It was wonderful to see the legend that was Sean Fallon chosen to raise the league flag at the start of season 2012-13 (at 90 he looked a sight more sprightly than some of those that were on the pitch). Sean joined Celtic on 27th March 1950 from Glenavon for the princely sum of £27,000 and made his debut against Clyde at Shawfield in a 2-2 draw during which he had the unfortunate experience of scoring an own goal in the 34th minute (Fernie and Tully were Celtic’s scorers, the latter in the 88th minute). He made up for that the following season when he made 35 appearances for the first team, including one at right back in the ‘51 Cup Final, a 1-0 win against Motherwell. “As I walked off Hampden Park,” he said, “I felt I had got everything out of life I had ever wanted. I had become a member of the famous Celtic FC and holder of a Scottish Cup badge, all in one year.”
As a full-back he became renowned for making miraculous goal-line clearances. Curiously, his other position was centre-forward, where he played against Aberdeen in the 1954 Cup Final, scoring a thunderous winning goal after running on to a Fernie pass.
These days it’s not unusual to see players writhing around waiting to be evacuated by helicopter in scenes reminiscent of Oliver Stone Viet Nam movies, all helicopters and plasma bags. All because they’ve ripped their sock. Sean Fallon earned the nickname The Iron Man at a time when even the average Scottish professional ate a pre-match of granite sandwiches washed down with mugs of molten lava. As a hobby in his native Sligo, young Sean used to participate in long-distance open-water swimming events in the North Atlantic, winning the Henry Cup in 1947.
He was made captain of Celtic in 1952 but a chronic problem with his arm meant long spells out through injury. He chose Jock Stein to take his place, a gesture that was never forgotten by the future Celtic manager. It was a broken collarbone sustained in a league game against Hearts that led to one of Sean’s oft-quoted remarks. Returning to the field with the broken limb in a hastily constructed sling, he went out on to the left wing and finished the game. “It wasn’t as if it was a broken leg,” he said. Presumably if it had been he would have been forced to go in goal.
Not that he was completely indestructible. He admitted to me at a supporters function once that he had to off during a game – possibly one of the more full-on encounters with Rangers – because had, quote, “A bit of blood coming out of me eye.”
My father used to recall an incident when, during a match against Rangers at Celtic Park, Sean was on a collision course with one of the Rangers hard men, Sammy Baird. They converged on each other from a distance like that famous black and white film of two steam locomotives hurtling towards one another along a single track. Grown men winced as the pair got closer and fathers shielded the eyes of their children lest they would be traumatised for life by what they were about to witness. When the dust settled, Sean was brushing himself off while Baird lay prostrate waiting for the St. Andrews ambulance men to finish their Woodbines and come to his assistance. He was certainly in no fit state to assist himself.
In his book Talking With Celtic (Breedon Books 2001), the late great Eugene MacBride prompted Sean to retell his version of the incident:
“I broke his collarbone. The reason for that, it was his own fault. He came in square to me, stupidly. Three years before that he was playing with Clyde. I was playing right-back. It was a muddy night at Shawfield and I had fallen in the goalmouth. Next thing, I got a kick in the back of the head. I looked up and saw Sammy running away. Sammy used to run with his chest out. Big guy, Sammy. But the following week he was transferred to Preston. The manager at Preston at that time was Scot Symon. Three years after that particular incident at Shawfield Rangers appointed Scot Symon manager and he brought Sammy back with him. And that was the first opportunity I’d had, for I always remembered the kick in the head when he was wearing a Clyde jersey. Stupidly he came in square, broke his collarbone and his shoulder and was carried off. Yet, strangely enough, Baird was quite a nice guy off the field. I met him socially several times, a nice guy. But on the field he’d that wee bit in him, you know.”
Is it just me, or is there a metaphor in there for the present day Celtic – Sevco situation?
His playing career came to an end in 1958 because of a knee injury, ten months after having played his part in the eight goal thriller of a League Cup final in 1957 (and having his name echoed a million times over as schoolboys learned the litany of that team, “Beattie, Donnelly and Fallon…”) but his association with Celtic continued, not least as assistant manager to Jock Stein, where he was able to bring to Celtic Park players of the calibre of Tommy Gemmell, Lou Macari, Davie Hay, George Connelly, Kenny Dalglish, Danny McGrain…
Glossing over his shabby treatment at the hands of the then Celtic board of directors, he left the club in May 1978 to become assistant manager – and later a director – at Dumbarton. While he was at Boghead he heard of a promising Dutch player who was, at the time, in the middle of a contract dispute with his club, Barcelona. Sean went to Holland to see if he could use his renowned Blarney to tempt him into turning out for the Sons. “I’ve spoken to the boy Cruyff, and he says he’ll get back to us,” Sean told the papers. Dumbarton are still waiting.
