Nineteen points ahead at New Year, Ivory Coast wonder kid signed and with some of the “deadwood” to be chopped from the squad during the January break. Happy days! So maybe in this position of league dominance we should turn our attention to the Scottish Cup Fourth Round against Albion Rovers, a club with whom Celtic have an excellent rapport.
It may surprise you that Celtic have actually played Albion Rovers competitively 27 times in their history. Celtic unsurprisingly have a convincing 22 wins, 3 draws and only two losses record against the League One side. The Celts have played Albion Rovers another twelve times in friendlies. Six of these have come in the Jock Stein Friendship Trophy played at the start of the season from 2006-2010 and once again this year. Albion Rovers despite facing rather weak Celtic opposition in this friendly are yet to taste victory losing 1-0 this season against an U-19’s Celtic side in August.
— Albion Rovers F.C. (@albionrovers) January 10, 2017
Jock Stein, the Celtic legend from Burnbank, played his youth football with Blantyre Victoria from 1940-42, the same junior team his future captain Billy McNeill was to play with. He then went on to play for Albion Rovers from 1942 to 1950 and throughout all of this he was also working down the mines. He then went the untrodden path to play for Llanelli Town in Wales before coming back north of the border to play for Celtic in 1951, before he retired from playing the game in 1957. In a rather strange way despite being the one that stayed resolute and untouched in the Albion Rovers side, whilst many of the other members of his team moved away to bigger and better things, he may still be the most famous individual to be connected to the club. Strangely enough his debut for the North Lanarkshire side was in a 4-4 draw against Celtic.
Another Celtic legend to have had a very fleeting encounter with Albion Rovers was John Kelly “Dixie” Deans. Dixie made one solitary appearance for them in 1965 as a trialist before going on to play for Motherwell, he must have made quite the impression.
Albion Rovers currently player-managed by ex-Don Darren Young, gained promotion into League Two in 2010/11, the first time they had been in the official Scottish Leagues for 22 years. They were promoted again at the end of the 2014/15 season into League One where they managed a sixth place finish last season. They were at the time of writing in a reasonable 7th place, six points above the relegation playoff place and seven points above automatic relegation placed Stranraer. Such is the nature of most Scottish divisions this year, however, that they are four points off the promotion play-off spots.
They earned their place in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup in the most dramatic of circumstances as they scored with virtually the last kick of the game to beat Championship side, Queen of the South 2-1. They did all this despite having a man having a man sent off in the second half for a Nigel de Jong inspired kung fu kick to the chest. The game was played after the fourth round draw had been made, and the knowledge that they had drawn Celtic seemed to add to the joy of their players.
It has since emerged that drawing Celtic in the Scottish Cup could well have been the difference between Albion Rovers living scrimping and saving for the rest of the season to guaranteeing financial stability for at least the next year, according to the club’s chairman.
We wish them well with the rest of their season, but even if charity is the core principle value of our club, you’ll be unlikely to see any on the pitch come 3pm.
Kevin John Thomson