The Green and White of Govan – Part 2: The Players Edition

Clearly, as has been proven by Part 1 of The series which was published last week, there is a palpable and forever growing Green and White heartbeat to one of Glasgow’s most famous of boroughs, Govan.

The extent to which this is undermined, misinterpreted or simply just unknown ought to be regarded as a travesty to any learned member of the Celtic family.

The Peoples History

It is for such a reason that I am continuing to publish these articles over the next few weeks.

There is no profit, no personal ego or any great personal recognition involved.

This is the way it should be however as this type of history is a ‘Peoples History’. As is always the case, this is by far the most significant type of history and without the selfless contributions made by the Tim aligned Govan community over the last few weeks, these editions simply would not have been made possible.

I aim to continue these articles, which will focus on particular aspects of unearthing and then exhibiting the Tim-ness of Govan for at least another three weeks but, in all honesty, for as long as the anecdotes, meet-ups, photographs and other contributions keep flowing on in from the community, I will, very happily, continue to publicise such a wonderful hidden history of all things Green, White and Govan.

For this week’s edition the key focus is now on the Tim Players who honed their skills in the streets and backcourts of Govan from Harmony Row and Helen Street to the Winey and beyond.

Beginning with Jim Craig, Joe McBride and Andy Lynch before detailing some others.

I’ve often wondered why very little seems to have been made over the years of Govan being home to what must only be describable as a living legend. One of our very own Lions of Lisbon who continues to be heavily involved in Celtic fans media to this day through his contributions from the Celtic View to The Celtic Star as well as numerous appearances at fan functions. I am of course referring to Harmony Rows Jim Craig.

Add to this that, if not for the misfortune of horrific circumstance by way of a cruel bone flaking knee injury, then Govan would have been the launchpad of two official Lisbon Lions.

In this instance I refer to Joe McBride, a striker who was surely on his way to challenging McGrory’s goalscoring record such was his natural ability and predatory instinct in front of opposition goal.

The extent to which the Tim community at large is unaware of the strong Govan connection to the Lisbon Lions perhaps exemplifies the humility of the Govan State of Mind. One that does not crave the need to shout it’s business or hail its own achievements from the tenemental rooftops, but instead, chooses to just go about its business.

Govan and The Lisbon Lion connection really ought to be more well known however.

Incidentally, for an excellent account of a fans trip from Govan to Lisbon, ‘On The One Road To Lisbon’ (2017) by Michael Herron looks to be a great wee read which couples road trip anecdote with pure unadulterated Tim nostalgia. The account is based around the author’s own father who was a product of Govans Irish Channel, Neptune St.

Back to the players however and in relation to Joe McBride specifically, the world class abilities of this natural goalscorer cannot be underestimated as some of his statistics clearly demonstrate.

For example, McBride had managed to log 43 goals between 1965-66 and in the first part of the 66/67 season he had already netted 36 times for the Hoops. By his own realisation, McBride firmly believed that 60+ goals could have been achieved that year.

The Celtic Wiki also details that if not for a nasty knee injury in December 1966 McBride would surely have started in Lisbon that same season and, undoubtedly, would have been remembered as a Lisbon Lion.

However, Celtic did bestow upon him ‘honorary’ Lion status and he did receive a medal from the European footballing authorities as he played such a pivotal part in the competitions earlier rounds.

After scoring 86 goals in 94 games for Celtic, Govans Joe McBride left in 1968 unable to hue his way into the hegemonic pairing of both Chalmers and Wallace upfront.

I could attempt to write as articulately as is creatively possible in order to summarise Joe’s talents in a Hooped jersey but the oft quoted words of the Garngad owns Celtic icon, Jimmy McGrory, say it better than I ever could,

“I have been asked to name the best Celtic centre-forward I’ve ever seen play and the man I choose may surprise you. He’s Joe McBride’’.

Andy Lynch

Also graduating from Govans St Gerards RC secondary school, was the aforementioned Jim Craig whilst eventual club captain Andy Lynch attended nearby Lourdes RC.

Andy Lynch, of whom Celtic writer Paul John Dykes teamed up with to help write Lynch’s autobiography ‘Hoops, Stars and Stripes’ in 2016 also had a son, Simon, who played for Celtic coming through the youth ranks at the turn of the millennium.

Lynch Sr. is perhaps most fondly remembered for scoring the winning penalty in the Scottish Cup Final of 1977 against Rangers. This would also be his first spot kick in professional football.

He also played an integral part in the now infamous ‘4-2′ game where a ten man Celtic team, under Billy McNeill’s first year in his first spell in charge of the club, beat Rangers in desperately dramatic fashion to make the League trophy Green and White again.

Although originally signed as a winger he was rapidly converted under Stein in 1973 as a left back and, as is testament to his professionalism and talent, he suitably adapted to become firmly established as an attacking full back option at the club. Whilst Danny McGrain suffered both injury and illness for a period in the mid to late 70s it was Andy Lynch who would become club captain for the best part of two years.

