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“Who was the first player to play for Scotland who was the son of a Jamaican?”

Son of Jim Aitken, sorry not sorry, Roy Aitken was born on this day in 1958. The current director of football of Al-Ahli in Dubai, Aitken was to become both a Scotland and Celtic great over the course of his career. The highlight of which, for Celtic fans at least, would probably be captaining the side to the double in their centenary year. Two years later his fourteen year first team stint with the club was to be over as, whilst he was still captain of the Scotland National Team, he exchanged the Clyde for the Tyne, signing for Newcastle United.

Early on in his career he gained 16 caps at Scotland under 21 level and would go onto get 57 first team caps, 50 of which came whilst at Celtic. This makes him the sixth most capped Scotsman to have played for Celtic, with only McGrain (62) and McStay (72) ahead of him for caps whilst playing at Celtic Park. Aitken featured at both the 1986 and 1990 World Cups but was to be only on the winning side in one group game, against Sweden in 1990.  

Aitken was a phenomenal defensively minded player for Celtic making over 660 appearances for the Hoops scoring a reasonably impressive fifty-five goals in the process. First brought into the team in Sean Fallon’s sole year in charge of the club as a solid defender, he was played in a number of positions by Stein who saw him as a bit of utility man throughout 1977/78 season in particular. His second position was in a defensive midfield role. Indeed, such was his reliability and strength in both positions that which one was his best was the subject of much debate amongst Celtic fans.

One of his best personal performances was to come on the night when ten men won the league in May 1979, even managing to score one of Celtic’s four goals. Another massive highlight was on route to winning the Scottish Cup in 1985 where Roy scored a magnificent header to open the scoring in the Semi-Final replay against Motherwell after seventy three minutes, before Mo “Judas” Johnston wrapped up the victory with two late goals. Celtic went on to beat Dundee United 2-1 in the final.

 roy-aitkenKnown as “The Bear” or “Shirley” due to his famous curly hair, Aitken was a leader, deserving of his position of both captain for Celtic and Scotland. His name isn’t mentioned as often as perhaps it ought to be in comparison to the other Celtic legends around him such as Burns, McStay, McGarvey and McGrain. Despite this his presence in the team allowed for the beautiful attacking football that Celtic were well known for in the eighties, allowing the perhaps more attack minded players licence to maraude. Despite the nickname “The Bear” he was never known as a dirty player, picking up just two yellow cards in his Scotland career. In an interview with The Sunday Times in 2006 he summed up his style of play.

“I was sent off about half-a-dozen times in my career, but it was never for lifting my hands or anything like that”, “I got pigeon-holed because there was an aggressive side to my game. But I also felt I had a lot to offer from a football point of view. I wouldn’t have played all the games I did, won all the trophies, 57 caps and played in two World Cups, if I didn’t.”

Since his playing days have ended he has been involved in management with both Aberdeen and briefly as caretaker manager with Aston Villa and has worked in the backroom staff of the likes of Alec McLeish and David O’Leary. Unfortunately, Roy was diagnosed with bowel cancer whilst at Aston Villa with McLeish but was lucky to have caught it at a very early stage. He was thankfully given the all-clear in August 2006, having been able to deal with the experience through numerous phone conversations with Tommy Burns, who himself was in the midst of his own tragic battle with cancer.  

Hail Hail and a Hoopy 58th Birthday Roy!

Kevin John Thomson


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