Tom Campbell with A Celtic State of Mind – When Celtic won The Victory-in-Europe Cup

World War II ended in May, 1945 – at last in Europe with the unconditional surrender of Germany, and the automatic reaction in Scotland was to celebrate with ‘a special football game’. It was arranged at short notice: Rangers and Celtic were invited to participate, the prize would be a trophy and it would remain with the winners permanently… the gate receipts would go to charity and, in fact, the occasion was organized by the Glasgow Charity Cup Committee under much the same rules as that venerable competition; in the event of a draw, corner kicks would be the deciding factor (and, if that was still inconclusive, the outcome would be decided by the toss of a coin).

The short notice was too awkward for Rangers: they were due to play Motherwell in a League Cup semi-final a few days later, and the organizing committee delayed too long in officially inviting them to take part. Accordingly, the Ibrox club declined.

Their place was offered to Queen’s Park, and the amateur club accepted the late invitation. By the way, Queen’s Park were a top-flight side at the time and could not be considered ’pushovers’ in any sense.

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Fittingly, there was a solemn service before the game. With both teams lined up in the centre circle, the Reverend Langland Seath delivered a short sermon, the President of the SFA Douglas Bowie made a speech, the Govan Burgh Band provided appropriate music (including Elgar’s Land of Hope and Glory)…

Celtic wore their usual strips but, according to reliable witnesses, during World War II the quality of the actual material fluctuated. Thus, on occasion the shade of green in the hoops was inconsistent, ranging from light to dark. Also, in those days, clothing was rationed and replacements difficult to secure. Queen’s Park had to change from their black-and-white hoops to a smart-looking combination of white shirt and black shorts.

Celtic: Miller; Hogg, P. McDonald; Lynch, Mallan, McPhail; Paton, M. MacDonald; Gallagher; Evans, McLaughlin.

Queen’s Park: Hamilton; J. McColl, Galbraith; I. McColl, Whigham, Cross; Lister, MacAuley; Harris; Dixon, Aitkenhead.

Several of that Queen’s side would turn professional and enjoy distinguished careers: Walter Galbraith (Clyde), John Whigham (Morton), Tony Harris (Aberdeen), Johnny Aitkenhead (Motherwell) and Ian McColl (Rangers). At least one, Alec Cross, remained with Queen’s Park throughout his career and became a Hampden legend.

The attendance was later confirmed as 31,000 and, while this may have been disappointingly low, the fact that the game took place the day after massive celebrations should be remembered.

The game itself was a pleasant occasion, sportingly played and keenly contested; one newspaper described it as “a breath of fresh air”. Queen’s Park led through a goal by Arthur Dixon (who was the son of Rangers’ trainer), but Johnny Paton equalized, taking advantage of confusion in the Amateurs’ defence. With both sides equal in goals and also corner kicks it appeared certain that the issue would be decided by the toss of the referee’s coin… but Celtic gained a decisive corner kick with two minutes left to seal the victory.

Celtic won the Victory-in-Europe Cup and each of their players received four War Savings Bonds; surprisingly, the Queen’s Park players (amateur as they were) received two such monetary rewards.

Tom Campbell

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