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  • 115 Years of the Hoops

    115 Years of the Hoops

    By: Joe Sullivan on 15 Aug, 2018 13:01

  • C´MON the Stripes certainly doesn´t have the same ring to it, not to mention uniqueness, as 'C´mon the Hoops', but then if we still wore stripes there´d be no point in adopting the chant ... we´d just be another team in stripes.

    But Celtic aren´t just any other team and that isn´t just down to a history of breathtaking performances. There is a bond between the players and supporters and the strongest link in that bond is the shirt they both wear on their backs.

    It is the distinctive and eye-catching green and white Hoops that have made people on all corners of the globe with no obvious connection to Celtic sit up and take notice – and it was introduced 115 years ago today, August 15, 1903.

    The 85,000 who crammed the streets of Seville weren´t wearing just any old bland self-coloured football top and similarly, if the Lions had taken to the pitch in Lisbon in the all-green change strip of the period, the magic wouldn´t have been quite the same.

    There are those who follow the fortunes of Celtic from afar and when asked what first attracted them to the club, nine times out of 10 the answer isn´t Nine-in-a-Row, Lisbon, Jimmy Johnstone, Kenny Dalglish or Henrik Larsson...

    Quite simply, the first words out of their mouths are usually: 'The strip.'

    The Hoops are a badge of honour we wear with pride and the great Jock Stein knew exactly what he was talking about when he said: "The Celtic shirt doesn´t shrink to fit inferior players."

    Whoever had the idea 115 years ago to change the strip in those pre-marketing replica strip years couldn´t possibly have known what a historic decision he was making - the green and white Hoops are a promotional tool that money just can´t buy and instantly recognisable throughout the world.

    It hasn´t been recorded who actually made the decision, but J H McLaughlin was chairman at the time while Willie Maley ran the football side of things, so both were probably involved in some capacity and, remarkably, the Hoops are almost certainly an import from Govan of all places.

    Junior club St Anthony´s have supplied many a player to Celtic down through the decades but history also notes that they were wearing the green and white hoops. It was noted at the time that somebody at Celtic simply took a fancy to the strip after watching St Anthony´s play and the legend of the Hoops was born.

    The irony is that St Anthony´s and their followers in Govan are well-known for their Celtic allegiances, and a symptom of that is that many believe they wear the Hoops because they are Bhoys´ fans when the reality is that they blazed a trail and Celtic simply followed suit.

    It wasn´t all plain sailing for the natty new threads, though, as in the early days there were references in the press likening the Celtic players to convicts.

    Just compare the early version of the Hoops to the prison garb worn by George Clooney and co in the film Oh Brother Where Art Though and you will know where they were coming from, but 'C´mon the Convicts' is about as appealing as 'C´mon the Stripes'.

    Still, it´s understandable why the Convicts moniker never caught on as one Canadian journalist who wrote of the Celts on tour as: 'Turning out in jailhouse jerseys,' had to change his phone number when ex-pats literally got shirty and turned on him with some venom.

    It should be noted, though, that Celtic spent nigh on the first 15 years of their existence playing in the club´s early colours, so many Hoops legends such as Sandy McMahon, James Kelly, Jimmy Blessington and Willie Maley himself never actually wore the Hoops.

    The very first strip was, of course, white shirts with a green collar and a Celtic cross in red and green on the left breast. As Willie Maley stated in his 1939 book The Story of the Celtic: 'These were presented to the club by Penman Bros., then the big drapers and clothiers at Bridgeton Cross.'

    The strip soon changed to the green and white vertical stripes and that was the preferred option until 1903 and the sartorial elegance of the Hoops, when ´somebody at Parkhead´ was watching rather more than the tactics of St Anthony´s.

    So did the magic of the Hoops rub off on the team right away? It´s difficult to say as it´s logical to presume that Celtic kicked off the new season of 1903/04 wearing the new strip. They started off with a 2-1 home win over Partick Thistle before winning 1-0 against St Mirren in Paisley.

    And the new strip did herald some success in a way that the green and white stripes failed to muster.

    When the Celts first changed to the stripes they reached the Scottish Cup final but lost 2-1 to Third Lanark. However, when changing to the Hoops they also reached the final in their first season of use with an altogether more acceptable outcome.

    We met Rangers in the final and despite being two goals down after 12 minutes, the great Jimmy Quinn made sure of his own chapter in the history books by scoring a Scottish Cup final hat-trick and the Hoops never looked back. Happy Birthday to the Hoops!

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