Q Stuart Swan has the events of May
22nd 2005 in mind when he asks Have Celtic ever previously
lost a title on the last day, having held their fate in their own hands?
Obviously there was 2003's climax, yet then the result was of course decided
by how Rangers fared against Dunfermline rather than only by any Celtic
failing. I'm pretty sure Rangers blew a championship during Celtic's 9-in-a-row
by losing to Aberdeen on the last day, is that so? (I think it was in
an old SFAQ I read it) As a heart-broken six year old at the time, I need
no reminding that, of course, Hearts infamously failed in 1986. (Not to
mention 65, 59...)
A I think Hearts have suffered enough
last-day grief without 58-59 being added to their losses. That season
Rangers were actually six points ahead with two to play. Hearts had three
to play. There wasn't much in the goal average so Hearts had to win all
three while Rangers lost both in order to win the league.
Hearts beat Rangers then won their game in hand at Pittodrie to reduce
the gap to two points with a game left. Goal averages were then absolutely
identical. But while Rangers lost at home to Aberdeen in their final match,
Celtic beat Hearts at Parkhead (thus confounding all the conspiracy
So while the title went to the wire it was Rangers' to lose. Instances
of a side losing the flag when their fate was THEIR OWN to determine
(other than those famous/infamous occasions in 1965 and 1986 when Hearts
failed to hang on) include Dundee in 1949 who lost at
Falkirk while Rangers beat Albion Rovers to win the league and Aberdeen
in 1991 who lost at Ibrox, handing the title to Rangers, when
a draw would have won the championship.
There have been occasions when a side has led the league going into their
final game and finished second but the situation was OUT of their
control. The Rangers v Aberdeen game in 1968 you mention
wasn't quite like that. Rangers had led for much of the season and were
unbeaten in the league yet Celtic were top on goal average at the time
of this fixture. Had Rangers won that day then a Celtic victory at Dunfermline
in their final game four days later would still have won Celtic the league.
Rangers' defeat meant Celtic simply had to avoid a sixteen-goal defeat.
There was a similar instance three years later. Aberdeen led going
into their last match. They were three points ahead of Celtic who had
three to play. A Dons victory would have required Celtic to win all their
remaining games or take five out of six points at least. But Aberdeen
lost at Falkirk. Celtic started their games in hand with a draw at Love
Street then a home victory over Ayr United. That left them needing a point
from their final game at home to Clyde which they won 6-1.
In 1980 Celtic led going into their last match but their fate
was not in their own hands. They were a point ahead of Aberdeen who had
two matches left. A 0-0 draw for Celtic at St Mirren coupled with a 5-0
Dons victory at Easter Road meant Aberdeen needed only to avoid a ten-goal
defeat in their final match at Firhill to win the flag. They drew the
game to win by a point.
As a Hearts fan you'll be delighted to know Hibs were top when
they won their final game in 1953 but lost out to Rangers who needed three
points from their two remaining fixtures to win on goal average and did
precisely that. Had goal difference applied Hibs would have won the title
by a single goal.
Three years before that Hibs went to Ibrox in their last match
ahead of Rangers on goal average but with the Gers having played one match
fewer. Even a one-goal victory for Hibs would have left Rangers needing
to win their last game by eight goals to overtake them. In the
event it was a 0-0 draw and Rangers ended their programme two days later
with a 2-2 draw away to Third Lanark to win the title by a point.
The nearest I can find to Celtic blowing it on the last day with
their fate in their own hands prior to 2005 was over a century ago. On
New Year's Day 1902 they played their final game of the season
at home against Rangers. They were four clear of Hearts (who had finished
their programme) and six ahead of Rangers who had four to play. A
draw meant Rangers needed to win all their remaining matches to make it
a tie. A Celtic win and the league was theirs.
