The 1970s was pretty much an era labelled anticlimactic in hindsight for Glasgow Celtic. Beginning the decade with a sickening defeat in extra time to Feyenoord in the 1970 European Cup Final in the drenching Milan rain. Celtic missed the opportunity to win their second European Cup in 3 years. But in light of this defeat, there was a fierce sense of optimism and prosperity surrounding the Parkhead club as they were bringing through, what was regarded at the time, as some of the most talented players in Europe. The Quality Street Gang as they are better known were evidence that success would still be achieved at Parkhead post the Lisbon Lion Era. However you could admit that nobody would have predicted the perhaps the premature decline of Stein’s Celtic as we reach the midpoint of the 70s.
The exodus of some key players like Lou Macari and Davie Hay left big boots to fill. The remaining players of the Lisbon Lions were now in the latter stages of their careers. Naturally, these legends had lost a yard or two. You then add the situation with George Connolly in the mix which clearly wouldn’t of been healthy for morale in the first team dressing room. Put all this together and these factors eventually caught up with the team that had just won an unprecedented 9 League Titles on the bounce and were seeking a world record Tenth. The general feeling is that Celtic maybe should of done more to hold onto their prized assets. Of course nothing lasts forever and there is a lot of ‘what ifs’ in football but had the likes of Macari, who went on to have a glittering career with Manchester United stayed, Celtic could well of had won the 10 the first time of asking.
With the exception of Danny McGrain and arguably there could be a case made for Kenny Dalglish, the majority of the Quality Street Gang’s time in the Celtic first team was a lot shorter lived than what most anticipated. There is a variety of reasons but Davie Hay and George Connolly’s case, the pair fell out of love with Celtic due to salary issues. Again, referring to this biscuit tin mentality that is always accustomed with the Celtic Board. Here we have two world class players that would walk into any side in the world and they were earning as much as your average working class Glaswegian.
The Quest for the 10 had been lost and after the retirement of Billy McNeill and the departure of Jimmy Johnstone to the United States, there was to be a period of transition at Parkhead. Part of the rebuild was the signing of Icelandic International – Johannes ‘Shuggie’ Edvaldsson. Having made the move from the Danish League, Edvaldsson joined up with the Celtic team as a trialist for the pre-season games in Ireland and after an impressive display, he was the first ‘foreign’ player to sign for Celtic from the Continent. He along with the latest influx of Youth to be promoted to the first team, most notably, Roy Aitken, George McCluskey and Tommy Burns would carry the mantle as Celtic would hope to make a swift and smooth transition and be back on top in Scotland before too long.
Best known for his versatility, Big Shuggie has appeared in just about every postion on the park during his time with Celtic. He cemented a place in the Celtic backline almost immediately after scoring against Hearts in what was just his 2nd club appearance. He was a mainstay in the side throughout the ’75/’76 season. However, Celtic finished the season without silverware. A contributing element of Celtics’ mediocrity was the absence of Jock Stein from the dugout who was involved in a serious car crash which hospitalized the manager. Surgery was to be required in an incident which very nearly became fatal and Jock had to spend many months away from football to ensure full recovery. Sean Fallon was put in temporary charge of first team affairs and after losing a total of 9 games from 36 games played, Celtic deservedly finished in second place behind Rangers.
The 1976/77 season was one that saw Celtic back among the honours once again. With the return of now fully fit Jock Stein he was like a breath of fresh air to the squad. Stein wasted little time in addressing the problems which existed in the team, the previous season. With newly appointed Assistant Manager – Davie McParland, the Management Team wisely and carefully targeted new recruits. Joe Craig, Alfie Conn and Pat Stanton were efficient acquisitions. The latter subsequently in fact battled it out with Shuggie Edvaldsson for a starting place in defence. The rise of eventual Captain and stalwart – Roy Aitken would see Edvaldsson’s versatility come to good effect as we was often moved further up the pitch. Shuggie relished games against Rangers and he picked up an awful habit of scoring against them. The fact Celtic won 2 and drew 2 Old Firms was a vital play in Celtic winning the League in what were tight affairs. Edvaldsson formed a combative partnership with Pat Stanton at the back in the final derby game at Ibrox. The Icelander was also part of a makeshift midfield later that May where Celtic were once again the superior outfit in the Scottish Cup final. Another sweet victory over our cross city rivals with Andy Lynch scoring the only goal of the game from 12 yards after a Derek Johnstone hand ball. Edvaldsson and Aitken were robust and terrific in the middle of the park that day. The League and Cup Double of 1977 would be Shuggie’s first pieces of silverware for the club and they would also be Stein’s last.
