Charlie Shaw (footballer, born 1885)

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Charlie Shaw (21 September 1885 – 27 March 1938) was a Scottish footballer who mainly played for Celtic. He was their goalkeeper and team captain for several years in the 1920s. He was succeeded as Celtic goalkeeper by Peter Shevlin. Although he was never capped by Scotland, he represented the Scottish Football League three times in matches against the Football League.[1] Shaw went 1,287 minutes in all competitions without conceding a goal. The record was not measured the way that it is today, with the time after the first goal and the time before the last goal not being counted.

Standing at just five foot and six inches goalkeepers don’t come much smaller than the magnificent Charlie Shaw, but few others can stand as tall in stature.

Signed from Queen's Park Rangers in May 1913 for £250, what the Twechar-born custodian lacked in height he made up for in his peerless ability. For QPR alone, he played 223 games and missed only three, and on a return to London when Celtic played West Ham in a charity game the Londoners remembered him fondly and they burst into applause for him as he entered the pitch. For Celtic he was even greater and a stalwart for many a year.

Shaw made his debut for the Bhoys in a 2-1 Glasgow Charity Cup win at Third Lanark on May 6 that year and it did not take long for the wonderfully gifted keeper to win a place in the hearts of the Celtic support.

With the fragile looking Shaw in goals Celtic's defensive record improved dramatically as their brave and athletic keeper pulled off one breathtakingly sublime save after another. But Shaw also had the intelligence to match his athleticism. As a measure of his ability, in the 1913/14 season remarkably he lost only 14 goals in 38 games with 26 shut-outs along the away. A record for Celtic to this day.

It is estimated that from 13 December 1913 he and his defence did not concede a goal for an incredible 1,287 minutes. The duck was broken on 28 February 1914 when Falkirk at home defeated Celtic 1-0. This was a UK record then and lasted for almost 100 years before being broken by Edwin van der Sar.

Below is a breakdown of the 1,287 minutes Shaw went unbeaten.

  • Raith Rovers 1-2 Celtic League Sat 13 Dec 1913 66mins (Raith scored in the 24th minute)
  • Celtic 0-0 Motherwell League Sat 20 Dec 1913 90mins
  • Ayr United 0-6 Celtic League Sat 27 Dec 1913 90mins
  • Celtic 4-0 Rangers League Thu 01 Jan 1914 90mins
  • Partick Thistle 0-0 Celtic League Sat 03 Jan 1914 90mins
  • Clyde 0-1 Celtic League Mon 05 Jan 1914 90mins
  • Celtic 4-0 Dumbarton League Sat 10 Jan 1914 90mins
  • Dundee 0-1 Celtic League Sat 17 Jan 1914 90mins
  • Celtic 1-0 Airdrieonians League Sat 24 Jan 1914 90mins
  • St Mirren 0-3 Celtic League Sat 31 Jan 1914 90mins
  • Clyde 0-0 Celtic Scottish Cup Sat 07 Feb 1914 90mins
  • Celtic 2-0 Clyde Scottish Cup Tue 10 Feb 1914 90mins
  • Celtic 3-0 Greenock Morton League Sat 14 Feb 1914 90mins
  • Forfar Athletic 0-5 Celtic Scottish Cup Sat 21 Feb 1914 90mins
  • Falkirk 1-0 Celtic League Sat 28 Feb 1914 51mins (Falkirk scored in the 51st minute)

He was an excellent reader of the game and he developed a great understanding with Alec McNair and his other defenders. "Get it back tae Charlie!" was a common call.

According to legendary Celtic manager Willie Maley: "Shaw, McNair and Dodds understood one another so well that they developed the pass-back into a scientific move of which there have been many imitators but none to equal the originators. It was indeed a spectacle to see either McNair or Dodds passing, with unerring accuracy and cheeky coolness, the ball to Shaw two yards away, with the opposing forwards almost on top of them. That was their method of getting out of a corner, which in all probability would otherwise have been fatal." (Weekly News 25 July 1936)

He became Celtic captain in September 1916 following "Sunny" Jim Young's retirement (1916) and his commanding voice was heard throughout games offering encouragement and instructions to his team-mates. The captaincy even today is a rare honour for a goalkeeper, and this shows how highly thought of he was by his peers and coaches.

Notably, the fans at one game in 1922 were singing his name and praises to him, which is said to have struck one reporter as an "extraordinary stupid idea" to sing for a goalkeeper. It reflected more just how out of touch that journalist was, and also his clear lack of knowledge of Shaw and his reputation and achievements.

Charlie Shaw was also vocal off the pitch and his criticism of the low wages many footballers were paid did not go down well among the affluent and influential in the Parkhead boardroom. This likely stemmed from his background coming from Twechar (a small mining village as was commonly dotted around Scotland in those days). It is a wonderful measure of the man that despite his sporting prowess and lauded position that he could still fight for proper terms and conditions that he and his peers had to work within. While some Celtic directors may not have appreciated Shaw and his comments, the supporters most likely certainly did.

After leaving Celtic, Shaw emigrated to the United States to be player/manager of the New Bedford Whalers. He died of pneumonia in 1938, in New York City.


  1. ^ [1], London Hearts.
Preceded by
William Cringan
Celtic F.C. captain
Succeeded by
Willie McStay