St. Mirren stun Celtic in their first Premier League meeting (1977)

(first published in the match programme for St. Mirren v Kilmarnock, 15th October 2022)

Celtic v St. Mirren 1977

Celtic v St. Mirren 1977

Newly-promoted St. Mirren faced Celtic on 15th October 1977 for the first-ever Premier League meeting between the sides. In fact, it was their first meeting at Celtic Park for nearly seven years.

Saints had settled well into the new League, sitting comfortably mid table, but they were coming off the back of a humiliating home defeat to League leaders Aberdeen the week before and all the interest was in how Alex Ferguson’s young side would react to their first real setback of the season.

Celtic were languishing third from bottom of the table, having lost five of their eight League matches thus far. Less than 24 hours before the St. Mirren match, in an attempt to address the situation, Manager Jock Stein drafted in defender Frank Munro from Wolverhampton Wanderers on a month-long loan and made him Captain for the day.

The match programme was Celtic’s standard sixteen-page A5 production for the season, printed black on white gloss paper, with occasional green spot colour. The green and white cover action photo featured a match between Celtic and Dundee United, and was overprinted with the full match details and 10p price tag.

Page two recalled the details of Saints last visit to Celtic Park, when they were defeated 3-0 in November 1970. On the opposite page alongside the list of Club officials, Manager Jock Stein’s column noted that not everything had worked out from a Celtic point of view in the three matches since their last programme, and he particularly bemoaned the lack of imagination and fight from his team in the previous week's defeat away to Partick Thistle.

A full-page action shot of ex-Celt Denis Connaghan playing in goal for St. Mirren against Celtic at Love Street preceded a double page piece on the visitors, highlighting the influence on the Club of Manager Alex Ferguson. Among the pen pictures of the St. Mirren squad, it appeared that Saints’ captain Jackie Copland was 6ft 9 inches tall!

The traditional centre pages listed the pools of players from both teams either side of the match officials and above the Half-Time Scoreboard of the day’s Scottish and English matches.

Celtic’s League and Cup fixtures, John Clark’s Reserve team feature and a Half-Time Quiz brought the highly-readable issue to a close, only four and a half pages of which were adverts.

St. Mirren take the lead through a Frank Munro own goal

St. Mirren take the lead through a Frank Munro own goal

The crowd of 27,722 saw St. Mirren immediately take the game to Celtic and they were unfortunate not to be ahead at Half Time. They dominated the first-half and forced home ‘keeper Peter Latchford into making a number of fine saves. In one attack, Jackie Copland ventured forward to send in a shot which smacked the crossbar. When Celtic did manage to get forward, the Saints defence were there to clear up.

Billy Stark nets Saints' winner

Billy Stark nets Saints' winner

Saints took the lead in 59 minutes when a long ball upfield was headed high into the penalty area by Lex Richardson towards Frank McGarvey. Debutant Munro attempted to intercept, but only succeeded in sending the ball spinning past Latchford for an own goal. Five minutes later, Celtic won a free kick outside the box when Billy Abercromby was penalised for a foul on Ronnie Glavin. Glavin himself elected to take the free kick and his fierce drive was parried by Donald Hunter, but fell to Tom McAdam to equalise. In the 69th minute, Billy Stark picked the ball up in midfield, danced past two defenders and held off a late challenge from Johannes Edvaldsson before tucking the ball past the Celtic ‘keeper from eighteen yards.

Donald Hunter later made a save from Roddy MacDonald and the Paisley defence survived two second-half penalty claims, but Saints never looked like losing.

The 2-1 victory moved St, Mirren up to fourth place in the Premier Division, while Celtic dropped to second bottom spot in what was described as probably their worst run of results in the Jock Stein era.