Celtic in Europe: The Early Years


Celtic first burst upon the European stage with an unbeaten four match tour to Vienna and Prague in 1904. This was the bonding time for the team that was to win the Scottish League six seasons in a row from 1905-1910.

The gel suffered some immediate stress when the Vienna train pulled out of Frankfurt station one mid-May morning minus powerhouse right-half Sunny Jim Young. The big Ayrshireman did not make it to Vienna until the following night. Boss Maley took his place against AFC Wien playing each half of the game in the shade.

Willie Maley was dour type but at the end of the 1906 tour skipper Jimmy hay persuaded him to join in the players’ wee sing-song in Budapest. Hay sang ‘A wee Drappie O’t”

This life is a journey we a’ hae to gang,
And care is the burden we carry alang;
Though heavy be the burden and poverty our lot,
We’ll be happy a’ thegither owre a wee drappie o’t.

Owre a wee drappie o’t, owre a wee drappie o’t,
We’ll be happy a’ thegither owre a wee drappie o’t.

Gorbals outside-left Davie Hamilton “It’s Movin’ Day”.

Celtic were in Scandinavia in 1907. They had by now signed the original Wizard of the Dribble, Scottish international winger Bobby Templeton. In Copenhagen the Danes screamed for Bobby to dribble himself silly, but to Maley, if such genius artistry did not result in goals then it was vain, futile and of no use to Celtic. The Bhoys were travelling without a recognised ‘keeper. Let the crowds screech for thrills hard as they might, maley placed the demon winger between the posts (and on the transfer list when the team got back to home to Glasgow).

Celtic began another unbeaten tour in Dresden in 1911 followed by games in Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Basle and Paris. Ernst Kaltenbach scored for Basle and was in the party at Parkhead with the Swiss in 1963 with the Swiss on Cup Winners Cup European duty in 1963 to meet Napoleon McMenemy, his opponent from 52 years before.

Celtic’s first Continental tour defeat was in 1912 against a Danish XI training for the Olympic Games. No matter – after the North sea crossing and the train from Hull, Sunny Jim Young got out of the train at York station: “Well boys, I’m prouder than ever to be a Celtic player.”


Germany was bristling for war in the summer of 1914 when Celtic lost their second tour fixture 1:0 versus Leipzig. Patsy Gallacher was scathing: “The pitch was 180 yards long, we had grass up to our knees and the referee almost kissed the German who scored their goal, which was no goal!” He did not mention the screamer from 40 yards that nearly burst the net but was disallowed. The reason? Offside!

Celtic visited the Ypres battlefield in 1921 and played their football in Paris. In 1922, the year of Sunny Jim’s tragic death, they went to the new country of Czechoslovakia, played three games and lost them all. Celtic were in decline and Continental football was fast catching up on over here.


Danny Park
The Celt, issue 77


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