Walking through the trees, catching a glimpse of the pitch with the lush green grass. A few steps more and what’s left of the steps of the old terracing come into view.
Cathkin Park was not a ground I had been to before, with Third Lanark going out of business before I was born, but something about the terracing steps and the barriers just made the trip worth it. The old wide spectator steps have been largely covered by trees, plants and weeds. However, through some incredible commitment and hard work by volunteers, some of the old terracing is starting to show once again.
11 Scottish Cup finals were played here between 1885 and 1899, Renton winning the first of them against Vale of Leven, and Celtic winning the last 2-0 against city rivals Rangers in front of 25,000 fans. In May 1888, Scottish Cup holders Renton would be crowned the unofficial champions of the UK and the world at Cathkin Park after defeating English FA Cup holders West Bromwich Albion 4-1.Listen to the latest episode of the award-winning A Celtic State of Mind
Many of the greats of the Scottish game played here at a time when a football match was a break away from the tough industrial life in the city.
James McGrory made his debut here in a 1-0 defeat for Celtic. McGrory would recover from the defeat to go on to cement his place as the greatest goalscorer in Celtic’s history.
In the early ‘60s, thousands would make their way to watch a match here, in 1962 Third Lanark would again inflict defeat against a Celtic team that included Billy McNeill and Stevie Chalmers. However, the next five years would see fortunes for both clubs completely change. In 1967, one club would be crowned champions of Europe and the other would play its last match.
In those years, a young Celtic team had a leader in Jock Stein. Jock was able to harness the skills of a talented team and allowed them to reach the heights of European and world football. The Lisbon Lions squad knew the strengths of their team-mates and allowed each other to shine during a decade of dominance.
Jimmy Johnstone, the man later named as the greatest ever Celtic player, was the skillful winger and showman of the Lisbon Lions, he too had played on the pitch at Cathkin Park.
That sense of history about the surroundings at Cathkin Park as a Celtic fan grabbed me, but any football fan coming here would get that sense of falling back to a golden age. Those days are gone and 50 years later, a new set of players line up to claim victory in the atmospheric surroundings of the old ground.
Tucked away behind the corner flag are the new team breathing life back into Cathkin Park, but they are not forgetting the glorious past.
The coaches at the Jimmy Johnstone Academy live and breath for the development of young footballers, training players to be the best that they can be.
There are stories of players from the glory days of Scottish football, including tales of the Lisbon Lions, Tommy Burns and Jimmy Johnstone’s good friend Willie Henderson.
It’s an education in skills and teamwork but also an education in the talent Scotland produced and can hopefully produce again.
The Academy is part of the wider Jimmy Johnstone Charitable Trust, which is looking to create a legacy for one of the finest footballing talents the world has seen.
I had visited Hampden Park as a Celtic fan countless times over the years and never knew the old ground at Cathkin Park with all its history was still there and only a short walk away.
The next time you’re in that area and if you have the time take a wee walk round, you wont be disappointed.
Martin DonaldsonWatch Professor Willy Maley with A Celtic State of Mind