The number is nine not seven

The number is nine not seven

By Roy Hay

This year in Scotland the ‘Old Firm’, Celtic and Rangers, will meet seven times in the 2010–11 season.

Somewhere along the line the notion has arisen that this is a record and the two clubs have never played as many games in one football year.

Most recently the Sunday Age repeated this claim in its PSSST column on the back page of the sports section.

The column is well named, but inaccurate.

When my grandfather, James ‘Dun’ Hay was captain of Celtic in 1908–09, the clubs met seven times—twice in the Scottish League, twice in the Scottish Cup, including the replay in the final which preceded the Hampden Riot, of which more in a moment, twice in the Glasgow Cup and once in the Glasgow Charity Cup.

But that was not the first time or the record for the number of meetings between the clubs in a single season.

There were seven meetings in 1896-97 and 1900-01, eight in 1897-98 and 1898-99 and nine in 1899-1900.

In that year there were two Scottish League meetings, two in the Inter-City League, two in the Scottish Cup, two in the Glasgow Cup and one in the Charity Cup.

Judging by the team lists these were all full strength fixtures and that is why they were called the Old Firm, because of their sedulous pursuit of the money.

‘Maley moneybags’. Bill Murray, The Old Firm: Sectarianism, Sport and Society in Scotland, John Donald, Edinburgh, 1984, p. 38, taken from Scottish Sport, 24 August 1900.

In 1909, the Scottish Cup final had to be replayed after Jimmy Quinn, the star centre forward for Celtic, rescued a draw for his team by barging the Rangers’ keeper into his own net while he was holding the ball very late in the game.

The replay took place at Hampden Park a week later on 17 April.

The Scottish Football Association had decreed that if the replay was also drawn a third match would be required, but Willy Maley, Celtic’s manager, had hinted in his newspaper column that extra time would be used to settle the issue.

When the match ended one-all, with Quinn scoring again for Celtic, some of the players lingered on the pitch suggesting the possibility of extra-time.

But when officials began removing the corner flags, the fans came over the fence in disgust at what they saw as the greed of the clubs and the SFA.

For the only time in the history of the game in Scotland the fans of Rangers and Celtic rioted in unison against the authorities instead of kicking lumps out of each other.

They burned the pay boxes, a neat symbolic gesture, and when firemen arrive to put the flames out they were pelted with stones by the rioters who also cut the fire hoses according to a report.

It is also said the outnumbered police on duty had to throw the stones back at the crowd to try to restore order.

Another story is that only one rioter appeared before the court after the incident.

I cannot vouch for the truth of all these claims and there is no doubt that a lot of embroidery has gone on since the event.

What is certain, however, is that Celtic and Rangers did meet seven times in 1908–09 even if the Scottish Cup was withheld and both clubs were sanctioned.

Celtic was in the midst of a stellar period in which it won the Scottish League six times in a row, something which remained a record until Jock Stein’s magnificent teams won nine in succession from 1966 to 1974.

Rangers emulated that feat under Graham Souness and Walter Smith from 1989 to 1997.

So nine is an important number for both Rangers and Celtic, and the teams did meet nine times in 1899-1900.

I appreciate the help of David Paton with this article. The career of James ‘Dun’ Hay is covered in my biography of my grandfather. Roy Hay, James ‘Dun’ Hay, 1881-1940: The Story of a Footballer, Sports and Editorial Services Australia, Teesdale, Victoria, 2004, available from our website at or from Amazon UK and other good bookshops.

Source and captions for pics.

1909 Final replay. The end of the match. Dodds, Loney, Hay, Quinn, McMenemy and McNair (Celtic) and Gordon and Galt (Rangers) linger, encouraging the idea that extra-time might be played. Hugh Keevins and Kevin McCarra, One Hundred Cups: The Story of the Scottish Cup, Mainstream, Edinburgh, 1985, p. 78.

‘Maley moneybags’. Bill Murray, The Old Firm: Sectarianism, Sport and Society in Scotland, John Donald, Edinburgh, 1984, p. 38, taken from Scottish Sport, 24 August 1900.

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