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If ever anyone wanted a perfect illustration of the differing football philosphies of Celtic and Rangers then they should look no further than the men voted their respective club’s ‘Greatest Ever’ players.
For the Ibrox team that man was John Greig. A tall, strong and imposing centre-half who revelled in the physical aspects of the game. His job was to stop others from playing. He did it well. A courageous, robust and excellent no nonsense defender, Greig was also fully committed to the Rangers cause. Equally committed to the Celtic cause was the man Hoops fans chose as ‘The Greatest Ever Celt’, Jimmy Johnstone. But it is with courage and commitment that the similarities end.
Steeped in the Celtic tradition the wee genius that was Jinky was a true entertainer. With mesmerising ball skills, Jimmy was the ultimate crowd pleaser. An audacious and impish talent he could light up a football park with his ability to tease and torture defenders. It was impossible to guess what Jinky would do next. He always has another trick up the long sleeves of his oversized jersey.
In Jimmy Johnstone Celtic had a player capable of winning games single handedly. He bewitched football fans from the Bernabeu to Belgrade and often provided more entertainment in 90 minutes than many other players do in their entire career. The Bhoy from Viewpark was the personification of everything Celtic fans love about football. This is how they want their footballers – brave, entertaining, cheeky and with an ability to do something extraordinary.
How lucky then are the Celtic support to have been blessed with so many of these talents?
In Patsy Gallacher the Bhoys boasted another rare gem. A fragile frame belied the considerable strength of 'The Mighty Atom'. Peerless Patsy was a wonderful dribbler who was arguably the greatest player of his generation. His invention on the ball was sublime and his skills would never be forgotten by a generation of Celtic fans.
His genius is best summed up by the goal he scored in the 1925 Scottish Cup final. After a mazy run Patsy was finally halted yards from the Dundee goal. Just as it appeared the danger was over he trapped the ball between both feet and somersaulted into the goal!
The wayward genius of Tommy McInally would be another crowd favourite. He played football with a smile and his antics with the ball would often have the crowd grinning from ear to ear – although it has to be said his team-mates and Willie Maley didn’t always see the funny side. Tommy loved nothing more than playing to the galleries – dancing past the same player after he had already beaten him, or performing a wee trick to amuse the supporters.
The clever and brave wing play of the brilliant Jimmy Delaney was a rare football highlight for Celtic fans in the 1940s while a decade later a natural successor to McInally was eventually found in Charlie Tully. Tully was a phenomenum on and off the pitch. His cheek on the ball and wit off it made him the darling of the Parkhead faithful. Immensley skilful he famously scored direct from a corner only to be told to retake it. He duly obliged and once more swung the ball into the net. This time the goal stood.
In recent year Paolo Di Canio briefly stole the hearts of the Celtic Park crowd while Lubomir Moravcik introduced a new generation of fans to the sort of skill some thought was lost forever. Arriving late in his career the Slovakian's career at Parkhead was all too brief but the memories of his talent will live long in the mind.
While brute strength has been long admired by those followers of Rangers, at Celtic Park it will always be the entertainers who receive the plaudits.
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