International Break best ever 11 – right back
We move on to the right-back position. And there can be only one!
No he’s not a Highlander,though he is immortal. He is of course Danny McGrain.
Where do I start with this icon? At the beginning-he joined us a few days before Lisbon,having just turned 17. He stayed with us for twenty years,a one-club man,the only one of The Quality Street Gang to do so. During that time,he won seven titles-he played a few games in another two title-winning seasons,btw-five Scottish Cups and even a couple of League Cups. And to think that he should never have been a Celtic player in the first place!
Famously,Rangers’ sectarian signing policy led them to believe that this staunch Rangers supporter was of Irish Catholic extraction-as soon as they found out he was called Daniel Fergus McGrain,their interest evaporated.
Their loss. And very much our gain. He played over 700 games for us,and it could have been a lot more,for it wasn’t all plain sailing for this man. He had some huge hurdles to overcome. Being diagnosed with diabetes straight after his first World Cup in Germany in 1974 would have floored many a man,but Danny simply took the medical advice on offer,adjusted as needed and carried on. His fractured skull a couple of years earlier had been dealt with in a similar fashion. These are serious problems for anyone to overcome,but Danny dealt with them superbly.
It was a simple ankle injury which caused him the biggest problem,putting him out of the game at a crucial time for Celtic and Jock Stein. Having lost Kenny Dalglish to Liverpool and Pat Stanton to a career-ending toe injury in the first game of the season,losing Danny a few games later was a blow from which the team didn’t recover. The injuries came thick and fast that season,and the board took the chance to brutally dispense with Jock. It would be about 18 months before Danny returned,and the side,now under Billy McNeill,hit the ground running,ending with that epic night on 21st May,1979.
Danny lost a bit of pace with that injury,and he was settling into the veteran stage of his career,but he was still Mr Dependable,the team captain,and an inspiring figure on and off the park. He still had his part to play in the medals too,and who can forget,in particular,our final day of his penultimate season in Paisley?
It was on the international stage though that Danny made his name outwith Scotland,and it was through these games that he became widely respected as probably the best in his position prior to that injury in 77. He famously made the Team of the Tournament for the 1974 World Cup Finals-despite being played at left back to accommodate Sandy Jardine! At a time when Celtic players were only grudgingly awarded Scotland caps-look at how many The Lisbon Lions received!-Danny managed a grand total of 62 appearances,second at the time only to Kenny Dalglish.
Even though Danny made the right back position his own for so many years,there are still some players who deserve a mention for their part. Chris Morris,who succeeded him in our Centenary Season-who can forget the cross to Frankie as we beat the huns? Jackie Macnamara,who could play in so many positions for us,but was at his best at right back,and of course David Hay. Another who could play in various positions,this was one fearsome competitor. I could throw in Hinkel and Lustig too,but none compare to Danny as the best right back I’ve seen in my time as a Celtic supporter.
Saltires en Sevilla…
Danny McGrain 679 games (1970-1987) x11 goals – the only outfield player who doesn’t satisfy my requirement for a good ratio of goals. Quite simply a wonderful player. An absolute all time hero, from boyhood to now reaching retirement age. Brave, fearless, fast, skilful, vision and guts ( coming back from injuries so often) unassuming and an absolute inspiration. Most of all, a humble gentleman. So many memories. Best is a league game at old Somerset Park 4-2 thanks to a brave from Kenny ( supporters bus windscreen smashed by a stone on A77 … late getting to game) Danny was running riot and we were so close to him. Everyone egging him on and he was just loving it, scarpering across a muddy pitch like the wind. A few older lads at the back started a song that took off on that day but I don’t recall it catching on afterwards. ‘Go Danny Go Danny Go Go Go’ from the Stranglers’ Go Buddy Go.
Formative memories and a good part of my Celtic education.
The right back …
Now this one I do find very easy as its automatic for me and anyone that knows me well knows the answer already .
Jackie Mac had everything I could ever ask for in my wing back .
Heart , stamina , control , agile , and to top it all off he was one of us . Im sure the female fans thought they had struck gold also .
When he came from the Pars I realised that could and should be that position tied down for years , although we would not do the same on the opposite flank for quite some time .
If Jackie and Sid combining up that right flank didnt get your heart racing then check your pulse as you must be dead . Together they formed a great duo on that wing and still hang out off the pitch which is nice .
If I was asked to choose a game or games I think he stood out in then it was when we were paired with the Pool around 96 maybe were I thought he was our stand out performer who never shirked being the teams out ball one bit . Shteve Mac Manaman eneded up the difference maker overall and considering he was one of the best in the world at the time that should show the level we hit .
I am admittedly upset at how Jackie was ultimately handled contract wise by the club and I do believe there is some bitterness there . He should never ever have been allowed to run his contract down , that was disrespectful and dowright taking advantage of his good nature I would say . He reportedly earned less than the fella he was playing besides ( and regularly outshining ) tax payment to give you some idea of his substance ( I heard he earned 8k basic while Bobo was earning 45k with tax of a third due on that so that would easliy work out correct imo ) .
You might recall he was in the car a free agent on his way to meet Big Mick at Wolves when Peter apparently phoned and said “ Jackie sorry we havent got to sit down and Ive been very busy but what day shall we hash out your new contract next week ? “ to which he was given both barrels .
THrough a mutual acquaintance Im hoping to do a Q and A session with Jackie for the blog so I dont want to say too much or go into details but Jackie just nips it as my favourite Celt .
I had split up with the bird at the time , the house felt very cold and lonely , and through a fortunate turn of events my best mate split up with his woman also , moved in , we bought a dodgy sky box , and watched every game for a few years getting heavily into the team , and Jackie put the pride back in our hearts . We loved it when he got the ball and wished for the play to move through him.
Infact at his ( my best mate ) wedding in Orvieto central Italy , to roughly 100 Italians and 15 folk from County Cavan , I accepted the open mic and started singing him the Jackie song ,, two Italians immediately came and joined in , they knew the words. My better half was aghast as were many but it happened and I can prove it .
Jackies my bhoy! Full stop !
Sent from my iPad