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Its Friday, everyone deserves  a treat!

Ralphs very nice friend and Mr Celtic History, Tom Cambell has passed on the first 2 chapters of his  Celtic novel ( written under a pen name) for us to share.  According to Amazon, its a novel based on historical fact. An account of Matt Busby’s connection with Celtic Football Club as a player during World War 2 and as manager immediately following the peace.41MLmAWXNfL__BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU02_

This is a novel that deals with Scottish football during World War II and shortly afterwards, mixes fact and fiction with   stunning   effect.    

Celtic, one of the country’s premier clubs, opted not to use guest players during that period, and paid a high price for their decision. Matt Busby, himself a Celtic fan, volunteered his services but was turned down. He spent  a couple of seasons with Hibernian and transformed that club to such an extent they won the league championship three times shortly after the war. But, what would have happened had Matt Busby turned out for Celtic, made an impression, and inevitably become their  manager?

Its a very good read and word has it  our very own Pensionerbhoy can ratify its historical authenticity – he was there!



A Novel


Ah, Love, could you and I with Him conspire

To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,

Would we not shatter it to bits – and then

Re-mould it nearer to the Heart’s Desire?


Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam


Alexander Matthew Busby, C.B.E., K.C.G.S.


Born 26 May, 1909 in Orbiston, Lanarkshire (Scotland)

Died 20 January, 1994 in Cheadle, Lancashire (England)


Busby played junior football in Scotland with Denny Hibs, but was signed for Manchester City after some initial interest from both Celtic and Rangers had evaporated.  Originally an inside forward, Busby eventually found his niche as a silky right half, renowned for his elegant play and fine passing.  Signed for City in 1928 he helped them reach the F.A. Cup Final in both 1933 and 1934 and was successful in the latter match.

He played with distinction for Manchester City until 1936 at which time he was transferred to Liverpool for a substantial fee.  His successful playing career at Anfield came to an end in 1940 when football was disrupted by World War II.

Busby enlisted in the King’s Liverpool Regiment and was quickly moved to the Army Physical Training Corps.  He graduated as an instructor after training at Aldershot, and was posted in the London area before a semi-permanent move to his native Scotland.  During this period he turned out as a guest player for Chelsea, Middlesbrough, Reading and Brentford as well as Hibernian and Celtic in Scotland.

He was ‘capped’ only once officially for Scotland (in 1933 against Wales) but was selected seven times for his country during the unofficial war years.  A mature player, Busby invariably became the captain of every team he played for and his influence was effective in the dramatic improvement in Hibernian’s performance during the war and in the post-war seasons.

However, it was at Celtic that his reputation was made.  He played for the Glasgow club for little more than a season and a half and helped as a part-time coach.  Immediately after the war, Celtic moved to appoint him as their manager to replace the largely ineffective Jimmy McStay.

Busby was able to persuade the traditionally conservative Celtic Board to venture into the transfer market and his signings included Frank Brennan, Alec Linwood, Billy Houliston, Tommy Kiernan, Charlie Tully, Bobby Combe …  His policy was highly successful both on and off the field:  Celtic for the first time in almost a decade picked up silverware and were able to transfer players for a handsome profit later.

Busby formed a formidable partnership with the veteran coach Jimmy Hogan and the trainer Alec Dowdalls.  In his five seasons at Celtic Park his team(s) won the League Championship three times, the Scottish Cup twice, the League Cup four times as well as several Charity and Glasgow Cups.

He left Celtic suddenly shortly after the start of the 1951/52 season, surprisingly so after Celtic had just won the Festival of Britain Cup and had only recently completed a successful tour of the United States and Canada.  It was rumoured that Busby had resigned after a series of rows with the chairman Robert Kelly who, it was reported, tended to interfere with essentially football matters such as team selection.

Busby, after three months on the sidelines, took up the manager’s role at Manchester United and led them to success in both league and cup.  United won the championship in 1954/55 and the F.A. Cup in both 1953 and 1956.  Meanwhile, his former club Celtic were struggling and endured several mediocre seasons.

Matt Busby’s great years with Manchester United came after that championship season of 1954/55 with the emergence of a young side …

(From Rothman’s Football Guide, 1994/95)




Bob Kelly, a director of the Celtic Football Club, sat alone at a window table of the North British Hotel and stared out at George Square somewhat morosely. 