After leaving Celtic Andy crossed the Atlantic in his own version of westward pioneering as he helped the evolving game of professional ‘soccer’ develop and mature in the United States were, on his first game, he would have the ever so slightly difficult task of man marking none other than Johann Cruyff.

Surely nae bother for a Govan bhoy?

Frank HaffeyMatt LynchJohnny Quigley

Perhaps one thing which connected Craig, Lynch and McBride, despite the obvious fact they were all products of the streets of greater Govan, is that they had the fortune to be involved in some of the most memorable Celtic teams that will always be remembered fondly throughout our clubs history.

From being heavily involved in Jock Stein’s troop of world beaters with hearts of Lions as witnessed in Lisbon in 1967 to the skillful follow up squad which would come to be lovingly known as ‘The Quality Street Gang’ of the 1970s. History will always remember these individuals easier and very much more fondly than others.

However, the players that will be briefly detailed now are, despite being obvious professionals and dedicated servicemen to Celtic through the years, perhaps not as well remembered by the mainstream Tim community.

Frank Haffey

I feel it’s time to change this however, beginning with Celtic’s Copland Rd born goalkeeper Frank Haffey.

This is a man who is, perhaps unfairly, remembered firstly as an eccentric goalkeeper who reportedly left Celtic a shattered shell of a man who, not long after his 2nd Scotland Cap where England demolished the Scots 9-3, migrated to the other side of the world.

As the slightly misleading narrative goes, this game apparently ‘finished’ his career as he shuffled to Australia’s Gold Coast, tail between legs, in order to escape his calamitous career induced demons.

For this boy who grew up a literal spit away from Ibrox Stadium, this narrative does not constitute the full truth however.

Albeit a tad eccentric and full of fun, Haffey was a Celtic goalkeeper who would go on to amass 201 games with the Hoops who would, in his own small way, help to revolutionise the goalkeeping game as Stein ordered him to command upto 10 yards of the box when every corner came in. Something unheard of in the British game up to that point.

Additionally, far from leaving for Australia a broken man, Haffey actually left Celtic in 1964 to play for Swindon before embarking on a new adventure to play professionally in Sydney, where him and his young family would be closer to previously migrated extended family.

Lastly, even the much talked about 9-3 international game has since, consciously by some in the mainstream media of the day, been taken out of context in order to trivialise and scapegoat Haffey as a goalkeeper more prone to eccentricity and buffoonery than to able goalkeeping.

Indeed, both Bobby Robson, who was a scorer of 2 on the day, and Jock Stein, an obvious icon of the game who, just as obviously did not mince his words, confirmed that Haffey could only be blamed for 2 of the goals in the English rout on the Scottish goal.
The extent to which Haffey qualifies in relation to the Govan Tim connection is exemplified in his own words as he detailed where he grew up,

‘I was actually born 50 yards from the old enemy camp. Dozens of Rangers fans over the years would have lifted me over the Ibrox turnstiles when I was a kid. A few years later, I was playing against them keeping all their goals out!’

Additionally, local historical knowledge which I have gleaned from those who grew up with Haffey have told me that he used to lead the choir singing in the now demolished St. Saviour’s Chapel in Merryland St in Govan.

This makes perfect sense when one considers that Haffey, after he hung up his gloves, signed numerous recording contracts and was a famous showman down under as part of the Australian variety and comedy circuit.

Matt Lynch

Unsurprisingly, St.Gerards RC school has cropped up on a number of occasions as the Tim-ness of Govan has been lovingly chronicled thus far.

However, for the next segment, a wee trip towards a Cardonald based RC school is in order as it is now the turn of Second World War time model professional Hoop and former Maths teacher at Lourdes Academy, Matt Lynch, who will now be remembered.

Best described as stoic, scholarly and humble, Matt Lynch was of the ‘firm but fair’ teacher class but, on occasion, clearly not to be messed with. As Frank Doherty, a former pupil and one time Govan-ite so eloquently put it,

‘Matt was a stern teacher, a firm believer in the strap which he carried over his shoulder, under his gown…’

However, before leaving Lourdes to take up rank within the teachers lounge at St. Gerards, Matt was recalled fondly for his time at Lourdes due to one such occasion which cemented his position in the folklore of pupils who had a Tim persuasion.

As Doherty explained to me throughout my research, he recalled one day in the playground when a teacher, Mr. Calder, scowled at a youngster who was brazen enough to wear his Celtic scarf to school and barked at him to take it off, only for the former Hoop Matt Lynch to intervene before growling back,

‘Leave the boy alone!’

Calder, the unassuming teacher who had clearly overstepped his rank, did not bother to bark back.
I feel this speaks volumes of a man, Matt Lynch, who was considered a reliable, well drilled utility player who was also a superfan of the club. Unfortunately Lynch spent the bulk of his time in a Hooped jersey whilst there was a lack of silverware and it was a time which was interrupted by the War time efforts.
A lifelong fan of the Celtic with many fans amongst the kids he taught, Matt Lynch perhaps had some of his most beloved of moments when he reportedly allowed the boys under his authority an early finish so they could go watch Celtic should an early kick off be happening.
If only all teachers were like this!

