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JOHN HUGHES ‘MY EARLY DAYS AT CELTIC’

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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 publish these today. You can order a signed copy of Yogi Bare from www.cqnbookstore.com now, with first class post for Fathers Day.

YOGI ON…THE EARLY DAYS AT CELTIC

I was seventeen years old when I came into the Celtic first team. One minute I was playing schools football and the next I was rubbing shoulders with greats such as Neilly Mochan and Bertie Peacock. I have to say I wasn’t intimidated playing in that environment. I had all the confidence of youth and I was used to scoring goals, no matter the level. But I was raw, no doubt about it.

My game was basically very simple. The defence would fire the ball down the pitch, I would hare after it and attempt to belt it on target. Such methods would be frowned on today, but I still see teams taking route one to goal. It may not be pretty or easy on the eye, but goals win games.

Although I was getting on the scoresheet regularly, I knew I could do better. Maybe a lot of players would have been happy to claim my goal ratio with eighty-eight strikes in my first four years, but I always wanted to push myself to the limit. If I scored one, I wanted two. If I got two, I wanted three. And so on.

Back then, though, so much of what was happening at the club was just a joke. Take the training, for instance. What training? Willie Johnstone was the club physiotherapist and he was in charge of all the routines. When I say ‘all the routines’ I mean running round the touchlines until you felt you had just lapped the globe. Sometimes it would be pitch black and Johnstone couldn’t see that some of the players – notably goalkeeper Dick Beattie and centre-half John Jack – had nipped off to the back of the Jungle for a fly cigarette.

They would stand up there and watch the rest of us go round and round in circles. Then Johnstone would signal there would be just one lap to go and they would put out their fags and join the rest of us. The physio never twigged.

Beattie, who played in Celtic’s never-to-be-forgotten 7-1 League Cup Final win over Rangers in 1957, was a real character. In fact, neither Beattie nor Jack even bothered to get changed out of their street clothes when they turned up for training. When Johnstone wasn’t looking, they just pulled on their tracksuits over their everyday wear safe in the knowledge they wouldn’t be working up a sweat. Sometimes, if we were really lucky, we would get a ball to play with. Believe me, this was a rare occurrence and normally happened on a Friday, the day before the game.

Obviously, it was thought useful to re-aquaint the players with the instrument of their trade. Johnstone seemed more intent in turning Celtic Football Club into a squad of marathon runners than actual footballers. When I look back, it’s easy to see why the club didn’t figure too often in winning silverware. We might have been fit enough, with the exception of Messrs Beattie, Jack and the rest of the skiving smokers, to run from here to Timbuktu, but just don’t ask us to do too much with that precious spherical object called a ball.

Signed copies available at www.cqnbookstore.com – first class post included so will arrive for Fathers Day.

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