There was always going to be a reaction from Rangers going into the new Campaign. Having not beat Celtic in a considerable amount of time. The Hoops had an alarmingly poor start to the ’77/’78 season, failing to win any of their first five games. One of that incidentally was a trip to Ibrox and despite 2 headed goals from Johannes Edvaldsson, Celtic still ended up on the wrong side of a 3-2 scoreline. Shuggie was about the only one to turn up that day. Celtic picked up their first win on matchday 6, as second from bottom placed (Celtic) took on bottom place Clydebank at Celtic Park. With new signing Tom McAdam grabbing his first goal in what was a cagey contest. The Celtic fans made it clear it was quite unacceptable. Form never materialised for the Parkhead club and after a lousy New Year period which consisted of 5 losses on the trot, Celtic were well and truly out of the Title race. Th club limped to a 5th place finish and it was possibly their worst season in decades, despite the big Icelander top of the Celtic’ scorer charts. Even a legendary figure of Jock Stein, who has had labels thrown at him like immortal, couldn’t come back from this.
There was only ever going to be one Man to be Stein’s successor as Manager of Celtic Football Club. His 1967, all conquering Celtic Captain – Billy McNeill. Now whilst Billy was a notorious figure and an unmistakable face in Scottish football, he was still learning the ropes in management. Although, Caesar was quickly learning and making a name for himself. His Aberdeen side went closest to catching Rangers that season whilst Celtic lingered in 5th. Should the truth be known Billy was very unlucky not to win any silverware in his sole season at Pittodrie.
With the installment of Celtic’s new Manager, Shuggie was now recognized as the club’s first choice center half. Himself and Roddy McDonald became very familiar with each others game as the pair worked very well at the heat of the Celtic defense. Caesar had an immediate effect on the team it seemed, as his new side won 7 wins from their first 9 played in that ’78/’79 season which included a 3-1 home win over Rangers. A brace from Tom McAdam and George McCluskey grabbing the 3rd goal. It was a memorable performance from Peter Latchford who denied a spotkick from Alex Miller of Rangers. A worrying period was to follow as McNeill’s side only picked up 1 win from their next 9 games which consequently allowed other teams back into the Title Race. Over the next few months, the Title Race went down to the wire…
A postponed fixture from January 1979 would be rescheduled for the following May which would of been Celtics’ final game of the season. Rangers on the other hand still had two games to play, including the match at Celtic Park. It was a winner takes all contest. A win for Celtic would put them out of Rangers’ reach as the Ibrox club would mathematically not to able to accumulate enough points to overtake their rivals at the summit, therefore Celtic would be League Champions. Anything other than a Celtic win and it would still in Rangers’ hands. It was an Old Firm like no other. Johannes Edvaldsson was moved up the field for this one. His physicality would be beneficial in the middle of the park for such a frantic occasion. It was Shuggie and Conroy who sat deeper which allowed for MacLeod to push on further in an offensive role. But it was Alex McDonald of Rangers who stole the spotlight early on. He put his side, who were the favourites ahead after just 9 minutes. After the interval with the scoreline the same, it was McDonald again who was center stage as he was involved in an altercation with Johnny Doyle after the ball was played. The incident was enough for the referee to merit a red card for Doyle of Celtic. Perhaps some clarity was needed at this decision as there was no action taken towards the Rangers player. Did the match official, like so many others happen to have a season ticket at Ibrox? You can’t rule anything out when it comes to Scottish football. Regardless of whether he was affiliated or not, his decision was final and it looked to be the knockout blow. Rangers were poised to bring the Scottish League Title back to Govan until the 10 Men of Celtic rallied together and with the help of the roar from the Celtic fans the home side turned their rivals over once more. The sheer determination and will to win was injected into McNeill’s Celtic. They just never knew when they were beat. The pendulum swung the way of Celtic and with thanks to a Rangers OG along with a stunning strike from Murdo MacLeod, Celtic ran out 4-2 winners and were awarded their 31st League Title whilst also denying Rangers back to back trebles. Pandemonium and Joy was to follow in the East End of Glasgow after this momentous victory as the Celtic team of: Latchford, McGrain, McDonald, Aitken, Lynch, Provan, Edvaldsson, Conroy, McCluskey and MacLeod became the 10 Men Who Won The League.
The next season turned out to be Shuggie’s last as a Celtic player. In his final days he was selected as a front man to play alongside the evergreen Bobby Lennox, the last of the Lions still at the club. With notable goals, a winner at Tannadice and one last goal against the old enemy, Edvaldsson surprisingly fell out out with the Celtic Manager which came as a disappointment to the support. The trustworthy and reliable Icelander left Parkhead in early 1980 to play in the United States.
Edvaldsson still had strong connections with Scotland after leaving Celtic. He had a brief spell with Motherwell, managed by Jock Wallace. He married a Glaswegian and following his retirement Shuggie returned from his homeland to run a pub in Bridgeton.
Sadly, Johannes Edvaldsson passed away in January 2021 not long after the writing of this article. Shuggie was a massive fan favourite and will mostly be remembered for playing in every outfield position on the park and more importantly making an impact whilst doing so. He wasn’t one these guys was there to just ‘do a job’ or ‘make up the numbers.’ He carried out each role to great effect. Shuggie always received a warm welcome whenever he came back to Celtic Park and will fondly be looked back on in the same light.
May he Rest In Peace.
You’ll Never Walk Alone.