When Celtic made the short journey across the city to play Third Lanark on the afternoon of Saturday, 28 November 1964, it would be their last league visit at the home of their hosts. The second Hampden Park or, as it was known then, Cathkin Park was a ground which had mixed memories for Celtic players and fans over the previous 76 years.
Cathkin Park was the home of Third Lanark from 1903, but before Thirds moved into the old ground it had already hosted a number of Scottish Cup finals and challenge matches.
In our inaugural season, Celtic lost the Scottish Cup final to Third Lanark 3-0 in a replay, however, in the last final played there in 1899 Celtic secured the Scottish Cup for the second time by overcoming city rivals Rangers 2-0.
Those famous names from Celtic’s history – Kelly, McCallum, McMahon and Maley – had all performed on that very pitch. It was there that manager Willie Maley gave a 19-year-old striker his debut in 1923. Celtic would lose the match 1-0, but it would be one of the few times in his career with Celtic that James McGrory would fail to hit the back of the net.
So, perhaps fittingly, 41 years after making his Celtic debut there, James McGrory (now as manager) led Celtic to their final official visit to Cathkin Park.
In the early ‘60s, Celtic had real potential, with some very talented players, but they could never quite find the consistency that would allow them to become challengers for the title, or even second place.
Third Lanark finished third in the Scottish top flight in season 1960/61, but the financial crisis that had surrounded them since then saw their fortunes change. They began to fall down the top division and their attendances also fell.
In the dugouts for the match were two legendary Celtic servants – McGrory for Celtic and Bobby Evans for Third Lanark.
With neither team particularly fancied for the end of season silverware, a crowd of around 11,000 fans paid to watch Celtic take the game to the hosts in the opening minutes. The early pressure paid off as Celtic took the lead on six minutes through Bobby Murdoch. A strike from range that Thirds’ keeper Evan Williams was unable to maintain hold of and it rolled over the line to give Celtic the advantage.
Celtic continued to control the match, with chances for Maxwell, Murdoch and Hughes, but the young Evan Williams helped keep the score at 1-0 as both teams made their way to the dressing room for half-time.
The one-way traffic continued into the second-half with Jimmy Johnstone pulling the strings. Gallagher missed from eight yards, and both Hughes and Murdoch were denied by Williams.
With 15 minutes remaining, Celtic doubled their lead. Jimmy Johnstone jinked and weaved his way past three Third Lanark defenders before firing in a shot which flashed along the goal-line. John Hughes was on hand to knock the ball over the line to ensure the points would go back to Celtic Park.
Celtic added a third goal two minutes later thanks to an own-goal from Doug Baillie.
From the Celtic team that played that day, six would go on to win the European Cup in Lisbon less than three years later under the management of Jock Stein. The young Thirds’ keeper Evan Williams would go on to sign for Celtic in 1969 and play in the 1970 European Cup final in Milan against Feyenoord.
Although an own-goal is statistically the last goal scored for Celtic at Cathkin Park, John Hughes was the last Celtic player to score at a ground which had given many great years service to Scottish football.
Martin DonaldsonListen to the award-winning A Celtic State of Mind podcast