“What’s the time? It’s Seven past Niven!”
This was the joke which the deliriously happy Celtic faithful were to make at the expense of Rangers ‘keeper George Niven when they returned to their jobs after a momentous weekend for their club. And now today as the Celtic fans return to their jobs and ordinary lives, there will be a spring in their step, they have the bragging rights, there will be remorseless goading going on of that I have no doubt. So let us indulge ourselves and reflect upon the greatest Glasgow derby win ever!
In the season 1965/66 Celtic incredibly won their first League Cup ever beating Partick Thistle in a replay 3-0 in front of a paltry 31,156 fans. Their three goals had all come in the first fifteen minutes of the second half, with two coming from Billy McPhail and the third from Bobby Collins.
One season later, Celtic were to retain their League Cup title, this time, however, there was to be no replay, indeed there was hardly to be any contest at all.
Seán Fallon, known affectionately as “The Iron Man” by Celtic fans, for playing on against Hearts with a dislocated shoulder reminisced in an interview; “God you could have got a train through the middle of their defence.”
The now famous song of “Oh Hampden in the Sun, Celtic seven Rangers one” was to be inspired by the Celtic performance on 19 October 1957 at Hampden in front of over 82,293 fans. This number was to be vastly depleted by the mass exodus of Rangers fans in the second half, who could no longer bare to see their team being so ferociously mauled. The Celtic team of the day was one which was full of stars but for one reason or another had been plagued by inconsistent performances, with the likes of Charlie Tully, Willie Fernie, Billy McPhail, Neil Mochan (future trainer of the first team during the Lisbon Lions era) and Bertie Peacock. A young Bertie Auld didn’t make the bench and future Celtic managerial legend Jock Stein was out through injury.
Sammy Wilson scored once, Mochan got two, McPhail got a hat-trick and Fernie slotted home a penalty in the last minute of the game. As his goals would suggest McPhail was absolutely imperious and ran the Rangers centre half, John Valentine, ragged, to the extent that Valentine was to never pull on the royal blue of the Ibrox club again. Niven, the Rangers goalkeeper, some have suggested may have been lucky to not suffer a similar fate but as the above quote from the Iron Man, Seán Fallon, would suggest, he was left hopelessly exposed by his defence. It is no exaggeration that the Celtic side that day could have easily reached double figures had the woodwork not come to his rescue on no less than four occasions.
Lisbon Lion captain Billy McNeill, has reminisced in interviews that when he picked up a paper on his way home from a game for Blantyre Victoria, he was convinced that the score printed on the bottom of the paper was a misprint. After all, how could Celtic have possibly swept seven past the team who had been favourites before the game!
Many amongst the Celtic support believed that this result was to be the start of a serious change in fortunes for the club and would be the beginning of a happier and trophy laden period of dominance for the club. The reality, unfortunately, was to be very different with the Hoops having to wait another eight years until their Scottish cup victory in 1965, the first trophy under Stein’s tutelage. The League Cup is the trophy which Celtic have won the fewest times, albeit that the competition only began in 1947. It incredibly took Celtic nearly two decades to win it for the first time and have lifted the trophy fifteen times in their history. One can only hope that by the 27 November, Celtic will be champions again.