Kenny Dalglish is a Celtic great, a Liverpool legend and a Scotland icon. One of the greatest players ever to have played the beautiful game, King Kenny did so with grace, skill and the most incredible smile whenever he scored a goal … which he did with an impressive consistency, whether in green and white Hoops, all red or dark blue.
He spent 10 years with Celtic before moving south to achieve great things at Anfield, and throughout all this time, he represented his country with distinction. Yet, it could all have been so different for his career, and for the history of Celtic, if his boyhood heroes had come calling.
Dalglish explained in his autobiography: ‘From 15 to 16, I played for Glasgow United. At the time everybody expected Rangers to ask me for a trial – even me. Rangers were certainly aware of me. I was representing Scottish Schoolboys and was known to be a Rangers fan. It would have been an obvious step. Rangers’ chief scout, Jimmy Smith, apparently told people watching Scottish Schoolboys matches that he thought I would end up at Ibrox. But no-one ever asked me. I never knew why.
At the time I was disappointed because the team I followed, and wanted to sign for, didn’t seek me out. My bedroom even overlooked Rangers’ training ground. Although in hindsight, it’s worked out for the best, and I haven’t done too badly, I still don’t know why Rangers never came in for me.’
Rangers’ loss was very much Celtic’s gain as Dalglish emerged from within the Celtic ranks as part of a group of exceptionally talented players known as the Quality Street Gang, alongside the likes of Danny McGrain, Davie Hay, George Connelly and Lou Macari.
Dalglish ruled supreme at Paradise until 1977. That was the year the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll died, but for Celtic supporters, the loss of their own King Kenny to Liverpool was even more heartbreaking.
PRELUDE TO PARADISE The young Kenny Dalglish was brought up not far from Celtic Park in Dalmarnock but by the time he signed for Celtic on May 4, 1967, he was living within the shadow of Ibrox and in between times he had played for Glasgow United, Possil YM and Drumchapel Amateurs. However, a home visit from Sean Fallon had the youngster tearing down Rangers pictures from his bedroom wall while the Celtic assistant manager spoke in the living room with his father. He jumped at the chance of joining Celtic and was farmed out to Cumbernauld United for his first season as a professional.
DEBUT BHOY In the first leg of the League Cup quarter-final of 1968/69, the Celts racked up a 10-0 win over Hamilton Accies thanks to Stevie Chalmers and Bobby Lennox scoring five goals each. That gave Jock Stein the opportunity to field a fringe side in the away leg and on September 25, 1968, keeper Bobby Wraith and defender John Gorman started their first and only game for Celtic.
“My debut for Celtic in October 1969 was against Raith Rovers. Bobby Murdoch was sitting beside me and asked if I was nervous. ‘No’ I replied. ‘Well’ he said, ‘you are putting your boots on the wrong feet’. I looked down and he was right.”
The game was also the last time that the long-serving Charlie Gallagher kicked a ball for the first-team but it was the solitary sub allowed in those days who replaced him that was to go on and write his own chapter in Celtic’s history. Celtic won 4-2 to go through 14-2 on aggregate but, with 20/20 hindsight, the real story was the introduction of another bona fide member of the Quality Street Gang in the shape of Kenny Dalglish.
The following season, the teenager was selected for a home game for the first time, against Raith Rovers in a league game on October 4, 1969.
HIGHLIGHTS There were many highs during Kenny Dalglish’s 10-year career with Celtic, including winning four league championships, four Scottish Cups and the League Cup as well as captaining the Celts but his real breakthrough to the first team in the opening months of the 1971/72 season was astronomical. Because of reconstruction work at Celtic Park, the Hoops’ ‘home’ League Cup opener against Rangers went ahead at Ibrox – the first of three Celtic games there in little more than three weeks. Celtic won the League Cup encounters 2-0 and 3-0 as well as winning the league clash by 3-2 – and 20-year-old Kenny Dalglish scored in all three games! And the highs just kept on coming.
BOWING OUT Dalglish did go out on a high by leading Celtic to a league and Scottish Cup double as well as losing out by a solitary goal after extra-time in the League Cup final to Aberdeen – a game in which he scored for the Hoops. He captained the Hoops to the title with five games to go and raised the Scottish Cup aloft on May 7 with one league game left to play on the Tuesday night at Fir Park. On May 10, 1977, Motherwell took a 2-0 half-time lead but 20-year-old Tommy Burns pulled one back on the hour mark and in the 69th minute it was Dalglish who equalised with his 167th and last goal in his 320th and last game for the Hoops. He had achieved everything he wanted to in Scotland as a Celtic player, and now he was looking for new challenges and different horizons.
He had achieved everything he wanted to in Scotland as a Celtic player, and now he was looking for new challenges and different horizons.
LIVERPOOL’S No.7 On August 9, 1977, in a friendly at Dunfermline, Celtic wore a badge on the Hoops for the first time ever and Jock Stein also watched Kenny Dalglish wear a Celtic badge for the first and last time. The next day he moved to Liverpool in a British record £440,000 deal. To add to his medal haul with Celtic, in the red of Liverpool he lifted six championships, two FA Cups, four League Cups, seven Charity Shields and three European Cups as well as one UEFA Super Cup with Liverpool. In management with Liverpool he won three championships, two FA Cups, one League Cup (in his second spell) and four Charity Shields. As boss at Blackburn Rovers he won the championship before taking up the post of manager at Newcastle United. He also returned to Celtic with John Barnes and was in charge of the team when the Hoops lifted the League Cup in 2000.
320 CELTIC CAREER APPEARANCES League: 204, Scottish Cup: 30, League Cup: 59, Europe: 27
167 CELTIC CAREER GOALS League: 112, Scottish Cup: 11, League Cup: 35, Europe: 9
9 CELTIC CAREER MAJOR HONOURS League Titles: 4, Scottish Cup: 4 , League Cup: 1
Date of Birth
4 March 1951
4-2 v Hamilton (A) on 25 Sept 1968
Signed For Celtic
4 May 1967
"Celtic was a marvellous place to be. Everyone was so committed to success"