Pat McCluskey: Kenny Dalglish leads tributes to former Celtic player

Versatile defender/midfielder who played in two European Cup semi-finals dies at 68

Celtic's Pat McCluskey in action in season 1974/1975.
Celtic's Pat McCluskey in action in season 1974/1975.

Pat McCluskey, the former Celtic player who helped the club clinch three league titles in the 1970s, has died at the age of 68.

A versatile member of Jock Stein's squad, McCluskey was equally adept in defence and midfield.

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While he lacked the flair of some of his more celebrated team-mates, he was a dependable player with excellent tackling ability.

His talents were appreciated by Celtic fans and players alike and Kenny Dalglish was one of the first to pay tribute.

"Sad to hear the news about Pat McCluskey," Dalglish posted on Twitter. "Shared many happy years and many laughs with him growing up at Celtic. Fantastic company as well as a very good player. RIP Paddy. Gone but never forgotten."

Born in Kilsyth, North Lanarkshire, McCluskey was given his Celtic debut in a Glasgow Cup tie in May 1971 but enjoyed his breakthrough the following season when he played in both legs of the nailbiting European Cup semi-final against Inter Milan.

Having drawn 0-0 in the first leg at the San Siro, the return at Celtic Park was equally close and the match finished goalless after extra time. The young McCluskey stepped up to take one of the penalties in the shootout and converted but Celtic were undone by Dixie Deans' effort which sailed over the bar, allowing Inter to squeeze through 5-4.

McCluskey's penalty-taking prowess came to the fore again in the 1975 Scottish Cup final when he scored from the spot as Celtic defeated Airdrie 3-1 in what was Billy McNeill's farewell game.

McCluskey made 191 appearances for the club and scored 13 goals. He played for Scotland Under-23 but never won a full cap. He was denied full international honours due to being a member of the infamous "Copenhagen Five" group of players whose drunken pranks during an away Euro qualifier in Denmark led to the quintet being handed Scotland life bans by the SFA.

The other members of the group were Billy Bremner, Arthur Graham, Joe Harper and Willie Young. The punishment seemed draconian, and the life bans were later lifted. Graham and Harper would go to play for Scotland but it was too late for the other three.

McCluskey made up for his lack of caps with an impressive medal haul for Celtic. He was part of the side which won the Scottish league in seasons 1971-72, 1972-73 and 1973-74; the Scottish Cup finals of 1974 and 1975; and the League Cup final of 1974-75. He also played in another European Cup semi-final, against Atletico Madrid in 1974.

Pat McCluskey was a Scotland Under-23 international.

Celtic posted the following tribute: "Everyone at Celtic Football Club is saddened to hear of the death of former player, Pat McCluskey, who has passed away at the age of 68.

"During his time with the club, he won three league titles – including the season when Jock Stein’s side clinched their ninth league title in a row – two Scottish Cups and the League Cup, while he also played in the 1974 European Cup semi-final against Atletico Madrid.

"The thoughts and prayers of everyone at Celtic are with Pat’s family and friends at this very sad time."

After losing his place in the Celtic side in the 1976-77 season following the arrival of Pat Stanton from Hibs, McCluskey played for Dumbarton, Airdrie and Queen of the South, as well as a season in the United States with Pittsburgh Spirit.

Pat McCluskey celebrates after scoring a penalty for Celtic against Airdrie in the 1975 Scottish Cup final

After football, he worked on the oil rigs and became a popular matchday host at Celtic Park.

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