Jim Craig, the dentist who played for Celtic FC and now becomes club’s ambassador

The Special One Football Club Celtic FC named Lisbon Lion Jim Craig as new club ambassador, joining legends such as Davie Hay, Tom Boyd or Roy Aitken.

Jim was part of the Lisbon Lions, Celtic FC’s most famous team in history. A legendary squad who made football history when they won the European Cup -current UEFA Champions League- in 1967 with a 2-1 victory over Inter Milan. The captain of that team, Billy McNeill, was the very first Club Ambassador. And now Jim Craig has received the baton.

Jim Craig was not the typical youngster in his era to join Celtic FC. He did it followed by student dentistry degree, and not working or the shipyards to escape and become part of the Bhoys.

He would make 209 appearances and scored six goals during seven years with the Special One Football Club. Jim Craig made his debut in October 1965 in a European Cup-Winners’ Cup tie against Dutch side, Go Ahead Deventer, and his final game in the Hoops was the 1972 Scottish Cup final against Hibernian (Celtic won 6-1).

Then he would take up dentistry on a full-time basis while enjoying a successful media career over many years. And throughout that time, he and his fellow Lisbon Lions have been much-loved by their fellow Celtic fans for everything they have done for the Club.

Jim Craig said: “It is a tremendous honour for me to be asked to become a Club Ambassador, and I want to thank the Club for making this gesture.

“I’m delighted to be joining my fellow Ambassadors, Davie Hay, Roy Aitken and Tom Boyd in representing the Club, and I’m honoured to be following my friend and fellow team-mate, Billy McNeill, who was Celtic’s first Ambassador.

Jim Craig’s nickname is ‘Cairney’. Why? It stems from a school drama on TV based in Glasgow (called “That Man Craig”) where the lead character was played by “John Cairney” and that’s been it for him ever since. Even Jock Stein used it.

The career prime for Jim Craig was inevitably the European Cup final in 1967. For him the final had some mixed memories. After just seven minutes, Jim Craig was judged to have fouled a player in the box leading to Inter Milan’s opening goal via a penalty. A very big blow and the match had only just kicked off.

From a book on ‘The Lisbon Lions’, Jim Craig recalled about that incident. Likely fearful of the vengeance from the manager, Jock came over to Jim Craig and simply threw an arm around him and said, “Don’t worry, Cairney [Craig’s nickname] that was never a penalty. Never in a million years. Don’t blame yourself. Put it behind you. Show them what you can do in the second half.”

However, the point was that at the end of the match, manager Jock Stein’s tone became much agressive to Craig: “What on earth were you thinking about at the penalty? What a stupid tackle. You almost cost us the European Cup with that daft tackle.” Jim Craig acknowledges that this was typical of the boss. “He knew the right buttons to push at the right time.” It was a definite lesson learnt.

A special story that is still unfinished as Jim Craig’s services at Celtic FC have not terminated and luckily the Hoops will have him as the newest club’s ambassador.