SOLKITTS and I are both Ayrshire lads,and lived our formative years in Ardrossan. I was lucky,being a Kilwinning lad,and can look back on those days as an “unfortunate event” but the lifetime friendship I forged with my best mate was definitely worth it!
A couple of weeks back,he sent me a clipping from an old newspaper,showing four young Celtic players. They were called Jim Clarke,John Murray,Hugh McKellar and Lou Macari. I can’t find any information about the first two,and Lou Macari naturally needs no introduction.
But for younger readers-don’t remember him by his time as a a manager. Us older heads prefer to remember the prolific striker who made hunskelping a specialty just prior to handing the mantle to Kenny Dalglish. Both would leave for financial reasons,and both would return as managers. Their performances as players certainly outshone their managerial efforts for us.
The fourth,Mr McKellar,suffered a serious leg break which necessitated his retirement. He would later face the daunting task in his new job of being my music teacher at school!
All four of those players I mention also had one other thing in common. They all attended the same school,and in fact were in the same year at St Michael’s Academy in Kilwinning. That’s not a bad achievement,given the paucity of Catholics in that neck of the woods. It was soon to change though with the adoption of Irvine as a designated New Town and overspill for Glasgow. It meant there was an urgent need for a new Catholic secondary to the north of Kilwinning,which would serve the needs of the towns in that area,Kilwinning being largely filled with the new intake to the south.
And so it came pass that St Andrews Academy in Saltcoats was established. Which can’t manage four Celtic trainees from the same year,but it certainly achieved some sporting excellence in its early years. I arrived there in 1975 and it was in the same school year that the playground was full of the unbelievable rumour that…
A fifth year had been taken out of school to play in Europe for Celtic!
That was Roy. He’d not long turned 17 and had made a few appearances already but wow! And because he was underage,the East German authorities insisted that Sean Fallon “adopt” him for the occasion.
Quite bizarre. But we were all thrilled,everyone who knew the fella was convinced he had it,and would be a big player for us.
Quite how big,few of us really could imagine.
Roy was originally envisioned as a centre half,and truthfully he would excel there for us for many a year. He formed a great partnership with Tom McAdam in particular,and also with Mick McCarthy in our Centenary Season,more on which later. But when Jock Stein returned from injury a few months after that Zwickau game,he saw the 17yo colossus in a different role.
Well,Jock could spot a player being played out of position. He had done so often with the Lisbon Lions. And Roy could read the game,he could pass. He was speedier than he looked,and boy could he tackle. Jock had him working defensively in training with Pat Stanton,so the thought was always for the long term,but in the meantime his midfield presence allowed Roy Glavin and Kenny Dalglish the freedom to go forward. And to great effect too.
Jock won the double on his return,much against the odds. There were many players to thank for that,not least the peerless Pat,Danny and Kenny. But Roy was far from an unsung hero. The fans knew we had a winner in our team.
This was indeed a winner,a man for the trenches. A year after the Zwickau debacle,he was scoring our two goals at Ibrox! Both taken with an aplomb which barely matched his obvious pleasure!!!
Roy was a leader and a man for the trenches,aye. And never was that quality needed more than in the annus horribilis which followed. I’ll pass over that year,which could easily have seen us relegated. Roy’s performances that season weren’t always stellar,but Messi would have struggled as we suffered one boot in the baws after another. Tom McAdam even got a literal one,which is another story.
The following season wasn’t much better,not to start with. But we seemed to get the bit between our teeth when football restarted after a deep freeze,and suddenly with a run of form there was a realisation that…
Come on boys,we can do this!
And no-one epitomised that than Big Roy. We can all see him,tall and leaning forward,fist clenched in front of his face and dragging his colleagues to give that extra one per cent,push us over the line.
And when heads went down ten minutes after half time in the decider on the famous 21-5-79 Monday with the ordering off of Johnny Doyle for not kicking Alex McDonald hard enough,who was it that rallied the troops?
Come on boys,we can do this!
A goal down at the time,and shortly after 2-1 down,there was one man on that park who would settle for nothing less than a victory. Sure,everyone wanted one-but Roy just wanted it that bit more. And he drove every last ounce out of the team that night to get it.
It’s such a shame that there is no proper footage from that night,but everyone who was there knew that the man who scored the equaliser-!-was the catalyst for possibly our greatest night for twelve years.
