Born: 10 March 1923; Died: 22 December 2012.
George Hazlett, who has died aged 89, was a real Scottish footballer – a tricky winger whose career spanned the British Isles, playing for the Navy, guesting for Plymouth Argyle during the war and then continuing at Glasgow Celtic, Belfast Celtic, Bury, Cardiff City and finally Millwall.
He was born in Pollokshaws, Glasgow, a miner's son, brother to Francis, Cathie, John and Helen. He was attached to Celtic from the age of 17, a product of St Mary's Boys Club which was a rich source of talent for the club. He made his first team debut in 1945 substituting for Jimmy Delaney who was playing for Scotland against Wales. Celtic asked permission from the Navy for Hazlett to be available for the Celts and he was flown in from Scapa Flow. The game was against Motherwell; Celtic won 3-0 victory.
After the war, Plymouth Argyle were keen for Hazlett to continue his football career with them, although he wanted to return to Glasgow and play for the team he had supported since his childhood. He was signed full-time for Celtic by Jimmy McStay and his second debut was at Ibrox in front of 85,000 fans who were attending the Ne'erday Old Firm clash in 1947. Hazlett scored the opener in a 1-1 draw and this was a personal highlight in his playing career.
Unfortunately a serious leg injury curtailed his Celtic career and he was signed by the "Grand Old Team" Belfast Celtic in 1948. This was a cataclysmic season in Belfast Celtic's history. Hazlett played in the Boxing Day match against Linfield which ended when a mob attacked and seriously injured Celtic legend Jimmy Jones.
Belfast Celtic disbanded at the end of that season after sailing to the USA for a 10-match tour. During that tour Belfast Celtic had a historic 2-0 victory over Scotland, a game which Hazlett unfortunately missed with an ankle injury. He played and scored in Belfast Celtic's last ever Irish League match, a 4-3 victory over Cliftonville on the 21st April 1949.
Hazlett then moved back to the mainland where he played for Bury, Cardiff and Millwall. The dockers at Millwall were enthusiastic and sometimes intimidating supporters, but liked their football and insisted their players were totally committed. Hazlett fitted the bill and played five seasons for The Lions and had many great memories, including victories over Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. Millwall also knocked Newcastle, the FA Cup holders, out of the competition 2-1 in front of a record crowd of 48,000.
Hazlett set up home in South London with his wife Shirley, and their children Lynne and John. He became a PE teacher and then an education welfare officer for the Inner London Education Authority.
Initially living in New Cross, he maintained his love for football by taking his FA coaching badges at Lilleshall in the company of coaching giants Malcolm Allison and Bobby Robson. He continued coaching local youth and senior teams into his late 70s. As he said many times: "I was brought up in Glasgow and all I ever wanted to do was kick a ball."
Latterly, Hazlett and his wife moved to Farnborough in Kent, still only a train stop from Millwall, and welcomed a grandson, Oliver, into their lives. Visiting Hazlett was always a great experience with photos, mementoes and stories about Bury, Cardiff and Millwall , but the two grand old teams – Belfast and Glasgow Celtic –- were always close to his heart. Generations of family and friends loved to visit the Hazletts in London.
One of his proudest moments was in 2001 when, along with other Belfast Celtic legends, he was invited to meet Martin O'Neill to celebrate the book launch of Paradise Lost and Found: the History of Belfast Celtic. Hazlett was introduced to the Celtic fans at half-time and noted how lucky players are today to play in front of fantastic fans, in a brilliant stadium and to be handsomely paid for the privilege.
He is survived by his wife Shirley and family, Lynne and Stuart, John and Jill and grandson Oliver.
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