Bobby Lennox was born in Quay Street, Saltcoats, on 30 August 1943 and enjoyed a colourful and happy childhood by the sea and, during his free time, there was always a ball at his feet. His father was a bookmaker with a love of football and regularly took Bobby to Junior matches and to see his beloved Celtic play. Bobby attended St Mary’s School in Saltcoats and then moved on to St Michael’s college in Irvine. Bobby enjoyed a long and happy footballing history, through boys teams, amateur, junior, senior and international level in Scotland, and even an American adventure. Here’s Bobby’s story of his lifelong love of the game.
Bobby never played for his primary school football team after being put off by being left behind by bigger boys on the team when he was 8 years old. A few years later, one Saturday morning, Bobby went to Auchenharvie Park to watch friends play in a match between St John’s and Saltcoats Scouts. Bobby was asked to play for the Scouts, who were a man short. Frank Quinn, who ran St John’s, asked Bobby to join their team and he soon also joined the St Michael’s school team and began his football journey. Bobby refused to let his father watch him play, but he would hide and watch from a distance.
Amateurs and Juniors
In his mid teens, Bobby played for a team called Star of the Sea, a team that his brothers and cousins played for. From Star of the Sea, he moved to an Ayrshire amateur team, and the scouts began to show interest. Bobby made his move in to junior football with Ardeer Recreational, a team run by ICI. While playing for Ardeer several professional clubs were taking an interest in Bobby. He had a trial for Blackpool and for Chelsea. Motherwell, St Mirren and Falkirk Morton were interested and Bobby was almost tempted by Kilmarnock.
Start with Celtic
One Saturday afternoon in 1961, on his way off the pitch after a 4-1 defeat by Shettleston, Joe Connors, Celtic’s chief scout approached Bobby to sign for Celtic. Bobby knew that this was the right team for him and signed his provisional papers soon after. In early September 1961, Bobby and his dad went up to Glasgow and were delighted to meet Jimmy McGrory, the Celtic manager. Bobby started training at Celtic Park and in September 1961, made his debut for the reserve team, when they beat Falkirk 2-0 in front of a couple of thousand fans, a crowd such as Bobby had never played for before. In March 1962, Bobby travelled to Glasgow to meet the reserve team for a bite to eat before their match, only to be told he was to play with the first team instead that day. He would play at Celtic Park against Dundee that afternoon. Bobby was called to go full time at the start of the 62-63 season and could apply himself fully to football, and he more regularly appeared in the first team.
Bobby was part of the famous Lisbon Lions Celtic Team that won the European Cup in 1967 in Lisbon, where they defeated Inter Milan. The Celtic Team arrived at the National Stadium about 50 minutes before kick off. They changed and came out of the tunnel to a huge roar from the crowd and the game began. The first goal went to Inter, after a penalty. But Celtic were the faster, better team on the day, and Inter were complacent. Celtic Equalised at 63 minutes and scored again five minutes from time and Bobby thought the Italian team looked really tired then, and had nothing left to offer. He was right, and it was Celtic’s victory. The final whistle went and hundreds of people swarmed on to the park from the terraces, making the on pitch celebrations short, as the players ran for the tunnel. The winners medals were distributed to the team as they celebrated later that day in a restaurant in Lisbon as the players had exited the pitch before they could be presented with them. The team arrived at Abbotsinch Airport on the afternoon of 26 May and people cheered on every corner from there to Celtic Park and the ground was mobbed. They paraded around the park on the back of a lorry accompanied by a marching band and by roars and cheers from their stadium full of fans.
By the 1975/76 season Bobby was the last of the Lisbon Lions playing for Celtic, but he played almost every match that season. When he broke his leg in late 1976, he was written off by the media as finished in football but he trained and rested and got back in the game. Bobby got the opportunity to go to America to play for the Houston Hurricane in 1978 His Debut for the Hurricane was against the Los Angeles Aztecs and the Hurricane won after extra time and a shootout. The team were so new that they didn’t have a set of strips and were fined for playing in their training gear. The team played 15 home and 15 away games that season and Bobby’s family enjoyed their time in Texas while Bobby played his one season there. On his return, he was surprised to be asked to return to Celtic for a short spell, playing his last Celtic match in 1980, before taking the position of coach for Celtic’s reserve team for a time. Bobby still lives in Saltcoats and remains an avid follower of Celtic and of junior football in the area.