1979-05-21: Celtic 4-2 Rangers, Premier DivisionThis is a featured page

Match Pictures | Matches: 1978 - 1979 | 1978-1979 Pictures

TriviaTen Men Won The League book cover

  • Match has been dubbed: "Ten men won the league"
  • The legendary game where Celtic had a man sent off after a few minutes into the second half, and were one down only to come back fighting and win the game.
  • Celtic dramatically won the league title in their last game of the season.
  • Billy McNeill's first league title as Celtic manager in his first season (Jock Stein had "left" at the end of the prior season)
  • Low attendance of 52,000 is disputed by some, but there was a bus and rail strike in Glasgow that evening and some people found it difficult to travel thus keeping the gate down from the 60,000 expected.
  • This game was actually a postponed fixture from January 6th.
  • YouTube video of the goals
  • Ten Men Won The League(2014)book by Stephen Murray details this game and the 1978/79 season.


DR - 10men
(below article is taken from LonestarCeltic.com)

THERE are few events in Celtic history which can arouse the passion of the fans quite as much as those which involve Rangers. There have been cup finals won and lost against our old rivals of course, and the idea that at the end of the day there will be only one winner, adds to the spice of the occasion. Elsewhere in these pages, you will no doubt read about some of those cup finals, and quite correctly we remember them fondly.

However, in modern times, the romance of the cup does not carry the same imperative as the winning of championships. With the winning of a league title comes passage to the top European competition, the prestige of carrying the country's flag abroad as the best on offer within our shores, and the opportunity for our fans to remind their opposition counterparts fifty-odd times the following season that "We ARE the champions".

Championships, though, are never a sprint. They are won and lost over the course of a long season. In Scotland at least they never regularly go to the wire, instead tey tend to be over earlier than most lovers of keen competition would like.

Consider then a championship that depends - after a season of two main protagonists' matching each other's achievements - on just one game. Consider further that the two main protagonists are Celtic and Rangers. Even better, put yourself in the old Jungle at Celtic Park at around seven o' clock on Monday 21 May 1979.

This was Celtic's last game of the season, although Rangers still had two games afterwards. A Celtic win meant that Rangers could not gain enough points - as Celtic would be five ahead of them. A draw, however, would leave Celtic three points ahead and Rangers would have the opportunity to get those points from their final two matches. In short, they only aneeded a draw, we needed to win.

The event itself was surrounded by political conditions not of football's making. Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government had been elected only weeks before, and the industrial unrest which had pertained in the UK over the last year was still manifesting itself in all aspects of life in this country. As the crowds made their way up Janefield Street behind the Jungle, a television mast was being removed due to a snap strike by TV technicians. The upshot was, unknow to most of the fans at the match, the event was not recorded for posterity.

As the match itself began, the tension was tangible, everyone aware that the next 90 minutes would decide who was the Best Team in Scotland.

After nine minutes, and in Rangers first attack of the match, the Jungle was silenced when Alex MacDonald - so often a thorn in Celtic's side - gave Rangers the lead. Celtic soon had another mountain to climb when John Doyle was sent of for retaliating to a tussle with MacDonald of Rangers.
This situation remained until half time, despite Aitken's header which rebounded from the bar to deny Celtic an equaliser. It seemed to be an impossible task for the remaining ten Celtic players. They were a goal down, a man down, and there was the certainty that unless they could muster up at least two goals from that position, the league was lost.

To make matters worse, this was in the days of standing room only terraces, and there were around 25,000 Rangers fans preparing to celebrate a famous championship victory at Parkhead - a feat they had hitherto failed to achieve.


What went through our minds was too awful to imagine, and perhaps that was how the players felt also, because Celtic galvanised themselves, and with a mighty effort and no lack of skill, they took control of the game, and equalised through Roy Aitken in 66 minutes after a pass by Davie Provan. In 74 minutes, bedlam. George McCluskey, a forward with a great deal of skill and flair, an eye for goal and sense of the big occasion, put Celtic ahead with a shot from 12 yards after Aitken's original shot had been blocked by a defender.

The roller coaster ride was not over though. Celtic theatre is never simple, and perhaps that is the reason so many football lovers the world over are drawn to the club. From a position of having done enough to claim the championship, disaster struck again.

Two minutes after McCluskey's goal, Rangers were awarded a corner, and to the collective dismay of the assembled Celtic multitude, Bobby Russell's speculative shot from the clearance clipped the post and went in. Now it was Rangers who were again looking at greatness and a place in next season's European Cup - Celtic ten men seemingly having given all that they could be seriously expected to. After all, there were only some thirteen minutes remaining, and it would have been understandable if Billy McNeill's side begun to wilt after their brave efforts.

