Celtic’s reserve side of the late 1980s has turned into an unexpected recruiting ground for Strathclyde Police.
Bobby Lennox’s exciting side never quite produced players for the Celtic first team but most of the squad enjoyed a decent career in the game… before joining the boys in blue.
Stevie Fulton, Raymond McStay and Davie Elliot had a lot to offer in midfield, up front there was Gerry Creaney, Gerry Britton and Alex Mathie scoring goals for fun with the defence usually featuring Stuart Balmer and John Traynor.
Lex Baillie broke through to be become a member of the Centenary double winning side with Andy Murdoch third choice keeper behind Pat Bonner and Allen McKnight.
From that starry eyed group of young hopefuls three of their number are now pounding the streets cracking down on Bucky drinkers or flying about in cars looking for punters using their mobile phones.
Step forward Sargent Baillie, PC Elliot, Sargent Murdoch and roll the clock forward a bit to PC Jamie McQuilken who played for Celtic under Tommy Burns before joining Dundee United.
It was quite a shock to discover that Elliot was now pounding the beat- an even bigger shock that life as a polis in Possilpark could be so enjoyable- for the midfielder turned full-back who almost made the elusive breakthrough at Celtic.
“I’ve been in the police now for 10 years,” he smiled as I asked what he was doing with himself. “I’m working in a lovely part of Glasgow called Possilpark which keeps me in touch with reality.
“Fifteen years ago I’d have said ‘no chance’ of me being in the police, it would have been the last job on earth that I wanted to do.
“I didn’t intend following Lexie, he wanted to be a police officer since he was 4-year-old. Football came along first, he got shoved into it which was a terrible decision!
“As soon as Lexxie finished playing he wanted to join the police, he talked me into it, he said I should go for it, being in the police offers you the security that football can’t.
“I’m counting down the clock till I’m 55 and can retire to the tennis courts. Hopefully by then I’ll have been able to beat Andy Walker, he’s a serve and volleyer and I just can’t manage to get the better of him.”
Elliot got his chance in the first team towards the end of the 1988/89 season where the defence of the championship had folded with the Scottish Cup offering the opportunity to stop Rangers clinching the domestic treble.
On a glorious afternoon at sunny Hampden Joe Miller took advantage of some generosity from Gary Stevens to stick the ball past Chris Woods and settle the cup for Celtic.
The relief and thrill of winning the trophy was immense but no one could have guessed that the next six years were to be trophyless as the club went through managers like away strips before Pierre van Hooijdonk ended the drought with the winning goal against Airdrie in the 1995 Final.
Elliot started in the two games leading upto the 89 Cup Final and admitted that there was a tinge of regret that he had to watch the Hampden action from the stand.
He added: “I was involved in the matches up to the 1989 Scottish Cup Final and was hoping to get a place on the bench but there was only two subs in those days.
“I got a few games, I felt I’d did well and might keep my place but Stevie Fulton was on the bench, if he hadn’t got injured in the semi-final he could have been playing.
“It was hard to put aside my personal disappointment, usually after a win like that I’d have been out celebrating with my mates but that night I was on a bit of a downer because I’d missed out on the final.
“But I’ve absolutely no regrets, I loved every minute of my time at Celtic. We had a great reserve side, I played with lots of good players but the highlight was my first start for Celtic.
“I scored but it was chopped off for offside. It was a shocking mistake, I show everyone the video and no-one can believe it was offside- to this day I’ll claim it.
“There’s a picture of me running away, celebrating my goal then two minutes later I was in tears but I treasure that picture.”
Elliot moved on to Partick Thistle but the Celtic connections continued throughout his career.
A double deal took him to St Mirren with Chic Charnley where he played alongside Paul Lambert before moving on to Falkirk and Hibs where he got pally with John Hughes.
When he’s not lifting punters in Possilpark or enjoying tennis at Whitecraigs Elliot is more likely to be found catching up with some of the players that he teamed up with during his playing days.
“I’m not really in touch with many of my old Celtic team-mates but I like turning out at the Masters or charity events,” he added.
“I’ll get along to a few Celtic games this season but I’m looking forward to going down to see Norwich play, Paul Lambert is a good friend and it’s good to see him progressing.
“I’ve been along to Hibs a few times to see Yogi, we played together at Hibs and he’s a bit of a character as well!
“I had to chuck the game at 30 through injury, I knew that it was coming and joining the police was probably one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made.
“There’s no security on football, I’ve got that in the police and that’s important for my girlfriend and kids.
“I loved my time playing the game but I enjoy my job now as well, maybe I’ve got something to thank Lex Baillie for after all!”