Benny Rooney
Benny Rooney
see also: Benny Rooney (manager) →; Benny Rooney (opposition manager) →
Benny Rooney
● Benny Rooney, 1974 (PTFC)

born in Scotland

Bernard Rooney was born on Monday, 3rd May, 1943, in Glasgow.

The 5' 9 (11st 10lbs) defender signed for Davie McParland's Thistle on Tuesday, 20th November, 1973, having most recently been with St Johnstone.

Aged 30, he made his debut appearance on Saturday, 24th November, 1973, in a 3-2 defeat at home to Arbroath in the SFL First Division.

Benny scored his first goal for Thistle on Sunday, 27th January, 1974, in a 6-1 win at home to Ferranti Thistle in the Scottish Cup.

He scored the last of his 4 goals on Saturday, 3rd January, 1976, in a 2-0 win at home to Kilmarnock in the SFL First Division.

He played his last game for the club on Wednesday, 14th April, 1976, in a 1-0 win at home to East Fife in the Spring Cup, having appeared as a Jag on 89 occasions.

His club-list included Celtic, Cambuslang Rangers, Petershill, Dumbarton, Dundee United, St Johnstone, Partick Thistle and Morton.

Benny died on Friday, 28th July, 2023, in Glasgow, aged 80.

Bio Extra

Benny began playing at Our Lady’s High, where he formed a formidable half-back line with John Cushley and Bobby Murdoch. His father Bob Rooney (1920 – 1992) had also been a footballer, then became the physio/trainer of the Lisbon Lions and a life-saving hero of the 1971 Ibrox disaster. Benny signed for Celtic in 1959 and was farmed out to Cambuslang Rangers and Petershill in the junior ranks. Then, in November 1961, he was loaned to Dumbarton where he made his senior debut. After another season without making the breakthrough at Celtic, the 20-year-old moved to Dundee United on a free transfer, in 1963.

Benny became a prolific forward in United’s reserves, but failed to become a first-team regular and, after several transfer requests, moved to St Johnstone for £3,500 in March 1966. Whilst he was actually signed as a forward, Willie Ormond moved him into defence where his leadership and determination was the catalyst for a halcyon era in the Perth club's history books. In the 1967-68 season Saints reached the semi-finals of both the League Cup and Scottish Cup, with captain Rooney featuring in both matches. They would go closer in 1969, narrowly losing the League Cup final by one goal to nil versus Celtic at Hampden. In 1970-71, Rooney was part of a fine team that finished third in the First Division behind champions Celtic and Aberdeen. They had one foot in the semi finals of the League Cup, but Partick Thistle put paid to those ambitions with a rip-roaring 5-1 win at Firhill, overhauling Saints two goal first-leg advantage and then some. Still, that league position brought with it the reward of European football for the first time in the club’s history. Alas, in a cruel twist of fate for Rooney, injury restricted his appearances on that particular stage.

In November 1973, seeing an opportunity and taking it, Davie McParland brought the combative ballwinner to Firhill to bolster a campaign which had been faltering badly, culminating in a 0-7 horror show at Parkhead. Benny was thrust straight into the heart of the midfield and made the #10 shirt his own, appearing in all 25 of the remaining competitive fixtures. He was into his 30s by now but, if he was lacking in pace, he was still very much capable of galvanising team-mates and leading by example, the “lionheart” with no fear in the battle as it where. “Rooney is the seargant major with the looks of a bare-knuckle fighter of the eighteenth century” remarked Ian Archer, who had a way of summing up the Partick Thistle players of his day; that pen portrait gives you the right idea!

Benny was magnificent in a 1-1 draw at Ibrox on New Years Day and, a few weeks later, he cemented his growing popularity with a goal in the 6-1 demolition of Ferranti Thistle in the Scottish Cup. Thistle weren't out of the quagmire by March, but the 4th bottom Jags pulled off a brilliant 2-0 win at home to champions-elect Celtic in front of 23,942 at Firhill. Ronnie Glavin got two, as Jimmy Bone et al were sent homewards to lick their wounds. And so, it was mission accomplished for Thistle and Benny in 1973-74, as the Jags rose to 11th (of 18) and, as a bonus, even managed to finish above St Johnstone which must have been (secretly) pleasing for Benny!

Firhill was not exactly a happy house at this time, and Davie McParland left under a cloud at the end of that season, frustrated by all manner of things undermining his position and authority. Bertie Auld came in for season 1974-75, and Benny's game time halved to 50%. By now, he was taking a bit of stick as being “past it” and this was the narrative which gained momentum. Thistle blew hot and cold that season, and it was touch-and-go whether they would make the severe cut, whereby only the Top 10 (of 18) would remain as top-flight clubs. The Jags missed out; Benny and Thistle would now play in Scotland's second tier in 1975-76.

The last of Benny's three seasons as a Jag was monumental in many ways and he thoroughly enjoyed it, going out on a great high. It was Thistle's centenary year and it was marked in grand style as the 4th League title was won, following on from successes in 1897, 1900 and 1971. The 32-year-old dropped back to the centre half role for most of the campaign and was a near ever-present, only missing several games due to knocks and strains. A great personal highlight for Benny was scoring in the game which, to all intents and purposes, was the title decider versus Killie on 3rd January 1976. 11,507 were at Firhill to see it, and Benny rocked the house when he shot home to give Thistle the half-time advantage. His love-hate relationship with sections of the support was comically underlined at that very moment. Having went down injured to sarcastic cheers from some Thistle fans, Benny struggled to his feet just as the ball from Joe Craig landed in front of him. He then proceeded to unleash a 25-yard rocket into the net and, just as he turned to give a GIRUY gesture in the direction of the Shed, he collapsed in a heap and was carried off to the double delight of the Thistle Support. What a guy!

Joe Craig sealed the two-nil win in the second half; the champagne corks were soon popped in February! A couple of months later, Benny picked up a knock in his final game, a 1-0 win at home to East Fife in the Quarter Final of the Spring Cup. And what happened without him in the return at Methil? 2-0 to East Fife - Jags eliminated in a tournament they were expected to win. Shocking! The Benny Rooney of 30+ vintage may have had his critics at Firhill, but both Davie McParland and Bertie Auld seen qualities that they admired, and he clearly played his part at crucial times.

In July 1976, having come to terms that his legs would strongly protest against a season of Premier League football, Benny accepted the role of player/manager at First Division Morton. There he stayed until 1983, and is remembered fondly to this day for signing Andy Ritchie and getting them promoted into the Premier Division as a part-time club. He had a brief spell as Albion Rovers boss in 1983-84, before taking the reigns at Partick Thistle – a position he relinquished in March 1986, having failed to steer round the sinking ship. When Celtic entered a second Reserve team in the Reserve League West for 1988/89, Billy McNeill brought Rooney in to run it. He was made Youth Development Officer while Bobby Lennox looked after the Premier Reserves. This state of affairs continued until incoming Manager Lou Macari brought in his own backroom team in summer 1993.

Benny later ran the Queens Park Cafe pub on Glasgow’s South side. He had formed a lifelong close friendship with Billy McNeill and Mike Jackson and all three Celts were often in each other’s company on a weekly basis long after their playing careers ended. His son Kevin became an actor and featured in the cult MTV sitcom ‘Top Buzzer’. Benny was known and loved as a great family man and, much to his delight, his great-nephew, Shaun Rooney, went on to play for Saints between 2020 and 2022 and became a cup double-winning legend. Benny passed away in late July, 2023, and was laid to rest at St Peter's Cemetery on London Road in Glasgow. Benny was survived by his wife, Marion, and their two children, Kevin and Debbie.


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