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  • Joe Cassidy - a legendary Celtic century Bhoy

    Joe Cassidy - a legendary Celtic century Bhoy

    By: Joe Sullivan on 09 Aug, 2014 08:09

  • IT was on this day, August 9, 1924 that Celtic striker, Joe Cassidy was sold to Bolton Wanderers for £4,500 after more than a decade with the club.

    He was born on October 10, 1896 – a year of relative turmoil for fledgling club, Celtic. – and it was on October 16, 1912, less than a week after his 16th birthday, he played as a trialist for Celtic in an Inter-City League game against Hibernian under the name of ‘Smith’.

    The following day in the press he was dubbed as “surely the smallest and cleverest thing ever to appear in a Celtic jersey.” But, by then, he was already a Celt as he was snapped up immediately after the game against Hibs.

    He made his real debut later that season, rather inauspiciously, in a 1-0 defeat to Motherwell at Fir Park on March 15, 1913 and he made another appearance the following season in a 1-0 away victory over Aberdeen the day after his 17th birthday.

    Appearances over the next few seasons were fleeting, but that had nothing to do with his youth or his inexperience. He had joined the Black Watch and he saw action in the First World War and, indeed, was awarded the Military Medal in November, 1918.

    He turned up unexpectedly on Hogmanay, 1918 and went straight into the team for the Ne’erday game as the Hoops drew 1- 1 with Rangers in front of 65,000 at Ibrox.

    From midway through the following season, he was a regular in the side and much-loved by the fans whose number included a young Jimmy McGrory who cited Cassidy as the major influence in his heading of the ball.

    And it was Cassidy’s prowess in front of goal that made him Celtic’s top scorer for three seasons before McGrory began his amazing scoring spree.

    And McGrory was just a youngster barely breaking into the team when Cassidy had a season to remember in the Scottish Cup

    The 1923 Scottish Cup belonged to Celtic. More specifically, the 1923 Scottish Cup belonged to Joe Cassidy. If ever a man won a tournament on his own, this was it. In total, Celtic scored 13 goals in winning the trophy. 

    Adam McLean and Andy McAtee grabbed one apiece, while Cassidy scored all of the 11 other goals. He was in his prime as a striker.

    His tournament to remember began with a hat-trick against Lochgelly United in the first round 3-2 win on January 13, 1923. Hurlford were up next later in the same month and again Cassidy grabbed all of Celtic’s goals in a 4-0 rout.

    East Fife visited Celtic Park in the third round and Cassidy was again on the mark, this time with a double in the 2-1 win. Yet, when Raith Rovers travelled through to Glasgow on February 24, Cassidy decided to give opposition defences a break.

    McLean was Celtic’s scorer in a 1-0 win. Motherwell were drawn against Celtic in the semi-final and Cassidy and McAtee were on target in a 2-0 win. Joe’s goal came within the first minute.

    Then came Hibs, who had cruised into the final with barely a problem. The Edinburgh side had yet to concede a goal in that season’s tournament, but they had also yet to face a striker of Cassidy’s stature. 

    It was a tight game, but Cassidy – like he had done so often that season – proved to be the difference. His goal came in the 64th minute, when he planted a header beyond the reach of Hibernian goalkeeper Bill Harper. Celtic were in dreamland and Cassidy had been the inspiration for the club’s first Scottish Cup triumph since 1914.

    Those 11 goals remain a joint club record to this day along with McGrory, who netted 11 in the triumphant 1924/25 season.

    Henrik Larsson came close to the Scottish Cup goalscoring sprees of Cassidy and McGrory, when, in the Treble-winning season of 2000/01, he scored nine goals, including two in the final against Hibs.

    That cup win, however, was undoubtedly Cassidy’s greatest spell in a Celtic strip. Yet, it was his only Scottish Cup triumph as a Celtic player and that would have rankled with him.

    There were other honours to go with Cassidy’s goals as well, though. He played his part in two league titles – 1918/19 and 1921/22 – and at only 5ft 7in he was a better header of the ball than many men who stood over 6ft.

    Indeed, his tally of three major honours from his 200-plus appearances ought to be more. His talents deserved greater success. Other highlights include a double in a 2-0 New Year’s Day win over Rangers in 1921.

    However, he didn’t always have the best of fortunes against the Ibrox side. The following season, he was one the losing side in a 3-1 defeat at Ibrox and went home with a broken jaw for his troubles

    Cassidy scored eight hat-tricks for Celtic. Two of those trebles came in the Scottish Cup and six came in the league, one of which also marked the occasion of his 100th goal for the club.

    It speaks volumes for the consistency of Cassidy’s striking that he managed to hit the century in the space of five years. For three consecutive seasons, between 1921/22 and 1923/24, he finished as Celtic’s top scorer

    His nomadic existence in his final days as a professional can be summed up with the fact that his first four children were born in Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland.

    In keeping with this cross-border theme, it should be noted that Joe represented both the Scottish and Irish Leagues in competition. Cassidy also represented the Scotland national side on four occasions between 1921 and 1924. He scored once – against Northern Ireland at Windsor Park in a 2-0 win on February 26, 1921 – and made his final Scotland appearance against Wales in February 1924.

    Cassidy left Celtic in 1924, playing for a number of clubs, including Bolton, Cardiff City, Dundee and Ayr United, and he also won an Irish Cup medal when Ballymena beat Belfast Celtic in 1929.

    When he was with Cardiff City, Joe was one of a 17-player pool and every single one of them were internationalists – nine Welsh, four Scots and four Irish.

    He died in 1949 at the comparatively young age of 52. Joe Cassidy may not be a name which many Celtic fans still recall, but with over 100 goals for the Hoops he deserves recognition as a Celtic great.

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