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Charlie Tully

While the history of Celtic has featured many great characters it is doubtful if any were as colourful as Charles Patrick Tully.

Blessed with a rare abundance of skill Tully was the darling of the Hoops fans for over a decade and his cheeky approach to football has made him one of the best loved Celtic icons of all time.

Tully moved to Parkhead in June 1948 from his hometown side Belfast Celtic where he had been idolised by the support. His journey across the Irish Sea – for a then sizeable fee of £8,000 - triggered a frenzied response from fans in Glasgow.

The winger’s debut was a low key 0-0 league draw at home to Morton on August 14th but soon the crowds would be flocking to Parkhead to get a glimpse of a true football showman.


On his game Tully would relentlessly tease the opposition with his outrageous ability and his ball skills would bamboozle opposing defenders and thrill the crowd. In a League Cup match at Parkhead in September 1948 Tully’s skill simply savaged the feared Rangers rearguard whose brute force was simply no match for an on-song Charlie. Time after time the Irishman danced around the blue clad Iron Curtain as Celtic won 3-1.

His antics on and off the pitch soon became the stuff of myth and legend. Tully was the most talked about player in Scotland and he loved the limelight. When Tully was in town everyone wanted to be there. The Celtic support adored this cheekiest of heroes.

Charlie loved to play up to the crowd and loved nothing more than hearing the crowd roar their approval as he left another embarrassed defender trailing in his wake. Nothing typifies the skill and impudence of Tully better than his goal in the Scottish Cup at Falkirk on February 21 1953.

With Celtic awarded a corner the Irishman surveyed the scene in the penalty box before whipping the ball straight into the back of the net. The perplexed referee insisted that Tully had taken the kick from outside the corner markings and ordered a retake. Tully duly obliged and again whipped the ball straight into the net - goal!

For all his delightful tricks and undoubted ability Tully could also frustrate and his happy-go-luck approach to the game made him an inconsistent performer and at times he would contribute very little to games. His game was also not helped by a love of the good life off the field.

But those faults did little to affect his hero status among the Celtic support. When he left in the summer of 1959 for Cork Hibs he had won only one league title at Celtic and just two Scottish Cups. He also won two League Cups and was a key member of the side which destroyed Rangers 7-1 in the final of 1957. Tully was also capped 11 times by Northern Ireland.

He missed the final of the 1953 Coronation Cup through injury but it was a typically sparkling Tully performance that inspired the Hoops to victory against Manchester United in the semi-final.

Charlie played 319 times for Celtic and scored 43 goals. Many players won more than Tully ever did as a Celt but very few have claimed the hearts of the Celtic support the way the Belfast Bhoy did.

 

.BORN in Belfast, 1924, Charles Patrick Tully signed from Belfast Celtic in June 1948. The names were the same, the strips were the same, even the clubs' aims were the same - to alleviate the plight of beleaguered working-class Catholics.

Tully's reputation was cemented, as is often the case with Celtic's greatest players, with an outstanding performance against Rangers weeks after his arrival. This catapulted him to the status of cult hero - "Tully Mania" gripped the East End. Unlike today's iconic players, who crave lucrative contracts and fan adulation in equal measure, Tully was a great servant of the club, notching up 319 appearances and scoring 47 goals throughout an illustrious 11-year career. Most fans reckon he is the best inside-left ever to have played for the club.

His most notable game was in a 1953 cup tie against Falkirk at Brockville, when Tully scored not one but two sensational goals - direct from the corner kick. (Not even Beckham could bend it like that, twice.) Celtic were 3-2 winners.

Tully had already scored a goal from the corner flag in 1952, when, earning one of his ten international caps for Northern Ireland against England, he scored another brace to level the match. It became something of a habit.

Tully was legendary for his cheek and his charm; before this game against England he is reported to have said to Alf Ramsey:

"Do you enjoy playing for your country, Mr Ramsey?" asked Charlie. "I do, Mr Tully," replied the ever-polite future knight. "Make the most of it today, then," came back the irrepressible Irishman, "it might be the last chance you get."

During the St Mungo Cup Final on August 1, 1951, Celtic were 2-0 down when Tully took a throw-in. He deliberately directed the ball off Dons' Davie Shaw's back to win a flag kick. Tully flighted over the corner, Sean Fallon scored and this started a comeback that saw Celtic run out 3-2 winners.

In the twilight of his career, Tully spent brief periods on loan to Stirling Albion and Rangers before leaving Scotland in 1959. He eventually went into club management in Ireland.

Charlie Tully was given a free transfer on Wednesday, September 2, 1959.

Tully made 319 appearances for The Bhoys during his 11 seasons at Celtic Park.

Tully died in 1971 aged 47 at his home in Belfast, a few months after playing in a charity match at Meadowbank. During the funeral procession, the Falls Road was packed with mourners from both sides of the sectarian and footballing divide.