The Talented Mr LennoxAs I stood one damp Glasgow day looking at the statue of Jimmy Johnstone outside Celtic Park, I couldn’t help but notice his best friend from the days of glory coming out the stadium front entrance. The frame may have aged and the hair greyed but there was no mistaking this Celtic great. I shook his hand and said simply, ‘Thanks for all you did for Celtic.’ He smiled, said thanks and then looked at the statue and said, ‘That was my wee mate there, still miss him.’ I nodded and replied, ‘We all do Bobby, we all do.’
Bobby Lenox and Jimmy Johnstone were inseparable in their heyday spearheading the attack in Celtic’s finest ever side. While Jinky attracted the eye for his incredible dribbling ability and his huge capacity to take the rough play of defenders and come back for more, Lennox was absolutely lethal. He possessed a turn of speed which must rank him among the fastest players in Celtic history. It is worth remembering that while the great Henrik Larsson hit 242 goals for Celtic in a glittering spell at the club, Lennox scored 273. Indeed, this would probably have been in excess of 300 if it wasn’t for the decisions of linesmen who wrongly flagged him offside on many occasions when his sheer speed had fooled them. The classic example of this was his ‘goal’ against Liverpool which was wrongly disallowed costing Celtic a place in the Cup Winners Cup Final. Only the legendary Jimmy McGrory scored more goals for Celtic than Bobby Lennox.
‘The Scotsman who gave me the most trouble was Bobby Lennox of Celtic. My Testimonial at the Bernabeu was against Celtic as they were Champions of Europe in 1967 and although I remember the Bernabeu rising to Jimmy Johnstone, I admired Lennox greatly.’
Manchester United Legend and no mean judge of a player, Bobby Charlton, came up against Lennox for England and in friendly matches and was duly impressed. He said…
‘If I had Lennox in my team, I could have played forever. He was one of the best strikers I’ve ever seen.’
Bobby Lennox arrived at Celtic Park from Ardeer Recreation FC in the dark days of 1961. Celtic were struggling badly and Manager Jimmy McGrory added the pacy teenager to a reserve team which contained many of the men who would go on conquer Europe a few years later. All of that seemed far away as Celtic struggled to match the powerful Rangers, Hearts and Dundee teams of the era but of course all of that was to change with the arrival of Jock Stein. He moulded the so called ‘Kelly Kids’ into a powerful attacking force which went on to become the greatest club side in Scottish history. It is testimony to Lennox that he was there throughout Stein’s reign and won an astonishing 11 league championships with the club. Stein used his pace on the flanks to great effect and brought out the best in a talented and supremely fit footballer.
As I watched him walking towards his car that day outside Celtic Park, some of the younger Celtic fans walked past him without a second glance not recognising this Celtic great. The older generation though don’t forget their heroes. From the quick smile to the ‘Alright Bobby’ or handshake, they let this Celtic great know that they’ll never forget his achievements. Yes, he played with some great players but he was among the best of them. He was also a decent and fair man who was hardly ever booked in a long and glorious career despite taking a lot of stick.
We won’t forget your wee mate but trust me Bobby we won’t forget your contribution to Celtic either.
Bobby Lennox. Celtic Great.