The Dubious Goals Committee

Celtic Tried to Sign Real Madrid Legend More Than 50 years Ago

More than 50 years ago, Celtic almost pulled off the transfer of the century, as Retro Football Blog explains.

Jimmy McGrory’s time in charge of his beloved Celtic may not stand out as much as his playing career, but there are still noteworthy highlights.

McGrory scored 468 goals for Celtic and became manager in 1945, overseeing a league and cup double in 1954 and a 7-1 League Cup final triumph against Rangers in 1957. He was also involved in a highly-publicised attempt to bring Alfredo Di Stefano to Celtic Park in 1964.

When the Real Madrid icon revealed he was leaving Real Madrid, McGrory travelled to Spain with Celtic defender John Cushley, a modern languages graduate, to act as interpreter.

Unfortunately for Celts, the trip proved fruitless and all they came back with was a nice tan as Di Stefano opted to join Espanyol instead.

But what a pairing they would have made because, even in management, McGrory never lost his ability in front of goal, as this story from John Cairney’s book, A Scottish Football Hall of Fame reveals.

“At a training session, McGrory, wearing his usual managerial bowler hat and puffing on his pipe as usual, stood watching a group of players dealing with high crosses. Suddenly, the players were startled to see the manager rush among them, hat in one hand, pipe in the other. As the ball came over he met it cleanly on his forehead and it bulleted into the back of the net. Calmly he replaced his hat and pipe, saying ‘That’s wit I mean, lads,’ and returned to his place on the touchline.”

Despite the setback, Di Stefano, who retired at the age of 40 in 1966, did appear to have a fondness for Celtic and shortly after the club won the 1967 European Cup, they were invited to play in his testimonial at the Bernabeu.

Celtic won 1-0 thanks to a Bobby Lennox goal and a dazzling performance from Jimmy Johnstone.

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