St. Mirren v Celtic, Scottish Cup Semi-Final 1962

(first published in the match programme for St. Mirren v Celtic, 10th February 2021)

On Saturday 31st March 1962, St. Mirren met Celtic in the Scottish Cup Semi-Final at Ibrox Park. It was the second meeting of the Clubs at this stage of the tournament in three years, Saints having famously triumphed 4-0 in 1959 on their way to lifting the trophy.

St. Mirren v Celtic 1962

St. Mirren v Celtic 1962

Despite dumping holders Dunfermline out of the Cup in the quarter finals three weeks earlier, St. Mirren had lost three of their next four League games, including a 0-5 reverse at Love Street to Celtic only five days before the semi. Allied to an earlier 7-1 league defeat to the Hoops, this did not fill the Paisley fans with confidence, and indeed many pundits predicted the first Old Firm Final since 1928. However, the good news for the Paisley support was that Tommy Bryceland, having played just two reserve games since sustaining a broken leg back in August, was to start the game.

St. Mirren v Celtic first goal 1962

Fernie scores the first goal

On a perfect pitch, the tone of the match was set after just 30 seconds when Celtic’s Haffey allowed a simple-looking Kerrigan shot to slip through his fingers, conceding a corner. The resultant kick caused the Celts even more problems as Kennedy was forced to clear a Beck effort off the goal line. These early scares stung Celtic into action and they proceeded to launch a series of attacks on the Saints goal, but Saints’ custodian Williamson was equal to the challenge.

After eight minutes, St. Mirren took the lead. Henderson swung over a left-footed cross which shouldn’t have caused Haffey any problems, but he could only parry the ball out to ex-Celt Willie Fernie and he didn’t waste the opportunity to score.

Celtic retaliated and twice went close through Crerand with a 20 yarder and Hughes with a header from only three yards out. However, just after the half hour mark Saints hit their opponents with a quick scoring one-two. First, Kerrigan finished off a good move by Fernie and Beck to strike a right-footed shot high into the net from 16 yards. A minute later, Beck chested down a Henderson cross to turn and slot the ball between two defenders and the goalkeeper to give Saints a 3-0 half-time lead.

The Parkhead team resumed the second half, clearly under orders to shoot on sight. Divers failed with a 30-yard attempt when perhaps Chalmers and Hughes were better placed to score and Chalmers had his own chances, but found Williamson equal to the task. Hughes eventually had the ball in the net, but the linesman’s raised flag quickly cut short the hoops’ celebrations.

St. Mirren v Celtic third goal 1962

Beck slots home the third goal

St. Mirren v Celtic second goal 1962

Kerrigan prepares for goal number two

With eighteen minutes remaining came the incident for which the match is most remembered. Fighting broke out on the East Terracing and, at the same time, bottles came raining down from the top of the West Terracing, forcing spectators at the bottom to seek refuge by invading the pitch. Referee McKenzie immediately ushered the players off the field of play and it took fully 16 minutes for the police to restore order. When the match resumed, there were huge gaps in the terracing behind each goal.

Byrne scored a consolation goal for Celtic seven minutes from time, but it was a well-deserved victory for St. Mirren, with stand out performances by Fernie, Clunie and Williamson.

The eight-page match programme, costing sixpence, was the typical SFA publication that had been in place since the early 1950s. The cover design, used for nearly all semi-finals from 1960 until 1965, depicted four players surrounding an illustration of the trophy and was in the competing team’s colours of green, black and white. Inside, green was used for the article headings and the middle pages, but otherwise the remainder of the programme was printed black on white, semi-gloss paper.

Pages 2 and 3 featured informative introductions to the players of both teams together with photos of Saints’ players George McLean and Willie Fernie, and Celtic’s Duncan Mackay. The centre pages displayed the line ups in 2-3-5 formation and, ignoring positional changes, the only difference between the printed and actual selections was the introduction of Tommy Bryceland for John McTavish in the Saints team. Pictures of Celtic Chairman Robert Kelly (SFA President) and William P. Allan (SFA Secretary) 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 seven, entitled “They were dramatic Cup duels”, retold the events of previous meetings between the Clubs, including Saints’ Cup wins over Celtic in the 1926 Final and 1959 Semi-Final, counterbalanced by recollections of Celtic’s victories over Saints in the 1925/26 League campaign as well as in a Fourth Round Scottish Cup tie in 1925 on their way to securing the trophy.

The remaining two pages of the programme, which is not too difficult to obtain nowadays, consisted of adverts.