarcely seen a cup medal, let alone won one, Alex Rollo had collected his after playing a mere 14 league games and seven Scottish Cup ties.
 
The odd thing was that Celtic were winning comparatively little at this time, but when they did, Rollo had a habit of cropping up in the team. Looking back over his career he certainly seems to have won anything that was worth winning except the big-league title honours. He was an invaluable member of the side that won the Coronation Cup in 1953.
 
Rollo left Parkhead on a free transfer having played one match in the Celtic flag-winning campaign of 1954, and he ended up under the watchful eye of another ex-Celt, Malcolm MacDonald of Kilmarnock.

Colin Watt

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