The date that all loyal Belfast Celtic supporters will want to remember is 29th May, 1949. For on this day, when Celtic beat the mighty Scottish International side, soccer history was made and recorded forever. To add to the glory, Scotland, dubbed 'the wonder team of 1949', had won the Home International Championship in that same year and were totally confident of victory in front of 15,000 spectators in the American Triboro Stadium. And the Scots must have believed that this Belfast Celtic team who had been replaced in the Irish League a mere two days previously by Crusaders, would be a despondent side incapable of standing against the Home International Champions.
As usual Celtic played with their traditional spirit and determination and their hard-working defence kept the Scottish shots down to a minimum. However, when Celtic got the ball up front they were able to put pressure on the opposing defence, so much so that Johnny Campbell managed to score twice thanks to defensive errors. The Scottish 'wonder team' for this match was: Brown, Govan, Young, Evans, Telfer, Cox, Waddell, Redpath, Thorriton, Steele and McKenzie.
The New York Times, covering the big game was impressed and surprised by Celtic's win. This is how they saw the Belfast defence: 'This trio (McAlinden, McMillan and Aherne) combined to turn in one of the most outstanding defensive performances here in years. Both full-backs gave the Irish tender plenty of support throughout, but it was McAlinden who captured the fancy of the crowd with his breathtaking saves.'
Scotland pressed forward in vain until the twenty-seventh minute 'when suddenly the play changed as McMillan gained possession and booted upfield. Two more long kicks brought the ball in front of the Scot's goalie and Campbell headed the ball past Jim Brown's outstretched fingers after receiving a pass from Tom Dorman.'
Then Celtic scored a second 'when Robin Lawlor's throw-in from the corner went right to goalie Brown. But the latter fumbled the ball and before he could retrieve it, Campbell tore through to make a successful boot.'
Johnny Campbell was born in Derry and played for the local club first. He had a comparatively short period at Celtic but scored a number of goals, both on the right wing and in the centre, most of which were largely due to his speed. He went to Fulham, but a serious operation ended his career, and he returned to Belfast as a scout for the same club. The highlight of his footballing days must surely be his two goals against Scotland, but he was also one of the few players to earn praise from the great maestro himself, Stanley Matthews, who watched him from the stands of Celtic Park. Sadly, he died in January, 1968.
So Belfast Celtic, a team without a league, went into the history books, and when the Americans tried to persuade the Scottish officials to play Celtic in a return game there they issued a firm refusal. The Scots complained that football should never have been played on such a hard and uneven pitch and that the Scottish team were not match fit. The Celtic officials did not need to reply, for the players did their talking on the pitch leaving no room for question. Celtic returned to Belfast on 2 1 st June, and, needless to say, they were enthusiastically received. They had been good ambassadors!"
From Belfast Celtic by Mark Tuohy