Welcome to a project that will cover the next two years, a look back – fifty years on – to two consecutive seasons in Celtic’s history – 1965/66 and 1966/67 – which culminated in the club winning the biggest prize in European football.
The early 1960s was not a propitious time for Celtic Football Club, a four-year period during which not one of the three major domestic trophies came into the Boardroom at Celtic Park.
Such a drought might have been difficult for the players and management but it was also disappointing for the support, so used to success from the early days of the club. To review how well the club performed from its beginnings in the late 1880s, let’s take a trip through the Celtic record of success down the years. Obviously the Scottish League and Scottish Cup were the most important competitions at the time but I have also included in the list the Glasgow and Charity Cups, important trophies in those pre-European football days.
Celtic Football Club was founded in November 1887 and had their inaugural season in 1888-89. The Scottish League would not start until season 1890-91, so there were only the three cups to compete for and quite astonishingly, the new side reached the final of the Scottish Cup at the first time of asking, with Third Lanark as the opponents. The weather conditions on 2nd February 1889 were dreadful, heavy snow blanketing Glasgow particularly in the run up to the kick-off. The match went ahead, though, at second Hampden before a crowd of 17,000, all of them unaware that an agreement had been arranged between the officials of both clubs that this match would be regarded as a friendly.
Straight after the game, which Third Lanark won 3-0, the SFA stepped in and ordered that a replay be held the following Saturday, at the same venue. This time the Hi Hi won 2-1, a result regarded as disappointing by many Celtic fans, although, in retrospect, they probably were being too optimistic. For a club founded only two years previously to have reached the final of the major competition in Scottish football was a remarkable achievement. To have won it would have beggared belief!
In the other two cups, Celtic had less success, going out of the Charity Cup to Renton (2-5) in the first round and losing 0-2 to Queen’s Park in the Glasgow Cup.
One season later, in 1889-90, Queen’s Park proved to be Celtic’s nemesis in two of the cups, the Spiders winning 2-1 in a first round replay of the Scottish Cup and 3-2 in the final of the Glasgow Cup; while in the Charity Cup, Celtic lost 0-2 to Third Lanark in the first round.
Celtic also competed in a special competition as part of the Glasgow International Exhibition of 1888, when 16 teams were specially invited to take part, all the matches being played at Glasgow University’s Recreation Grounds in Kelvingrove Park. In their first-ever match – and first cup-tie – Celtic drew 1-1 with Paisley side Abercorn in round one. For some reason, of which no one is quite sure, Celtic then went into round two without a replay and beat Dumbarton Athletic 3-1 before overcoming Partick Thistle 1-0 in the semi-final. In the final, though, a team from the north of Glasgow, Cowlairs, proved too strong for Celtic, who went down 0-2.
Some disappointment, then, for Celtic in the first two season of their existence but with the benefit of hindsight, everyone was probably being a little un-realistic about the chances of success for what was a novice club.
From this point on, I will deal with the record by decade, so let’s check the details for the ten years of the 1890s.
Decade League Scottish Cup Glasgow Cup Charity Cup
1890s 4 3 4 6
This was an excellent performance for any club; a quite astonishing achievement for one in the early years of its existence. The league started with 10 teams in 1890-91 and continued with that number all through the decade. The Scottish Cup Final successes came against Queens’ Park in 1892 (5-1), Rangers in 1899 (2-0) and Queen’s Park again in 1900 (4-3); the League wins were in 1892-93, 1893-94, 1895-96 and 1897-98. And of those Charity Cup wins, five were in consecutive years, between 1891/92 and 1895/96.
Major Celtic moments;
1 After a few years at First Celtic Park, between the east end of Janefield Cemetery and Dalmarnock Road (now Springfield Road), Celtic moved to the current ground in 1892, the first event in the arena being the Celtic Sports on 13th August 1892.
2 On 26th October 1895, Celtic recorded their biggest-ever win when the club beat Dundee 11-0 at Celtic Park.
3 On 14th December 1895, Celtic beat Rangers 6-2 in a league match, the first of three such scores in the club’s history.
4 In July 1897, Celtic Park hosted the World Cycling Championships.
5 Celtic Park was the venue for Scotland v England in 1894, 1896, 1898 and 1900. It also hosted Scotland v Ireland in 1891 (First Celtic Park), 1893, 1895 and 1899.
Special Football Moment not Involving Celtic;-
On 12th September 1885, 132 teams were listed to play in first-round ties in the Scottish Cup. In Arbroath, the local side beat Bon Accord, a side from Aberdeen, by 36 goals to 0, the biggest-ever score in a senior match, not just in Scotland but also Britain and the wider world.
Almost unbelievably, though, on the same afternoon, in the same competition, just a few miles down the East Coast, Dundee Harp beat Aberdeen Rovers 35-0!
Major Moments World-wide;-
1890 The Forth Rail Bridge, the longest bridge in the UK (1710 feet) was opened by the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward V11.
1891 The penalty kick is introduced into football.
1892 James Corbett knocks out John L Sullivan in the 21st round of their title bout to become the world heavyweight champion.
1893 New Zealand is first country to give women the right to vote.
1894 A vaccine for diphtheria is announced by Dr Roux of Paris.
1895 London taxi-driver George Smith is the first one fined for drunk driving.
1896 The last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas 11, is crowned.
1897 Dracula, a novel by Bram Stoker, is published.
1898 Rudolf Diesel, of Germany, patents the diesel internal combustion engine.
1899 South African Boers declare war on Great Britain.