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  • Stevie Chalmers – the man who scored Celtic’s most important goal

    Stevie Chalmers – the man who scored Celtic’s most important goal

    By: Paul Cuddihy on 29 Apr, 2019 09:31

  • CELTIC Football Club is devastated at the death of Stevie Chalmers, one of Celtic’s greatest ever goalscorers and the man who scored the most important goal in the club’s history.

    The Lisbon Lion passed away peacefully surrounded by his family at the age of 83, and the Celtic Family is once again mourning the loss of a club legend, following the death of Stevie’s team-mate and friend, Billy McNeill.

    First and foremost, all our thoughts and prayers are with Stevie’s wife, Sadie, their children, Stephen, Carol, Paul, Ann, Martin, Clare, and their grandchildren at this extremely sad time.

    Thoughts, too, go to Stevie’s football family and, in particular, his fellow Lisbon Lions as they mourn the loss of another of their own.

    Stevie Chalmers scored 231 goals in 406 appearances for Celtic between 1959 and ’71, making him the club’s fourth top goalscorer of all-time. Only Henrik Larsson (242), Bobby Lennox (277) and Jimmy McGrory (468) have scored more goals for Celtic.

    Yet that trio of legends can’t claim to have score the single most important goal in Celtic’s history. Stevie Chalmers can.

    It came on Thursday, May 25, 1967 at the Estadio Nacional in Lisbon. With just five minutes of the European Cup final remaining, Chalmers knocked home a Bobby Murdoch shot into the Inter Milan net to give Celtic a 2-1 victory, ensuring they became the first club from Northern Europe to lift the prestigious trophy.

    It was the crowning glory for the club, the manager, the group of players he assembled and, of course, for the supporters who, just two years before, had seen their side finish eighth in the league. It also ensured that Stevie Chalmers’ name will forever be remembered with deep gratitude and fondness by Celtic fans.

    Many supporters have, down through the years, made the pilgrimage to the famous stadium in the Portuguese capital where football history was made, standing on the spot where Stevie Chalmers connected with the ball, or re-enacting that moment. Only one man did it for real, and it accorded him legendary status.

    Just like Celtic’s greatest ever goalscorer Jimmy McGrory, Stevie Chalmers was also a Garngad Bhoy, whose fledgling football career began in junior football with Kirkintilloch Rob Roy and Ashfield. However, his subsequent success as a professional with his beloved Celtic almost never came to pass as he was struck down by an extremely serious illness – tuberculosis meningitis – which was, more often than not, a fatal diagnosis.

    Stevie, then 20 and a fit young man, fought for his life with characteristic tenacity and courage, with an intense period of treatment followed by recovery and recuperation that saw him spend six months in hospital. Thankfully, he made a full recovery and was able to resume his football career.

    In February 1959, he signed for Celtic, and his arrival coincided with the emergence of youngsters such as Billy McNeill and John Clark who would soon be joined by the likes of Jimmy Johnstone, John Hughes and Tommy Gemmell. This group, who were given the moniker of the Kelly Kids after the then Celtic chairman Robert Kelly, would go on to form the spine of Celtic’s most successful ever team.

    Stevie was following in the footsteps of his father, David, who had also been a footballer, playing for Clydebank amongst other teams. And it was during his time with the Bankies that he would take to the field alongside Jimmy McGrory, who was on loan at the club, allowing the young Stevie Chalmers to be brought up with countless stories about the skills of the Celtic legend.

    Stevie made his Celtic debut on March 10, 1959, in a 2-1 home defeat to Airdrie. Some six months later, he made his second start and scored two goals in a 3-0 win over Raith Rovers at Starks Park. That 1959/60 season saw him score an impressive 15 goals in the campaign, establishing himself in the eyes of the Celtic support as a forward of great quality.

    Over the next few years, he would enjoy incredible success with Celtic with the arrival of Jock Stein as manager in 1965, and he won four league titles, three Scottish Cups, four League Cups and, of course, the European Cup.

    If Lisbon was the pinnacle, then there were many other highlights for the forward. He netted a hat-trick against Rangers on January 3, 1966, the first in the league by a Celt against the Ibrox club since Malky MacDonald did so in 1938. Billy McPhail had hit a treble in the famous 7-1 League Cup final win of 1957, while only Bobby Lennox in the Glasgow Cup and Harry Hood in the League Cup subsequently matched Stevie’s feat up until Moussa Dembele hit another league hat-trick in September 2016.

    He also scored Celtic’s last goal in the 4-0 win over Rangers in the 1969 Scottish Cup final while in that same season, both he and his great friend, Bobby Lennox, scored five goals apiece in a 10-0 League Cup win over Hamilton Accies at Celtic Park.

    His 231st and final goal for Celtic came on May 1, 1971 in a 6-1 win over Clyde at Celtic Park. It was the last time the Lisbon Lions appeared in a starting XI, although Ronnie Simpson only took part in the warm-up.

    Stevie scored the sixth goal that day, and it was fitting that the man whose goal had effectively created the legend of the Lisbon Lions who should score the last goal for that famous team.

    After Celtic, he spent time with Morton and Partick Thistle, before hanging up his boots. He would later become involved with Celtic Pools, while in recent years he was a regular presence at Celtic Park on a matchday along with some of his fellow Lions.

    Fans would always be delighted to meet the Hoops legend, though Stevie, as he always was throughout his life, remained humble about his extraordinary achievements.

    Rest in Peace, Stevie. You’ll Never Walk Alone.

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