Cruyff ended up going to the LA Galaxy. What on earth was he thinking about? Why this unwillingness to swap the Ramblas for the Renton? If travelling was a problem I’m sure Dumbarton would have put him up in a single-end in Partick and gone halfers on a Transcard to make the travelling easier.
There were a few legends walking round the pitch a half-time that Saturday; not too many of them have as many stories as Sean Fallon.
Sean was interviewed by Eugene MacBride for his book Talking With Celtic.
The result was a thoroughly entertaining chapter which leaves the reader feeling as if they’ve just spent the most convivial of time in the company of two great Celts, both of whom, alas, are no longer with us.
Sean, you taught yourself to use your left foot, is this correct?
We used to go to St Anne’s Park and that was within a stone’s throw from where I lived. And a weakness – any weaknesses we had – for instance, like not using the left foot, which was a weakness – I used to go up with one football boot on my left foot, a sandshoe on my right and there was a chap named Jack Bonnar, Lord have mercy on him – and Randolph Jenkins, Lord have mercy on him – and myself. We used to just kick the ball to each other with our weak foot. We wanted to improve, you know, the left foot, and I ended up, irrespective 0’ how the ball came to me, able to use either foot.
You’d played centre for Glenavon, hadn’t you?
I’d played centre only when they were tight for forwards. I only had about four or five games at centre for Glenavon.
You joined Celtic from Glenavon. As a centre or as a full-back?
As a full-back. I don’t think they would have selected me as a centre.
Now you were signed for Celtic on 23 March 1950 and you arrived in Glasgow on the 30th.
That’s right. I had a week at home. Charlie Tully was to meet me. I’d never been away from Ireland. They told me that Charlie Tully would make himself known to me on the Scottish boat. So I went on board and I saw the purser – I was told to go to the purser, which I did – a hell of a nice man, very good to us over the years, we could always get a berth any time we were travelling from Glasgow back home. He put out a call for Charlie and Charlie duly arrived and introduced himself and brought me down – the first place he brought me was to the bar. “Well, Sean,” he said, “What are you having?”
I said, “I’ll have a lemonade, Charlie.”
“A what? A lemonade. Oh, dear God, don’t tell me you’re one of those.”
I said, “I’m sorry, Charlie. I’m one of those. I don’t drink or smoke.” I didn’t smoke at that time. So I sat there and I was never as sick in all my life. In the morning. I drank about seven lemonades. Charlie’s drink was a beer and a half of whisky. Charlie was lightly-made and I was amazed where he was able to put this drink because, irrespective of how he drank, God, could he play! He was a tremendous player. A tremendous, great player. A personality player. A player that people would come to see. Okay, they’d come to see Celtic play but a lot of them were there to see Charlie Tully play.
I was offered digs off Alexandra Parade. I got the shock of my life the following morning. I woke up and I turned over and there was this guy in the bed with me! This chap had four sisters. His dad was dead. He was a painter. Jimmy Hogan it was who’d recommended this house. I said to myself, this state of affairs is not for me! Anyway, it was explained to me that, you know, with four sisters and the boy, that was all the room they had. It was the son was sleeping alongside of me. That was the only way they could do it, if I shared a bed with the son. Mind you, they never suggested I could sleep with one of the daughters! Anyway, I moved out.
The chairman at that time was Bob Kelly and he heard about this and he came up to the park and brought me out to Rutherglen, Bankhead Drive in Rutherglen, I’ll always remember, off Bankhead Road, and he introduced me to this lady, Miss McGuigan, Mary McGuigan, Lord rest her. And it turned out she was a niece of old Nap McMenemy who was a famous Celtic player in his time. In fact he was a member of the team, I think they won five or six Leagues in a row.
Well she was giving me a room of my own but I always remember the chairman going up and examining the bed, testing the springs, “Do you think this will be all right, Sean?”
