CELTIC LEGEND John Fallon celebrates his 75th birthday today and will always be remembered as the club’s goalkeeper in the epic encounter that kicked off the Jock Stein silverware trail at the club.
Fallon, (nicknamed The Original Holy Goalie), was in place the glorious afternoon at Hampden when the Hoops came back twice to win the 1965 Scottish Cup in a dramatic 3-2 triumph over Dunfermline that ended eight years in the trophy wilderness.
It was the first success since the remarkable 7-1 hammering of old foes Rangers in the League Cup Final at the national stadium in October 1957.
Big Jock had just returned to Parkhead as manager in March 1965 after stints at Dunfermline and Hibs and the Scottish Cup was up for grabs on a tense, fraught day on the southside of Glasgow.
It’s history now that Billy McNeill played a captain’s role by heading in a late winner after Bertie Auld had twice flummoxed the Fifers by netting equalisers.
One of the iconic photographs of that sunny April 24 afternoon was one of a joyous John Fallon acrobatically suspended from a crossbar. A crowd of 108, 800 joined in the celebrations.
So, everyone on CQN would like to wish the under-rated super-shotstopper a very ‘Hoopy Birthday’ as one of the unsung heroes of the most glittering period in the club’s exalted history.
John is still a regular attender at Parkhead these days and prefers his own way in to support the club that has always had a special place in his heart.
The keeper, of course, will always be the subject of one of the all-time bizarre sporting questions: Who won a European Cup medal with Celtic in 1967 and never touched the ball?
Fallon became the back-up keeper to Ronnie Simpson throughout the historic run and, of course, the veteran shotstopper – known as ‘Faither’ to his team-mates – performed in every minute of every game through the opening rounds against Zurich and Nantes, to the quarter-final against Vojvodina Novi Sad, the semis against Dukla Prague and, of course, the Final against Inter Milan in Lisbon when the Hoops became the first British club to conquer Europe.
And the unassuming Fallon sat in the dug-outs in Scotland, Switzerland, France, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and Portugal throughout the footballing trip of a lifetime, only too ready to play his part if called upon in an emergency.
It has often been said that Stein had a great distrust of the last line of defence. Billy McNeill reasoned: “You can only believe Big Jock had one or two moments of horror during his playing career as a centre-half. And, of course, the keeper would always get the blame!”
But the flame-haired Fallon, who joined the Parkhead side from Junior outfit Fauldhouse United in December 1958, must have done enough to impress the manager to ensure he consistently had a first team squad place at the club for seven years during that part of Stein’s reign. That, in itself, is a ringing endorsement of the goalie’s ability.
Jock, of course, introduced a flood of keepers to the Hoops over the years as he looked for a long-term replacement for Simpson. Evan Williams, Ally Hunter, Denis Connaghan and Peter Latchford were among the many introduced to life at the Glasgow giants.
Fallon remained longer than most, though, which makes it hugely surprising that he never got the nod to represent his country. This unsung hero did get one call-up to the international squad in the early sixties after he had replaced the eccentric Frank Haffey as the Hoops’ No.1 in 1963.
Haffey, forever remembered for losing nine goals to England in the infamous 9-3 rout at Wembley in 1961, was eventually sold to Swindon Town and Fallon settled into the first team position.
Ironically, Jock Stein sold Ronnie Simpson to Celtic in 1964 while he was manager of Hibs, but it was his ex-Easter Road reserve who took over as the main man at Parkhead after Fallon had played in that breakthrough 3-2 Scottish Cup Final success.
Fallon can rightly look back with pride at his achievements, especially when you consider he was pitted against the phenomenon that was Ronnie Simpson.
Arguably, his best game for the club came shortly after the Lisbon triumph when Celtic took on Real Madrid in a sold-out Bernabeu Stadium in the Testimonial Game for one of the Spanish side’s greatest players Alfredo di Stefano.
A goal from Bobby Lennox gave the newly-crowned European masters a 1-0 triumph, but no-one should ever forget the heroics of a marvellous club servant throughout the 90 minutes.
Enjoy your birthday, John, you certainly deserve it!
*I’m just too young to remember seeing John Fallon playing in goal for Celtic. So for me and for hundreds of thousands of other supporters all over the world, we know him from the first name in that wonderful song FALLON, YOUNG & GEMMELL SO PROUD TO WEAR THE GREEN…