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JOHN HUGHES – A bear with a sore head…

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JOHN HUGHES is the seventh-highest goalscorer in Celtic history. He is a genuine club legend; a spectacular, awesome player in his prime.

John was affectionately known as ‘Yogi Bear’ after the popular TV cartoon character at the time. Celtic Park would reverberate to raucous chant of ‘Feed The Bear’ when Hughes was in rollicking action.

He fired in 189 goals in his eleven eventful years in the Hoops and became a cult figure with the supporters.

In his autobiography published in 2014 Yogi decided to lift the lid on his remarkable life and times. As you might expect, he pulls no punches!

We have six small features, taken from ‘Yogi Bare’ and will published two of these yesterday and two more today. You can order a signed copy of Yogi Bare from www.cqnbookstore.com now, with first class post for Fathers Day. Here’s what Yogi had to say on drinking…

YOGI ON…BEING DRIVEN TO DRINK

The pressure of playing for Celtic drove me to drink. Quite literally! I was twenty-two years old when I first tasted alcohol and I have to say it was an experience I will never forget. To be honest, though, I didn’t remember too much about it at the time.

Champagne corks, with reckless and frenzied abandon, were whizzing around the Hampden dressing room after we had overcome Dunfermline 3-2 in an enthralling, nerve-shredding Scottish Cup Final on the Saturday afternoon of April 24 1965. Celtic had actually won a trophy at a stadium that was so often the graveyard of our hopes, a ground that, unfortunately, had become synonymous with failure.

I had been in the same sporting arena exactly six months earlier and once again had been presented with a runners-up medal after we had been dumped 2-1 by  Rangers in the League Cup Final. Two years earlier I was left in tears when we were walloped 3-0 by our Ibrox foes in the Scottish Cup Final replay. I was beginning to hate Hampden.

Things changed, though, on a glorious April afternoon in 1965. And I had the pulverising headache the following morning to prove it. Dunfermline were actually favourites to lift the Scottish Cup on that occasion. Let’s face it, they had been an awful lot more consistent than us in the league that season. In fact, they finished third in the table on forty-nine points, only one adrift of Kilmarnock and Hearts. While we were beating the Fifers in Glasgow, Killie were doing likewise against the Edinburgh team at Tynecastle to lift the championship on goal average, as it was then.

We weren’t at the races in the league campaign and finished a dreadful eighth, a full twelve points behind the East End Park outfit in the days when you got two points for a win.

Alarmingly, we lost thirteen of our thirty-four First Division encounters. It was a wretched record and, once again, our best bet to win anything was in a Cup competition. No-one could have blamed the Celtic fans for thinking, ‘Is there another disappointment waiting for us at Hampden?’ After three Cup Finals defeats on the bounce at the start of the sixties, it looked as though we were beginning to develop the loser’s habit.

Sometimes that is difficult to shrug off. It’s a heavy burden, believe me. At the age of twenty-two and after five years in the Celtic first team squad I had had nothing to celebrate. Until that wonderful, fateful day.

Dunfermline, who had replaced Jock Stein as their manager with Irishman Willie Cunningham, had already proved they could beat us in Glasgow that season when they triumphed 2-1 in the league at our place. Possibly, they thought they had nothing to fear on this occasion. But they came up against a different Celtic team that day. Big Jock had arrived from Hibs in March and he brought with him a winning mentality; a drive and a force. He installed belief in the players.

The Fifers saw off Hibs 2-0 in their semi-final and I can tell you Jock Stein was mightily relieved. He really didn’t fancy taking us into the Final against the team he had left only a couple of months beforehand. Mind you, the way the East End Park side started against us, he might have wished his old side were providing the opposition. Harry Melrose, who had played against us in the 1961 upset, opened the scoring after our defence got in a fankle and couldn’t clear the ball. Possibly, in days gone by, we might have let our spirits slip, but not on this occasion. There was a genuine growl and a snarl when we replaced the ball to kick off.

