Number 4 – JOHN CUSHLEY
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. Over the past few days we have looked at John McNamee, Charlie Gallagher and Frank Brogan. Today we feature John Cushley…
John Cushley was probably Scotland’s second best centre half during the 1960s. Another who joined Celtic, as a teenager during the bleak period of the early 1960s, he was unlucky to be a Celtic centre half at the same time as Billy McNeill, Celtic best ever player in that position and our most successful captain. When he left Celtic, to go to West Ham in 1967 (to partner the great Bobby Moore), he had only played 41 games.
His debut, in 1963, was a disaster, Celtic losing 6-0 to Kilmarnock (Jimmy Johnstone made his debut in the same game). He was an excellent tackler, possessed great speed and, when he was called on to replace the (rarely) injured Billy McNeill, it was to his credit that McNeill’s absence was hardly noticed.
Cushley’s 41 appearances were, mainly, in 2 periods. He played for a lot of the early part of the season 1964-65. His next spell came midway through 1965-66 where he played in the 5-1 January 1966 win over Rangers. In the following season, the most successful in Celtic’s history, he played only 1 match, which was a 2-0 win over Kilmarnock, 10 days before the Lisbon win. It was to John’s eternal credit that he never complained about his lack of first team action.
He was an academic and gained a Modern Languages degree from Glasgow University. In 1964, Celtic made an audacious (although unsuccessful) bid to sign the legendary Alfredo di Stefano from Real Madrid; Cushley accompanied Jimmy McGrory and the rest of Celtic’s deputation, in order for his linguistic skills to be utilised.
Sadly, making his debut wasn’t his only connection with Jimmy Johnstone. The same horrific Motor Neurone Disease, that took Jinky’s life also took John Cushley’s 7 years ago.