At this point perhaps, some pause is required. On so many occasions throughout our rich history, Celtic have again and again re-invented the wheel of fantasy. It is a necessary component of the Celtic mindset that the green and white phoenix continually finds itself in ashes, only to be re-born moments later. It's about last minute rescue, impishness in the face of adversity, and the knowledge that achievement echoes through generations.

It was time for Billy McNeill's ten men to write themselves into the history books, and etch their names and achievements into the hearts of Celtic fans for the next hundred generations.

Incredible though it seems, a Roy Aiken-inspired Celtic pushed hard for the winner, and Aitken himself almost scored when his goal-bound header was brilliantly saved by Peter McCloy in the Rangers' goal. The courage of the team was not to go unrewarded however, and with five minutes left, cross by McCluskey was cut out by McCloy. Unfortunately for the Girvan Lighthouse, he only succeeded in touching the ball onto the head of his colleague Colin Jackson, and the ball rebounded from the Bomber's Bonce and into the back of the net.

At this point the tension became even thicker. We were still aware that another Rangers goal against our ten heroes would be disaster. We willed the referee to blow his whistle. Rangers had a corner. The ball ended up bouncing around in the Celtic area, before being humped unceremoniously into the waiting arms of ten thousand of us in the Jungle. We weren't quick to give it back. Now a shy to them, ("Please God BLOW THAT WHISTLE" or some rather more prosaic words to that effect).

The ball is thrown goal-wards, and Rangers commit their men forward in search of a last minute equaliser. Te ball is once again blootered up the park by the Celtic's Tom McAdam. Murdo MacLeod, bough earlier that season from Dumbarton for a club record of ?120,000, controls it and looks up. He sees the goal. More importantly, and in the knowledge that there are seconds left, he sees 25,000 Celtic fans behind the goal in the Celtic end of the stadium. He decides to hit the ball as hard as he can in that direction, knowing that if the ball goes into the crowd, he will have used up valuable seconds. He urges his tired legs to give it the ball one last lung-bursting

There is a brief silence. The ball, guided by history, projects itself into the postage stamp corner of the Rangers' goal, evading the grasping fingers of the goalkeeper. You could almost hear the rustle of the net. That was the last sound most of heard before our eardrums ruptured as a consequence of the demands placed on them by the indescribable cry of joy which erupted from two-thirds of the stadium. Players - from both teams - were on their knees. The Rangers players, who in truth had contributed little to the match other than their ridiculous good fortune, had sagged earthward due to despair. The Celtic players, seemingly, led in prayers of thanks by skipper Danny McGrain.

The singing and dancing after the final whistle were unbelievable. The players and fans were truly like different parts of the same family. Joy was bursting from every smile or grin. Bellows replaced lungs as the cry of, "We 've Won the League Again - Fly the Flag" was born. It was sung constantly and continuously throughout the night. Even the absence of highlights on TV were not enough to dampen spirits, and speaking of spirits....

Many an attendee at that occasion has dined out for decades on the story, the pictures of which were denied to the generations by the TV strike. For those of us who were there, pictures are not required. We knew then as we know now, that we had witnessed first-hand, one of the truly seminal chapters in the incredible story of this football club.

To most of us forty-somethings, there are two Celtic occasions which are head and shoulders above almost anything else. Lisbon of course is up there, but the night that Ten Men Won the League is THE tale worth telling!!!


"....the 4-2 game against Rangers, that was some atmosphere. I try to explain to folk the feelings when we went into the dressing room after the final whistle and then to come back out to what seemed about 90,000 fans. I tell the young boys I work with now and they don’t believe me, they say; “But the stadium only holds 60,000!” Not in my day son, they were all sitting around the track, it was great. Real Madrid away was a great game, even though we lost, so was the home tie as well. I had a great time at Celtic and worked with a great bunch of lads, we all enjoyed ourselves which is what I wanted to do."
Peter Latchford (Mar 2012)


Celtic team:
Latchford, McGrain, Lynch, Aitken, McAdam, Edvaldsson, Provan, Conroy (Lennox), McCluskey, MacLeod, Doyle Sub: Davidson
Celtic scorers : Aitken (66), McCluskey (74), Jackson og (85), MacLeod (90)
Sent Off: Doyle 51 mins.