His sharp eyes took in the changes that three months of World War II had occasioned:  hundreds of sand-bags piled up against the ornate City Chambers as a safeguard against air-raids by the Luftwaffe, temporary buildings erected around the square with queues of Glaswegians lining up patiently, trying to find a way through the bureaucratic maze to find and complete application forms for ration cards, petrol permits, clothing coupons and information on finding the distribution centres for gas-masks. 

He realised with a start that more and more men were in uniform.  In his late 30s Kelly was too old to volunteer for active service; and, besides, a withered right arm – the result of a childhood accident – would have put paid to any such ambitions.

He approved of the preparations. At least they’re not trying to fool anybody this time that the war will be over by Christmas.  When it does really start in earnest, it’ll last for a long time – at least as long as the Great War. Watching the rain start to fall – and the crowds hurrying by – he congratulated himself upon having arrived early for his appointment.  Punctuality, the politeness of kings – as his father had drilled into him and indeed all his sons.

He waved away the waitress, hovering nearby, and started to ready himself for his rendezvous with Tom White, the club’s elderly chairman.  What could he want?  The brief phone call earlier that morning had revealed very little:  “… important that you and I meet … away from the other directors … serious issues to be resolved … discretion necessary.”

It has to be the matter of Maley.  He knew that White’s relationship with the long-time manager had never been cordial but they had degenerated into open hostility shortly after the Jubilee Dinner of 1938.  White has a right to be aggrieved:  a handsome gift of 2,500 guineas to the manager, the perfect opportunity for him to fade away into the background … but Willie Maley never had any intention of retiring.  That has to be the problem.  

Kelly’s thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of the chairman, a heavily built man in a camel-hair coat and the definite air of authority, despite his age.

“Have you ordered anything yet?” White demanded, summoning the waitress.  “I’m having a whisky, and you?”

Kelly nodded agreement, feeling somewhat abashed that he had not already ordered a drink.  White always has that effect.  Always taking charge no matter the circumstances.  Makes you feel uncomfortable.

“A decent place, this, “ White commented after his first sip of the whisky and Kelly had to agree.  “It’s a good place for a meeting. Public enough and not too secretive.  I wanted to speak to you, Robert, away from the other directors because some critical decisions have to be taken – and taken relatively soon.’

“Away from the others?”  Kelly ventured, but White treated the slight objection with a dismissive wave of his hand.

“Robert, for all intents and purposes there are only two directors of the club capable of making decisions.  You and I.  The Colonel?  He was at his best in the last war and he’s only going through the motions these days.  As you know, he rarely participates at our Board meetings and, besides, he sees himself as a grandfather to the reserve side. “

White was in full spate now, as always confident that he would not be contradicted, ” Tom Colgan, I have it on good grounds, is planning to retire to Eire for the duration – and, in that event, he’s of no use at all.  John McKillop?  I believe he’s in poor health and is thinking of participating less in Board matters – if that is possible.” 

He paused before continuing. “And that leaves you and me, Robert.”  He waited – for another sip of the whisky and for dramatic effect. “ And decisions have to be made.  Important decisions.”

The younger man was forced to agree with his chairman’s assessment.  Colonel John Shaughnessy, a fixture on the Board of directors since 1911 had slipped quietly and easily into his elder-statesman role, Devlin, at Celtic Park since 1904 or 1905, had lost much of his enthusiasm for the club while still retaining a keen interest in the annual dividend, McKillop was much the same …  

With a sudden start he realised that he, Robert Kelly, was the only active director who cared about the football.  The chairman is not interested in Celtic as a football club. My own father, Celtic’s first captain, never really trusted White: “Never played the game, himself. Only interested in balance sheets (and maybe Irish questions)””

But at this moment he was on the verge of agreeing with him.

White continued, “The first thing is to settle the situation with Maley.  He has to go. No doubt about it.’

“I don’t think he’ll be prepared to go quietly.  I can’t see him agreeing to go.”

‘You’re right, of course.  Look at it this way,” and White paused for another sip of whisky.  “As secretary/manager he is nothing more than an employee of the club – and, as such, his term of employment can be terminated with due cause.”

“Do we have sufficient justification?  And another thing – he’s been with us for more than fifty years, a lifetime of service.”

“Agreed.  And he was paid handsomely for every one of those years – and look at the honorarium we gave him at the Jubilee Dinner a year ago.  He should have taken the hint at that time.”

Kelly nodded agreement, a shade reluctantly.  “He did not do himself any favours by complaining about the tax he had to pay on it.”

