Clearly one of the most remarkable football players of all time is Jimmy Delaney. He is known of course nowadays as the grandfather of John Kennedy, Celtic's talented defender currently recovering from a dreadful knee injury. But who was this man, Jimmy Delaney, and what did he achieve? His achievements are 305 appearances for Celtic between 1934 and 1946 (sadly so many of them in unofficial wartime competitions), two Scottish League winners medals, one Scottish Cup winners medal, one Empire Exhibition Trophy medal, one Glasgow Cup medal, three Glasgow Charity Cup medals and 13 Scottish Caps. All right, one may say, that is not all that impressive. Other players (of inferior quality) could be adduced with better records, but Delaney's record is only half the story. Jimmy is unique in that he won a Cup winners medal in Scotland , England and Northern Ireland with Celtic in 1937, Manchester United in 1948 and Derry City in 1954. He also almost did the same in the Southern Ireland Cup, but his team Cork Athletic were beaten by Shamrock Rovers in the Final of 1956. Jimmy also played for Aberdeen , Falkirk and Elgin City . And yet he was a very unfortunate player. On April 1 st 1939, with the Germans already in Prague and casting covetous eyes on Poland, in a League game against Arbroath, Jimmy suffered not so much a breaking of the arm as a shattering and splintering of the bone, as he fell and was inadvertently trodden upon by Arbroath's Attilio Becchi. Becchi, unashamedly Celtic daft and enlisted in the British Army in spite of his Italian origins, would be distraught in the war years about his part in that cruellest of injuries, confessing to my father that he wished he could play time over again and avoid the Jimmy Delaney whom he adored. This broken arm (amputation was considered at one point) kept Jimmy out of football for two years, but he didn't really miss much as Celtic floundered in the war years. But he was playing again by 1941, and indeed throughout the rest of the war, often the only bright light in an otherwise depressing spectrum. In the same way as Patsy Gallacher was the talk of the trenches in 1914-18, it was Jimmy Delaney who warmed many a heart in Africa , Italy or the High Seas. And how appropriate it was that it was Jimmy Delaney who restored heart to a war ravaged nation when he scored his famous last minute winner for Scotland against England in the Victory International of April 1946! Jimmy's great years for Celtic had been from 1934 to 1939. On the right wing, it was clear that Maley had once again turned up trumps. Delaney was fast, direct, could cross and had the disconcerting ability to cut inside a defender and charge into the box. He could also take a goal. Perhaps his most famous goal-scoring exploit was the hat-trick he scored against Rangers in the Final of the Glasgow Charity Cup in 1936. Delaney was surprised that Maley didn't greet him with more enthusiasm. “Don't let that go to your head”, growled Maley. Celtic won the League in 1936 and 1938, each time playing superb football and delighting the hearts even of non-Celtic fans by their brilliant ability to switch position. Delaney, Buchan (or MacDonald), Crum, Divers and Murphy were one of the best forward lines in the history of the Club – and there were many competitors for that claim. In 1937, Celtic won the Scottish Cup, 146,433 (and a lot more) seeing Delaney inspiring Celtic to beat Aberdeen only a week after a similar crowd had seen Delaney inspire Scotland to do the same against England . And then in 1938 came the Empire Exhibition Trophy. ”Fetch a polis man, Everton's getting murdered” was the cry in the Final at Ibrox as Jimmy roasted the Everton defence. In February 1946, Celtic's chaotic management allowed the 31-year old to go to Manchester United, but he still had ten years football left in him! The winning of the FA Cup against Blackpool in 1948 was obviously a highlight of his career, but he would always look in the evening paper to see the Celtic result, or ask the Old Trafford backroom staff to listen to the radio. In this he was hardly discouraged by Matt Busby, who had a similar problem in that Busby too suffered from the endogenous and terminal condition called being “Celtic daft”. Indeed how galling it was in these awful days of the late 1940s to think that Old Trafford had two of the most Celtic daft people on the planet, who would have done anything for a return to the ground they loved! In 1950, Delaney returned to Scotland , to Aberdeen , and it was because of Jimmy Delaney, now almost completely bald (he had been shedding hair even before the war) that Aberdeen were always given a warm and affectionate welcome at Parkhead. He then moved to Falkirk , where the Celtic crowd once famously turned on their full back Frank Meechan for fouling the great Jimmy. He then went to Ireland before finishing up with Elgin City . But he was never anything other than Jimmy Delaney of Celtic, nor would he ever wish to be. In similar fashion to Jimmy Quinn of old, Jimmy Delaney remained until his death in 1989 the modest, unassuming old Celt that everyone would have wanted him to be. He was also renowned as a very chivalrous and gentlemanly player – a great role model for children and he once, when invited to present the prizes as a School Sports Day, told the children, “Better to be a Champion Sport, than a Sports' Champion”. His son Pat Delaney played for Motherwell in the 1960s, and as we have said, his grandson John Kennedy (who has been similarly cursed by serious injury as his illustrious grandfather was) will, we hope, don the green and white Hoops for Celtic once again and restore for the Delaney family of Cleland the glory that is due for such an outstanding Celtic tradition.
On August 18th 1934 Jimmy Delaney made his Celtic first team debut in a league encounter at Hearts. The match finished goalless, but it had been an exciting spectacle and one in which Delaney had made a pleasing contribution. A Celtic team going through a period of transition would suffer inconsistent form for much of the following months. Nevertheless, the performances of Delaney were a cause for optimism for the Parkhead faithful.
An exciting old-fashioned winger, Jimmy was not only blessed with both pace and skill but was as brave and hardworking as anyone who has stepped onto a football pitch.
He quickly won a place in the hearts of the Celtic support with displays which coupled his thrilling (if raw) ability to a never say die attitude.
Although he could be over-wed by the pressence of his more illustrious team-mates Jimmy relished life at Celtic. He loved the club and his pride in wearing the Hoops was impossible to disguise. In 1935 Jimmy attended the funeral of Tom Maley and as a Celtic shirt was draped over the coffin young Delaney earnestly remarked: "I hope that they will do that for me."