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 Two of a four-part series as the irrepressible Chic recalls the momentous occasion in his rollercoaster career.
AS we kicked the ball about in the warm-up I looked up the vast stands of Manchester United’s superb stadium and all I could see were green-and-white scarves everywhere.
This was a Testimonial Match for United’s Mark Hughes, but there seemed to be more Celtic fans in the ground than their United counterparts. It was a truly amazing experience. Awesome and unforgettable.
Suddenly I was aware the Celtic support were chanting, ‘There’s only once Chic Charnley…there’s only one Chic Charnley.’ To be absolutely honest, I was so overcome I started to cry. I couldn’t prevent the tears from streaming down my face.
Those wonderful fans had just taken me to a place I could only dream about. Lou Macari was so concerned about my welfare and ability to carry on that he sent on Frank Connor, one of his assistants, to see if I was okay.
‘Chic, can you play?’ asked Frank.
‘Just try and stop me,’ I answered. This was the biggest moment in my entire career and I wasn’t going to miss out. I reassured him I would be fine.
I have a tape of the supporters chanting my name and I still feel as emotional today as I did all those years ago.
What a night it became as Celtic won 3-1 and I set up one of the goals for Simon Donnelly with a through pass into his tracks and he stuck it away with a fair amount of style. As I recall, he scored two that evening.
My son Gary had asked me before the game to get Ryan Giggs’s autograph as he was a big fan of the Welsh ace. His request popped into my head with about ten minutes to go and I went over to Ryan to ask him if he would exchange shirts with me at the end. He very kindly agreed and, sure enough, we traded our jerseys on the pitch at full-time.
However, there is always a snag with me. I didn’t want to part with my Celtic shirt because it meant so much to me. I made my way to the United dressing room afterwards, explained the situation to Ryan and, thankfully, he returned the jersey.
There’s a photograph of me running away from Eric Cantona with a broad smile on my face that evening I’ve been asked countless times what I was laughing at.
Eric, a genuine world famous superstar, had tried to play the ball through my legs, a nutmeg as it’s known in football. I wasn’t having any of that. I snapped my legs shut, got the ball under control and swerved past the Frenchman.
I looked at the Celtic dug-out and caught the eye of Brian Scott, the club’s physiotherapist.
‘Who does he think he is?’ I said and the Celtic bench dissolved into laughter. It was a magic moment and I was so happy that a snapper had caught the image perfectly.
I friend of mine is a bit of an artist and he painted the picture for me and it is now framed and proudly hanging on a wall at home. It’s a constant reminder of the night I played for Celtic.
* TOMORROW: Don’t miss Part Three of the EXCLUSIVE Chic Charnley Story – only in your champion CQN.