“You do realize that he has contemplated legal action against the club for that.  If that’s what he wants, I’ll give him ‘legal action’.”   The voice was slightly raised, anger adding the emphasis. “You asked about ‘justification’.  Frankly, we don’t require any but from the point-of-view of the football alone we would be justified.  What are we in this new league?  Second last – and not too much prospect of improvement.  Celtic second last! Just think of that!” 

Over the next few minutes, as Kelly listened, White underlined his complaints against the manager:  at more than 70 years of age, he was too old, his failing sight meant he was no longer able to drive his car especially in black-out conditions, his general health had suffered, he had become even more blunt and autocratic, more and more out-of-touch with his players, very withdrawn at times…

“Besides, you realise that he is not fully qualified to be secretary of a club like Celtic.  Allegedly, he has some preliminary qualifications in accountancy but that’s not enough.  I am particularly concerned about some of our accounting.” 

Another careful sip of the whisky.  “He has had unchecked access to tickets and gate-receipts.  Do you realise that he takes all the money from the turnstiles back to his Bank Restaurant after every game – and then sometime during the next week he condescends to tell us what they are?  I cannot think that is a suitable arrangement – especially when there is tension between him and his employers.”

“Are you questioning his honesty?”

‘No, but I am right to be concerned.”

Kelly pondered.  The chairman is a lawyer above everything else.  He won’t come right out and slander or libel the manager.  Nobody’s ever questioned the manager’s honesty or reputation in public.  But he was being convinced; the chairman had struck a responsive chord.  The manager has always been too dictatorial, even abrupt with directors at times, especially recently.

 “Is this the time to let him go?”

“The timing could not be better.  People are more concerned about the war, and won’t waste too much time thinking about a football manager being released.  With the rationing of newsprint coming into effect not too much will appear in the papers …  and, if we announce it round about New Year, it will sink without trace.”

“Will it be decided at a Board meeting?”

“Yes, it will have to be but I think I will speak to him in advance to prepare him for the shock.”  His words were emphatic, and Kelly felt suddenly uncomfortable, almost guilty for a second. He doesn’t like him one bit.    Tom White is actually looking forward to firing the manager, and here you are agreeing with what he’s saying.

“You did suggest that there were other matters to discuss.”

“Yes, I did, “White said quietly, almost too quietly and suddenly looking every one of his nearly seventy years.  Bob Kelly looked up sharply, and studied the chairman’s lined face; he observed the dark shadow under his eyes. “This is between you and me in the strictest of confidence.”

 And he paused long enough to allow Kelly time to nod his agreement.  “ I am not in the best of health myself, and I think it’s time to think about who will succeed me as chairman.  I would like you to be the designated heir.  You would be the best choice.” 

A wintry smile flickered across his features. “Frankly, nobody else on this Board is suitable.”

Kelly sat back, his whisky untasted.  Chairman of Celtic.  Just like my father. Things would change at Celtic Park, and for the better.


“It’s a great honour, of course, and I appreciate you thinking of me …”

White waved away the words.  “That’s settled then.  But we have another matter to consider.  With Maley gone, we need a secretary, and I think it’s time Desmond took some part in the running of the club…”

Desmond White?  Kelly, of course, knew him well.  A tall, often ungainly, young man – although he had been a reasonable goalkeeper for Queens Park.   And he is a trained accountant. 

The realisation struck Kelly rapidly.  It’s going to be a deal – and everybody wins.  I’ll be chairman when the time comes and, with the help of my vote, Desmond White will be secretary. I wonder how many other directors he has hinted to about Desmond’s qualifications.

 He had to admire his chairman’s skill in manipulating the situation, in having him agree so quickly and effortlessly.  No, he didn’t manipulate me.  This is going to be for the greater good of Celtic Football Club …  



The meeting between the chairman and the manager was short, almost insultingly so.  

On Wednesday 13th December 1939 at 10:00 a.m. exactly on the hour, Tom White, a director of Celtic Football & Athletic Club Ltd. since 1914 and chairman of the club since 1932, opened the door of the boardroom and ushered in the manager Willie Maley.

At 10:06 a.m. the former manager Willie Maley closed the door behind him, struggling to resist the temptation to slam it.

He was a shattered man but, after more than fifty years in the limelight of Scottish football, he was able to muster enough dignity to walk the few steps to his cubbyhole of an office without attracting any adverse attention. 

The office was tidy and organised; the files, such as they were, arranged neatly in folders and in strict alphabetical order.  His early training as an accountant, and years in charge of the Bank Restaurant, had helped his always-orderly mind in organising things.

