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charlie tully book

Charlie Tully - Celtic’s Cheeky Chappie by Tom Campbell; Breedon Books; 223 pages (inc. 32 pages of b/w photos); £16.99 hardback

This is another excellent Celtic book from the pen of Tom Campbell, a biography of one of Tom’s heroes - the irrepressible and legendary Charlie Tully.

Charlie Tully (1924 - 1971) was a great Celt, yet his medal tally was disappointing. Tom Campbell is in no doubt as to the reason for this, and dwells at length on the dysfunctional nature of Celtic in Tully’s time.

Too often Celtic were not organized enough to tackle Rangers and Tully himself in his own autobiography ‘Passed To You’ (published in 1958) hints that the reason was that Celtic were always smiling and joking while Rangers, playing methodical football, did not seem to be enjoying the game. Yet they were the successful team.

Perhaps Tully enjoyed the game too much. His antics did not always work to the team’s benefit. He did not always train as hard as he could have and of course he was able to take full advantage of the weak Parkhead regime.

Jock Stein, on the other hand, who played with Tully was quite adamant that there would have been no place for Tully in the team that he managed.

Campbell relates lovingly all the Tully stories and incidents in games that he himself attended.

The twice - taken corner kick at Falkirk, the gaining of a corner by aiming a throw-in at the defender’s back, and the infamous Sammy Cox incident which had such serious repercussions for the club. All these are in the book, as is the part that Tully played in the Coronation Cup of 1953, the League and Cup double of 1954 and the 7-1 beating of Rangers.

Contrary to what many people (including Sean Fallon) think, Charlie never sat on the ball in a game against Rangers.

Tom is in uncharted and possibly dangerous territory as he hints at the possibiity that there may have been some match-fixing going on at Parkhead in Tully’s time. Tully does not seem to have been involved, but Beattie and Evans may have been.

Certainly, many supporters wondered about the loss of the 1956 Scottish Cup Final to Hearts and the 1957 Scottish Cup Semi Final replay to Kilmarnock.

The much-travelled Tom (he has also been to Argentina to research the Racing Club game of 1967) went to Belfast to investigate Tully’s roots in the poverty stricken areas of Catholic Belfast. Even in 2007, he found a pub in the Falls Road a depressing and even frightening experience.

Tully’s sudden death in 1971 is dealt with, and, as we suspected from the cases of other great players, alcohol played its part in the sad demise of Charlie.

The writing is always interesting and lively, with the footnotes particularly graphic. In one of them he compares Celtic’s undeserved participation in the Coronation Cup with the unwarranted rise to prominence of the Duke of Edinburgh!

And how’s this for a brilliant description of the annoying know-all who sits near you at Parkhead - “the argumentative certainty of the working class, where emphasis compensates for accuracy”?

This book is well worth its price. Buy it and find out more about why the great Charlie Tully still has a place in the hearts of anyone lucky enough to have seen him in his pomp at Celtic Park.


David Potter