FROM the very earliest days the Celtic support have loved to give nicknames to their idols, although this tradition seems to be on the decline. Leigh Griffiths gets called The Thumb by some supporters but few others in the current Celtic side have established nicknames. Here are some of our old favourites…
The Bear – a big and powerful midfielder/defender with a marauding running style that enabled Roy Aitken to carry the ball from one end of the park to the other at pace. First used for Big Yogi.
Big Bad John (BBJ) – The signature tune of Welshman John Hartson a prolific centre forward of the Martin O’ Neill era who played alongside Henrik Larsson and Chris Sutton. As the nickname suggests John was powerfully built and not a player to take liberties or mess with.
Bridie – The nickname given to Charlie Gallacher a member of the Lisbon Lions squad – Bridie Gallagher (slightly different spelling) was a famous Irish singer (The Girl From Donegal) of the time and Charlie having the same name inherited the moniker after the singer.
The Brush – John Clark who was possibly the most under-valued of the Lisbon Lions was so called as his role was primarily playing the sweeper role alongside Billy McNeill. John Clark was also referred to as Luggie, which has probably been the most enduring of the two nicknames.
Buzz Bomb – The blistering and devastating pace of the diminutive Bobby Lennox saw him earn this title. Bobby was also sometimes called Lemon, this name came about, apparently, because the fans thought he made defenders look like suckers. However, that’s not true. The actual origins of this nickname are all due to a silly error. In one old match report, the respective journalist/copy-writer somehow mis-wrote Lennox’s name wrong as “Lemon”and Willie Wallace (a fellow Lisbon Lion) noticed this. He used it to rib Lennox in the dressing room. The nickname has stuck with him ever since and even manager Jock Stein used it.
Cairney – Lisbon Lion Jim Craig was given this nickname as there was an actor John Cairney who starred in a television programme of the time called “This Man Craig”. John Cairney, who grew up in Parkhead, is a well known Celtic fan, writer, actor and painter – he wrote a well-regarded biography of his boyhood hero Jimmy McGrory called ‘Heroes Are Forever’. When Celtic took part in and won the TV programme Quiz Ball in 1969/1970 the Celtic team was made up of Jim Craig, Billy McNeill, Willie Wallace and John Cairney – Cairney being the “celebrity” guest for Celtic. Jim Craig was a qualified Dentist as well as being a professional footballer.
Cesar – Caesar – Cesar – The well documented confusions surrounding this nickname for Billy McNeill stems from the assumption that it was born from Billy’s imperious leadership qualities. In fact McNeill earned the label Cesar – not Caesar! – well before he was the established figurehead of Stein’s Bhoys. The name comes from the 1960s Hollywood ‘rat-pack’ thriller Ocean’s Eleven. The young Celtic stars of the era liked to model themselves on the cool stars of the film and, in a reference to Cesar Romero’s role in Ocean’s Eleven, Billy was nicknamed ‘Cesar’ as he was the only one in the Parkhead group to own a car.
However as Bertie Auld explained to CQN Magazine – the title Caesar is much more apt! It was certainly used during Billy’s time as Celtic manager and when CQN published Caesar & The Assassin – Managing Celtic After Jock Stein (available HERE). Caesar it was until Jim Black wrote an biography of Billy in 2007 and was fascinated by the fact that Billy was not Caesar after all but merely Cesar, for the reasons listed above.
When sitting chatting to Billy shortly before the Caesar & The Assassin came out we asked him which one he prefers and the man who lifted the European Cup said Caesar. That’s good enough for us!
Champagne Charlie – Some think that this title bestowed by the press on Charlie Nicholas mainly due to the striker’s fondness of the party lifestyle! However it was actually Alex Gordon’s fault! He created a competition in The Daily Record for the first player in Scottish football to score 30 goals. The rules prevented them offering a cash prize so Champagne was instead offered to the winner and Charlie duly obliged – thus Champagne Charlie.
Choccy – A sweet sounding nickname for Brian McClair due to the fact his name rhymes with Chocolate Eclair!
Chopper – Bobby Murdoch was tough as teak.
The Croy Express – The nickname given to Jimmy Quinn (who was born, raised and died in the village of Croy) in relation to his muscular power and pace combined with an explosive left foot shot. Jimmy was also known by the nickname The Bison.
Danny Kaye – Lisbon Lion Tommy Gemmell was given this nickname because of a strong resemblance to the famous American comedian/actor.
The Derry Pele – The mercurial skills and wonder goals of fans favourite Paddy McCourt earned this (slightly!) tongue in cheek tribute
Faither – Veteran keeper and Lisbon Lion Ronnie Simpson was the the eldest of Jock Stein’s all conquering Bhoys.
The Golden Crust – Jimmy McGrory, a player so good he was given three nicknames! These names were given to Celtic’s record scorer due to his lethal and athletic heading ability.
Heid – A mostly affectionate nickname for Gary Caldwell, referring to his rather large cranium. Gary’s playing abilities certainly divided the Celtic support – but he was always a big fan of himself!
The Holy Goalie – Polish keeper Artur Boruc’s apparent devotion to his Catholic faith not only wound up the bigots in the Scottish media and the Rangers support it also saw him earn this nickname from the Celtic support.
