CHIC CHARNLEY was one of football’s most charismatic and colourful characters.
The gifted midfielder was also a massive Celtic fan and managed to play just ONE game for his favourites.
In another CQN EXCLUSIVE, author Alex Gordon, who co-wrote the Partick Thistle legend’s life story, ‘Seeing Red’, published in 2009, looks back at the dream that died.
Here is Part Three of a four-part series as the irrepressible Chic recalls the momentous occasion in his rollercoaster career.
I WAS still bubbling with enthusiasm and emotion afterwards when Lou Macari pulled me aside and asked me if I wanted to go on tour with Celtic.
They were due to head out for a three-week trip to Canada and North America. It was yet another occasion for me to demonstrate so capably that I have the unerring ability to make the wrong decision.
Looking back, of course, I should have leapt at the invitation. There should have been no hesitation whatsoever.
As ever, though, there was a problem. Partick Thistle had organised a week’s end-of-season holiday for the players in The Algarve. I would have had to miss out to go with Celtic.
Really, there was no decision to make, was there? I should have binned the seven-day jolly in Portugal to take the chance to show Lou Macari he should make me a permanent fixture in his first team squad.
So, what did it do? I went with the Thistle lads, of course. To be honest, I don’t think Lou actually wanted to sign me. Deep down, that was the impression I had.
The Celtic manager didn’t push me to go with them. He didn’t attempt to persuade me it would be better for my career if I travelled with the club. If he had informed me any chance of joining Celtic would end there and then if I did not agree to travel with them there would have been no alternative.
I would have been waiting for the rest of the squad at the airport on the day of departure. I would have been there a day early. I was still on a high at Old Trafford and probably wasn’t thinking straight.
If Lou Macari had been more forceful I would have been on the flight with the rest of the Celtic lads. Although, as I have said, I didn’t think Lou Macari really wanted me I still believed there would be some sort of offer made to me when Celtic came home.
In fact, Lou Macari, despite my impressions, said as much and I know I don’t have defective hearing. Off I went to The Algarve with my Firhill buddies and wondered what lay ahead for yours truly during the summer break. I could hardly take my mind off the thought of finally signing for Celtic.
Lou Macari never did get back to me and I heard afterwards from a sports journalist friend that he had said something along the lines of, ‘If Chic Charnley really wanted to be a Celtic player he should have been on the trip.’
If only the Celtic manager had said those words to me in Manchester. I was hurt when I was informed of this statement. However, as I said right at the start, I blame no-one but myself.
It was an opportunity spectacularly spurned and I never got the call to play in those hoops again. I have absolutely no doubt, though, that Lou Macari played a part in my decision-making at Old Trafford.
If he had laid everything on the line I would have been packing my travelling gear seconds after getting home.
Ironically, I wouldn’t have played for Macari, anyway, because he was sacked during the summer after a fall-out with the club’s owner Fergus McCann. Tommy Burns, of course, took over and I might just have been his sort of player.
Tommy, a true Celtic legend who lost his gallant battle against cancer in 2008, was an elegant left-sided midfielder during his glorious playing days. I know he appreciated my style of play.
* TOMORROW: Don’t miss Part Four and the conclusion of the EXCLUSIVE Chic Charnley Story – only in your champion CQN.