CQN is turning the spotlight again on the Celtic players who never had the honour of playing for their country.

Pat McCluskey was a dependable and reliable defender who had five years in the heart of the Hoops rearguard after Jock Stein pitched him in for his debut in a Glasgow Cup-tie against Clyde on May 6 1971.

Like Lisbon Lion John Clark, McCluskey rarely hit the headlines with his unfussy performances. He was entrusted by Big Jock, but was never deemed good enough to achieve a full Scotland international cap.

Here is Pat’s story in another EXCLUSIVE CQN series.

HAMPDEN HOORAYS…Jock Stein and Pat McCluskey after another success at the national stadium. 

PAT McCLUSKEY played his role in making sure the legendary Billy McNeill, at the age of 35, bowed out of football as a winner.

Celtic were 2-1 ahead in the Scottish Cup Final against Airdrie on a gloriously sunny Hampden afternoon in May 1975 when they were awarded a penalty-kick. With his usual unhurried style, the sweeper stepped forward to whip an unstoppable low effort past keeper Derek McWilliams.

McCluskey, born in Kilsyth in April 1952, ended the contest there and then the Parkhead icon was lifted shoulder-high at the end of another silverware success as he bade an emotional farewell as a player to his adoring supporters at the national stadium.

McCluskey signed in May 1969 from Maryhill Juniors. Ironically, he played several times for his country at Junior international level, but just could not make the step up to yje seniors.

Stein played him at left-back for a spell and didn’t hesitate to put him in against Inter Milan at the San Siro in a European Cup semi-final encounter in 1972. He played well in a goalless draw and also netted in the penalty-kick shoot-out in Glasgow in the return leg.

Unfortunately, Dixie Deans missed the first one, Jim Craig, Jimmy Johnstone and Bobby Murdoch scored with their efforts, but the Italians stuck all five behind Evan Williams to reach the Final where they lost 2-0 to Johan Cruyff-inspired Ajax.

He replaced Murdoch in midfield for period during the 1972/73 season and scored a hat-trick against Dumbarton at Boghead in December 1972.

SPOT ON…Pat McCluskey nets his penalty-kick past Airdrie keeper Davie McWilliams for the third goal in the 1975 Scottish Cup Final.

Unusually, the chunky defender also claimed all three goals in a 2-1 victory over St Johnstone at Muirton Park, but he was never too keen to accept the responsibility of his effort for the Perth outfit.

McCluskey was banned by the SFA alongside skipper Billy Bremner, Willie Young, Joe Harper and Arthur Graham – who became known as the Copenhagen Five – after an incident while the full side and the Under-23s were in Denmark in 1975.

Although the suspension was lifted a year later, it was to be the Celt’s last involvement at national level.

In May 1976, McCluskey had the honour of captaining Celtic for the one and only time in an end-of-season game against Hearts at Tynecastle.

However, his Hoops career was close to coming to a conclusion when Stein brought in the experienced Hibs defender Pat Stanton to play alongside Roddie MacDonald at the start of the 1976/77 season when the team went on to win its tenth title under the guidance of the iconic manager.

McCluskey, who joined First Division Dumbarton in August 1977 for a fee of £20,000, won three championship medals at the Hoops as well as two Scottish Cups and a League Cup.

He played 189 times for his boyhood idols and scored 12 goals. Sadly, Pat passed away in August 2020 at the age of 68.

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