The Human Torpedo –Jimmy McGrory, a player so good he was given three nicknames! These names were given to Celtic’s record scorer due to his lethal and athletic heading ability.
The Iron Man – A name given to both the great Jimmy Quinn and latterly Sean Fallon. Both players had a seemingly super human ability to shrug off knocks and injuries.
Jinky (aka Wee Jinky)- The well known and affectionate nickname for the legendary Jimmy Johnstone. Known more often simply as Jinky, the wee genius acquired the tag due to his amazing dribbling ability.
Jose – The nickname given to Joe McBride another member of the Lisbon Lions Squad.
King of Kings – Henrik Larsson’s immense ability and contribution to the Celtic cause saw the goal-scoring idol given these well deserved – if slightly blasphemous! – nicknames.
King Kenny – The nickname bestowed by the Celtic Faithful on Kenny Dalglish – Undoubtedly one of the greatest ever footballers to have played for Celtic – Kenny truly was the King of Celtic Park and was quite rightly indoctrinated into the “Greatest Ever Celtic Team” as voted for by the fans themselves.
Lemon – The blistering and devasting pace of the diminutive Bobby Lennox saw him earn this title. Bobby was also sometimes called “Lemon”, this name came about, apparently, because the fans thought he made defenders look like suckers. However, that’s not true. The actual origins of this nickname are all due to a silly error. In one old match report, the respective journalist/copy-writer somehow miswrote Lennox’s name wrong as “Lemon” (God knows how they did that one!). Anyhow, Willie Wallace (a fellow Lisbon Lion) noticed this and it was used to rib Lennox in the dressing room. The nickname has stuck with him ever since and even manager Jock Stein used it.
The Little Ant – Bertie Peacock – The Coleraine born Celtic midfielder and Captain of the famous Celtic team which beat Rangers 7-1 in the 1957 League Cup Final was given this nickname due to his tremendous drive, work-rate and never say die attitude when playing for the Celtic cause.
Luggie – John Clark who was possibly the most under-valued of the Lisbon Lions was so called as his role was primarily playing the sweeper role alongside Billy McNeill.
The Maestro – Midfield playmaker Paul McStay was known as this graceful and skillful performances.
The Magician – Lubomir Moravcik – sheeesh!!…. the things he could do! Including the famous ‘arse trap’ seen in front of the South East corner.
The Mermaid – Jimmy McGrory, a player so good he was given three nicknames! These names were given to Celtic’s record scorer due to his lethal and athletic heading ability.
The Mighty Atom – Nickname given to Patsy Gallacher due to his diminutive size and explosive talent
The Prez/President – 1960s Celt Jim Kennedy was called this due to (almost) sharing a name with the doomed US President.
The Quiet Assassin – Davie Hay was given this name as although he was almost the complete footballer he was one of the hardest players ever to wear the Hoops and the nickname came from his silent but deadly ability to peerlessly win the ball and create advantage from winning it.
Rhino – Midfielder Murdo Macleod was given this name due to his strong running displays in the 1980s.
Shuggie – Johannes Edvaldsson, a popular Icelandic International who played for Celtic between 1975 and 1980 and was a member of the famous “Ten Men Won The League” team in May 1979 was also nicknamed “Shuggie” during his time with Celtic.
Shuggie – The nickname given to Celtic’s Polish left back late Dariusz Wdowczyk – the name was bestowed upon him by Tommy Burns as the players could not come up with a nickname for him so Tommy said “We’ll just call you Shuggie”.
Skippy – A popular, if not particularly original, nickname for Australian international striker Scott McDonald. The name of course refers to the famous Kids TV show ‘Skippy – The Bush Kangaroo’.
Smiler – Neil Mochan’s dour appearance saw him sarcastically christened this title.
Squiggles – Frank McGarvey had an unusual gaunt and when on the ball his body in general and legs in particular would be going all ways giving the impression that he was “squiggling” with the ball – Frank later admitted that sometimes even he didn’t know what he was doing with it – because of this Frank was also often referred to as The Rubberman.
Ten -Thirty – The nickname given to Lisbon Lion Bertie Auld by the other Lions as a rhyming play on his name “Bertie”. Sometimes it was shortened and he was just called Ten.
The Wall – Nickname given to giant keeper Fraser Forster by the Catalan press after his heroics in the 2-1 Champions League defeat of Barcelona at Parkhead in November 2012.
The Wee Barra – A reference to the large work-rate and physique of the diminutive but great Bobby Collins. A barra is a Glaswegian colloquial term for a barrow or stall, quite common in older days in warehouse and Cash & Carry’s.
Wispy – Lisbon Lion Willie Wallace was given this moniker due to his quietly spoken nature and because of his initials WSB (William Semple Brown) Wallace.
Yogi – John Hughes, the popular winger of the 1960s, was famously given this nickname due to his resemblence of the picnic stealing cartoon bear! For a winger John Hughes had a very good goalscoring record and is 7th in the list of all time Celtic goalscorers with 188 goals. Celtic supporters would chant ‘Feed the bear!’ to encourage team-mates to pass to Hughes to set up more attacks.
Special thanks to The CelticWiki for their invaluable assistance, as always.