Lincoln Red Imps. Who? Exactly. That’ll be the champions of Gibraltar, population 30,000 – about half the capacity of Celtic’s stadium . And July 20’s 3-0 second leg win followed a highly embarrassing 1-0 defeat away.
Scottish football has been in the doldrums recently, and Celtic’s lack of opposition from their demoted Old Firm rivals Rangers has been accompanied by awful European campaigns.
But once it was so different. It should be remembered that alongside the 1967 European Cup, the first for a British team, Celtic have won the Scottish league championship 47 times, the Scottish Cup 36 times and the Scottish League Cup 15 times. In 1970 they reached the European Cup final and in 2003 the UEFA Cup version.
That run of success began in the club’s inaugural 1888-89 season, and a medal from their first-ever cup success is up for auction in Glasgow on August 12. McTear’s are offering a Glasgow North-Eastern Cup medal estimated at £10,000-20,000.
It was awarded to Celtic player James McLaughlin (1864-1946), who played a key role in the club’s 6-1 win against Cowlairs on May 11, 1889. He later passed the medal to his grandson, Bill McLaughlin, who has consigned it to McTear’s.
“Love of Celtic”
“I was very close to my grandpa,” said McLaughlin. “He was a fantastic player and would tell me marvellous stories about his time at Celtic and his career as a top referee afterwards. It was because of him that I became a Celtic supporter.
“One day he called me into his room where I found him and his eldest daughter Cis. He showed me the medal and said, ‘This is for you but, until you are old enough to look after it, I am asking Cissie to take care of it for you’. She duly passed it on to me and from then on I wore it round my neck on a gold chain.
“My two sons and my daughter are all rugby people but with a continuing interest in and love of Celtic, and were all present at the rededication of my Grandpa's grave by the Celtic Graves Society.”
James McLaughlin played for Celtic for two seasons as a full back and then goalkeeper, and made his debut in the first-ever Old Firm game against Rangers on May 28, 1888, which Celtic won 5-2. There was no Scottish league in those early days so McLaughlin and his team mates only played in cup and challenge matches.
McTear’s managing director, Brian Clements, said: “There was a huge amount of interest in the gold replica European Cup that McTear’s sold a few weeks ago and I have no doubt that this very special piece of sporting memorabilia will attract similar interest from football fans and collectors across the world.”
The solid gold scale replica created to mark Celtic’s 1967 win was bought by businessman and philanthropist Lord Willie Haughey for £58,000 on May 31, an auction record for a piece of Celtic FC history. The estimate was £15,000-20,000.
At the time, Lord Haughey said: “This is an extremely important part of Celtic’s history and right up there with any other piece of memorabilia associated with the club. It is too important a piece to be lost to Celtic and as such I have now given it to the club so that it can bring enjoyment to fans for many years to come.”