Rangers team
McCloy, Jardine, Dawson, Johnstone, Jackson, A MacDonald, McLean (Miller), Russell, Parlane, Smith, Cooper Sub: J MacDonald
Rangers scorers : MacDonald (9), Russell (76)

Att : 52,000





1979 Celtic 4-2 Rangers match report

1979-05-22 Daily Record 1 (Neg Sludden)

1979-05-22 Daily Record 2 (Neg Sludden)

1979-05-21: Celtic 4-2 Rangers, Premier Division - The Celtic Wiki
1979 Celtic 4-2 Rangers report

When 10 men won the league

By: Joe Sullivan on 21 May, 2012 09:44

IT was 33 years ago today, on May 21, 1979 that Celtic triumphed in the ultimate Roy of the Rovers derby scenario when 10 men came from behind to beat Rangers 4-2 on the final day of the season and lift the league championship

The league had looked beyond the Hoops since Christmas. In March, the Celts were still six places off the pace with no games being played between December 23 and March 3, but they clawed their way back into contention.

One of the postponed matches was the New Year game against Rangers and, as luck would have it, the clash took place as the final game of the season on a Monday night.

Rangers only had to draw, Celtic had to win – here is the Celtic View match report on what unfolded.

“Celtic got the win they required at Parkhead on Monday night against old rivals Rangers to clinch the Premier League title and a place in the European Cup next season.

“However, the manner of the Celtic win will live in the hearts of all Celtic supporters who witnessed it for the rest of their lives.

“Trailing from a goal scored by Rangers in virtually their first attack of the match, Celtic were faced with a mountainous task to get the two points they required to win the championship.

“That goal came very much into the preventable category and the Celtic defence were badly at fault as MacDonald scored from a Cooper pass.

“Despite almost continuous Celtic pressure, including a magnificent Roy Aitken header which came back off the crossbar, Celtic were unable to grab the equaliser and at half-time still trailed to that single goal.

“Twelve minutes into the second half the Celtic uphill task reached Everest-type proportions when Johnny Doyle was ordered off following an incident involving Alex MacDonald.

“Quite undaunted, the 10-men Celts set about their work again and in the 66th minute, Roy Aitken scored the equaliser they so richly deserved from a Davie Provan free-kick.

“Even more incredibly they took the lead eight minutes later after a Roy Aitken shot was blocked, George McCluskey crashed the rebound into the net.

“The Celtic joy was short-lived, however, because just two minutes later they failed to clear a corner kick and Bobby Russell equalised with a first-time shot through a ruck of players which went into the net off Peter Latchford’s right-hand post.

“Incredible though it seems, Celtic stormed back again and Peter McCloy brought off a fantastic save from a Roy Aitken header that looked a certain scorer.

“Then with only five minutes remaining Celtic raided on the right wing and George McCluskey’s hard cross was touched by keeper McCloy on to the head of Colin Jackson and into the net to give Celtic the lead once again.

"Not satisfied at that, Celtic attacked again in the last minute and Murdo MacLeod scored with a screaming shot from about 20 yards to complete a night to remember.”

Ten Men Who Won The League

Neither Celtic nor Rangers could really claim that 1979 was a vintage year for them. By sheer chance it was the first year as manager for both Billy McNeill and John Greig, once adversaries on the field and now in the dugout. Scottish football was going through a major credibility problem in 1979 as well, it would have to be said, for it was the first season played in the wake of the Argentina fiasco whose reverberations kept on running in the shape of a general disillusion and cynicism, with drastically reduced attendances and a consequent lack of finance.

It was also one of the worst winters on record for the loss of fixtures. The game in question really should have been played in the New year, but snow and ice made a mockery of the fixture lists in January and February. Celtic, for example, did not play a single league match between 23rd December 1978 and 2nd March 1979. Undersoil heating was simply an experimental concept in 1979 and had not reached Scotland.

There were advantages to be had from this state of affairs. In Celtic’s case, it gave the players whose form had been mediocre and inconsistent until Christmas, a chance to have the famous ‘long hard look at themselves’, and in particular it allowed the recovery from injury, a mysterious foot problem that no-one understood, of Danny McGrain, by some distance Scotland’s best player at the time and who would undeniably have made a difference in Argentina, had he been there.

Celtic’s team was young and enthusiastic, but not yet of the Lisbon lions quality. One of the Lions, Bobby Lennox, was still there, but he was used sparingly by his old colleague Billy McNeill. McNeill had made two very sound investments in the purchase of two quality players from the lower reaches of the Scottish League - Murdo MacLeod, a doughty midfielder from Dumbarton, and Davie Provan, a fast and impressive winger from kilmarnock.

