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GEORGE McCLUSKEY: GREAT UNCAPPED CELTS (Part Twelve)

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CQN is turning the spotlight once again on the Celtic players who never had the honour of playing for their country.
George McCluskey was a scorer of important goals for the Hoops and played alongside such prolific marksmen as Frank McGarvey and Charlie Nicholas during Billy McNeill’s first stint as manager following his return to the club as he took over from the legendary Jock Stein in the summer of 1978.
The player was renowned for his ball-playing talents, but was never deemed good enough to achieve a full Scotland international cap.
Here is George’s story in another EXCLUSIVE CQN feature.

GEORGE McCLUSKEY figured hugely in two of Billy McNeill’s most momentous managerial triumphs.

The lithe and skilful striker scored one of the goals on the night 10 men won the league in the dramatic 4-2 triumph over Rangers at Parkhead in 1979.

A year later, he cutely backheeled a Danny McGrain effort beyond the stranded Peter McCloy to win the Scottish Cup in the encounter that infamously ended in chaos and carnage with fans battling on the Hampden pitch.

The intelligent frontman, who made his debut as a substitute at the age of 18 in a 7-0 home win over Valur, of Iceland, in the European Cup-winners’ Cup in October 1975, was a consistent goalscorer right up until he left for Leeds United in July 1983.

He was first-choice attack-leader at the beginning of the 1976/77 season, but injury struck and he faded from the first-team picture. He hit the headlines with a stunning Scottish Cup hat-trick against Dundee in February 1978 and became a top-side regular.

McCluskey scored the second goal on the unforgettable evening in the east end of Glasgow when McNeill’s heroes, down to 10 men after Johnny Doyle’s sending-off, stormed back to win the league. The elegant forward also played a part in the third goal with a shot that was diverted into the net by Colin Jackson after keeper McCloy had pushed away an effort from the Celt. Roy Aitken and Murdo MacLeod also netted in Caesar’s return as boss of the Hoops.

HOOP HOOP HOORAY…George McCluskey jumps for joy after scoring the 1980 Scottish Cup Final winner.

He teamed up well with livewire McGarvey, signed by McNeill from Liverpool in 1980, and the Hamilton-born ace claimed the Scottish Cup winner the same year.

McCluskey and McGarvey led the line at the start of the 1980/81 campaign before teenage sensation Nicholas forced himself into the reckoning early in the term.

The product of the Celtic Boys’ Club’s best season was the 1981/82 campaign when he claimed 25 goals and he was pivotal again in a title success when he hit a double in a 3-0 triumph over St Mirren at Parkhead.

McCluskey was included in Jock Stein’s initial 40-man Scotland 1982 World Cup Finals squad for Spain, but failed to make the definitive cut of 22.

That was as near as a very talented player ever came to representing his nation at full international level.

 
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