Stevie Chalmers

Celtic stal­wart, scorer of Euro­pean Cup- win­ning goal, Scot­tish in­ter­na­tion­al­ist

The Scotsman - - OBITUARIES - MATTHEW VALLANCE

Thomas Stephen ‘ Stevie’ Shalmers, foot­baller. Born: 26 De­cem­ber, 1935 in Glas­gow. Died: 29 April, 2019, in Troon aged 83

On Celtic Way – the main road into the club’s ground, there are stat­ues to Fa­ther Wal­fred, the club’s founder, and to Jimmy John­stone, Billy Mc­neill and Jock Stein. But there isn’t one to Stevie Chalmers, scorer of the most im­por­tant goal in the club’s his­tory, who has died, fol­low­ing a lengthy battle with de­men­tia.

But per­haps Chalmers was happy with that. He maybe scored the win­ning goal when Celtic beat In­ter Mi­lan 2- 1 in Lis­bon in 1967, but, as he was al­ways at pains to point out, he was only do­ing his job. Chalmers was one of the less- il­lus­tri­ous mem­bers of that fabled XI – the Lis­bon Lions – but he was Celtic to the core; and he had to over­come some huge ob­sta­cles to be in po­si­tion to score that goal.

He was from a “Celtic- minded” fam­ily, raised in the Garn­gad in Glas­gow. His fa­ther David had been a team- mate of leg­endary Celtic man­ager Jimmy Mc­grory at Cly­de­bank, he longed to wear the hoops but it never hap­pened.

Stevie was an out­stand­ing Ju­nior player, with Kirk­in­til­loch Rob Roy, be­ing picked for the Ju­nior Scot­land team, be­fore mov­ing on to Ash­field, from where he was signed for Celtic by the same Jimmy Mc­grory, in Fe­bru­ary, 1959.

Just over a month later he made the first of an even­tual 403 first- team ap­pear­ances, in a league match against Air­drie, which Celtic lost 2- 1. In his early days he was shuf­fled around be­tween the wing and cen­tre for­ward, never quite es­tab­lish­ing him­self.

Th­ese were dark days for Celtic. Mc­gror y was of­ten over­ruled by Chair­man Sir Robert Kelly when it came to team se­lec­tion, and Celtic were down among the al­so­rans, with Hearts and Kil­marnock pro­vid­ing the main chal­lenge to Rangers.

But, if the first team was chaotic, the Re­serves – ‘ The Kelly Kids’ – of­fered hope. Jock Stein was work­ing away with a bunch of play­ers: Chalmers, Billy Mc­neill, John Clark and Ber­tie Auld who would fi­nally bring back the glory days.

How­ever, Stein had to leave then re­turn be­fore then, and, in the bar­ren years, Chalm

ers knew more bad days than good. Cer­tainly, he scored on his Old Firm de­but, in 1960; then, in 1966, he be­came the first Celtic player since be­fore the Sec­ond World War to score a hat- t ri ck i n an Old Firm game. But there were other days when he was the tar­get of se­ri­ous abuse from the fans in “the Jun­gle” at Celtic Park.

His tal­ent was recog­nised in Novem­ber, 1962, when he won the first of an even­tual four Scot­tish League “caps” in an 11- 0 win over the League of Ireland, play­ing at out­side right.

Just un­der two years later, he won the first of his five full Scot­land caps, mak­ing a scor­ing de­but in a 3- 2 loss to Wales, in a Home Internatio­nal at Ninian Park. He scored again in his sec­ond internatio­nal, a World Cup qual­i­fier, Ham­p­den win over Fin­land, less than three weeks later.

How­ever, his third and last Scot­land goal, in a Satur­day evening June friendly against then World Cham­pi­ons Brazil was his most mem­o­rable Scot­land goal. It came in the first minute of the match, as he ran on to a per­fect pass from Jim Bax­ter to slide the ball past the great Gil­mar in the Brazil­ian goal.

Ninety min­utes later, Pele went up to Stevie and asked to swap strips, leav­ing him with a piece of iconic foot­ball mem­o­ra­bilia – a gen­uine Brazil, No. 10 shirt, worn by Pele.

