27th April 1969
The previous evening, the night of the Scottish Cup final, we had celebrated our 4-0 win over Rangers at a party in the house of one of the players, although just which team-mate I find hard to recall after all these years. Anyway, we all enjoyed the occasion, although as we had been told to report on the Sunday morning, we behaved ourselves…..or, at least, we tried to!
I was having my own troubles that night, though. Halfway through the second half, I had received a heavy kick just to the side of my left knee. For the rest of the match and the after-match celebrations, I just ignored it but during the festivities that night, I could feel that the pain was increasing and by the time I got ready for bed, ‘agony’ would be a good word to describe it.
On the Sunday morning, by the time I arrived at Parkhead, the pain was intense and even worse, the kick must have caught me on a nerve trunk, as I had that ‘dead leg’ feeling which is so annoying. So, while the other fitter guys did a light workout on the track, I received some heat treatment from Bob Rooney. Doc Fitzsimmons also turned up and explained that there was definite bruising there which would heal in time but the ‘dead leg’ feeling was more of a problem. It might disappear overnight or carry on for some days. I was then told to go home, do nothing overnight and we would see how it was just before the match.
28th April 1969 The Day of the Match
The press had a field day with their headlines about Saturday’s match –
Torture Final for Rangers
No Escape from Nightmare
And there was some news that should have worried a few Rangers players –
‘Rangers directors will hold a ‘face the facts’ meeting before tonight’s league match with Dundee at Ibrox – and one result may be that a number of big-name players will go on the transfer list’.
As for our match, I came in mid-afternoon but knew before I even got there that I would have to miss this one. The leg was sore but in those days what usually happened at a time like that was that you smothered the tender area in some creamy analgesic or painkiller and then just got on with it. I was quite happy to go along with that scenario – goodness knows I had been in that position often enough – but the ‘dead leg’ feeling, while subsiding, was still occurring enough to be annoying and when it did happen, I just was not in control of my leg.
I did some light running on the grass behind the goals to let them see the problem, although when I tried to turn at one point and the ‘dead leg’ kicked in, causing me to fall, I seemed to be the only one out there – the Boss, Sean, Neilly and Bob were all watching – who did not find it funny. The rest were in hysterics. After he had sobered up, the Boss then told me that he would be withdrawing me from the team that night.
I was not the only one on the injured list. Jim Brogan and Bobby Lennox were also injured; wee Jimmy was suspended and Yogi was still not match fit.
Murdoch, McNeill, Clark
Connelly, Chalmers, Wallace, Hood, Auld.
Rankine, Gray, Strachan
Coakley, Sweeney, Harper, Allan, Bartram.
It might have been an end-of-season affair but a good crowd of around 30,000 turned up that night, pulled in no doubt by the novelty of seeing the three major trophies won by Celtic during the season – the League Championship trophy, the Scottish Cup and the League Cup – which were on display on a table at the centre-spot. It would have been a happy dressing-room, I would have thought and certainly, around my seat just behind the Directors’ Box, the atmosphere was almost delirious. Then Mr Pringle of Edinburgh blew the whistle to start the match, the play burst into life and we got four goals in the first 10 minutes – three of them against Celtic!
4 minutes…..Tam Gemmell was short with a pass-back and Per Bartram got there before anyone else. 1-0 Morton
6 minutes…..a good run down the wing by Rankin, a low cross into the box and Bartram again beat the Celtic defence to the ball. 2-0 Morton
By this time the crowd – or at least the Celtic part of it – was beginning to show their disapproval but one minute later they had more reason to be cheerful.
7 minutes…..nice cross by Bertie Auld, a hook shot by Willie Wallace. 2-1 Morton
But just when the home crowd was beginning to think that we were back in it, the visitors struck again.
10 minutes….another attack down the wing and when Allan pushed the ball across the goal, Bartram once again reacted quicker than anyone else for his hat-trick. 3-1 Morton
From that point to the break, Celtic were the more dominant of the two teams and Morton had keeper Lief Neilson to thank for some excellent saves. But by half-time, it was still 3-1 to Morton. I wondered what the Boss was saying to the guys? The general feeling up in the stands was that the players had spent too much time at the weekend celebrating. I had my own views on that idea but I couldn’t possibly comment!
We were on the rampage again in the second half but it was all a bit dis-jointed stuff which the Morton defence dealt with comfortably and when they didn’t, goalkeeper Neilson was having the game of his life behind them. And the scoring was not finished –
48 minutes …….nice one-two between Harper and Rankin before the former blasted his shot past John Fallon. 4-1 Morton
65 minutes…….Neilson was finally beaten by a shot from Harry Hood.
Full Time Score Celtic 2 Morton 4
It was an unfortunate way for the penultimate match in our league season to end and almost unbelievably, one of our players in particular – Bobby Murdoch – had to get away from Celtic Park as quickly as possible and head for one of Glasgow’s top hotels, where he was presented that night with the Player of the Year Trophy awarded by the Scottish Football Writers Association.
Over at Ibrox, a crowd of only 6,400 turned up for the match against Dundee, which ended in a 1-1 draw. It looks as though there might have been more fun at the Directors’ meeting!