Under the guidance of Willie Maley, the Celtic side of the first decade of the 1900s had delivered the all-conquering, record-breaking and history-making six-in-a-row champions of Scotland, with the last of those six titles secured in the 1909/10 season. However, Maley had already started to lay the foundations of a new side that he would develop into a team of winners to deliver further success into the following decade.
In the short-term there would be a break in the monopoly of league titles for Maley’s Celtic side. A four-year gap in title celebrations between 1910 and 1914 would be tempered with back-to-back success in the Scottish Cup in 1911 and 1912. A further Scottish Cup was secured in 1914 to make it a league and cup double celebration for the Hoops. That domestic double would be the catalyst for further dominance as Celtic secured five of the next six league championships.
At this time, Celtic seemed to be able to field attackers who could not only put the ball in the net, but could entertain the burgeoning crowds gathered on the terraces of Celtic Park and at other football stadiums throughout Scotland. Jimmy Quinn “The Croy Express” and Patsy Gallagher “The Mighty Atom” would form part of the five forward options at the disposal of Willie Maley during the first half of the 1910s and it is sometimes easy to focus on the goal-scoring heroics. However, in defence, a trinity of players would form a partnership that set records and helped secure success for the club.
A defensive pairing of Alec McNair and Joe Dodds, along with goalkeeper Charlie Shaw, known as ‘The Holy Trinity’, provided the secure foundations for this Celtic team to deliver more silverware.
Alec McNair was a veteran of the Celtic side who helped secure six titles on the trot just a few years earlier. Willie Maley described the man who spent 21 years at the club as a “Calm, cool head”. His compatriot in defence, Joe Dodds, joined the club in 1908 and was known for his pace and ability as a full-back and centre-back. With Maley making changes throughout the team, it would be 1911 before the pair would begin to form a more stable partnership together. The speed and flexibility of Dodds and the coolness of McNair allowed the rest of the team to focus on winning matches.
The final piece of the defensive trinity arrived in 1913 when goalkeeper Charlie Shaw was signed from Queens Park Rangers. It didn’t take long for the new man to grow into his role between the posts at Celtic Park. During the winter months of December 1913 and February 1914, Shaw and the defensive pairing in front of him would go an incredible 13 matches in league and cup duty without conceding a goal.
There would a regular selection of ‘The Holy Trinity’ as the first three names on the Celtic team sheet for the next five seasons. This particular Trinity served a collective 45 years at the club, winning every major honour available and helping to make Celtic the dominant side in Scottish football.
Martin DonaldsonWatch the creator and cast of Bend it like Brattbakk with A Celtic State of Mind