DAVIE HAY paid a heartfelt tribute to his former Celtic team-mate John ‘Yogi’ Hughes when he passed away on August 1 2022 at the age of 79 following a short illness.

The ex-Hoops player and manager played alongside the fans’ favourite after making his first-team breakthrough in 1968.

Hay, speaking to Celtic book author Alex Gordon, said: “I was part of the reserve team known as The Quality Street Gang with youngsters such as Kenny Dalglish, Danny McGrain, Lou Macari, George Connelly, Paul Wilson, Vic Davidson and myself all pushing to get into Jock Stein’s first team.

“The manager welcomed the competition because he knew it would keep his European Cup-winning players on their toes.

PARADISE…John Hughes leaps high in celebration after scoring against Dunfermline. Davie Hay joins in.

“We may even have been eyed with a bit of suspicion by some of the older Celtic players who were not quite ready to surrender their place in the top side to a young whippersnapper.

“In truth, though, players such as Big Yogi, Billy McNeill, Bertie Auld, Tommy Gemmell and others actually encouraged us.

“They always had a word of advice and were keen to see us develop into genuine candidates for Big Jock’s line-up on match day.

“Yogi would have a word with Paul Wilson who was a budding outside-left, Big John’s position in the team. That didn’t matter to Yogi. He would spend some time at Barrowfield with his direct rival and there can be no argument Paul benefited greatly from those little one-on-one sessions.

“But that was typical Yogi. He was a Celtic player AND fan. A bit like myself, as a matter of fact.

“He cared about the results and if he couldn’t help deliver the right scoreline then he would make sure he would motivate someone who could. It was a typical unselfish act from a fabulous team-mate.”

YOGI ON THE RAMPAGE…John Hughes fires in a right-foot shot.

Hay, 75, added: “Life was never dull with Big Yogi around, that’s for sure.

“We all know about his wonderful exploits on the field and to score 189 goals for the club over 11 years is a phenomenal record for a guy who played mainly on the wing although, of course, he was quite an accomplished centre-forward.

“Maybe a statician somewhere can provide the number of assists from Yogi during his years of firing in all sorts of crosses from the left. I am sure it will be an extraordinary total.

“Off the field, he was a lot of fun – and DANGEROUS!

“I can recall travelling in a car one day with Yogi, Wee Jinky Johnstone and George Connelly as we were heading for Celtic Park for a Saturday game.

“We were sitting at the traffic lights at Calderpark Zoo when some Rangers fans saw us and started yelling all sorts of stuff about Big Yogi, named after the TV cartoon bear so popular at the time, that he should be in the zoo with his grizzly cousins.

LAP OF HONOUR…Bobby Murdoch, Tommy Gemmell, Billy McNeill and John Hughes lead the Hampden celebrations after the 2-1 win over Leeds United in the 1970 European Cup semi-final. Davie Hay, Jimmy Johnstone and George Connelly are in the background.

“Big Yogi never backed down from a challenge in his life. ‘Let me out,’ he said, ‘I’ll sort these guys’.

“Actually, when I said ‘some Rangers fans’ I really should have said a coachload of supporters heading to wherever their club was playing that afternoon.

“The bus was heaving and there would probably be about fifty to sixty fans in the coach. That didn’t matter to Big Yogi. He probably thought it would be a fair fight.

“Thankfully, the lights changed and Yogi was bundled back into the car.

“Those Rangers fans will never know how close they came to confronting Big Yogi with a full head of steam.

“I miss Big John Hughes. However, I can feel honoured and privileged I could call him a friend long after our playing days were over.”

*NEXT: YOGI REMEMBERED: The big-money move he could refuse.

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