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Stevie Chalmers Hero of Lisbon

29 April 2020


Stevie broke into the team in the really bad days of the early 1960s. He was light and sharp and had the ability to score goals. Indeed under better management, 1960-1964 would might been a totally different story for Celtic. As it was, Stevie did not do that badly. With Chalmers on the right wing and John Hughes in the centre, loads of trophies might have been landed. But we all know that they weren’t.

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Yet Stevie was a hero of mine. Well dressed, polite to supporters and chivalrous to opponents, he was far from the stereotype of the rugged, less than totally intelligent football player as conceived by the media of the 1960s. Yet he was tough as well. He had recovered from serious illness in childhood and had done his National Service when he came to Celtic Park in 1959 from the Glasgow junior side Ashfield, traditionally considered a Rangers nursery. He soon made his mark, although like everyone else he suffered the severe trauma of the defeat from Dunfermline Athletic in the 1961 Scottish Cup final.

He had a good season in 1961/62, but things went very wrong in 1963, and the supporters turned on him. I recall with bitterness a game against Dundee United, a week after the 1st game of the 1963 Scottish Cup final when everyone should have been backing the team and Stevie was playing hideously out of position on the left wing. The whole thing was crazy, and I recall having to listen to the filth of the morons directed at my hero and having to hold back the tears of frustration as the team went down 0-3 to Dundee United. It was hardly the greatest of surprises when they went down 0-3 in the Scottish Cup final replay as well.

Stevie had lost confidence. It took him time to recover it, but when he did, the goals began to come again. On the day that we at last beat Rangers in September 1964, he had a brilliant diving header to score the first goal, and then in a League Cup quarter final when the team was down 0-2 from the first leg to East Fife, Chalmers scored five in the second leg – all of them crackers and well worth watching if you can find them on You Tube.

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And then came Stein. On the right wing the day of Billy’s great header against Dunfermline, a great hat-trick over Rangers in early January 1966 and of course the winning goal at Lisbon. My mind went back those 4 years to that game at Tannadice, and I wonder what those “supporters” thought of him now. I hope they had the grace to apologise and admit they were wrong about the man who scored 228 goals for the club.

Stein used him more sparingly in later years, but he still had his moments like the goal he scored in the 1969 Scottish Cup final. In later years he went to Morton and Partick Thistle, but he was always a Celt, at one point co-ordinating The Celtic Pools with the Celtic View saying that Stevie would come to your house if you wanted to become an agent. I know of several people who had no intention of becoming an agent, but could not resist the possibility of a visit from that gentleman of Lisbon.

It has been said that Billy McNeill was “what Celtic was all about”. Might I suggest that Stevie Chalmers might also be included in that category?

Born in 1948, David Potter first saw Celtic at Dens Park, Dundee in March 29. It was a 3-5 defeat, which equipped him admirably for the horrors of the early 1960’s. He had “followed” Celtic for a few years before that and recalls having been called upon to impersonate Jock Stein and receive the family silver teapot which had to do for the Scottish Cup as it was presented on April 24 1954, after he and his father had spent a nerve wracking afternoon listening to the radio!  Since then, he has “followed” every Celtic game with bated breath, and has written extensively about the club in magazines and books. His favorite team was that of 1969 (which he rates marginally better than 1967) and his favorite player was Henrik Larsson.

His ambition for Celtic is for them to keep on winning silver in Scotland and to be something in Europe once again. His other interests are cricket and drama. He is 70, a retired teacher of Classical Languages, married with three children and five grandchildren. He now travels on the Joseph Rafferty bus from Kirkcaldy. He also loves Forfar Athletic.

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