9th December 1968
Some of the guys were involved with the Scottish party getting ready for the World Cup tie against Cyprus; three were getting treatment at Parkhead; and the rest of us got the day off.
In one of the evening editions, though, the difference inour play in the differing halves against St Mirren received a mention
Celtic’s Second Half Formula
‘The score-line athalf-time was 0-0……at full-time when the weary and incredulous men of Paisleytrooped to the safety of their dressing-room the result was Celtic 5 St Mirren 0. It made Jock Stein’s players themost lethal 2nd half team I have ever watched in action’.
10th and 11th December 1968
Training as usual for most of us. The three guys who had pulled out of the Scottish Party – Jinky, Tam and Yogi – were still getting treatment but all three also did a little light work on the track. The Scotland side for the match against Cyprus was announced and three Celts were included – Billy McNeill, Bobby Murdoch and Bobby Lennox.
12th December 1968
On the previous evening, at Nicosia, Scotland comfortablybeat Cyprus 5-0.
At home that morning, the training squad was joined by twoof our three injured players and the Boss was quoted as saying to the press – “I am most hopeful that at least two of thethree injured players will be fit for the game at Falkirk but I cannot say anymore at the moment’.
Celtic Wait for Johnstone
The headline told the story. Tam Gemmell and John Hughes would be fit for the trip to Falkirk but Jinky was still doubtful. The rest of us trained as normal which, as it was the day before a match, meant that we only did some light stuff’.
It was announced in one of the evening editions that March 5thor March 12th would be possible dates for Celtic’s 3rdRound European Cup tie against AC Milan. Assistant manager Sean Fallon said
“Possibly AC Milan’s deputy coach CesareMaldini will give us some more information when he arrives in Scotland tomorrowto watch us at Falkirk”.
14th December 1968
The travelling party had all been told to report in time for a 1pm departure to Falkirk and that went without a hitch, the journey lasting only about half-an-hour. Brockville was definitely among the top three or four of the guys’ least favourite stadiums. The pitch was on the small side and the stand and terracings seemed to be hard up against the edge of it. When you were taking a throw-in, for instance, you felt that the fans were almost standing beside you. On that day, when we all went out for a look at the pitch, it was as uninviting as ever; and, just to make things even more difficult, the surface of the pitch was hard, icy and slippy!
Lambie, J Hunter
Smith, Markie, Miller
Marshall, McLaughlin, Young, Gibson,Watson.
Murdoch, McNeill, Brogan
Johnstone, Lennox, Wallace, Callaghan, Hughes.
Once we started playing, we found that the pitch was not only icy and slippy but it also started to break up, so lumps of earth stopped passes from reaching their destination. Both sides put in a good shift but we always had the upper hand. That meant that we had a lot of possession but, to be honest, the pitch made it difficult to do much with it and ‘stuttering’ might have been a good word to describe the action.
At the break, the deadlock was still in place, the Boss – obviously recognising the difficulties – said little other than ‘keep the pressure on’ and we went out again determined to put more chances together. However, the Bairns players had obviously been given similar instructions and the match followed the pattern of the first half, with us in control, the Falkirk guys defending desperately…and no goals!
Full Time Score Falkirk 0 Celtic 0
It was a subdued dressing-room afterwards but no recriminations were forthcoming – the management staff obviously well aware of the difficulties we had faced – and all of us equally disappointed with the result. Still, there was perhaps one blessing about this match that might have served us well in the long run.
If AC Milan’s deputy manager – Cesare Maldini, sitting in the Brockville stand – thought that our play that afternoon was in any way representative of our true form, then he might give a completely false impression to the Italian players. One could only hope!
On the same afternoon, at Parkhead, Celtic Reserves played Falkirk Reserves in the Reserve League Cup semi-final. The team was Simpson, McGrain, Gorman, Hay, Connelly, Auld, Wilson, Davidson, Quinn, McMahon, Macari; and they won 2-1.