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  • Celtic View feature: Story of the 1978/79 winter shutdown: Part 1

    Celtic View feature: Story of the 1978/79 winter shutdown: Part 1

    By: Joe Sullivan on 11 Jan, 2019 19:01

  • This article was originally published in the Celtic View on January 9, 2018 (on sale now). For more quality articles, exclusive interviews and behind-the-scenes team news, you can subscribe here.

    THE Celts have been going through their paces in Dubai this week as part of their warm-weather training camp regime. It’s a routine that has served the team well over the past few seasons, with the Hoops returning refreshed and ready to tackle whatever lays in front of them after the traditionally-harsh Scottish winter.

    Winter breaks haven’t always been the norm, though, and Scottish footballers would usually resort to wearing long sleeves and just get on with it.

    There was, though, one enforced winter break for Celtic exactly 40 years ago this season when they didn’t play any league games at all between December 23, 1978 and March 3, 1979, leaving the side with a horrendous backlog of games to play.

    That matchless winter, however, paved the way for one of the most exciting and last-gasp title wins the club has ever known – it was the season of the 4-2 game and the legend of ‘10-men-won-the-league’.

    The reason for the lack of matches was simple – snow, and lots of it, and although we don’t recall if it was the right sort of snow to stop trains (it no doubt did), it certainly stopped football games, and Celtic games more than most.

    As the first two weeks of the New Year saw no Celtic action, Billy McNeill took his squad to Portugal and a nostalgic trip to Lisbon for some warm(er)-weather training and a 4-0 win over FC Estoril in a friendly.

    Before playing another league game, there would be closed-door games closer to home – Clyde (3-0), Queen of the South (2-0) and Stirling Albion (1-1), while the start of the year also saw training games on snow, indoor track work and trips to the swimming baths, as well as letters in the Celtic View calling for a winter break and the use of electric blankets and underground heating.

    There was some Scottish Cup action during the break, but even that wasn’t without its problems. The game at Montrose scheduled for January 28 couldn’t be played until three days later and similarly, the home game in the next round as Celtic played Berwick Rangers for the first time ever was meant to be played on February 17 but couldn’t go ahead until Monday, February 26.

    Even a proposed league game against Morton to at least get one of the games played was vetoed because the Greenock side drew with Hearts in the cup and their replay took precedence over the league fixture.

    As if that wasn’t enough, a game against St Mirren in Paisley on December 2, before the big freeze really set in, was also a victim of the weather and was included in the winter backlog.

    In all, Celtic had to catch up on playing St Mirren (H & A), Hearts (H), Motherwell (A), Rangers (H), Hibernian (H), Partick Thistle (A), Aberdeen (A) and Dundee United (A).

    In the meantime, when Celtic lost to Morton on December 23, they were in fifth place in the 10-team league with every team having played 18 games – Celtic were on 19 points while Dundee United were top with 23 points (it was two points for a win back then).

    Things got even worse before the New Year as, in the only game played in the final week, Morton beat Aberdeen and moved up the table, knocking Celtic in to sixth place.

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