This is the Chairman of Celtic Football Club and me just a young boy and him going up, seeing if the bed was all right. I was embarrassed actually, but that’s the kind of a man he was, wanted to make sure everything was right. He wanted to make sure I’d no excuses. So I thanked him very much and, as it turned out, the digs were tremendous. Miss McGuigan was very, very good to me. In fact, all the players used to make it their home. It was a great place. It was great digs.
Towards the end of that season I was selected to play for the club and the first game was against Clyde at Shawfield. The game was about half an hour under way – it was a terrible wet day – the ball came to me and I stuck out at it and right into my own net. What an embarrassment for a young man! And it didn’t do his confidence any good but we got through it okay, two each. I always remember that game for Jimmy Hogan. He was coach at the time. In the dressing-room before we went out, he was going round the players and I felt something wet on the back of my neck. I looked up, you know, but Jimmy had moved on. I looked at Tully and Tully looked back at me. “Don’t worry”, he said, “it’s only holy water.” Jimmy’s holy water didn’t do me any good that day, I can tell·you!
Sean, you break into the Celtic team, on 25 September 1950, in the Glasgow Cup at Hampden, a 65,000 crowd on a Monday afternoon. Celtic 1, Partick Thistle 1 and you’re up against one of those great Firhill wingers, Jimmy Walker.
Jimmy Walker, yeah. Canadian. Tremendous pace. You had to play him very tight. You had to be on the ball with him or before him or you were in trouble because if he got space he just stuck the ball by you and he was away. Jimmy would run off the park, outside the by-line because he knew if he stayed on the pitch he was going to run into you. It was the sort of thing that should never have been allowed.
You’re picked for Northern Ireland against England, to play on 7 October and you call off because there are elements in the Republic who are asking her sons not to play for the North and in the light of later events, it’s one of these disastrous political attitudes which does nothing to alleviate an already fraught political situation.
It was a disaster because they selected me to play against the British Army before that, which I did. It was at Windsor Park. John Charles was playing against us, he was in the British Army at that time. After that game I was asked and they sent me a letter confirming conversation: If selected, would I play for Northern Ireland against England? I said “Certainly.” It meant I would be playing against Matthews. Because Matthews at that time was a fixture, Finney used to play on the left, Matthews on the right, and I gave them word, certainly I would play. Then the politics started. Joe Cunningham and company in Dublin who ran Shamrock Rovers at that time, they got in touch with me. They sent me a letter and also ‘phoned me, Under no circumstances was I to play for Northern Ireland.
I said, “I will, I’ll be playing.” And next thing, they started bringing my dad into it who at that time was in politics. He was a Fine Gael man. He was on the County Council and also the Corporation and they could stir things up. This is true. I ‘phoned my dad. “Politics should never come into football,” he said, “you play! I can look after myself.”
My dad was ex-British Army. He’d been wounded in the ‘14-18 War at Gallipoli. He was also secretary and treasurer of the British Legion. He used to look after all the ex-servicemen, to get them parcels every Christmas for their wives. He used to look after all the pensioners so he was very involved, you know, locally. He was also senior alderman which shows you what the people of Sligo thought of him. He topped the poll every time there was an election. He said, “Don’t wo about me. The people know how I stand here.”
But – I was worried. And I pulled out Because the people in Northern Ireland had been very good to me and I feel that footbal and politics, I don’t feel they come together.
That was the split of the Associations because at that time boys born in the Republic played for Northern Ireland, Johnny Carey, Dave Walsh, Con Martin, they all played for Northern Ireland so I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong.
I probably would do the same thing today. I probably would play for them in the hope of bringing people together.
On 21 April 1951, at Hampden, before a crowd of 133,343, the Scottish Cup Final, Celtic 1, Motherwell 0. I was down near Southampton at the time but I cannot describe the elation when I got the final score.
Ah, that was a great result. We were so pleased. And one of the main reasons we were pleased was not for ourselves, but for the support, because they had followed that club in the bad times and we’d given them nothing and there we were, winners of the Scottish Cup. We spoke about that in the dressing room. The fans may be reluctant to accept that, but at that time – I don’t know about now – we were delighted with the support we got. Now we could give them something in return.
And off to the USA with McPhail’s Cup in a brown paper bag, brown paper bags being the technological wonder of 1951.
That was the tour there was a grouse we weren’t getting enough pocket money. The main men that were on about it were Charlie and Big John, Big Hooky, we used to call him.
Tully and McPhail.
