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William "Willie" Patrick Maley (born Newrymarker, Irelandmarker, 25 April 18682 April 1958, Glasgowmarker, Scotlandmarker) was the first manager of Celtic Football Club and one of the most successful managers in Scottish football history. He led Celtic to 30 major trophies in 43 years as manager.

Early life

Although Maley was born in Newry Barracks, where his father was a soldier in the British Army, his family moved to Scotlandmarker when he was young. As a young man, Maley was much more involved in athletics than in football, although he had played a few games for Cathcart Hazelbank Juniors in 1886 and had played with Third Lanark from later that year.

Club career

It was on a visit to the Maley home in Cathcart in December 1887 to invite his brother Tom Maley to join Celtic that Brother Walfrid and rest of the Celtic deputation first met Willie Maley (Tom was out courting his wife-to-be), and their casual invitation to Willie to also come along was perhaps the most important in Celtic's history.

In 1888, he was signed by the fledgling Celtic and became one of the club's first players as a midfielder. In 1896, he made a single appearance for Manchester City in a Second Division match against Loughborough.

International career

As a naturalized Scot , he also played for the Scottish national team, earning two caps in 1893 against England and Ireland.

Manager of Celtic

In 1897, the board of Celtic directors appointed Willie Maley, at just 29 years of age, as Secretary-Manager - the first manager - of Celtic. He won the League Championship for the club in his first full season as manager.

Maley never worked with his players in training, he watched games from the directors' box and never indulged in team talks or spoke to his players at half-time or post-match. Maley would not even announce the team: players learned if they were in or out through reading the line-up in the newspaper.

Celtic had been a buying club in their opening decade, spending heavily to bring professionals to the club. Maley decided to scrap that and rely almost entirely on recruiting youngsters fresh from junior football.

He created a young team who won six league titles in a row between 1905 and 1910 and won the first Scottish League and Scottish Cup doubles. It was the finest team in world football, and the six-in-a-row record remained unbroken until the 1960s. The stars of that side included right-back Alec McNair ("the Icicle"); inside-right Jimmy McMenemy ("Napoleon"); and the centre-forward Jimmy Quinn.

When they grew old, Maley built a second team, including Patsy Gallacher (and the ageless McMenemy), which won four titles in succession between 1914 and 1917 and set what is still the UK record for an unbeaten run in professional football: 62 games (49 won, 13 drawn), from 13 November 1915 until 21 April 1917.

That side won two more titles, in 1919 and 1922. Celtic continued to gather trophies throughout the 1920s and in the mid-1930s Maley built his third great team, featuring Jimmy Delaney and Jimmy McGrory. This side won the league title in 1936 and 1938 and the cup in 1937. By then, Maley was approaching 70.

Maley was the longest serving manager at Celtic. In his 43 years as manager, he won 16 league titles, 14 Scottish Cups, 14 Glasgow Cups and 19 Glasgow Charity Cups.

The Maley years ended in a less than happy fashion. With Celtic at the bottom of the table, after a meeting with the board of directors in February 1940, Maley 'retired'.

Cultural references

His Celtic career is detailed in song, Willie Maley by David Cameron, one of the most popular Celtic songs amongst fans.


On 15 November 2009 he was inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Famemarker.


  1. Eight more Scots greats enter Hall of Fame The Scotsman, 16 November 2009

Further reading

  • Willie Maley - The Man Who Made Celtic, written by David Potter, published by Tempus Publishing, 2003.

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