Obituary: Joe McBride (1938-2012)

The former Scotland international, a squad member of Celtic's famous European Cup-winning Lisbon Lions team, has passed away at the age of 74
By Ronan Murphy

Former Scotland and Celtic striker Joe McBride has died at the age of 74 after suffering a suspected stroke.

Born on June 10th, 1938 in Govan, Glasgow, McBride grew up just a few hundred yards from Ibrox Park, the home of Rangers. He played for nine clubs during a 25-year career in football, lining out for Kilmarnock, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Luton Town, Partick Thistle, Motherwell, Celtic, Hibernian, Dunfermline Athletic, and Clyde, as well as representing the Scottish Football League XI on four occasions.

As a striker he made his name as a goalscorer, and is the third highest post-war goalscorer in the Scottish Football League. His goalscoring prowess earned him two Scottish caps, both coming during the 1967 British Home Championship, as Scotland lifted the title for the 28th time.

McBride started his career at Kilmarnock as a 15-year-old, scoring 24 times in 57 games before being sold to Wolves for £12,500 in 1959. However, he left Molineux without playing a first-team game, to join Luton Town where he established himself as a regular starter. This earned a return to Scotland in 1960 with Partick, and then to Motherwell where he became a fan favourite with 51 goals in 88 league games.  

McBride was Motherwell's top scorer for 3 consecutive seasons, attracting the attention of Celtic manager Jock Stein who splashed out £22k for the striker in 1965. In his first season at Parkhead, McBride was the joint highest scorer in the Scottish League, hitting the net 31 times to finish level with Dunfermline's Alex Ferguson and lift the title for the Hoops. The local hero had an astonishing record at Celtic, scoring 54 goals in 55 league games, and being part of the squad who lifted the 1967 European Cup final. Unfortunately, McBride was ruled out of the Lisbon Lions' triumph as he had suffered a serious knee injury in mid-season.

The injury kept the striker out for almost a year, but on his return, he scored a hat-trick against Morton. However, due to the length of his recovery, McBride found himself out of the Celtic first team, and moved to Hibs in 1968, scoring on his debut against Rangers. He hit 44 goals for the Easter Road club before moving to Dunfermline and then Clyde at the end of his playing career.

McBride became a publican after hanging up his boots, but left a long legacy in football. His son Joe followed in his footsteps, playing for a number of clubs including Everton, Hibernian, and East Fife, and is now a coach at Cardiff City.

When asked to pick his all-time Celtic XI, Bhoys legend Jimmy McGrory, who scored 395 goals in 378 league games for the club, chose McBride ahead of himself: "I have been asked to name the best Celtic centre-forward I've ever seen play and the man I choose may surprise you. He's Joe McBride. He was a tremendous header of the ball and could take a half-chance on the ground. And his heart was in the right place."

Many people have offered tribute to the striker following his death on Wednesday, with Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell saying: "The passing of Joe McBride is tragic news. Joe was a very fine man, an absolute gentleman and someone who gave tremendous service to the club over a number of years.

"It was a privilege to know Joe and it was fantastic that someone who gave so much to Celtic was still involved with the club in a number of ways - he will truly be sadly missed by everyone at Celtic. The thoughts of everyone at the club are very much with Joe’s family at this very difficult time."

Hoops boss Neil Lennon also paid tribute to the Celtic legend. "The loss of Joe is terrible news," Lennon said on the club's official website.

"It was a pleasure to be in Joe’s company and on a personal level, Joe was someone who was always very supportive to myself. I know Joe Jnr well too and on behalf of the whole management and backroom team, and the players, we offer our sincere condolences to Joe’s family, we know this will be a very difficult time for them all.

"He will be sadly missed by all and the thoughts and prayers of everyone at Celtic Football Club and the extended Celtic family are with Joe’s family at this very sad time."

Hibernian FC also offered their sympathies for the player's family. A statement on the club's official website read: "Hibernian Football Club is saddened to learn of the death of former player Joe McBride last night. He was 74. A prolific striker, McBride's association with Hibernian was brief - totalling 91 appearances in just over two years - but he made a huge impact and scored a phenomenal 58 goals.

"Our sincere thoughts are with his family at this difficult time - he left a lasting impression on our club and he will always be remembered with great affection."

Joe McBride, former Scotland international, has died aged 74.