Inside-forward who shone for Celtic in the 1950s and 60s and was unlucky not to be picked for Scotland

His displays induced one reporter to suggest that fans might be prompted to forget about Denis Law

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The Independent Online

Anyone who played more than 200 times and compiled a century of goals for Celtic in the modern era would be swamped with medals and, in all probability, would possess an extensive collection of international caps.

But that was not the case for John Divers, who enjoyed his Parkhead pomp in the late 1950s and first half of the 1960s, a period of frustrating underachievement for the Bhoys, shortly before the great Jock Stein guided them to European glory and domestic dominance.

Yet despite garnering no major club honour, nor representing his country at the top level, the talented, self- deprecating Divers – his surname rhymed with rivers – generated immense warmth and respect among the Celtic community and in the wider Scottish game alike.

This was due partly to the creative inside-forward’s courage in overcoming the handicap of a blood-flow problem that reduced his pace and prompted a surgeon to inform him, when he was 20, that he had the legs of a 70-year-old. Massage kept him going, but it was remarkable that he should be so industrious, charging around on quagmires that brought ostensibly fitter men to a standstill, and that he should pack such a booming shot, which brought him plenty of long-distance goals.

Arguably the most pleasing of Divers’ gifts were his perceptive, imaginative passing and his deft ball control Left-sided, and therefore usually deployed at inside-left, he was capable of filling any attacking position, his unfailing enthusiasm and admirable discipline completing the picture of a very fine footballer.

Divers’ father, also John and another prolific inside-forward, had shone for the club before the war, and his great-uncle was Patsy Gallacher, one of the most revered of all Parkhead heroes, who filled the same role from 1911 to 1926. John Jnr was recruited as a 16-year-old in 1956, scored on his senior debut in November 1957, earned a regular berth during the following campaign and mostly retained it until midway through the next decade.

However, for Celtic it was an era of ineffective management, which precluded silverware. Still, Divers was outstanding in 1961-62, inducing one writer to declare that his form might prompt fans to forget Denis Law. He was part of several international squads without playing, though there were three appearances and four goals for the Scottish League.

His lack of club medals was slightly mitigated by his opening strike in a 4-0 away win over Dundee United on the opening day of 1965-66, the season Celtic lifted the first of nine consecutive titles. Poignantly, he did not make enough appearances to collect a medal. In the summer of 1966, 26 but struggling for fitness under demanding new manager Stein, Divers joined Partick Thistle. He retired in 1969, teaching economics for 30 years.

John Divers, footballer and teacher: born Clydebank 8 March 1940; played for Celtic 1956-66, Partick Thistle 1966-69; married (two sons); died 23 September 2014.

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