In the years and decades that followed the end of the Second World War, it’s fair to say Celtic had lost the winning mentality that had delivered so much success in the initial half century of our club’s existence. The grand gala which marked our jubilee celebrations in 1938 was a distant memory along with the gilded dreams of a flourishing club at its peak. After winning the Empire Exhibition Trophy and League Championship in 1938, Celtic would be starved of any sustained success until the golden era of Jock Stein and the Lisbon Lions team he nurtured. However, even in amongst those darker days, Celtic still produced moments of magic along with players that will live forever in the folklore of the club.
The immortal names of the players who wore the hoops with distinction and pride still echo around our modern arena and helped deliver success during a downturn in fortunes. Mochan, Fallon, Peacock, Stein, Tully and Evans all played their part in providing some of the biggest days in the club’s history. The latter of the names mentioned, Bobby Evans, joined Celtic in 1944 from junior side St Anthony’s and spent 16 years in the east end of Glasgow before leaving in 1960 to join Chelsea. During his time as a Bhoy, he amassed over 500 first class appearances winning one League Championship, two Scottish Cups, two League Cups and the Coronation Cup.Listen to the latest episode of the award-winning A Celtic State of Mind
When the wait for a major honour finally ended after 13 years, Evans took his place on the field as the side overcame Motherwell by a single goal in the 1951 Scottish Cup final. Not a classic final by any stretch, but a winning mentality was a welcome change for the Celtic officials and faithful on the terraces.
In 1953, a one-off cup competition was created to commemorate the coronation of the new Queen. Eight clubs took part in the festival of football starting on the 11th May – four clubs each from Scotland and England. Celtic, although finishing eighth in the Scottish league that season, beat Arsenal and Manchester United on route to the showpiece final where they overcame a fantastic Hibernian team that included their ‘Famous Five’ frontline. Goals from Mochan and Walsh ensured Celtic would forever hold on to this piece of history.
In season 1953/54, Evans’ stamina and durability were put to the test as he played in all but one of the club’s league, Scottish and League Cup fixtures throughout the season. His reward for competing in 41 of 42 matches was helping Celtic achieve the league and cup double, our first domestic double for 40 years.
With Jock Stein sidelined due to injury, Bobby Evans found a new lease of life at the heart of the Celtic defence. With the entire playing field in front of him, Evans’ game management and ability to read the passage of play paid dividends as he secured two more medals as captain of the club. Firstly, in 1956, when Celtic defeated Partick Thistle 3-0 in the League Cup final replay at Hampden Park. This victory ensured the League Cup would be held in the Celtic Park trophy room for the very first time.
The following season, Evans won his final medal at Celtic, leading the club to their greatest domestic cup victory. On the 19th October 1957, an inspired performance by the men in green and white rewrote the history books by notching up the biggest margin of victory in a UK cup final. Celtic thrashed Rangers 7-1 to retain the League Cup, a simply stunning performance that is still celebrated by Celtic fans around the world.
His medal haul does not reflect the influence he had in the team, nor does it fully recognise the talent of a hugely versatile, talented leader on and off the pitch. At a time when Celtic players found it hard to make an impact at international level, Bobby Evans was selected as captain of the Scottish national team and earned every one of his 48 caps.
Bobby Evans’ ability to play, marshal and eventually lead a Celtic side for 16 years ensures that he will always be considered as one of the greatest names to have worn the hoops.
1 League winners’ medal
2 Scottish Cup winners’ medals
2 League Cup winners’ medals
1 Coronation Cup winners’ medal
Martin DonaldsonWatch Professor Willy Maley with A Celtic State of Mind