JOHNNY DOYLE – THE MAN WHO LOVED THE GREEN !! of Alex Boretti

Victories, great champions, big achievements, you remember all the time. They are carved in history, above all, if you put this into every day context, they become traditions, handed down from generation to generation. Particularly when we are youths it becomes an inescapable fact  and never leaves us. So, it just like that for me, by now, adolescent and consumed by football, dedicated Celtic fan; our heroes, and  favourite players seem immortal to us. They cannot die tragically; if they die it’s because they seem about 100 years old or we know they will die after us. Johnny Doyle didn’t last that long. An electric shock killed him on 19 October 1981 when he was at home working with electrical apparatus. I confess: there were other Celtic players I knew, but I remember his goal against Real Madrid in the European Cup in March 1980. I couldn’t imagine that he would become my favourite player. When I heard the news of his death from a friend in Glasgow I could not believe such an absurd way to die, because it was so different from what I expected. Then, I got the Celtic View, I read it and looked to see who was this man, Johnny Doyle. I then received pictures of Celtic and my enquiries were directed to the early eighties when this player on the wing was bursting with courage all over the pitch. Born in Bellshill on 11 May 1951, a mining area, he spent his childhood between school and playing football with his dad who taught him to be two footed. After his youth football Doyle signed a contract with Ayr United for £4 a week and stayed there until 15 March 1976, when, after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing between the two clubs, Celtic bought him for £90,000. ‘I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep; I went to sleep that night at 4 in the morning, only after listening to Status Quo!’ he said later. He is still the last Ayr United player to be capped for Scotland (he gave his shirt to the manager, Ally MacLeod) His first season at Celtic Park was blighted by an injury sustained in the first minute of his debut against Dundee. His career in green and white went through a crisis in his first two seasons, then he began to impress with his twisting and turning, his dummies and speed and he soon became the darling of the Jungle. Always available, he attended club functions to the last minute, and , on more than one occasion, he asked fans who stayed near him to come back to his house after matches. Many remember him for that goal against Real Madrid, but my favourite goal was the third in a replay of a Scottish Cup quarter final against St Mirren at Love Street in 1980. Down to ten men after Tom McAdam was sent off, the Bhoys won in extra time after the match finished 2-2 in 90 minutes (Goals from Doyle, Bone, Somner and Lennox). Doyle scored an unbelievable goal in the second half of extra time, setting off from midfield, beating the offside trap and slotting home. His fiery temperament didn’t help him; I can remember him being sent off after hitting a referee in the face;  on the 21 of May 1979, leaving the Bhoys down to ten men after punching MacDonald in the Glasgow derby which was the title decider (won 4-2). But his heart was totally green and white. When the media reported, at the beginning of the 1981/82 that he was off to Hearts, Dundee or Motherwell, he retorted that he would never want to leave Celtic. His last appearance for the Hoops was in the Glasgow Cup in 81/82 against Queens Park when he scored. He was killed the next week in an electrical accident at home. After the last match of the 1981/82 season, against St Mirren which signalled the clinching of the title, three quarters of an hour after the match the fans stayed in the stadium singing the name of Johnny Doyle, singing ‘we won the league for Johnny Doyle’ and ‘ Doyle, oh Johnny Doyle, oh Johnny Doyle on the wing’ But the best memory of all came from Alfie Conn, one of his team mates, and a former Rangers player. ‘ Doyle was the one who wore a Celtic scarf on the day of a game, home or away at Fir Park or at Ibrox. It was a sign of his loyalty, but also a sign that he had no fear. I remember the first time I went back to Ibrox as a Celtic player. I got the dressing rooms mixed up and headed for the Rangers one. Doyle, naturally, scarf round the neck, took me by the collar and shepherded me into the Celtic dressing room, pointing out which was the right one’That’s my memory of Johnny Doyle, who realised the dream of every boy, and that’s to put on the shirt of the team of your heart.

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