As most Celtic fans will be aware this past week has marked fifty years since the elimination of Nantes of France from the European Cup as the Lisbon Lions on an aggregate score of 6-2. In the first leg, away from home, the three Celtic scorers were McBride, Lennox and Chalmers in a convincing away performance. Unfortunately, McBride suffered a rather serious injury in December of 1966 which meant that he unfortunately did not play for Celtic after Christmas. This fact makes his accomplishments for that season even more incredible. Despite having only played 26 games that season his 36 goals was enough to grab him Celtic and Scotland’s top goal scorer award. Had he been able to play in the second half of the season one could only have imagined and salivated over the thought of what he would have added to an already incredible Celtic side. Lest we forget that this was a team that not only defeated Inter Milan in the European Cup final but also totally bossed the game. Perhaps Der Bomber, Gerd Muller, the European Golden Boot winner that season may have had some Scottish competition. Goals came from everywhere that season as Celtic notched up a then record 196 goals in one season. The man who finished the closest to McBride that season was Stevie Chalmers who was the top scorer in the league with 21.
McBride had been one of Jock Stein’s first signings for the club, coming in from Motherwell after amassing a very impressive scoring record with the Steelmen. He had been born in the shadows of Ibrox in Govan, but Celtic were the Glasgow side who had managed to secure his signature. Over the course of his injury plagued 3 seasons with Celtic he amassed a quite astonishing 91% goal to game ratio scoring 54 in 55 in the league and 86 in 94 overall. Stats which compare very favourably with some of Celtic’s greatest ever goalscorers, a fact alluded to by James McGrory in an interview who claimed McBride was “the best Celtic centre-forward I’ve ever seen play”.
He has been proclaimed in the past to have been the “unluckiest Celt in the club’s history” on account of missing out on playing in Lisbon, and even if he did receive a medal for his part played he must have no doubt been devastated to have missed out on the most momentous occasion in our clubs history. But perhaps it is both Celtic and Scotland fans who are the truly unlucky ones as despite his incredible ability the Celtic Park faithful only were able to enjoy three seasons of his goal scoring brilliance and the Scottish fans only saw him don the dark blue on a quite ridiculous two occasions. Jock Stein later admitted that getting rid of McBride had been a big error on his part. Having begun his career with Kilmarnock in 1957 he played until 1972 when he played his last game for Clyde. He is still in the top three goalscorers in the league post WWII on 221 goals behind McCoist and Celtic’s own Willie Wallace, who many believe was signed to cover for McBride in the European Cup winning season, something which Stein denied.
Sadly, Joe is no longer with us having passed away in 2012 but in every 67th minute this season we remember and commemorate his and the team’s collective incredible achievement.
Hail Hail and God Bless you Joe
Kevin John Thompson (@KevinThomson67)