So when spring reached Scotland in March 1979 no clear pattern was emerging in the Scottish League as all teams were ‘much of a muchness’ as the saying went. Dundee United were doing well, as were St. Mirren, with the usual suspects of Hibs, hearts and Aberdeen challenging as well. Such is the nature of Scottish football, however, that the ‘also-rans’ gradually dropped out, although Dundee United lasted longer than most, and the stage was left for the big two to fight it out.
Rangers were, on the face of it, in better shape than Celtic. Already possessors of the League Cup, and still in the Scottish Cup (Celtic had exited miserably at home to Aberdeen in mid-March)), they had also had a good run in Europe, beating teams like Juventus and PSV Eindhoven before losing narrowly to Cologne. Two games between Celtic and Rangers were scheduled in May - one at hampden (Ibrox was being redeveloped) on Saturday 5 May and the other at Celtic Park on Monday 21 May.
The impetus seemed to have passed to Rangers when they beat Celtic at Hampden some two days after the historic and baleful appearance of Mrs. Thatcher in Downing Street for the first time. It was only 1-0, but Celtic had been tame, and Rangers now had the lead in the league.
But Celtic rolled up their sleeves and won their next three games, albeit none too impressively, against Partick Thistle on the May Holiday Monday, St. Mirren at ibrox (held there because Love Street was being redeveloped and Ibrox, which was also being renovated and which could not safely hold a rangers v Celtic crowd, was adjudged capable of holding the St. Mirren v Celtic crowd!) on Friday 11 May, and the against the now relegated Hearts at Celtic Park on Tuesday 14 May in a 1-0 stagger to victory in which the referee was given the biggest cheer of the night for blowing the final whistle.

All this meant that Celtic had 46 points to Rangers’ 43, but Rangers had two games in hand, against Partick Thistle and Hibs, games that would have expected to win. Two points only were awarded for win in 1979, so a victory, or even a draw, against Celtic would be very much to their advantage. It was Celtic’s last game of the season, and a win would guarantee them the Championship by giving them 48 points, leaving Rangers with a maximum of 47.

Celtic’s form may have left a little to be desired, but Rangers too were struggling. They were involved in the Scottish Cup final against Hibs, which had now gone to two games without producing a result. The first game on Saturday 12 May had been shown live on BBC, and Celtic fans had seen how ineffective Rangers were in a game that hibs really should have won. The first replay, on the night after Celtic’s win over Hearts was a similar story of Rangers failing to win a game they really needed to, and thus the second replay had to be scheduled for the Monday after the Celtic v Rangers game. It couldn’t be any earlier for Scotland internationals were now getting in the way.

Thus the 52,000 fans who had kept their tickets from January made their way to Parkhead that night. It would be the only opportunity for seeing the game as STV, who were scheduled to show the highlights and might just, in a move unusual for the times, have made a bid for live rights, were hamstrung by a strike, the curse of the 1970s and the reason for the recent triumph of Margaret Thatcher and the Conservatives. The BBC might also have made a move for the game, but they were similarly hamstrung, not by a strike but by managerial fecklessness. They didn’t even provide a radio commentary. Thus, no good audio or visual record of the game exists, although the Celtic Cine Club made a brave effort.

The game turned out not to be a classic - it was far too scrappy for that - but a thriller in which the tides of fortune turned frequently, and eventually decisively in Celtic’s favour.

Rangers, attacking the Celtic end of the ground, scored first within minutes of the kick-off. It was a good goal too, made by Davie Cooper and scored by Alex McDonald to reduce the Celtic fans to silence. Rangers held on to their lead until half-time comfortably enough, although not without a few scares.
The Celtic fans were disappointed but not completely downcast. They were very aware that they needed to score twice, for even a draw was of little use to them. A major effort was required, and Celtic’s fans were now willing to play their part. Spurred on by their singing, chanting, flag-waving support, they attacked the Rangers goal with frenzy and passion, but ten minutes into the second-half occurred the incident which in some ways defines this game, but which seemed at the time to have killed Celtic off.

Near the Rangers penalty area Alex McDonald went down after a foul. Referee Eddie Pringle, who was the only calm man inside the cauldron that was Celtic Park, correctly awarded the free-kick, but some Celtic players seemed to think that McDonald was making too much of it in an attempt to waste time. While several players gathered round to remonstrate with McDonald who was still on the ground, Johnny Doyle was seen to aim a kick at him, not with any viciousness, but rather by frustration at the break in play when Celtic were in the ascendancy. Mr. Pringle had no option and Doyle had to be sent off, after the referee consulted the linesman in front of the Jungle who told him what he had seen. What was harder to endure, however, were the smirks of the Rangers players and the pattings on the back of McDonald who somewhat predictably recovered after Doyle departed.

Celtic now seemed dead and buried, but still the songs and the encouragement continued in what seemed more like defiance than a genuine feeling that the cause could be saved. As if in response to the barrage of noise, Celtic surged forward - McGrain and Lynch were both attacking full-backs that night - with Aitken immense in midfield and the two McNeill signings, Provan and MacLeod now showed their value. An equaliser came in the 67th minute after a goalmouth scramble when Roy Aitken was able to prod the ball home.

