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On this day Celtic were to experience loss for the last time before a sixty-two game unbeaten run, which was to last well into 1917. This was wartime football but the feat was nonetheless utterly incredible. On the 13th November 1915 the Celts were defeated by Heart of Midlothian in Edinburg two-nil, and were to begin their run a week later with a two-nil victory over Kilmarnock.  Throughout the course of this incredible unbeaten run the Celts drew thirteen and won forty nine, scoring in excess of one hundred and sixty goals, until their run was finally brought to a halt by Kilmarnock with the Parkhead side losing 2-0 on 21 April 1917. The feat is arguably more convincing due to the fact that war time football meant that consistent team sheets were almost impossible, only two Celtic players actually played every game, their goalkeeper Charles Shaw and Joseph Dodds at left back. Players were routinely invited in to play the odd game here and there. Some doubters, however, would often point out the strength of the Hearts team, who had left together to fight on the continent, who would supposedly have swept all in front of them in Scottish football. This is counter-factual, however, and really is not worth entertaining.

The top scorer during this period was Patrick “Patsy” Gallacher, scoring 43 goals in 51 games. Gallacher was arguably one of the most skilled Celtic players of all time especially if you are to believe some of the stories of his incredible antics on the pitch. The Donegal man born in Ramelton, spent most of his life in Scotland and was the magician of the Celtic side scoring 208 goals for the club. He will perhaps be best remembered for an incredible goal he scored in the Scottish Cup Final in 1925 against Dundee, where he somersaulted over the line with the ball between his legs.

Some other famous names that played during this period included Willie McStay, great-uncle of The Maestro, Paul McStay, but a great footballer in his own right , James McMenemy, fondly known as Napoleon, and Alexander McNair who played for the club 716 times over 22 years.

Another man who featured for Celtic during this run was Peter Johnstone, who appeared 26 times scoring one goal. Johnstone was unfortunately killed in action in the Great War shortly after this run came to an end in May 1917, at the Battle of Arras. 

Other Celtic players who saw action both in Scotland and in the trenches in this period were Joe Cassidy, Bernard Connolly, the aforementioned Joseph Dodds, Francis Kelly, Andy McAtee, John McMaster, Joseph O’Kane, William Ribchester and Leigh Richard Roose, the sole non-Scotsman from Holt in Wales. These are just the men who both played for Celtic during the war and saw action. There was a large amount of ex-Celts and future Celts who also fought, including ex-Celt Patrick Slavin who unfortunately died at the Battle of the Somme.

In the darkness and despair of the days of the First World War, Celtic enjoyed success in the league in every season apart from the last in 1918-19, offering a welcome distraction from the toils of war.

Kevin John Thomson


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