Born: November 3, 1940;

Died: July 11, 2021.

CHARLIE Gallagher, who has died at the age of 80, was a boyhood Celtic fan who achieved every boy’s dream of playing for his team, and doing so with great distinction. According to the late Bob Crampsey, a fount of football knowledge, Charlie was a ‘much underrated player’, an opinion doubtless shared not only by Celtic fans but those of other persuasions.

In a sense he was unfortunate that he coincided at Parkhead with Bertie Auld, a similar type of player, who tended to be favoured by Jock Stein. That said, over 12 years and nearly 200 games, Gallagher claimed three League titles, a Scottish Cup and a League Cup, while his place in the club’s history is enshrined as a highly valued squad member of the Lisbon Lions.

Although not in the team which defeated the highly-fancied Inter Milan to become, in May 1967, the first British club to win the European Cup, the club always recognised his part in the success, as did his team-mates.

Gallagher played in two games en route to the Final: the second-round home tie against Nantes and the home quarter-final against Vojvodina, in which he played a crucial role. With Celtic 1-0 down from the away leg and having pulled a goal back to reach level terms, it seemed inevitable as full-time loomed that a third game would be necessary to decide the stalemate.

But in the final minute Celtic were awarded a corner, which Gallagher expertly floated high into the penalty area with radar-like precision. The ball was met powerfully by the head of onrushing skipper Billy McNeill to send the home fans into raptures – and Celtic into the semi-finals.

Altogether Gallagher played in 13 European ties, including Celtic’s debut European game against Valencia in 1962, in the Fairs Cup, and their 1964 Cup Winners’ Cup campaign, when they reached the semi-final, having defeated Basle, Dinamo Zagreb and Slovan Bratislava before losing by one goal to MTK Budapest.

He also made history as the first Scottish-born player to be capped for the Republic of Ireland, through his Donegal-born parents, winning caps against Turkey and Czechoslovakia in 1967.

Gallagher was an old-fashioned inside forward, comfortable on the ball with a wide, accurate range of passing and thunderous shot, qualities that compensated for relative lack of pace and physicality.

Gallagher first played for St John’s Boys’ Guild, in the Gorbals, and then Holyrood Senior Secondary School before joining Kilmarnock Amateurs. In 1958 he signed for junior club, Yoker Athletic, and in September that year became a provisional signing for Celtic, having been recommended by John Murphy, his former P.E. teacher and a match-day announcer at Parkhead.

He made his full professional debut as an 18-year-old on August 22, 1959, at Parkhead, in the League Cup against Raith Rovers. The Glasgow Herald report was headlined “Gallagher Shines On His First Appearance” as sportswriter Cyril Horne observed: “Not for many a day have I seen a player young or old make so many accurate long passes as Gallagher did. Raith’s defence …had a most harrowing afternoon”.

At this time success was thin on the ground for Celtic although promising individuals were coming through, well-known names such as McNeill, Auld, Pat Crerand, Jimmy Johnstone and others nicknamed the ‘Kelly Kids’, a nod to chairman Robert Kelly’s influence.

The 1961 Scottish Cup Final against Dunfermline Athletic offered the club the chance of redemption and Gallagher the first chance of a medal, but after two games in front of an aggregate crowd of 200,000, the Fifers prevailed. Success for Celtic in the Glasgow Cup the following season, when Gallagher scored twice in the final, offered a crumb of comfort.

In April 1965, shortly after the appointment of Jock Stein, Celtic brought their barren spell to an end by winning the Scottish Cup against Dunfermline, with Gallagher providing a pinpoint corner for the crucial winning headed goal by McNeill, having earlier laid on the team’s first goal in their eventual 3-2 triumph.

Six months later Gallagher won a League Cup medal against his club’s perennial rivals, Rangers, as Celtic’s fortunes improved greatly under Stein. The first of nine consecutive League titles was secured later that season, the first of three for Gallagher.

Tension reportedly grew between the manager and Gallagher, who played little towards the end of the decade. In 1970 he joined Dumbarton, for whom he played 95 games and scored 41 goals. He was an important member of the team which won the old Second Division title in 1972, bringing top-tier football to the club for the first time in fifty years. It was said that without his promptings from midfield and creative presence the ‘Sons’ may not have won the League.

After retiring in 1973 he had a spell as a scout for Celtic and later worked as a taxi driver.

Charlie remained a lifelong Celtic fan who was very popular with the club’s support, recognised by them as one of their own. The Lisbon Lion Jim Craig, a friend of his, said: “Charlie was a lovely man, a friend of everybody, there were never any bad moments with him.”

With his wife Mary he lived in Bishopbriggs. He is survived by her, their children Paul, Kieron and Claire, and several grandchildren.