Jimmy Mallan played centre-half and full-back for Celtic between the years 1942-1953. In this interview for Charles Buchan’s Football Weekly in 1955 he recalled being capped for the Scottish League against England as well as a Victory Cup semi-final at Hampden that ended in him being sent off and the club fined £100 as a result of an honest mistake by referee MC Dale.
I had been seven years in senior football with Celtic when I got my first national honour. It was against the English League at Ibrox in March 1949 and I must have been the most surprised player in the country when they told me I was ‘in’. I was especially pleased that I had made the grade at fullback. Celtic had only recently converted me from centre-half to right-back. I had always regarded it as a stop-gap measure which would end as soon as the management found a replacement. Yet here I was. being picked by the Scottish League at full-back.
Most players know when they have had a bad game and I am no exception. I thought I had had a good match and was shocked and bitterly disappointed when I read the papers the morning after the game and found the critics almost unanimous in singling out left-back Frank Mennie (QP, Kilmarnock and Clyde) and me as being the weak elements of the team. One writer even claimed that George Young (Rangers) had almost run himself into the ground covering up for his full-backs. We’d been beaten 0-3 but I still (1955) feel the critics were unjust to Mennie and me, and above all to Frank Mennie. He was facing Tom Finney and Stanley Mortensen.
To add insult to injury, every time Wilf Mannion got the ball on my side (Mannion’s left), he cut over to the right. Consequently, the English attack was seldom functioning on my side of the park at all. This meant that Frank was under pressure from three top-ranking forwards, not to mention an occasional raid by Jackie Milburn. That we were beaten by only three goals against such opposition speaks volumes for the hard tackling and shrewd positioning of the Clyde left-back.
For my own part, I can remember being beaten only twice by Bobby Langton on my side of the field. As I said earlier, Mannion did not operate against me throughout the game. We were also unfortunate when George Young hit the post with a penalty and Frank Swift beaten.
I was once put on the sidelines for three months. On Wednesday 5 June 1946, we had a replayed Victory Cup semi-final versus Rangers at Hampden. There was a strong wind blowing that evening and we played into it during the first half. A goal down at half-time was not regarded as much leeway to make up. But things took a disastrous tum for three of our players and for the club.
A long clearance landed in our penalty area. As I saw it, Celtic players Pat McAuley and Matt Lynch were both facing Willie Miller as he came out of his goal to gather the ball. Thornton, the Rangers centre, ran between them and fell. Matt Dale, the referee, obviously did not see the incident as I did. He pointed to the penalty spot.
George Paterson grabbed the ball, marched up to Mr Dale and invited him to stick it. He was the first Celtic player sent to the pavilion.
The penalty spot had been obliterated so the referee was obliged to place the ball where he thought it was painted at the start of the game. I saw Pat McAuley walk into the penalty area to look at where Mr Dale had placed the ball. The referee promptly ordered him out of the box. A moment later, Pat again walked into the area but this time invited the whistler to accompany him. Again he was ordered out.
He came over to stand with me. “There’s no penalty spot there and the ball’s too far forward. Have a look for yourself.”
Like a fool, I walked forward to see and as I turned back, the referee dashed towards me and ordered me off.
Meanwhile, Hampden was in pandemonium. I was so thunderstruck that I did not even protest the ball was not in its proper place.
When I got into the tunnel, I told trainer Alec Dowdells what had happened. He reckoned I had been sent off after two warnings and that M.C. Dale, in a panic to get on with the game, had not realised it was the dark-haired Mallan and not the auburn McAuley who had gone into the penalty box for a third look at the spot.
That was my reading of the situation but not that of the Referees’ Committee. George Paterson and I were suspended, each for three months. Matt Lynch was also reported (for what it is hard to know) and he ‘clicked’ for a month out of the game. The final result was a Rangers victory 2-0, and, as the penalty and the ordering-off incidents had aroused some feeling among the crowd, there was a display of bad temper with bottle-throwing. Celtic were fined £100 (no joke in 1946) and ordered to post warning notices at Parkhead for six months.
I am with St Mirren now and all that is behind me. But it taught me a lesson which I have followed carefully ever since: Play to the whistle. No matter how frayed tempers may become or how annoying an. apparent injustice may seem- especially when a trophy is at stake -my advice to all young players is to accept the referee’s decision without any show of dissent, either vocal or by gesture. And don’t be nosey! Don’t let your curiosity tempt you to investigate problems on the field which are not your concern. Remember, a three-month lay-off seems an eternity in an eight-month season.
(Adapted from Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly September 1955)
The Celt’s View: Rangers booked the wind and despite some great ‘keeping by Willie Miller, Waddell produced one unsaveable. drive (12). Jackie Gallacher was carried-off after the penalty but Jimmy Sirrel limped on to the end with a pulled muscle. Flashpoint was in the 69th minute when Thornton dived. Celtic players refused to let the kick be taken (Jimmy Mallan included). Celtic skipper Bobby Hogg probably stopped his team-mates leaving the field en masse. The SFA deplored his conduct and endorsed his record card.
From The Celt, issue 84, November 2004