Correct. But it was Charlie that started it all, “We don’t have enough money!” Charlie, of course, was looking for spare money, and actually, we didn’t need a lot of money, because you found when you went there, people that lived there, Irish people, Scots people, they were so generous, it was embarrassing. They were taking you everywhere. They wouldn’t let you spend anything. We used to talk about it. And I used to say to Bertie Peacock and Willie Fernie, “How, in the name of God, can we reciprocate?” They wouldn’t allow you to. To do anything for them. The only way we could reciprocate was when they came here to Glasgow. But I will always remember that incident. We got together, we were looking for more money. So we’re staying in the Hotel Paramount on 46th Street, and I’ll always remember there was a balcony with a stairs up and there was a floor there with a table and sitting on one of the chairs was Bob Kelly. He was there to talk to the players, not collectively, but one by one, individually. And one of the first players up was Charlie. So Charlie went up and Charlie was one of the few people that called the chairman, Bob. So Charlie went up.
“Have a seat, Charlie.”
“Thank you, Bob.”
Now the acoustics were such that the voices hit the ceiling of the balcony – and Charlie wasn’t aware of this – and came right down to us. So we could hear Mr Kelly ask Charlie, “Rght, well what’s the problem?”
Charlie said, “They’re looking for more money, Bob. Actually I think they’re getting too much as it is. I think they’re getting far too much.”
“I thought there was a complaint,” says Kelly.
“Not as far as I’m concerned, Bob.”
We’re all down below with our mouths agog. So Tully comes down the stairs for the next one to go up. He looks at us and we all look at him. “I bloody well told him!” he says.
That was Charlie. He was one of the few players who could get away with it. A character. A great character.
You have a holiday in Ireland after the USA and you come back for the St Mungo Cup, Glasgow’s football contribution to the Festival of Britain. And all of a sudden you are pushed in at centre-forward and score two goals against Aberdeen on August the first, both equalisers, before Jimmy Walsh gets the winner, 3-2.
Celtic kept me at centre and unfortunately, I hated the position. The reason they played me there was to take the weight off the other forwards who were on the light side bar Collins because Collins could look after himself. They were all on the light side and I was supposed to rumble them up – the opposing defences, that is, which you were allowed to at time because we played it physically but within the laws. But in the process, I happened to score goals.
Heron comes into the side in the League Cup against Morton, on 18 August at Parkhead, you go back to right-back. Why did Gil Heron not make the grade?
The Scottish weather. I remember one time it was a really cold day and the sleet was coming down against Third Lanark. And poor Gil, “Oh, this is not for me! I don’t play in this weather”! Ah, he was hopeless that day. He’d also been a boxer too, represented some area in boxing, but I remember he and Jimmy Mallan fell out and had a fight behind the goals. Gil and Mallan fought over a tackle. I always remember Mallan invited him into the gym but Gil didn’t want it, “Oh no, not for me.”
I don’t know if I’d have gone either. Mallan was useful.
17 October 1951, at Dalymount, Eire 3, future world champions, Germany 2. Fallon at right-back.
I think they put me up centre that day because I will always remember the German goalkeeper hitting me. I charged him but I’d taken on more than I thought because he hit me, he caught me under the heart. And if the ball had come near me for the next ten minutes, I wouldn’t have been able to blow at it. I didn’t want them to know. Never let on you’re hurt – that was the attitude in that time anyway. You could be hurt but never let on. So I was very careful about charging him after that. We beat them 3-2 and it was a good German side.
And on 16 November 1952, packed crowd, 40,000, Sean Fallon centre-forward for Eire against France. Scored in 20 minutes. Went at the French defence like a battering-ram.
One each. The great Kopa was playing for them. And Fontaine played. Some great players.
They would make their names in the 1958 World Cup.
Now, Sean, you had picked up a bone injury against Derry City on the Irish Tour of 1952 and now, five days before Christmas ‘52, you clash with old Celtic favourite Jimmy Delaney playing for Falkirk at Brockville. You come off worse with hairline fractures of the arm.
What happened was, I always remember Jimmy Delaney wrote to me after the accident, that he hoped and prayed I would recover quickly. He had had a lot of trouble himself with an arm injury. What happened, I went in to tackle him and my forearm caught between his hip bone and my hip bone which is the strongest part of your body. And my arm was broken in two places. See this bone? It should set like that one. But I broke it three times after that. And I was just after being selected as captain of the team.