He was prob­a­bly un­der­capped. Three goals in five games equates to 0.6 goals per game, a bet­ter scor­ing rate than De­nis Law, and bet­ter even than Chalmers’ own 0.56 gpg for his club. How­ever, given the op­po­si­tion of the time: Law, Ian St John, Alan Gilzean, Ralph Brand for a Scot­land place, and John “Yogi” Hughes, Joe Mcbride and Wil­lie Wal­lace at club level, Chalmers’ fig­ures stand up to com­par­i­son.

Hescored 228 goals for Celtic, a to­tal which, when he re­tired, left him third in the club’s all­time goal- scor­ing lists be­hind Mc­grory and team mate Bobby Len­nox. Only Hen­rik Lars­son has since risen to eclipse him. Stevie Chalmers was a class act.

And never classier than on that spring evening in Lis­bon, when his 85th minute flick- on of a Bobby Mur­doch shot beat In­ter goal­keeper Sarti and clinched Celtic’s 2- 1 win and a first Euro­pean Cup win for a Bri­tish side.

S t e v i e ’s s t r i k e e n s u r e d im­mor­tal­ity for Stein and the 11 play­ers – The Lis­bon Lions.

In his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy – Steve Chalmers – The Win­ning Touch, pub­lished in 2012, he con­fessed to an un­easy re­la­tion­ship with Stein, who sel­dom­praised­him. Stein, how­ever, re­alised that Chalmers, who was a mas­ter at tak­ing de­fend­ers away to cre­ate space for oth­ers, and in press­ing de­fend­ers in their own­half when­they had the ball, to win pos­ses­sion back quickly, was a key el­e­ment in the team’s suc­cess.

His Celtic ca­reer ended un­for­tu­nately. He­sus­tained abro­ken leg in the 1970 League Cup­fi­nal win over St John­stone, and was a pe­riph­eral fig­ure there­after. Hescored his fi­nal Celtic goal in what would be the Lions’ fi­nal ap­pear­ance to­gether as an XI, scor­ing the fi­nal goal in a 6- 1 beat­ing of Clyde.

He then ran down his ca­reer as a player- coach at Mor­ton, then as a player with Partick This­tle, be­fore go­ing back to his roots for a cameo ap­pear­ance for his lo­cal Garn­gad team, St Roch’s.

He later coached youth play­ers at Celtic, and, with sev­eral of the other Lions, was a very­pop­u­lar match day host at Celtic Park.

Dur­ing his 1 2- year Celtic ca­reer, Stevie Chalmers won five Scot­land caps, four Scot­tish League caps, one Euro­pean Cup, four Scot­tish League, three Scot­tish Cup and four League Cup win­ner’s medals. In 2016 he was in­ducted into the Scot­tish Foot­ball Hall of Fame, one of the Lions who has been in­ducted both as an in­di­vid­ual and as a mem­ber of that great team.

But i t nearly never hap - pened. As a 20- year- old, he spent six months in Belvedere Hospi­tal re­cov­er­ing from the rare and deadly tu­ber­cu­lous menin­gi­tis. At that time, this dis­ease was con­sid­ered fa­tal, and Chalmers was given three weeks to live. How­ever, the con­sul­tant, Mr Peter Mcken­zie, iron­i­cally a Rangers sup­porter, tried some ground­break­ing new t reat­ments. They worked and he was able to walk out and get on with his life. When he scored against Rangers in 1960, he re­ceived a con­grat­u­la­tory let­ter from Mr Mcken­zie.

Stevie Chalmers re­tired to Troon, where he en­joyed the quiet life, and the golf, prior to his de­men­tia di­agno - sis. He is sur­vived by his wife Sadie and their six chil­dren: Stephen Ju­nior, Carol, Paul – who fol­lowed his dad to Celtic – Ann, Martin and Clare and his grand­chil­dren.

Stevie Chalmers was a quiet, unas­sum­ing gen­tle­man, but the ac­cla­ma­tion for his great­est goal was heard around the world. He passed away, just a week af­ter his team cap­tain, Billy Mc­neill.

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