Number 2 – CHARLIE GALLAGHER
Several Celtic players have been unlucky enough to have played at a time when, in spite of great skill and commitment, they failed to establish themselves as first team regulars. Often, they had competition, in their position, from formidable teammates; in other cases, they were just unlucky. Many of these players played during the 1960s. Hugh Gallagher looks back to this period and profiles some of the players who fall into the Nearly Men category and concludes by talking about how valuable they’d be to today’s Celtic…
Charlie Gallagher, like myself, was born in Glasgow, of Donegal parents. He joined Celtic, as a teenager, in the late 1950s and played until 1970. He was usually in the shadow of his cousin, Pat Crerand. Gallagher was a player of immense skill, whose passing, thunderous shot and pinpoint accuracy from corner kicks more than compensated for his lack of aggression (one of cousin Crerand’s strong points) and pace.
Like John McNamee (who we discussed on this site yesterday), Charlie struggled in his early Celtic career, for the same reasons. When Jock Stein arrived, his career seemed to be on the rise. Within a couple of months of Stein’s arrival, Celtic met Dunfermline in the 1965 Scottish Cup Final. Twice Celtic were behind- twice Bertie Auld equalised. With time running out and the teams locked at 2-2, Gallagher took a corner kick.
The accuracy of it was stunning; the ball landed on Billy McNeill’s head and the cup was Celtic’s. Celtic had won their first trophy since that great day in October 1957. Celtic were now at the gates of the most successful era in their history and Gallagher’s corner had played a key part.
Less than 2 years later, with only seconds remaining in Celtic’s European Cup Quarter Final against Vojvodina (of Yugoslavia), at Parkhead, and the aggregate score 1-1, Celtic were given a corner. The exact same scenario as the Dunfermline final and Celtic were a further step along the road to Lisbon (Jock Stein later identified Vojvodina as Celtic’s toughest opponents in that historic 1966-67 season)
One of his other strengths, his powerful shot, was shown, in January 1966, when he sent a thundering shot into the Rangers net, in a 5-1 win, on Celtic’s way to the 1st League championship since 1954. Unfortunately, occasions like that were few and far between for the modest and talented Gallagher. It was his bad luck that Bertie Auld played at the same time as him; Celtic’s 4-2-4 system meant that Murdoch and Auld were 1st choice. During most other periods in Celtic’s history, he would have been a 1st team regular.
His finest spell as a Celt came towards the end of 1967-68 season. It had looked, for most of the season, that Rangers would win the League, preventing Celtic from achieving 3 in a row. Bertie Auld got an injury, in February 1968, which kept him out for the remainder of the season. Charlie Gallagher filled the gap admirably and Celtic pipped Rangers at the end of the season, to complete another League triumph. Gallagher’s contribution was one of the main reasons for Celtic’s late run of wins. It looked as if Charlie might, finally, be about to establish himself as a 1st team regular.
However, within a few months of the start of the following season, Celtic signed midfielder Tommy Callaghan, from Dunfermline for a (then) record fee of £35,000; the writing was on the wall for a great Celtic servant and he left shortly afterwards, having scored 32 goals in 171 games over a period of 10+ seasons. Charlie Gallagher has always been proud of the fact that he was the first Scottish born player to play for the Republic of Ireland, playing twice in 1967.