But emotionally he was reeling; a lifetime as a Celtic player, committeeman, match-secretary and latterly as manager-secretary all swept aside at the whim of a chairman, a man not even interested in football as a sport.

For decades he had been the public face of Celtic Football Club, the person to whom the newspapers turned for opinions and comments.  But now? 

Willie Maley sat in that office, the door shut.  Nobody dared disturb him, nor to intrude.  In recent years his characteristic impatience had grown much worse and many within Celtic Park – and elsewhere – had felt his wrath.

He continued to brood, and to seethe. 

Too late he regretted his only words of appeal against the chairman’s decision: “I’ve been with this club from the very start – for fifty-two years …”  Too late he realised the words sounded more like an epitaph rather than a reasoned argument. Forced to retire! He could feel the sting of hot tears just beneath the surface. Another sign of age, too many tears nowadays …

He continued to brood. 

No, he would not agree to a statement, issued by the club, to the effect that he ‘had retired for health reasons’.  That was what the directors wanted and they could freeze till Hell froze over before he would give them the satisfaction.

Yes, he would remain in charge for the next game against Third Lanark at Celtic Park on December 16th  at least.   To think that Celtic and Third Lanark, the two teams that had met in Celtic’s very first Scottish Cup final back in 1889, were now struggling together at the bottom of this new-fangled Regional League.  

Yes, he’ll not say a word to anybody, and he’ll be in charge but he would not bother his arse too much trying to contact players and arranging transportation for them at the last minute.  Besides, it looked as if almost all the Empire Exhibition team would be available this week; at least, nobody had contacted him about being unavailable so far.

 No, he would not say a word, not a single word to anybody about this whole sorry development.  When the time comes, they can draw their own conclusions and it would not be too much to ask that, after so many years of service to this club, many would prefer to take his side – especially if he retained a dignified silence. 

In fact, after his ‘retirement’ if he simply did not attend any further matches at Celtic Park – and refused to discuss it – that would only discredit the directors even more …


A few yards away Tom White remained alone in the board–room, quietly exultant that things had gone so smoothly.  Nobody else on this board of directors could have carried it off quite so well, No beating about the bush, no shilly-shallying

Pleased with himself, and verging on smugness, he allowed himself the luxury of reviewing the meeting.

“Mr Maley, the directors at last night’s meeting, decided – unanimously, I should add – that it is time for you to retire. Look at the position of the team in the league table – third from the bottom and with most of the players who won the Empirex back in 1938 still available!  Something has gone seriously wrong, you have to agree …”

It had been all too easy to counter Maley’s attempts to defend the situation. Always too emotional, Maley, and increasingly so in the past few years.  Easy, yes, but only if you had the nerve to face him down.  Lots of men had crumbled in the face of Willie Maley but not Tom White – still the old lion, aging but with the legal mind as sharp as ever. What was his reputation?  “ Tom White can sound like the Big Bad Wolf talking to Red Riding Hood.“ Not too bad a description, that.

Now, action is required:  a new manager for a start and one vastly different from Maley – less of an influence on club policy, less of a voice, a Celtic man, of course, and somebody heart-set on the job. What we need is a caretaker for the duration, somebody acceptable to the supporters and shareholders, a man who will not break with the directors on issues, especially wages. 

 Last night Jimmy McStay was mentioned, and he can be lifted from Alloa Athletic any time – no problems with that.  Jimmy McGrory as well, but he’s still with Kilmarnock and the rumour is that Rugby Park is going to be requisitioned for the duration of the war.  Willie Lyon?  An excellent choice, apart from the fact that he’s an Englishman and most of our supporters would not be happy with his religion; besides, he’s in the army and unavailable … McStay and McGrory have been   approached already, and they understand the situation:  one word in public from either of them and they can forget about their chances at this club…

The other directors will have to be spoken to and that will be done some time today.  It’s much better to make things look like overall Board decisions rather than an individual one.

Mind made up, he rose from the refectory table – salvaged years before from a church in the east end, and the only attractive piece of furniture in the room.  He reached for his camelhair coat, put it on with customary satisfaction, adjusted the collar to his liking, and headed for the door.

His business interests, a law firm and a small publishing house, could not wait any longer.


Hope you enjoyed that read there. Want some more?

Theres more Book details AND the next 4 more preview Chapters !  available here: BOOK LINK

Tom’s many other historical Celtic books are  available for review and purchase  at :  TOMS PAGE


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9 years ago


I thought I really was dead this time when I read this. I began to believe the afterlife was actually about being told the truth, the full story. However, I soon felt my leg stretching unprompted and uncontrolled. I then realised the urine was well and truly being removed from me. It just proves how a clever manipulation of fact and fiction can dupe even the brightest of men. However, it would appear it does not take much to confuse an old diddy like me.

