This year, forty years on from his tragic death, sees the release of a biography of the much-loved Celtic player Johnny Doyle.
Johnny came from a Celtic-supporting family in Viewpark, Lanarkshire and had to be persuaded to give up his local supporters club membership following the Lisbon Lions all over Scotland to try and become a professional footballer. He honed his talents playing street football alongside future Scottish internationalists John Robertson and Iain Munro and local hero Jimmy Johnstone had more than a small part in pushing Johnny towards a career in the beautiful game.
Under Ally MacLeod’s supervision at Ayr United during the club’s most successful-ever period in the early-to-mid 1970s, teenage Doyle went on to win international honours before Celtic spent a record fee to take the flying winger to his spiritual home. He was one of Scottish football’s most controversial and memorable characters with a sense of injustice which often brought him into conflict with referees and opponents too. His on-field persona earned him a fiery public image which was at odds with the reality of a family man renowned for private acts of kindness and relentless pranks.
The idea of a book first came about at a Celtic Graves Society commemoration for Johnny in October 2011. His daughter Joanna, who has written the foreword, kept the idea alive and in 2019 she approached Paul McQuade, editor of the Celtic retro fanzine The Shamrock and author of the books Said Lizzie to Philip and This is How It Feels to Be Celtic, who agreed to undertake the project.
Research and writing took over two years with the family’s archive of memorabilia yielding previously unseen information about Johnny’s life and career. Interviews with Johnny’s family, friends, playing colleagues and fans of both Ayr United and Celtic helped provide a wide range of memories and perspectives of a footballer whose skill and commitment on the field earned him an army of followers and whose much-professed devotion to Celtic – long before he joined his boyhood club – guaranteed that controversy would regularly follow in his wake.
“Everything was green in Doyley’s world!” remembers Packie Bonnar, from his car to his curtains to his beloved cockatoo that he taught to verbally abuse his Rangers-supporting pal Hughie whenever he came to visit the Doyle family home. Johnny Doyle wore his Celtic scarf on the first-team bus and his heart on his sleeve whenever he appeared in the Hoops. He forged relationships with hundreds of individual fans because he regularly gave up his free time to attend Celtic supporter functions all over Scotland and the personal memories he left behind have fuelled the Doyle legend since his sudden death in October 1981.
The Johnny Doyle Story is littered with images, characters and moments from an altogether different era in Scottish football including Jock Stein, ‘Mohammad Ally’ MacLeod, the 4-2 game, Tommy Burns, mysterious German intermediaries, Billy McNeill, the Hampden Riot, a sweaty Frank McGarvey, victory over Real Madrid – and a dazed and vengeful referee at Somerset Park. As his great friend Burns said: “He was an outrageous man but had a heart of gold and made friends everywhere.”
The book is on sale at The Shamrock website: https://the-shamrock.net/2021/07/27/johnny-doyle-celtic-daft/
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