St. Mirren v Celtic, Scottish Cup semi final 1959

(first published in the match programme for St. Mirren v Celtic, 26th December 2019)

On Saturday 4th April 1959, St. Mirren faced Celtic in their first Scottish Cup semi final appearance for 25 years. Celtic were strong favourites but the feeling was that, if they were to be undone, St. Mirren would be the team to do it. Only three days earlier, Manager Reid had tested out his preferred forward line in a Renfrewshire Cup semi final and they responded with a 10-0 win. All they had to do now was do the same to Celtic.

73,885 packed into Hampden, paying £12,000 for the privilege. Saints lost the toss and were forced to play against a raging wind in the first half. Both sides went at it from the start, but Saints seemed to be getting the upper hand, giving the Celts’ defence cause for alarm. At this stage, Celtic were happy to clear the ball in any direction.

St.Nirren 1 Celtic 0

Alistair Miller opens the scoring

St. Mirren 2 Celtic 0

Miller scores again to make it 2-0.

In the tenth minute, Celtic had the ball in the net, only for referee Davidson to rule that Divers had been offside. It was a decision that was hotly disputed by the Parkhead men, who thought that McVittie’s cross had struck a defender on the way through.

St. Mirren opened the scoring on 16 minutes with the best goal of the match. Rodger’s pass found Miller cutting in from the right side of the field and his 12-yard drive gave Haffey no chance.

The Buddies were now breaking through on the right, where Neilson and Rodger were exploiting the weakness of Mochan. Celtic came fighting back and forced three corners in as many minutes. They should have been level midway through the first half, but first Lochhead and then Jackson missed glorious chances.

Miller got his own, and St. Mirren’s, second goal in 33 minutes. Evans was dispossessed in midfield and the ball found its way out to Bryceland. His pass found Miller cutting across goal 18 yards out. He beat the advancing Celtic goalkeeper with a swerve to his right and sent a half-hit shot trundling over the line at the left-hand post.

St. Mirren 4 Celtic 0

Tommy Bryceland completes the scoring
in front of a dwindling East Terracing

St. Mirren 3 Celtic 0

Gerry Baker makes it 3-0 before the break

Five minutes later, it was 3-0! Neilson’s quickly taken free kick in midfield found Baker and, with Celtic’s Evans out of position and claiming for offside, the forward ran 30 yards to slam the ball past the helpless Haffey.

St. Mirren ended the first half looking like a quality team and Celtic simply had no answer to their precise pattern of play.

Celtic came out for the second half looking more determined, but poor passing and inaccurate shooting failed to trouble the St. Mirren defence. To add to Celtic’s misery, the earlier sunshine had turned to rain and the Saints fans in the South Stand and terraces could now be heard singing “When The Saints Go Marching In”. Midway through the half, the Celtic fans in the East Terracing had seen enough and started to leave.

Bryceland had a goal disallowed for offside and another shot cleared off the line, but he was not to be outdone and got St. Mirren’s fourth from close range in the last minute after Haffey could only block a Rodger shot.

St. Mirren v Celtic 1959

St. Mirren v Celtic 1959

The match programme, consisting of 8 large size pages, was printed red and black on white glossy paper and was priced at 6d. As with previous year’s issues, a new cover design was commissioned for the semi finals. It featured the match details and an illustration of two players battling for the ball, superimposed over a line drawing of a packed Hampden Park. Although never used again for Scottish Cup issues, this design reappeared for a number of League Cup semi final and Scottish international programmes in the early 1960s.

Pages 2 and 3 featured pen pictures of both teams, together with images of Saints’ captain Davie Lapsley and Celtic players Evans and MacKay. The centre pages displayed the team line ups in 2-3-5 formation, as was the norm in programmes of these days. The only difference between the printed and actual line ups was the replacement of John Colrain with Mike Jackson as Celtic’s inside right. Pictures of Saints’ Gemmell and Celtic Manager McGrory appeared on either side of the line ups and a half time score board and adverts occupied the rest of the centre page spread

Page six was entitled “Romance of Celtic and St. Mirren” and covered Saints' first Cup win over Celtic in 1926 and Celtic’s first Cup win in 1892, when they defeated Queens Park 5-1. The remainder of the programme was taken up by adverts.

This programme, despite its age, is quite an easy one to obtain. This is perhaps due to the fact that a large supply of the programmes was rediscovered a number of years ago and was released to the programme collecting fraternity.