Johnny Doyle was born in the small town of Uddingston in North Lanarkshire on the 11th May 1951. The same birthplace of Lisbon Lion Jinky Johnstone and surely an inspiration to a Young Celtic daft Johnny Doyle. Doyle showed much promise from an early age in the junior teams which won him a move from Viewpark boys club to Ayr United in 1970 at the age of 18. An outside right of vintage ilk that liked to get up and down the touchline,never shy of the tackle and a consistent performer. 1975 saw Johnny Doyle earn his first and last cap for Scotland, against Romania in a 1-1 draw in a European qualifier. What was it with players in hoops and Scotland caps in this era? Baffling.
Johnny’s consistency and no nonsense temperament saw him catch the eye of Arsenal, Aberdeen and his bhoy hood heroes in hoops. Doyle knew where he was going but Ayr United rejected Celtics £50k bid and held out for £90k and a transfer record for Celtic at that time. On 15th March 1976 Johnny Doyle was up from the crack of dawn and eager to make his way to Glasgow airport to sign for Celtic football club. The meeting point was arranged as Celtic flew out for a European Cup Winners Cup tie against East German opposition in the form of Sachsenring Zwickau. His dream came true and once said he would be happy to sit on the bench as long as it was in the colours of Celtic.
One of the most memorable moments in Doyle’s Celtic career would also be hilarious. Away to his old club Ayr and with Celtic on the attack the ball was sent across to Johnny and the ref blew for a handball. With momentum he struck the ball for a cross into the box with the referee’s big rubber head in the way, it hit him hard on the coupon and knocked him out and required treatment. When the ref came round he astonishingly showed Johnny Doyle a red card much to his displeasure and he let the ref know. The card would later be rescinded but it was well worth it for the story alone.
Johnny Doyle would have no problem with anyone saying he wasn’t the most gifted player in the world but he gave his all in the hoops and with determination and grit with commitment he would dribble the wing when he could supplying the assists for goals. In the 1979 title run in Johnny fairly played his part by scoring a goal against Dundee United on April 28th to keep Celtic on track for the league title. As May rolled in Celtic would entertain rangers for a title decider where only a win would do and played out with no cameras due to a BBC strike and Celtic fans believed was no coincidence. It was this special game that coined the phrase “Ten men won the league” and of course yer man Doyle would be the other man that was sent off with the huns 1-0 up. In typical Celtic fighting fashion the sleeves were rolled up and came back to win 4-2 to ecstatic scenes of bedlam and another league title in the bag. Tommy Burns recalled the hysteria in the dressing room with jubilant team mates celebrating madly but Johnny Doyle sitting on the bench to the side, roaring his eyes out and saying “I let the team down. I let yeez down.” He bled Celtic.
Ten men would prevail again in January of 1980 at a cup tie against St Mirren at Love Street and thought to be Johnny Doyle’s best game for Celtic. The place was electric that night with 27,000 in attendance and supposedly another 5,000 locked outside and those who were in attendance got a cracker of a game with the Buddies drawing first blood. Tom McAdam for Celtic saw a controversial red for a tackle on Frank McDougall who would soon be carried out of the game after Danny McGrain fixed his wagon. Doyle equalised and St Mirren took the lead again before Johnny won the penalty that Bobby Lennox would convert, 2-2. Extra time saw two tired sets of players contesting a hard fought game and Celtic competing for every ball with only 10 men for most of the game. Suddenly Doyle picked the ball up on the halfway line and with an exuberant burst of energy he got up into the St Mirren box to cooly round Billy Thompson and slot away the goal for Celtic to progress.
A couple of months later and Celtic in their first European cup quarterfinal since 1974 would host Spanish royalty with Real Madrid. Real took the pitch wearing a full royal blue strip that only riled the hoops to get fired up at the sight of the colour of their city rivals. The crowd that night moved, breathed, booed and sang as one the whole game and the 12th man was in attendance. George McCluskey gave Celtic the lead and had another harshly chopped off and Doyle who was playing up front was having a particularly quiet game. In 74 minutes Johnny Doyle rose between two Madrid defenders to catch the ball beautifully on his head to loop over the top of the Spanish keeper to make it 2-0. The 12th man went home in fine voice that night and had gotten every penny worth their £2 entrance fee.
The Scottish Cup Semi Final would see Celtic paired with Hibernian and the Bhoys in Green and White absolutely mauled the Edinburgers 5-0 and Doyle would contribute with a goal. Bring on the huns in the final.
Johnny Doyle lined up in the Hampden sun wearing the number 8 shorts, strangely enough, against his old adversaries and whose fans never forgot how he blessed himself at Ibrox a few years before when Ayr United beat them. It was a tight game and Doyle was subbed for Bobby Lennox and Johnny went ballistic, shouting and throwing his arms about and letting McNeill know his displeasure as he reached the bench. All was forgiven and forgotten as George McCluskey scored in extra time to win another Scottish Cup for the ‘Tic. Both teams had to run for the tunnel as both sets of fans spilled onto the pitch and a battle ensued. Cue the polis mounted on horses and weilding batons. This game went into the history books as ‘The Hampden Riots’ and saw a change in the law where alcohol was banned from all football grounds in the U.K.
19th of October 1981 saw the demise of Johnny Doyle, Celtic Football Club player and fan. Johnny was working on electrics in his trophy room at home in Kilmarnock when he was electrocuted and died at the young age of 30 years old. Leaving behind his wife and 3 year old daughter Joanna, family and a heartbroken Celtic support who saw Johnny as one of their own a fan who wore the shirt with pride. Tommy Burns was his closest friend and as Pallbearer had streams of tears in his eyes when carrying the coffin of his friend into the church. A massive crowd of 2,000 marched behind the cortège to pay their respects to their hero, a friend and always CELTIC family. Before a testimonial match in the Town hall in Ipswich, Billy McNeill said “ JD was the epitome of the phrase ‘a true Celt.’”
Celtic Career: 1976-1981. P 180 G. 36
Honours with Celtic
Last goal: v Dundee Utd (Hampden) 11-04-81 SCSF