Soccer

Celtic FC Foundation CEO selects his top Bhoys team since 1975

Tom Rogic (second left) is one of two current players in the best Celtic XI seen by Celtic FC Foundation CEO Tony Hamilton.
Tom Rogic (second left) is one of two current players in the best Celtic XI seen by Celtic FC Foundation CEO Tony Hamilton.

CELTIC FC Foundation Chief Executive Tony Hamilton has witnessed plenty of good and bad over 45 years since his first visit to Celtic Park.

Here, in his own words, he selects ‘the best Celtic XI I’ve seen with my own eyes’:

The ‘keeper position represents the first of a dozen difficult decisions. I’ve had plenty of stoppers to choose from in 40-plus years of watching this team. However, I’ve opted for Artur Boruc. Aside from his obvious skill in goal, the way in which he rapidly embraced the club’s values, and his ability to antagonise and wind up the opposition, just edges it for me.

Arguably, right back is the easiest choice of all to make. Danny McGrain, as officially Scotland’s greatest ever full-back, is my choice without any doubt. A wonderful man too, which is a real bonus.

The first centre half for me is club ambassador Roy Aitken. I grew up watching him in the ‘70s and ‘80s and there were few like him when Celtic were in full flow. He was fearless and never messed about – ask any forward who played against him. He did what a Celtic centre half should do, and he did it efficiently and effectively.

Alongside big Roy is Virgil van Dijk. I think most Celtic supporters recognised very early just how special he was and accepted that he was probably destined for bigger leagues (if not quite bigger clubs...). I’m very grateful that he played a part in the Celtic story.

I struggled with left-back. However, the coin landed in favour of Tosh McKinlay. He only played for Celtic for a short while, however his legacy shines on. Like many of my team, he’s a Celtic supporter who lived the dream for us mere mortals, and he is still at the club today, 20 years after retiring as a player.

On the right side of midfield, and arguably out of position, is former manager Tommy Burns, who appeared more than 500 times in the Hoops. He oozed class on and off the field and everything people say about him is true. I was proud to work with him and make the film ‘Faithful Through and Through’ about his short but impactful life.

While it’s easy to run the risk of offending some current players, it’s more difficult to leave two of them out. In fact, it’s impossible to omit Scott Brown. The current skipper takes up the first of two central midfield roles and epitomises everything good about this iteration of Celtic. I see Brown and I see focus, commitment and a footballing ability he doesn’t really get credit for.

Alongside the current #8 is a former one – Paul McStay. What a talent he was. Like Brown, he gave the best years of his life to Celtic and for me he brought so many happy memories, often in dark days. Great vision, passing ability, leadership, and, most importantly, humility.

On the left of midfield is my second and final current player – The Wizard of Oz – Tom Rogic, arguably one of the greatest players I’ve seen in my life. I love entertainers and finishers, and he’s both. He’s peerless with a football and having him in recent years is a big part of why we’re the dominant force in Scottish football today.

My front pair begins with Kenny Dalglish, where my love affair with Celtic started in 1975, and resulted in a flood of tears in August 1977, when he left for Anfield. Kenny is the greatest ever Celt in my lifetime and one of the funniest people I know.

Alongside Dalglish is Henrik Larsson – a genius in the Hoops, and, although he’s a UEFA Champions League winner with FC Barcelona, he never forgets the club where his career was kick-started. And the Celtic fans will never forget him.

Super sub: There are another 100-plus players who could have made my team. However, there’s only room for one more on the bench. The ease with which Paddy McCourt controlled a football was a thing of beauty, and it would be a travesty to leave him out.

Tony Hamilton’s best Celtic XI seen with his own eyes: (4-4-2): Boruc; McGrain, Aitken, van Dijk, McKinlay; Burns, Brown, P McStay, Rogic; Larsson, Dalglish. Sub: McCourt.

As if selecting those dream Bhoys wasn’t difficult enough, I also asked Tony which Rangers player he’d pick, if he had to pick one:

“I don’t think there’s one from the current team that stands out. I couldnae walk down the street if I picked one of them anyway.

“I was always impressed by Davie Cooper, I thought he was just such a wonderful football player. I got to know Sandy Jardine a bit through various things and he was such a lovely guy.

“Cooper was such a classy football player. You could argue that he did as much, if not more, at Motherwell. Like Phil O’Donnell, like many of that team who won the Scottish Cup for Motherwill in 1991, who died too early, there were loads of them – a real tragedy.

“Cooper would be the guy when I started going to watch Celtic, when I was old enough for things to register, who stood out for me.

“Then there were people like [Brian] Laudrup, Trevor Steven, [Paul] Gascoigne who were world-class players at the time – but Cooper for me, if you absolutely put a gun to my head, then it would be him.”

Having also mentioned as a favourite game the 1989 European Cup-Winners’ Cup thriller when the Celts beat Partizan Belgrade 5-4 in the second leg, with four goals scored by Polish striker Dariusz ‘Jacki’ Dziekanowski, which prompted Hamilton to give his first-born son the middle name Dariusz, he also recalled a more recent match – against Rangers.

There’s been a memorable times - Celtic beating Barcelona eight years ago, getting to the last 16 in the Champions League a couple of times, getting to Seville in 2003 [for the Uefa Cup Final].

In recent times, going to Ibrox [in March 2018], getting Jozo Simunovic sent off, bringing on [Odsonne] Edouard as a sub and winning 3-2 is probably a modern highlight. That was

better than winning 5-1 over there, it was just such a special day. To sit in the main stand and watch that was a real privilege for me. That’s my favourite today.”