Carluke, Lanarkshire born left back Joe Dodds went to school with the highly lauded hero Willie Angus VC DCM who was also on Celtic’s books at one point. The lightening quick left back signed for Glasgow Celtic from Carluke Milton Rovers in May 1908, making his Scottish League debut against Dundee that October, and within a year found himself a mainstay in The Hoops’ starting line-up. He went on to form a fine defensive partnership with Alec McNair as Celtic became the dominant force in Scottish football.
Swift and athletic, Dodds was also comfortable at centre half and his fellow defenders knew that few, if any forwards could match the pace and reflexes of Dodds. Never afraid to venture forward he possessed a tremendous shot and his powerful free kicks were always a threat to the opposition goal. The Celtic defence was renowned to be possibly the best in the UK at the time. He played 378 games for Celtic in the major competitions in two spells at Parkhead, scoring 30 goals, and is regarded as one of the best and fastest defenders the club has ever produced. It’s said that there is nowhere of an account of him having had a bad game for Celtic.
Together Dodds and McNair helped create the foundations upon which Celtic dominated the Scottish League for over the next decade. Dodds played in both of the infamous Scottish Cup Finals in 1909 where after trouble from the crowd, the trophy was withheld. Still he didn’t have to wait long for Scottish Cup success and went on to win three Scottish Cups in 1911, 1912 and 1914. However the First World War intervened and cost him valuable years of service with the club, but he served with his colleagues on the front line in France in The Royal Field Artillery, which included a role as a driver.
Shaw-McNair-Dodds were referred to as The Holy Trinity, quite an attribute that their quality was bringing out the religious epithets to describe them. 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 25th July 1936)
His fine form was not missed by the Scottish selectors in 1914, who awarded him three full international caps for Scotland, making his debut in a 0-0 draw with Wales at Celtic Park in February, playing in a 1-1 draw with Ireland at Windsor Park, Belfast the next month, and finally in a 3-1 win over England at Hampden Park, Glasgow in front of 105,000 spectators in April. He also scored twice in 8 representative matches for The Scottish League between November 1912 and March 1920. Third Lanark goalkeeping great Jimmy Brownlie stated he felt that Joe Dodds did not get “full justice” from the Scotland selectors and that he and McNair were the best club pair he ever had in front of him, and noted that he (Brownlie) had played sixteen times for Scotland and fourteen times for the Scottish League side.
Dodds left Celtic for Cowdenbeath in 1920 (as they were offering him more money) but returned for a final season with Celtic a year later which ended early in August 1922 after 30 more appearances after a dispute over money on a benefit match which is said to have been offered to him by the management.
Between 1908 and 1920 he collected seven Scottish League Championships and three Scottish Cup winners’ medals, and added a further League title medal with Celtic in his second spell. His record is up there with the best that Scottish football has ever seen. He is considered a true great of the game. In 1922 he joined Queen of the South and won The Western League with them in 1922-23, scoring 8 goals in 50 matches for Queen’s. Dodds was with Queen of the South when they entered the Scottish Football League in the newly created Third Division. The club finished third and won the Scottish Qualifying Cup in 1924. Dodds remained at Queen’s until his retirement in 1928. Dodds later returned to Celtic as an assistant trainer to Jimmy McMenemy in 1936.