Bertie Auld got the equaliser after a Charlie Gallagher screamer had thudded off the crossbar and rebounded about twelve feet in the air. Goalkeeper Jim Herriot was on the deck after failing to stop Charlie’s long-range effort and Bertie was poised under the bar. Right-back Willie Callaghan raced in to clear, but Bertie was having none of it. He took to the air and, almost on the goal-line, nodded the ball in to the delirium of his team-mates and, so it seemed, the whole of Hampden.

Once again, though, we shot ourselves spectacularly in the foot by gifting Dunfermline the advantage again just before the interval. Our opponents worked a clever one-two at a free-kick about twenty-five yards out and John McLaughlin scored with a scorching shot.

I thought Big Jock was remarkably laidback in the dressing room at half-time. Maybe he was still feeling his way with the players because he swiftly developed an acid tongue in these situations in years to come. On this occasion, though, he simply had a word in our ear, an arm over an individual’s shoulder, cajoling us to go out and ‘get an early goal and the Scottish Cup is ours’. I got the feeling the players were already pumped up for the challenge, in any case. We knew exactly what was in front of us, what we had to achieve and we had forty-five minutes in which to turn things around. There was a good spirit within the group, I was aware of that.

Seven minutes after the break the tie was level. There was a good move down the left with Tommy Gemmell and Bobby Lennox combining and the man known as the Buzz Bomb took off at lightning speed before lashing a low cross into the danger zone. I couldn’t get a touch as it was a couple of yards in front of me, but, thankfully, Bertie was following up to first time the ball beyond the stranded Herriot. There was a crowd of 108,800 at the game that day and they all seemed to rise to acclaim that equaliser. It was nothing to the din that swept over the stadium with nine minutes to go.

With his usual precision, Charlie Gallagher breezed in a left wing corner-kick and Billy McNeill’s timing in the air, as ever, was impeccable. As their keeper hesitated, Big Billy – or Caesar, as he was known – launched himself into orbit to make a flawless connection and the ball flew straight and true into the net.

Was it any wonder we all went doolally at the final whistle? We cavorted around the pitch like schoolkids and match winner Billy McNeill, waving the Cup, was joyously lifted aloft the shoulders of Stevie Chalmers and Bertie Auld. Suddenly, Hampden had been transformed into paradise. The supporters danced with delight on the old terracings in the vast bowl of the national stadium and there was a great sense of pride that we had, after too many setbacks, delivered the goods for those so special people.

The Cup was passed around in the dressing room and I tasted champagne for the first time in my life. I only got a sip before the trophy was whisked off to someone else. However, it was after our team coach dropped the squad off at the Vesuvio, an upmarket Italian restaurant in St Vincent Street in Glasgow city centre, that I really got involved with the celebratory bevvy. See what I mean about being driven to drink!

We were all just so happy and I never gave a thought to what I was guzzling; it was such a fabulous feeling to be a winner. I had never got involved in pub culture, so drinking wasn’t a natural progress for me. I left school and almost immediately went to Celtic where I was training to get fitter to make me a better player. Going on a booze cruise with my mates just didn’t hold too much appeal. To be honest, I didn’t see the sense in it. All that went out of the window at the Vesuvio!

By the time we piled out of the restaurant, I was zooming towards Jupiter. A lot of us headed over to Stevie’s house in Bishopbriggs where we continued to attempt to drink the country dry. I was feeling sensations totally alien to me. Basically, I was as drunk as a skunk.

The boys didn’t help much, either. I was asking them for water and they, helpfully, supplied me with vodka. In my condition I didn’t know the difference. I did the following day. I had heard people talking about hangovers and I didn’t really have a clue what they were talking about.

Unfortunately, I did after that never-to-be-forgotten Scottish Cup victory in 1965. Yes, I was the Bear with a sore head. Well worth it, though.

 

Signed copies of Yogi Bare, The Life & Times of John Hughes are available at www.cqnbookstore.com – first class post included so will arrive for Fathers Day.

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