HE MADE scoring a goal in the Scottish Premier League look like child’s play. Now an 11-year-old boy with Down’s Syndrome has left the nation’s finest strikers flat-footed by winning the Scottish Premiership Goal of the Month award.
Jay Beatty, from Lurgan in County Armagh, scored the winning goal during a half-time visit on to the pitch at Celtic’s recent victory over Hamilton Academical at New Douglas Park.
Jay, a devoted Celtic fan, and his father Martin were special guests of the North Lanarkshire club and the schoolboy was invited to try his hand – or foot – at putting the ball into the back of the net during a half-time penalty competition.
The goal was then shortlisted for the Scottish Premiership Goal of the Month award for January and was picked by 97 per cent of the thousands of football fans who cast their votes.
The announcement of Jay’s triumph was made on YouTube by the child’s hero, the former Celtic striker Georgios Samaras.
He sent a message from Saudi Arabia, where he now plays for the Al-Hilal club, to say: “Jay my friend, you and me we’re the same now, scoring goals. I’m very happy to announce you won the goal of the month. Well done pal, great job. I miss you and I love you.”
The friendship between Jay and Samaras began when the then Celtic player spotted him in the stands and plucked him out to take part in the team’s celebrations when they lifted the Scottish Premiership trophy last year.
The Celtic manager at the time, Neil Lennon, also gifted Jay his winners’ medal.
Jay then became an internet hit last summer when he was seen on social media sites cheering on Greece, for whom Samaras was playing, in their match against Costa Rica during the World Cup. The video was popular in Greece where football fans started a campaign to send Jay and his dad to Brazil to see Samaras in action.
Greek fans created a page on Facebook called “O Jay PAEI Mundial” – “Jay goes to the World Cup” – to encourage the Greek Football Federation to cover the cost of sending Jay to the next group match.
Unfortunately the phone call from the Greek team inviting father and son came just as the family were stepping on the plane to head off on their summer holidays. At the time Jay released a video to say: “Thanks Sammy I hope you win the World Cup. I am sorry I won’t be there but I still love you very much and I hope you win. Come on Sammy!”
Martin Beatty, who regularly travels with Jay to watch Celtic, said of his son’s recent triumph: “Jay is just over the moon. His mum sat him down in front of the TV this morning and he thought he was going to watch some Celtic goals, so he wasn’t expecting it.
“It’s unbelievable that people would do this for him – sometimes I just feel like crying.
“When you have a former Celtic manager in Neil Lennon calling to congratulate him, Georgios Samaras, a Greek international footballer making the announcement, people like Paolo Nutini tweeting about it, and then tens of thousands of people in Glasgow and around the world doing the same it is just so touching. It is just very humbling.”
During Jay’s visit in January to watch Celtic take on Hamilton at New Douglas Park, he not only demonstrated his football skills but also his ability at team motivation as he was able to give a pre-match team talk to the Celtic players in the away dressing room.
Dad Martin said: “Jay stood in front of 20 professional players and gave off about their previous performances and said they needed to buck up their ideas. It seemed to work a treat.”
When Samaras was previously asked about his friendship with Jay he said: “This boy gives me so much strength, it’s incredible. There are no words. I feel his love so much. This love I feel, is also felt by many people in Greece.”
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