But I finished the game. I went in at half-time. And the doctor did that -I always remember – put my arm up to his ear, gave it a shake, passed me fit to resume action. I finished the game at full-back, left-back, and I always remember I was in agony playing out the time. And on the way back, Alex Dowdells was trainer at that time, I said to him, “Alex, it’s very, very sore.” He says, “Right, we’ll get off the bus at the Royal.” So we got off the bus and went in. I was X-rayed, the arm was diagnosed broken in two places, I was put in plaster.
We were playing a Cup-tie. We were drawn against Stirling Albion on 7 February 1953, in the Scottish Cup, ice-bound surface. I’d just come back into the team. The doctor had come to see me and he says, “Ach, that plaster shouldn’t be on you at all! Take that plaster off.” So the plaster came off and I played in the Cup-tie. In the last few minutes of the game, I happened to get a kick on the forearm and I knew it was hurt, really hurt. But I finished the game and told Alex, “It’s bad again, Alex.” What had happened was, a callus had formed on the crack, but it hadn’t become solidified. It was still soft and the kick had opened everything up again.
So I went into the Royal again and it turned out it was the same doctor as had treated me after the Falkirk game. He says, “Your arm was broken only a few weeks ago! What were you playing for?”
I said, “The doctor said it was only muscular.”
He said, “Not at all! I can still get the plates. You’ve woken the whole lot up again!” The callus hadn’t become solidified. I was playing again far too soon. But what could I do? You’re young and I wanted to play and you think people know better than you do. I missed a whole lot of games because of that.
Then you did it again in Dublin on 20 April.
I broke it in Dublin and couldn’t get it sorted out until the following day. The boy caught me there with the boot. Celtic were playing an FAI select in Dublin, for An Tostal at Dalymount Park. I came back and this time I went up to Duke Street hospital. It’s closed now, I think. There was a grand man there, I just can’t remember his name, and he put me in plaster, and he said, “You’ve’suffered all right with that.” I’d never suffered so much in all my life. I couldn’t sleep. Then we’d to get the train back from Dublin to Belfast, get the Glasgow boat that night and I was lying there with it. They gave me tablets but they were no good. So it was put back in plaster again for the third time – for the fourth time!
Then we were playing against Hearts at Celtic Park, on 24 October 1953, Scottish League, and at that time we used the diagonal system of defence. We didn’t play with a sweeper, the full-back became a sweeper depending on what side we were being attacked. If the attack was down the right, and I was playing left-back, I’d move in to cover the centre-half. Jock Stein was playing. Jock had the ball. And Davie Laing, the Hearts left-half, he finished up with Clyde, I think. Good player. He was injured so they moved him up to centre-forward. Sometimes they did that instead of putting them on the wing because, as you know, in those days there were no substitutes, you just played on or left the field. So anyway, I was where Jock should have had the ball away but with Laing being semi-injured, he lingered. I moved out, thinking Jock was going to clear the ball but he lost it to Laing who was coming through. I was late in coming back in and he was just ready for a shot at goal so threw my body to get between where I reckoned the ball would be and the goals. The ball hit me, travelling like a bullet, caught me here, stuck in here and broke my arm. Feel that arm.
I went out for the second-half at outside-left. Bobby Parker was playing right-back. “Sean, injured or not,” he says, “I’m going for every ball!”
“Oh,” says I, “I know.”
“That’s our fault,” he says.
Says I, “Don’t worry.” We had a bit of banter. But seriously, he says, “I’m going for every ball.” But I remember I was in agony.
That was the day you said, “At least it’s not a broken a leg!”
I went back to the same man to have it put in plaster. He told me the body could only give off so much calcium and: “As far as you are concerned, Mr Fallon, it’s working overtime. Wait and I’ll give you a letter to Celtic Park. They should send you home to Ireland and give you a real rest.”
And I’ll always remember, he wrote on the letter, that the arm had taken too much abuse, that I needed a rest in Ireland. That was good enough for them. They sent me home. It was the swimming season. The Henry Cup was being swum for, a long swim and I’d won it twice. The sponsors wanted me to swim in it. I said, “I can’t, I’m in plaster up to here. I’d get the plaster wet.”
“Ach,” they said, “you can swim maybe half a mile or so, you know.”