The score 1-1, the crowd in bedlam and McNeill now decided to replace the defence-minded Mike Conroy with the sprightly veteran Bobby Lennox, still regarded as one of the fastest men in the game, even at the age of 35.

Aitken’s goal had brought Celtic back into the game, but it was still not enough. Attack was now the order of the day, and with renewed vigour the ten men pressed forward, playing with all the determination of the Celts of old in a cause that seemed lost.

Just 15 minutes remained when George McCluskey put Celtic in front, hooking in a ball after an Aitken drive had been blocked by the Rangers defence. This had followed a sustained period of Celtic attack, but then Celtic forgot one of the oldest dictums in the game - that you are always vulnerable after you have scored a goal. Almost immediately Rangers forced what was for them a rare corner, and the ball came to the hitherto anonymous Russell who drilled the ball through a mass of legs and bodies past Peter Latchford to tilt the game and the title once again in the direction of Ibrox.

The score was 2-2 and ten minutes remained as encouragement and support simply poured from the terraces. The Rangers end, triumphant for a minute or two, now held its collective breath once again as Celtic poured forward. Such occasions often provide a tragic figure. For example there was Alan Craig of Motherwell in the 1931 Scottish Cup final, Dixie Deans, who missed a penalty in the European Cup semi-final against Inter Milan in 1972; that night it was Colin Jackson of Rangers.

Jackson had had a great game up to this point, but he had been booked for one or two robust tackles a few seconds previously. Perhaps this affected his judgement.

George McCluskey made ground on the right, crossed and Peter McCloy parried the ball towards Jackson. Jackson, with Celtic forwards closing in on him attempted to head the ball clear or even out for a corner kick, but all he could do was divert the ball past a bewildered McCloy for an own goal to put Celtic 3-2 up. A lucky goal, perhaps, but not undeserved on the run of play.

There were now only five minutes left. The League Championship was tantalisingly close. ‘Wiser’ teams might have shut up shop for the last five minutes, put the ball out of play, conceded free-kicks in non-threatening areas of the pitch, feigned injuries, argued pointlessly with the referee - all to use up the time.
But Celtic were never wise in that sense. With the crowd still jumping all over one another in ecstasy, they surged forward, reckoning that if they kept the ball in the Rangers half they would find it difficult to equalise.

Time was almost up when the ball came to Murdo MacLeod some 25 yards out. He could hold on to the ball, find a team mate to pass to, even allow it to go for a throw-in. But he reckoned he should try to score. It was unlikely from that angle, but as long as McCloy didn’t save it the ball would go into the Celtic end, from where it would take a while to come out and the whistle would go for full-time. So he belted it as hard as he could - and the ball flew straight into the corner of the net.

Pandemonium once again, and almost immediately the full-time whistle came from Mr. Pringle.

Celtic Park had seldom seen anything like it. The immediate celebrations seemed to go on forever, with poor Johnny Doyle, skulking in the dressing-room to avoid his manager’s wrath, being summoned by Billy McNeill and ordered to join the celebrations.

And very soon the following season, Celtic’s supporters had made up their own song in honour of this game. It went (to the tune of Boney M’s Brown Girl in the Ring): “Ten men won the league, na na na na na...” and was repeated ad infinitum.

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marcomaldini How many where there? 2 Oct 1 2012, 11:14 AM EDT by connolly'schair
Thread started: Mar 22 2012, 2:38 AM EDT  Watch
The count was 52K, I was there in the Celtic end as I could not get into the jungle, 15 yo, i dogged school and walked from Maryhill and back, sorry floated back, bus's were on strikke. My ticket cost £2.50, my whole pocket money, my shoes were spent and I got a thick ear off my mother, some things are priceless and I would not lose the memory of that night for all the cash in the bank of england or even Lisbon 67
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EasterhouseBhoy 10 Men Won the League 0 Mar 30 2009, 7:33 AM EDT by EasterhouseBhoy
Thread started: Mar 30 2009, 7:33 AM EDT  Watch
I can remember the game vividly. I was 11 years old at the time, and it was the first Celtic v Rangers game I was allowed to go to. Everyone in the Hoops were heroes that night especially Roy Aitken. Big Roy became a legend that night. He was absolutely immense and gave us the kind of performance we'd get used to over the next decade. The "4-2 game" as it is commonly known remains my all time favourite Celtic game, even outshining such great performances such as 6-2 and 5-1 games and the great European nights we've had since
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