Johnny Quigley

Lynch, similar to the second last player profile being discussed here, Johnny Quigley, was a player who spent most of his youth career with St. Anthonys, Govans own green and white Hooped amateur team who were discussed in last week’s edition.

Johnny Quigley, the working class son of a Govan shipyard grafter, is fairy well known to the Govan Tim community but perhaps not so much of a household name elsewhere in the Tim domain.

Born in 1935, Quigley was snapped up by Celtic in the mid fifties before being farmed out to St. Anthony’s where he soon excelled, however he was never to be given his chance with the Bhoys.

His most famous footballing achievement came as a result of being an integral part of the 1959 FA Cup winning Nottingham Forest side.

He joined Forest after leaving St. Anthony’s and would go onto amass 270 games whilst finding the net 58 times over a seven year stay.

Best described as a dynamic midfielder with an envious engine, Quigley would end up exploring the game in the Middle East by way of Kuwait as the 1970s approached.

No bad for a wee Tim from Dunsmuir Street who, similar to the final player to be mentioned in this edition, Tommy Coyne, attended local RC primary St. Saviours.

From Govan to the Giants:

Tommy Coyne

Last, but by no means least, is a more contemporary Govan Tim who went on to play, not only for his boyhood heroes, but also to be capped 22 times for the land of his hibernia heritage, Ireland.

I suppose the signs were there for all to see in 1974 however when a then 11 year old Tommy Coyne tasted silverware for the first time by way of the the Govan Fair Cup.

It was then that this Celtic mad bhoy, as has been documented by The Celtic Underground, shot 4 past his opponent in between the sticks and propelled his primary school team, St. Saviours, to a famous and still spoken of victory.

Tommy would flourish to be an excellent striker but, unfortunately he was to suffer the exclusionary tactics of Liam Brady by 1993 who favoured his own troops more.

Soon thereafter Coynes time playing for his boyhood heroes, truly the stuff of dreams for an ex ‘Brighton bus’* bhoy, came to a premature end.

Coyne should be best remembered as an undoubted fan favourite who was a proven and consistent goal scorer.

A man who would go on to enjoy World Cup football whilst putting in one of the most industrious and smartest lone striker shifts to be seen in many a game, as he was upfront against Italy in the Giants stadium, while Ray Houghton ensured a generation defining 1-0 victory for the Irish was recorded. As a kid at the time, I still remember where I was when this took place!

Lastly

Upon researching for the Tim players of Govan, although it isn’t an exhaustive or fully complete list, there is clearly something to be said in relation to the sheer volume of talent which came from this proud working class area of Greater Govan.

Amongst dedicated professionals and committed servants of their respective clubs, Govan has also produced FA Cup winners, World Cup participants and Lisbon Lions and all within a few streets of one another.

Proof, if anything, that it isn’t all weather pitches, elite academies or UEFA licenced coaches that ‘make’ future stars but it is the individual and the way in which their environment and community, from Neptune St to the Winey and elsewhere, shapes them and helps create a hunger, a desire and an eventual destiny whereby success at the top level of professional football can await them.

If only Glaswegian streets would be as they used to be in relation to youth recreation – from pavements to pitches crammed with almost insane 10-a-side or ‘scheme against scheme’ grudge matches where mettle was tested, character was created and skill was sculpted.

For many a reason, which may be right or wrong, such activities as described above represent a foreign force for today’s weans, and, shamefully, just no longer happen anymore.

*the term ‘Brighton Bus’ refers to a famous Celtic supporters bus which used to run from Brighton St, in the shadows of Ibrox stadium, catering for Govanites and those nearby in the Winey and Broomloan Rd end. Tommy Coyne, like his father also, was a member of this bus.

Next Week’s Edition…

  • The Govan Emerald Edition
  • Govan Buses: From the Brighton to the Donnellys and then some
  • Tales from the fans and organisers of these fine buses from over the years

Thanks for reading folks
Sean

HH

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4 thoughts on “The Green and White of Govan – Part 2: The Players Edition

  1. I noticed you mentioned Andy Lynch going to St Gerard’s. Andy was in the year above me as with Tommy Craig and his brother John. They all went to Lourdes Secondary on the PRW

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  2. Great stuff Sean.
    I was the goalkeeper in the St Saviours team which beat St Anthony’s in the 1974 Govan Fair Cup Final when TC scored 4 of the 5 goals. I can send you a photo of the team if it’d be any use to you? Another minor point Sean. St Saviours church was actually on Merryland Street.
    Hail! Hail!
    John Cleary

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    1. Thanks for this John, excellent stuff and yes, i’d love to have a wee copy of the team photo from 74. The long term plan is to have a gallery section with these kind of photos highlighting the Celtic/Irish heritage of Govan. If you have a digital copy send it through email to seanmcdon18@gmail.com

      I’ll amend the minor errors also for greater accuracy. Cheers John, keep in touch
      HH

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