And I stupidly – typical Irish, brain full of stones – I went in for the swim and didn’t the plaster get wet? “God,” I thought, “if I go back to Glasgow and the plaster’s all soft and wet, they’re going to jump to one conclusion that I haven’t been looking after myself.” So, needless to say, I didn’t win the swim! But my dad, God rest him, brought me up to the surgical hospital. He was friendly with the surgeon there, Charlie McCarthy. He was the orthopaedic surgeon in the hospital. He put a new plaster on. So that was me. And I went back, and eventually I got it off in Glasgow and I never had any more bother after that. But just pains, you know.
You have pains in it nowadays?
Oh aye, pains in it all the time. But that wasn’t the last of my injuries because I broke my nose twice after that. A fractured rib. Then my knee got a bad twist. Unfortunately the first operation on it, he left a piece of cartilage, the surgeon at the Victoria. The second one, it had moved, it had moved back, and he thought he’d leave it for a couple of weeks and then he went back again and he got it the third time. Nowadays they have a different type of operation.
Keyhole surgery. They did that on my left knee, no bother. But the right knee I finished up with about 27 stitches in. My right knee. And when I played, the knee would fill up with blood. And I went to Mr McDougall. He was the chief orthopaedic surgeon in the Royal. I used to go up and get blood drawn off my knee and a cortisone injection to play. After I went up the second time to have the blood drawn off, Mr McDougall said, “Take some advice, son, I’m not happy about giving you cortisone.” You know cortisone nowadays, a lot of people, they don’t use it at all. He warned me with cortisone I could even lose my leg. He said, “I’m not giving you any more cortisone.” He said, “If you’ll take some advice from me, you’ll retire from the game,” which I did.
Sean, some very progressive moves by Celtic around this time. You were taken down to Wembley for England versus Hungary, on 25 November 1953, England 3, Hungary 6. And the month before, you’d been down to see England versus the Rest of Europe, the 4-4 game. I mean, very progressive stuff, at that time, you know?
That was the chairman, you know. The chairman believed that you must learn if you’re looking at the best. You can’t help but try and emulate what you’re watching. You can’t but try to emulate if you’re· watching the top players in the world.
And have you a memory of the Hungarians?
Oh, the Hungarians were fabulous! There was Boszik, wing-half, Puskas did the handshaking but Boszik was the captain of the team. I always remember someone saying, Oh, he’s quite slow. But he proved that speed of thought could always overcome speed of movement. To anyone looking at him, Oh, he’s slow, he’s slow, he’s too slow for first-class football. But he was always on a jog, always on a jog, and the way he could pass a ball and his control was immediate. Control was immediate. And he could see things so quickly. That was the reason he didn’t have to be fast because you get guys that can run like greyhounds, but you say, Can they play? It’s a different thing altogether. Puskas was something too and Hidegkuti.
Now the Scottish Cup Final versus Aberdeen at Hampden, Aberdeen 1, Celtic 2. Fallon at centre gets the winner in 63 minutes, following a run from deep by Fernie.
Another of those great mazy runs. I’d have been in trouble had I missed it, the pass was so perfect.
And Jock Stein received the Cup although the club captain was in the side?
Jock had become – when I was appointed captain, you always had to nominate a deputy and my closest friend there, a great pal of mine was Bertie Peacock. But Bertie was younger than me, about six years younger than me, and I wanted a man of experience so I recommended Jock Stein. Jock became my deputy. He reciprocated then when he became manager which went to show he hadn’t forgotten. He could have brought in his own man.
We went off to Switzerland and he nearly drowned Bobby Collins at the Lido in Lucerne. He threw him in off the raft and didn’t realise Bobby couldn’t swim. Wee Bobby wasn’t pleased one bit. I saved him from drowning. Poor Bobby. Puskas, he got injured in the 8-3 game against Germany in Switzerland and he was in plaster and I remember Bobby Collins going up to him and asking him for his autograph, you know. There was a few of us used to run around together, Collins, Fernie, Peacock and myself. We were standing there and Bobby walked up with his sheet of paper and his pencil. Puskas just looked at him, Och, away you go! And he walked away. You should have heard wee Bobby! Boy, he called him for everything! In fact, we were ready to protect Puskas because Bobby was very fiery. He was ready to put one on his chin. But Puskas was wrong. There was no reason why he shouldn’t have given him his autograph. I’ll always remember that incident.
