As Celtic Legend, Joe McBride lies ill in a Glasgow Hospital, it is worth reminding the Celtic family of his remarkable contribution to Celtic at a time when the club was rising to its greatest heights.
Joe McBride, for those of you who didn’t see him play was a devastating striker. Short and stocky with immense strength and a ferocious shot in either foot. He was fast, had an impressive leap and a powerful header. He was a defender’s nightmare. Joe specialised in scoring in and around the six yard box but was capable of scoring from any reasonable distance. He was Motherwell’s top scorer for three successive seasons before Celtic’s new manager, a certain Jock Stein, decided that he was worth bringing to Celtic Park. Govan born Joe was a Hoops man all his life and jumped at the chance to join Stein’s emerging team which was to go on to great things at home and in Europe. Joe had racked up 51 goals in 88 games for Motherwell, no mean feat in a Scottish league dominated by bigger and more fashionable clubs. Stein’s Celtic team were starting to look as if they might finally bring some success to their long suffering support who had just the Scottish cup victory in 1965 to celebrate since their famous 7-1 demolition of Rangers in the 1957 League cup final. Season 1965-66 promised great things for Celtic if Stein could blend his talented youngsters with older heads like Bertie Auld. Stein started the season with his new £22,000 striker Joe McBride raring to go and he was soon paying dividends. Celtic played some scintillating football and their excellent attacking play was often finished off by the predatory McBride who thrived on the supply of chances created for him by the likes of Murdoch, Auld and Johnstone.
That season of 1965-66 saw Celtic finally emerge from the shadow of Rangers and win their first Championship since 1954. Bobby Lennox netted the winner at Motherwell on that final day of the season amid scenes of great jubilation for Hoops fans. However, more shrewd football brains saw McBride, who had contributed 31 goals as one of the keys to winning the league title. He finished season 1965-66 as the league’s joint top scorer with a certain Alex Ferguson of Dunfermline FC. Celtic awaited season 66-67 with confidence. They were champions, playing great attacking football and ready for their first crack at the European Cup. Celtic ripped into the opposition in the first half of the season, progressing in Europe and dominant in the league. McBride had an incredible 36 goals to his credit when he was seriously injured at Aberdeen in December 1966. Despite this he remained top scorer for the rest of the season. This was a remarkable achievement given that he missed half the games that year due to his injury.
Joe missed the Lisbon glory day because of his injury and one wonders how many goals he would have scored that day as Celtic ripped Inter Milan’s formidable defence apart. He, like others who helped Celtic reach that pinnacle, was very much a Lisbon Lion. Joe scored against Nantes and FC Zurich in the run to Lisbon and was a vital component of the team as it laid the foundations for the greatest season in its history. Despite a comeback the following season, Joe never regained the fitness levels he had before and eventually left Celtic. He did a fine job for a number of clubs and his place as Scottish football’s 4th top striker since the war is testimony to a fantastic strike rate from a truly exceptional forward. Make no mistake about it, a fit Joe McBride would have smashed scoring records for Celtic and ensured even more glory for Stein’s superb team. Joe played 94 times for his beloved Hoops, hitting 86 goals. An incredible 91% strike rate! To put that into perspective, consider that Henrik Larsson’s Celtic strike rate was around 77%. (242 goals in 315 games) His meager 2 caps for Scotland perhaps tells us more about the selectors than Joe. But I’ll leave the final word on McBride to the greatest goal scorer these Islands have ever produced…
"I have been asked to name the best Celtic centre-forward I've ever seen play and the man I choose may surprise you. He's Joe McBride. He was a tremendous header of the ball and could take a half-chance on the ground. And his heart was in the right place!"
Joe McBride: Celtic Legend, family man, friend of numerous charities, Lisbon Lion and one of the good guys.