Full Backs – The Ultimate Celtic Squad (“Season” 1889 – 2010)

This is where it starts to get a bit trickier and potentially more controversial. With so much more choice in outfield positions, consensus is that much less likely; but the established selection principles remain.

We begin with Full Backs:

Without a moment’s hesitation, the latter-day “shoo-ins” are the peerless Danny McGrain, despite his celebrated inability to shoot; and the irrepressible Tommy Gemmell, both world-class performers of their day and so far ahead of the field that very little dissent is anticipated over these selections.

Arguably the most courageous and devoted Celt of all time; and despite debilitating illness and a series of physical afflictions, including a fractured skull, McGrain served Celtic for one day short of twenty years.

Gemmell was, perhaps, a tad less loyal; at times, in fact, a bit of a chancer, selfish even; but his rumbustious style, thunderous shooting and howitzer specialisation from twelve yards made him a Celtic legend in his lifetime.

Over and above these “bankers”, a whole raft of candidates present:

‘Fifties stalwarts like Mike Haughney, Frank Meechan, John Donnelly, “Iron Man” Sean Fallon, the cultured Dunky McKay and “President” Jim Kennedy could all stake a credible claim to selection.

A bit further down the line we find strong contenders in Gemmell’s fellow Lisbon Lion, Jim Craig; “The Quiet Assassin”, Davie Hay; Darius Wdowczyk, the polished Pole with the piledriver shot; and the strong-running Tosh McKinlay. Tosh was a wicked crosser of the ball and notably set up Pierre van Hoojidonk’s headed winner in the 1995 Scottish Cup Final.

Converted winger and awesome flying machine, Didier Agathe, could press a strong case and fans’ favourite Jackie McNamara Jnr is another who cannot be discounted.

The Centenary Season partnership of Chris Morris and to a lesser extent, Anton Rogan, might also be worth a shout – then again, in such exalted company, maybe not.

Honourable mention might be made, too, of ’sixties utility man, Jim Brogan, 1977 Scottish Cup penalty hero, Andy Lynch and fiery Frenchman, Stephane Mahe.

From the formative and early years, another two names leap off the pages of history: Dan Doyle and Alec McNair.

Doyle is a particularly interesting character, arguably the first “personality” player in Scottish football, who, to put it mildly, had a good conceit of himself and wasn’t averse to manipulating circumstances – just ask any Everton historian! Remember, those were days when contracts were either still unheard of, or were very “flexible”, allowing the astute operator to play the field to his personal advantage. Be that as it may, Dan was a mighty hero in the Hoops.

In addition to his unparalleled crowd appeal and subsequent drawing power, he contributed hugely to early Celtic progress, not least as a member of the first Hoops eleven to lift the Scottish Cup in 1892, a historic 5-1 tanking of Queens Park.

McNair, nicknamed “The Icicle” on account of his coolness under fire, served Celtic for just a few weeks short of 21 years, eclipsing even Danny McGrain for longevity in the Hoops and reputedly performed more than competently in every outfield position, as required. He was, then, the ultimate utility player, a versatility that could work either for or against in relation to making the “ultimate” squad.

On balance, I’d say his versatility was a positive for the era in which he played; and McNair’s contribution to record-breaking feats, both in League and Scottish Cup, was truly remarkable.

Other notables that must figure in the full back equation include the gloriously named Barney Battles; some of McNair’s alternating partners, such as Jimmy Weir, James “Dun” Hay and Joe Dodds; Willie McStay the first; and the great nineteen- thirties full back pairing of Hogg and Morrison, of Empire Exhibition Cup fame.

There are undoubtedly other contenders and please don’t hesitate to flag them up. This is, after all, a largely subjective snapshot, intended to stimulate debate and controversy, consensus and divergence.

So, where does that leave us?

Okay, I have already set McGrain and Gemmell in stone. To complement their attacking flair, from the post-war era, I would add the solidity and reliability of consummate Celt, Sean Fallon and the intimidating presence of Davie Hay.

As attacking cover for McGrain and Gemmell, on the right, I nominate wing-back extraordinaire, Agathe, whose blistering pace simply had to be seen to be believed and who proved also to be a tenacious tackler, tracking back; and McKinlay on the left (just edging out Wdowczyk).

From the earlier pages of Celtic history, I would pluck the flamboyant Doyle, “Mr Versatility”, Alec McNair; and the classy partnership of Hogg and Morrison.

So there we have them, again in chronological order, the 25thMay1967 Ultimate Celtic Full Backs:

Dan Doyle … Alec McNair … Bobby Hogg … Jock Morrison …. Sean Fallon …Tommy Gemmell … David Hay … Danny McGrain … Tosh McKinlay … Didier Agathe

Pick two out of that lot!


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