Celtic dominated on the pitch during the Sixties, but on a BBC quiz show called Quiz Ball, our Bhoys showed that their brains were not just in their feet. Marmaduke Baglehole recalls the explots of another Celtic double winning team.
Quiz Ball was to provide a great deal of enjoyment for all the Celts who followed the progress of our gallant Bhoys as they locked intellectual horns with the brains of British football – and Hearts.
It was screened on BBC TV between 1966 and 1972, in the early evening, around the prime time 6.30 to 7.00 slot.
The format of the programme was relatively simple. Three players or officials from each of the English and Scottish clubs invited by the BBC to participate, together with a celebrity supporter, made up the teams. Each week was a new match with the winners going forward to the next round. ‘Goals’ were scored by correctly answering general knowledge or sport-related questions. The questions were asked by the presenter, originally David Vine (above) although he was later replaced by Stuart ‘It’s a Knockout’ Hall.
There were four ‘routes to goal’ which varied in difficulty, with route 4 requiring the team to answer four relatively easy questions and route 1 (the origin of the phrase in current parlance for a team that plays a more direct style from front to back) demanding the answer to a more brain-taxing poser. Route 1 was the only method by which the opposition could not intercept with a ‘tackle’ question. If this tackle question was answered correctly the defending team gained possession and got to attack. An incorrect answer resulted in a goal.
The teams faced each other across a large football pitch which featured flashing lights indicating to the audience the chosen route to goal. There were also large wooden dummies painted in each team’s colours as additional adornment to the set. Some of these later went on to star in the Celtic defence of the 1990s.
Quiz Ball kicked off for the first time in 1966, the first match ending in a 3:2 victory for Arsenal (with disc jockey Jimmy Young as celebrity guest) over Nottingham Forest. The Scottish contingent for this series consisted of Motherwell, St. Mirren, Dundee United and Dunfermline, all bar the latter exiting in the first round, albeit the Arabs – with Joe Brady, aka Constable Jock Weir of Z cars fame in their line-up – only lost to Leicester City after extra time, the Foxes’ goals coming from Lady Barnett and a John Kerr o.g.
The Gunners went on to win the inaugural competition, beating Dunfermline 7:5 in the final (actor Gordon Jackson having recovered sufficiently from being gunned down by the Waffen SS at the end of the Great Escape provided the brain voltage for the Pars).
Celtic were invited along for the first time during the all-conquering 1967-68 season, along with compatriots Hearts, Dunfermline, Kilmarnock and Rangers.
The Hoops were represented by captain Billy McNeill, striker Willie Wallace, director (although the term can be applied very loosely in this instance) Jimmy Farrell and guest supporter John Cairney, most famous at the time for his portrayal of Robert Burns in an STV series.
Cairney scored a hat-trick to add to Farrell’s goal, but it wasn’t enough to see off Nottingham Forest in the first round. With the score at 4:4 the match went to extra time only for dairy farmer and Brain of Britain contestant Ted Moult to score his fifth and send the Hoops packing, while Forest went on to lose 2:1 to West Brom in the final.
Rangers, too, lost their first round match by 3:1 to Tottenham Hotspur. When the Spurs team saw John Greig lining up against them they took the sensible precaution of wearing shinguards.
That fleeting Gerd Muller moment against Forest was to be Jimmy Farrell’s last public sighting until he came out of hibernation and turned up 24 years later to face an angry crowd at a Save Our Celts rally in the Shettleston Halls. For Celtic’s next appearance at Quiz Ball the following year he had been substituted by his dentist son-in-law Jim Craig, a graduate of Glasgow Univeristy. It was a tactical ploy worthy of Jock Stein.
Ably backed up by Cairney – himself a graduate of Glasgow Uni – Craig’s superb overlapping Route 1 runs from deep positions ensured that Billy McNeill’s job was restricted to choosing which of his players was to answer Celtic’s questions. Invariably it was either Cairney or Craig.
Willie Wallace was left to amuse himself by reading the Daily Record’s horse racing pages.
Leaving Wallace to concentrate on scoring goals for real on the pitch, Cairney and Craig set about the opposition with gusto. Sunderland, assisted by celebrity fan James ‘Likely Lad’ Bolam, were thrashed 3:0 in the first round (Cairney2, Craig) and holders West Brom beaten 2:1 in a tense semi-final. Which set up an all-Scottish grand finale for that year’s show of Celtic versus Hearts. Sure enough, McNeill, Wallace, Cairney and Craig comfortably defeated Donald Ford, Jim Cruickshank, Alan Anderson and golfer Eric Brown to lift another trophy for the Celtic sideboard.
The 1970 series featured fewer teams (8 instead of 16) and was entitled ‘Champions Quiz Ball’, presumably because all of the teams had won something the previous season, even if the Scottish Second Division was stretching things a wee bit.
