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Remembering Johnny Doyle

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Today marks the 30th anniversary of the death of former Celtic winger Johnny Doyle. Johnny was yet another fan who ended up wearing his beloved Hoops and his pride in wearing the jersey was there for all to see and the supporters knew just what it meant to Johnny to wear the famous Green and White Hoops after all he was just one of them and would most possibly have been standing with them if he wasn’t playing for the team such was his love for the club.

Johnny started out playing with the Viewpark Boys Guild before playing for Viewpark FC and then getting a move to Ayr United in 1968.

Whilst he was at Somerset Park, he made his first (and only) appearance for the Scottish national team in a 1–1 draw with Romania.

After spending eight years at Ayr United, Johnny earned his dream move to his beloved Celtic, the boy from Viewpark was about to become a Bhoy at Celtic Park!

On 15th March 1976, Johnny Doyle became Celtic’s record signing at the third attempt at a cost of £90,000.

His career in the Hoops got off to a bad start when he was injured in the first minute of his debut against Dundee, Johnny only managed a further five appearances in that first season which ended trophyless for the Bhoys.

The following season was better for Johnny and Celtic, the title was won at Easter Road with five games to go and then Celtic went on to do the Double with a Scottish Cup final victory over Rangers – thanks to an Andy Lynch penalty.

His first full season in the Hoops had ended in league and cup glory and Johnny scoring 11 goals in 50 appearances.

Season 77-78 saw Johnny’s appearances restricted to 29 and only four goals scored as the cartilage injury sustained on his debut re-appeared.

Many thought that Johnny’s position was under threat when new manager Billy McNeill signed winger Davie Provan in 1978. – How wrong would they be! Johnny proved that he could not only play on the wing but he could also give the manager an added option up front much to the delight of his manager and the fans in the Jungle (where he once stood) who had found a new hero.

Johnny, Oh Johnny Doyle, Oh Johnny Doyle on the Wing went the chant, this was music to Johnny’s ears and on the park he was pure magic if not a little over eager sometimes!

Johnny was always keen to please his team mates and his supporters but once or twice he overstepped the mark and received his marching orders, much to his disgust.

One of his early red-cards at Ayr came when he threw his chewing gum at a linesman in disgust at a decision. In a game against his old club at Somerset Park in 1977 he picked up a loose ball and whipped in a cross, which hit the referee in the face, causing him to fall in a heap.

Despite it being clearly unintentional, the official showed Johnny a straight red card, this was ultimately overturned on appeal.

Perhaps the most famous red card Johnny received was in the match that went down in history as Ten Men Won The League!

With Celtic losing as early in the second half, Rangers midfielder Alex MacDonald was lying on the ground Johnny remonstrated with him, tried to get him off the ground and MacDonald kicked out. The red mist descended as a swift kick was despatched to MacDonald’s ribs and even though MacDonald pounced to his feet to go for Doyle’s throat, only one of them headed for an early bath…. was this the end of Celtic’s title dream?

One goal and one man down, Johnny could only sit and wonder what was going on outside…. he need not have worried, in a match that would swing one way then another,the Hoops finally ran out 4-2 winners after a wonderful strike from his old pal Murdo MacLeod settled the match and sent everyone inside Celtic Park wild and the famous chant of ‘Ten Men Won the League, Tra-La-La-La’ was born and Johnny could celebrate.

Johnny’s most prolific season in the Hoops came in 1979-80 when he was joint top scorer with George McCluskey, hitting the net an impressive 15 times in 35 appearances.

He had many highlight’s during his time at Celtic Park and possibly his goal in the first leg of the match against Spanish giants Real Madrid as the Hoops won 2-0 and another Scottish Cup winner’s medal after the 1-0 extra-time win over Rangers (riot apart) gave Johnny some comfort after losing the league to Aberdeen.

In season 1980-1 another league title was won but Johnny’s first team appearances were increasingly restricted but this did not stop him celebrating at Tannadice with the rest of the team including carrying his pal and the man who scored the winner in the 3-2 victory Tommy Burns , was carried on his shoulders.

In his last appearance in the Hoops, a Glasgow Cup tie against Queens Park, Johnny was again on the scoresheet. A week later he died in his home as a result of a tragic electrical accident.

The days and months after he died no one could have imagined how difficult they must have been for Johnny’s family, friends and team-mates but how do you carry on?

The only way that the Celtic family could come to terms with the death of their pal was to go and win the league and on the 15th May 1982 when Celtic played St.Mirren after a nervous first half and knowing that Aberdeen had been winning 4-0 against rivals Rangers they came out and won 3-0 to take the title and another chant rang out round the stadium,

“Won The League For Doyle, Oh Yes We Won the League for Doyle…
Everyday walking through those doors must have been he happiest days of Johnny’s life as he was living the dream, he loved the club and they fans and they loved him back…..and will never forget him.

During his time at Celtic Park he won: 3 League Championships, 2 Scottish Cup’s and 1 Scotland cap when he was with Ayr.

I’ll leave you with a story that Frank McGarvey once told at Lochburn Park, the home of Maryhill Juniors:

“When I arrived from Liverpool our team-mates wound up Johnny by telling him his time as ‘The Man’ was now over. Johnny did what ,Johnny does – he challenged me to a wrestling match and put him in a headlock. Estimates vary as to how long the headlock lasted, some say 30 minutes other say 3 hours. Even an appearance from big Billy didn’t stop us! Eventually I was finally released and Johnny said “who’s The Man?”

Johnny was always The Man.

God Bless Johnny Doyle and all who love and miss him.

For more information on Johnny Doyle check out www.johnnydoyle.com

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About Author

Chief Features Writer for Scotzine.com. Sean has written for various publications and websites over the years and has been involved with making documentaries on Aberdeen Football Club, Dundee United Football Club, Henrik Larsson, Paul Lambert and Jock Stein and also Radio programmes, one of which "Old Firm Day" won a Bronze Sony Award. He also worked in the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park. His love of writing started off with The Punter and has gone on to write for the following FIFA magazine, 442, Scotland's Oracle, Players Inc, British Football Week, ESPN, Give Me Football, Inside Futbol, 67 Fanzine and the matchday programmes of Aberdeen, Carlisle United, Montrose, Partick Thistle, Stockport County and Queen's Park. He has also been asked to write a blog for Youth Football Scotland on St.Mirren YFC such was his passion for football at every level from Grassroots to the professional game.

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