But you see, I actually know a little about Busby’s early football days given that two of my uncles played with him as amateurs in a team in Bellshill. I can not remember the name. What I do know is both uncles reckoned he was what was known then as quite a dirty player and not the silky smooth one mentioned in the story. One uncle was called up and got wounded in the leg and that ended his football career. However, he did go on to found a Celtic supporters club that he chaired for many years and continued to be a member till he died. My other uncle went on to play for St. Bernard’s, a famous Edinburgh club whose military origins were the same as those of the now defunct Third Lanark. After a few transfers to English clubs (he got one of the highest signing on fees of the time when he went to I think it was Bradford City £100 – not a small English club in those days) , he ended his career at Colerain in Northern Ireland where he played a couple of seasons with a young Bertie Peacock before turning to golf. His claim to fame there was being roundly booed when he went to retrieve a ball instead of standing to attention for the national anthem. As you can imagine, he has a place of great honour in the family. Now, as far as I know this is factual and any fiction therein has been included in error. I just know someone will shoot me down in flames. By the way, Orbiston is at the bottom end of Bellshill (that stronghold of Scottish Catholicism) bordering on the northern boundary of Strathclyde Park. Ach, a bit of Geography never hurt anyone unless you got belted for not doing your homework.

Off to rest peacefully now I know I have not been living in a time warp since 19.. – now there’s quiz for you all. The book sounds a quirky but fascinating read for someone of my generation. Will be interesting to see how he fits Big Jock into the various scenarios. I am not convinced Busby would have been a Stein though and he would never have had the relationship and influence with Kelly and the board the Big Man had not matter what the trophy situation was in the 40s.

“Celtic for the first time in almost a decade picked up silverware and were able to transfer players for a handsome profit later.” Sounds more like Deila than a Stein to me. Nor would Willie Maley have been dismissed so readily. From what I heard of the man, it would have been the other way round, him dismissing the directors as he had so much control of club affairs.

One thing that can confirm is true as far as I know is that

“Celtic, one of the country’s premier clubs, opted not to use guest players during that period, and paid a high price for their decision.”

Not so south of the Clyde.


9 years ago


Posted some words of wisdom to improve your history but the monitor is up late again. Looking forward to the book. Fits right into my age range.


holy sea
9 years ago

Another work which will be worth a read.Adding to your fine list of quality material.

9 years ago

My x Rangers mate sent me some things from Hun web sites, guess what that attack on argyle house last night when people got punched, it was TIMS that did it, it is photo shopped ?, also it’s fake, no one got attacked and the best one is the police was there and they would have dealt with anything that happened. Still trying to blame everyone but themselfs.

9 years ago

Think it’s a bit rich delia saying commons needs to buy new boots he’s going nowhere after his treatment this season. Last years player of the year and best player in scotland has been treated shabbily by celtic because he turned 31 it’s a disgrace, the service he has gave the club , just to be told your old here’s a one year deal on worse money. Then they complain when he shows a sign of going away

The guy doesn’t want to go, why can’t they give him a two or three year deal for him and his family in which will be his last professional contract. Ronny has hardly given him a sniff of the team this season , shocking treatment of a great servant. I’m a delia fan and like what he’s doing but this has been an absolute joke the way they have treated kris

Charlie Saiz
9 years ago
Reply to  Delbhoy

Not quite how I read the situation Del I’m afraid.
Deila on arrival would have given every player the basic low down on how the style and approach was going to change to a more energetic high pressing game.
Every player would have also have been given a clean slate to prove themselves regardless of previous form etc.
Commons has had nearly 6 months to prove he can adapt to the new System and apart from the Killie game has failed to do so for the most part.
Yes he is a good finisher,yes he can create with clever passing but his failings in a System such as the one we are now deploying are highlighted even more.
He’s slow.
His first touch can be very poor
He rarely tracks back
He rarely works to retain possession when he loses it.
Against Killie he upped his game looked hungry looked sharper than he has done previously this season however yesterday whilst he pressed first half his output in the second dropped big time.
I think he’s struggling to match the rest and I think his age is a drawback in trying to do so.
Hence Celtics reluctance to offer him a 2 year deal and Deilas reluctance to start him ahead of Johansen who does put a shift in regardless of form.
The ball is in Commons court down to him to up his game.

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