And Peacock, Fernie and Collins would play in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. Now here is something. 21 August 1956, Celtic 3, Rangers 4 in the Glasgow Cup. Fallon uses a 100 percent muscle charge on Sammy Baird, lays him out.
I broke his collarbone. The reason for that, it was his own fault, he came in square to me, stupidly. Three years before that, he was playing with Clyde. I was playing right-back. It was a very muddy night at Shawfield and I had fallen in the goalmouth. Next thing I got a kick in the back of the head. I looked up, I saw Sammy running away. Sammy used to run with his chest out. Big guy, Sammy. But the following week he was transferred to Preston. The manager at Preston at that time was Scot Symon.
Three years after that particular incident at Shawfield, Rangers appointed Scot Symon manager and he brought Sammy back with him and that was the first opportunity I’d had, for I always remembered the kick in the head when he was wearing a Clyde jersey. Stupidly, he came in square, broke his collarbone and his shoulder and was carried off. Yet strangely enough, Baird was quite a nice guy off the field. I met him several times socially, a nice guy, but on the field, he’d that wee bit in him, you know.
Now into 1957 and 80,000 people for a three o’clock kick-off against Rangers at Ibrox on a Wednesday! Scottish Cup replay. Can you imagine!
They had Billy Simpson with them. Billy Simpson drove the ball at me in the first ten minutes and the referee, Jack Mowat, Jack sorted him out. Then he came up to me, “Now, Mister Fallon, don’t retaliate, I know you’re hurt but don’t retaliate. I’ll watch him.” I always thought Mowat was a great referee.
I want to ask you about Sammy Wilson, the forgotten man of the 7-1 side? Snappy ground passes, positional intelligence, ace schemer, a revelation as one newspaper report said of him. How did you rate Slammin’ Sammy?
Sammy Wilson? At that time, we were one of the first teams to introduce the four man forward line, the centre-forward and a player alongside him. We played Sammy Wilson up front alongside Billy McPhail. Billy got everything that was going in the air, he could knock them down and one thing Sammy could do, he was a great finisher. But he wasn’t a worker. He was given that area to play in but that threw a lot of work on us. The old-style inside forward came back and did a lot of work in midfield. With Sammy, it meant we were short a wee bit on the left side. And at that time on the left side you had Tully, Peacock, Fallon. That threw a lot of work on Peacock and myself. Because Charlie, you know, Charlie wasn’t a great worker. Charlie wanted the ball to his feet. And if Charlie had been out the night before he’d never get back in his own half of the field anyway. But Sammy was lost when McPhail retired. He retired in ‘58, same as myself. A lot of the old players retired about then and they started producing young players around that time. After McPhail went, Wilson wasn’t profitable without him. He wasn’t the same player. McPhail could get up over a ball and head it down. Very few forwards can do that. They can get under a ball but McPhail could hang and get the ball down to people’s feet. It’s a lost art.
How was that 7-1 game for you?
Oh, it was tremendous for us. We expected a hard game. The usual Old Firm rivalry. No matter what people think, the spectators, we had a lot of respect for one another and that game, irrespective of how the game went, we shook hands, because we were professionals. We were the better team on the day. We accepted that. But that particular day, we always wanted to win, of course. We were playing the Rangers. That was a very important game for the Final of the League Cup. All games are important but a game like that against Rangers had extra importance in the eyes of the spectators.
We went out and we were quite surprised ourselves how easy it was. You get games, you know, when everything goes right for you. You’re finding your team-mates with a pass, there’s nothing going astray, you’re playing well but the other team’s struggling. I have to say, you’re only as good as you’re allowed to be. I think on that day every player contributed. Every sector of the team was playing well which is unusual because the team might play well and yet you might point to a player and say, He wasn’t so good.
And all this in spite of the Fight of the Century a few days before in the dressing room, Tully versus Evans? 17 October?
Ach, the things I’ve heard about that! I was there! They’re supposed to have knocked the massage table over. The entire team couldn’t have turned over that table! Bobby hat taken offence about something in Charlie’s newspaper column. Charlie was pretending he wanted to get at Bobby. Bobby really wanted to get at Charlie. Charlie was no fighter. His body wasn’t built for fighting. We were holding on to Charlie, that was the easy part. The problem was holding Bobby down. Bobby would have killed him. Charlie’s newspaper column was ghost-written. He had probably no idea what was in it till Bobby lost his temper.
Sean, ten million thanks.
Eugene, thank you. It’s always a pleasure talking to you.