Rangers won 4-2 and went on to win their remaining games to take the title
by two points. But the championship wasn't theirs until March 29th
then they beat Dundee 3-1 at Ibrox. So while Celtic definitely lost
the chance to secure the trophy in their last game it was nearly three
months later before they were overhauled so it wouldn't be fair to say
they lost the league in either their last match or on the last day.
In 1905 the Old Firm finished level on points and Celtic won a
play-off. Either goal average or goal difference would have seen Rangers
champions. The key game before the play-off was Celtic's second last which
they won 4-1 at Ibrox. Had they lost that day the two teams would have
been level on points with Rangers having two games in hand.
Motherwell also featured in Celtic's failure to win the
title in 1918 but again it wasn't in their own hands. The Old Firm
were locked together on 54 points when Celtic drew their last match at
home to 'Well. Rangers beat Clyde at Ibrox the same day to win by a point.
Q In the light of the recent Champions
League Final in which Liverpool came back from three down to win on penalties,
Stuart Swan also asks: Has such a reversal ever happened
A I actually attended a league match
at Rugby Park in October 1968 when Kilmarnock came back from 4-0 down
at half-time to draw 4-4 with Raith Rovers.
After consulting my colleague Forrest Robertson we both reckon
the biggest comeback in a domestic game was Queen's Park v Kilmarnock
in a First Division match on December 15th 1900. Killie were 5-0
up at half-time and almost made it six. Ten minutes of the second half
had been played before the Spiders reduced the leeway. A minute later
the famous RS McColl scored a second for the home side. Then came
an incredible spell when Queen's scored three times in two minutes - the
second of which was from a gem of a solo run by McColl - to level the
game at 5-5.
Q The first of two queries on Celtic.
Michael Cranston asks: What were the original colours
Celtic played in at the start of their history, i.e. 1880's?
A The very first Celtic strip was
a white jersey with a green collar and a green Celtic
cross on a red background on the left breast. The illustration
here shows the cross on the right breast. This is believed to be a reproduction
error. They also played in green-and-white stripes before eventually changing
to hoops in 1903-04.
Were these colours fine? A Celtic strip circa 1900
Q Margaret Dekker asks When
did a forward player called Gilfeather play for Celtic?
How many games did he play?
A Eddie Gilfeather signed for Celtic
from Cowdenbeath in 1922 but made just two first team appearances - both
in the league - in 1925-26. He didn't score in either game. He moved on
to Hibernian in 1926 and was a regular there for several seasons.
Q Graeme Ross, author of 'Morton
Greats' is working on a new book called 'More Morton Greats'
and is trying to trace the careers of the Morton side that won
the Scottish Cup in 1922, particularly Jimmy Gourlay, George French
(who didn't play) and Jackie Wright.
A Annbank-born Jimmy Gourlay was
the son of a former Scotland international of the same name. Jimmy Jr's
first club was Port Glasgow Athletic (then a First Division side).
He made 22 league appearances in 1908-09, scoring six times. He joined
Everton in 1909 and made 54 league appearances there in total, scoring
eight times. He also played four times in the FA Cup and scored once.
He was transferred to Morton in 1913.
First World War players' records are patchy to say the least but he certainly
made over 320 - and probably between 350-370 - league appearances for
Morton between 1913-26, scoring at least 86 goals. Of the five goals he
scored in the Scottish Cup for Morton the most important was undoubtedly
the only goal of the game in the 1922 Final v Rangers.
George French joined Morton after the end of the war and made 182
top-flight league appearances, scoring 112 goals mostly during the era
when there had to be THREE defenders between the forward and the
goal in order to be onside. He scored seventeen times in the Scottish
Cup, including two hat-tricks, but missed the 1922 Final through injury.
Jackie Wright joined up at Cappielow in 1911 so, like Gourlay,
the stats are incomplete. He made a similar number of league appearances
as Gourlay - in excess of 320 and possibly as many as 390 between 1911-1924,
scoring at least sixteen goals. None of his goals were in the Scottish