On the night following Celtic’s 2-0 victory over Kilmarnock in a league match at Rugby Park, I reported to Parkhead for a reserve game. After having been involved with the first team for a few weeks, I did not really fancy the idea of going back to the second team. And, if I am being perfectly honest, I did not have the foggiest idea who the opposition was?
When I got inside, I found out that the match was the first leg of the Second Eleven Cup Final – played on a home and away basis – and that Motherwell would be our opponents. All the boys were in good form, the banter was as loud as usual and the atmosphere only calmed down when Sean Fallon walked into the dressing-room, followed by Jock Stein, to tell us the team.
I had already been told by the Boss that I would be playing, so when Sean read out the first six names in the side – Martin , Halpin, O’Neill, Cattenach, Cushley and Brogan – and I realised that my name was not there, to say that I was surprised is putting it mildly. In fact, I could feel myself getting quite annoyed!
Then when he read out the rest of the side – Connelly, Craig, H Quinn, J Quinn, Gallagher, Taylor – it struck me that my name was in the striker role and my annoyance turned into complete astonishment. Just as I was trying to take it all in, the Boss called across to me and motioned with his head to follow him outside.
“I’ll bet that surprised you”, he said.
I could only nod my head in reply.
“Well”, he went on “you used to play in the forward line for Queen’s Park’s minor teams and as we have a surplus of defenders tonight and are short of forwards, I thought we would give you a game up front. Anyway, it will give you a chance to test your ankle perfectly as you will have to do more twisting and turning. So, just go and do your best”. And at that, he walked towards his office, leaving one flabbergasted player still standing outside the dressing-room.
I quickly recovered, though, and went in to get changed, feeling slightly dis-orientated as I was stripping in a different part of the dressing-room (the strips were laid out in numerical order) to my normal position but soon got myself ready and went down the tunnel with the rest of the team, determined to do my best.
The whole side must have been thinking along the same lines, as we started very well, playing some very good football and scoring five goals in the process. I got two of the five and it was after the second, when I was running back to the centre-circle for the re-start, that an incident occurred which changed one aspect of my life forever.
Now, at that time, a new series had just started on BBC TV. It was about a teacher called Ian Craig and his problems within a fictional school somewhere in Scotland. The series was called ‘This Man Craig’ and the part of Craig was played by the actor John Cairney.
Anyway, to go back to the game, after I had scored my second goal and was running back to the centre circle, a man in the Main Stand shouted across to Neil Mochan, comfortably seated in the Director’s Box,
“Hey Neilly, who’s the big guy up front?” Neilly looked across at him and smiled; “That’s Cairney!”, he shouted, “This Man Craig”.
And from that moment, among fellow players, managers, coaches and physios, the appellation of ‘Jim Craig’ disappeared, to be replaced by ‘Cairney’. Even today, when I meet a fellow-Celt I have not seen for years, their greeting is never “how are you, Jim”; it is always “how are things, Cairney?”.
I suppose I should blame the late Neilly Mochan for the change of name but in one way it did me a favour, as I can always tell folk that in my football career, I had one thing in common with the stars of Brazil. Most of them are known by a single name, so I could be included in that category. Just think about it – Pele, Jairzino, Zico, Socrates, Rivellino, Tostao…..and Cairney!