Following this achievement,Roy was shuffled back to central defence by Billy McNeill,and really became a mainstay of the side. Sure,he had some right bad days and we all saw them,but they were few and far between. I remember us getting hammered 2-2 by Ajax in 1982 with their Danish players in particular giving us the runaround,and remarking to my mates that I hoped that destroys the notion that Roy’s anything but vital. He played in the return leg,and we won 2-1. He missed the first leg,of course. Those players had suddenly found their freedom a tad restricted!
In fact,Roy always seemed to be the man when we won,and the fall guy when we didn’t. Maybe I just noticed it more because of my personal and local attachment. Didn’t stop me giving him pelters when needed,like when he didn’t kick Stuart Ripley into the jungle on the way to setting up the winner for Forest in 1983! I wasn’t blind to his failings,far from it. But for me,he got a lot of undeserved abuse at times. Some of the partners he had to endure in defence filled the pages of They Embarrassed The Hoops,so that maybe goes some way to explaining. Even Roy can’t be in two places at once!
Though memorably,he was! The 1989 cup final against the huns!!!
That one needs no further explanation as he decided that he was judge jury and executioner on a throw-in decision. One which the huns still throw in to the mix when we go ballistic about refereeing decisions.
They loathed Roy. And he loved it.
His time in the mid eighties wasn’t terribly successful,mind. Nor was anyone’s,really. Not our best or most fruitful times,though the football on display was often scintillating. But it would be difficult to argue about his part in our cup final victory in 1985. A goal down to Dundee United-they fielded a ringer that day,putting a bloody greyhound into a football jersey!-David Hay told Roy to do what he does best.
Yep,it was FEED THE BEAR time!
Roy grabbed that game by the scruff of the neck and drove us forward time and time again-and he could still be relied on at the back on the few occasions that United broke forward! And who can forget that wonderful cross from the right,bang onto Frank McGarvie’s ear for the winner?
The following year,he seemed to invoke The Spirit of 79 as he recalled us then,coming from behind to snatch victory. And snatch it we did,in a famous day at Love Street.
That was Roy. Ten years after Zwickau,still driving us on. It can’t get much better than this. He’s not just living a dream,he’s living a bloody fairytale!
Well,sometimes The Gods look down on us mortals and allow us one fucking huge shot at glory. And there could surely be no greater shot than our Centenary Season? Who wouldn’t want to be around for that? Well,Brian McClair,Judas and McInally for starters. That’s about seventy goals a season gone in one hit. Murdo McLeod departed too. To be fair,we all knew about the contractual problems,and most of the fans supported their stance. Roy had also had protracted discussions on that matter,as had everyone else,particularly Tommy Burns.
We went into the season on the back of a 5-1 hiding from Arsenal at home. Fortunately it was only a friendly,but with a big-spending rival already on the front foot,it did not look good. And although we beat them early on,our usual Halloween Horror saw us only take nine points from fourteen.
So we put on the afterburners!
And when I say the afterburners,I mean it. Think back on how many games we pulled out of the fire after the fat lady had already started warming up. Sometimes we did it as she was performing her encore! We won that league by a mile,losing only three games and 23 goals in a 44-game season. A phenomenal achievement,and another jewelled chapter in the rich history of our club.
“It doesn’t get much better than that,Ted”
Unless you win the double?
Not much chance of that. A goal down in the dying minutes of the semi,och I’m telling you the plot.
And aye,it was the same in the bloody final anaw!
Roy was a constant in our team from 1976 until 1990 when he left for personal reasons. That’s a lifetime for a footballer,much more time than most get in the game at all,never mind being at the centre of it. He played 667 times for us. 57 times for Scotland-and we had a bloody decent team back then,so plenty of competition. Captained club and country and won six titles and five Scottish Cups.
There are many accorded the mantle of legend. He is one of the few deserving of it. My grateful thanks,Roy.
Btw,you may remember my intro about the four players from the same school? Roy,Mark Reid-good call,JIMMYNOTPAUL-and Stevie Clark were all there at St Andrews at the same time about a decade later. Not a bad return,and one that sadly we are unlikely to see again these days.
Above article by BMCUWP. As always,you can send us your thoughts for us to publish as Article of the Day. Mail Mahe