The line-up was as follows:
Aberdeen (Scottish Cup)
Arsenal (European Fairs Cup)
Celtic (League and League Cup)
Chelsea (FA Cup)
Falkirk (Scottish 2nd Division champions)
Huddersfield Town (English 2nd Division)
Manchester City (League Cup and European Cup winners Cup)
The Celtic quartet went about defending the trophy with a first round 4:0 thrashing of Manchester City (Craig 3, McNeill) who included Joe Mercer, Franny Lee, Mike Summerbee and celebrity guest Kenny Lynch – best known for being a stooge to Jimmy Tarbuck – in their team.
Aberdeen in the semi-final were to prove more obdurate opponents, but Martin Buchan, Bobby Clark, George Murray and John Grieve, the over-wrought engineer from the Para Handy, were finally defeated by 4:3.
Alex Ferguson actually played for Falkirk in 1970, scoring in a 1-0 win over Huddersfield. He found the net again in the semi final but the Bairns lost 2-1 to Everton (Brian Labone 2).
The final of that series was a free-scoring affair which sounds as though it was the equivalent of Brazil v Italy in Mexico 1970. Eventually Celtic beat Everton (Harry Catterick, Joe Royle, Brian Labone and DJ Ed Stewart) by 7:5 to retain the coveted trophy.
The Celts went on to play England in a one-off special which the Hoops lost by 6:7.
Of the questions put to the Celtic team, Jim Craig answered around 90% of them, Cairney 7%, McNeill 2% (with an unpredictable strike rate) and Wallace… well, Wispy turned out to be the star of the show.
No doubt in an attempt to justify Willie’s inclusion in the squad, Big Billy picked him to answer the question, “The Dog Star is the brightest star in the night sky; what is its more scientific name?”
Willie’s answer, “Pluto”, delivered with a straight face, had the studio audience in hysterics.
His only other recorded contribution to more than three and a half hours of quick-fire questions came when he was asked, “What is a garryowen?”
His response, “A racing tipster” (there was a well-known tipster who went by that nom-de-plume in the Daily Express) had his team mates falling off their chairs.
Above: The Celtic Quiz Ball line-up: Willie Wallace, Jim Craig, actor John Cairney and captain Billy McNeill. John Greig is considering whether or not to make a lunging slide tackle on the BBC’s wooden dummy, an early prototype for Greig’s future dealings in the transfer market as Rangers manager.
What of the mighty Rangers?
With Celtic having bowed out at the top, they got a fiddler’s bidding to appear in the following year’s competition. Their team of Willie Henderson, Dave Smith and Colin Stein made Willie Wallace look like Doctor Jacob Bronowski.
They were gubbed by Leeds United in their only appearance, the standard of which can possibly be judged by the following anecdote: at the time of filming the Sydney Opera House had just been built and was featured in the media of the day more often than Craig Whyte’s Ibrox takeover forty years later. The Kinning Park Eggheads were shown a picture of this unmistakeable edifice and then asked to identify it. They huddled together in conference before answering something along the lines of, “The Taj Mahal”, obviously confusing it with the Indian restaurant of the same name in Gibson Street. They were never invited back.
For the record, the Finals were as follows :
Arsenal 7 Dunfermline 3
Nottingham Forest 1 WBA 2
Celtic 3 Hearts 1
1970 (Champions Series)
Celtic 7 Everton 5
Derby County 4 Crystal Palace 2
Dunfermline 3 Leicester City 1
Guest supporters who appeared on the show included Jimmy Young (Arsenal 1966 & 1967)
Ted Moult (Nottingham Forest 1966 & 1967 when Ted scored 8 goals in 3 games including all five in the First Round victory over Celtic – little wonder he went on to get that lucrative double glazing ad contract!!),
Tommy Trinder (Fulham 1967),
John Arlott (Southampton 1966)
Percy Thrower (West Bromwich Albion 1966),
Brian Close (Leeds 1966),
Sam Kydd (Chelsea 1966),
Leonard Sachs (Sheff Weds in 1966 then, suspiciously, Leeds in 1970 – who did he really support?),
Gordon Jackson (Dunfermline 1966),
Pete Murray (Fulham 1966),
Brian Moore (Tottenham 1967),
Sam Leitch (Leicester City 1967),
Magnus Magnusson (Kilmarnock 1967)
Harry Carpenter (Fulham 1967),
Mike Smith (Coventry City 1967)
Kenneth Cope (Everton 1967 – ghosting in at the far post no doubt)
Alfie Bass (Crystal Palace 1967)
James Bolam (Sunderland 1969)
John Laurie (doomed to failure with Dundee in 1969 as they lost 3-1 to Arsenal)
Lance Percival (Chelsea 1970), Ed Stewart (Everton 1970),
Kenny Lynch (Manchester City 1970)
Peter Cook (Tottenham 1970)
Richard Wattis (Crystal Palace 1970)
Nicholas Parsons (Leicester City 1971)
Hugh Lloyd (Chelsea 1971)
Roy Kinnear (Colchester 1971)
Jimmy Logan (Dunfermline Ath 1971) and
Jon Pertwee (Dunfermline Ath in the 1971 Final).