29th March 1969 St Mirren v Celtic League

25th March 1969

The headline in the press described the tension of the Hibs match quite precisely –

  Celtic Could Have Lost to Fighting Hibs

We had the day off, so what do footballers do on a day like that? They can never quite put the game out of their minds so they read the newspapers to check up on all the comment about the team, the management and the activities surrounding the club. And on that Tuesday, they would have found something quite interesting –

Hectic Finish for Old Firm

‘Celtic and Rangers will end their league programme for the season on Wednesday 30th April – Celtic at Dens Park v Dundee and Rangers at East End Park against Dunfermline.

Two days previously, on Monday 28th April, Celtic will play Morton at Celtic Park with Rangers facing Dundee at Ibrox’.

26th March 1969

Back in for training and a good session put in by everyone. The weather was even improving so much so that the Boss decided that we would all walk up to Barrowfield – apart from him, of course – as a sign that spring might possibly be arriving.

27th March 1969

Another morning session. The previous night, at Hampden, the Scottish League eleven had met their English equivalents at Hampden and had been beaten 3-1, leading to this headline in one of the morning editions –

No-Excuse Scots Pay the Penalty

This was a reference to the fact that – in the opinion of the writer – the Scottish League eleven had not raised their game for the occasion and did not deserve to take anything out of the match. As I missed the occasion, I could not make any comment.

I noticed a familiar face on the treatment table. Tam Gemmell had played in the League encounter and apparently picked up an ankle injury, so was at the mercy of Bob Rooney for a while.

28th March 1969

The Celtic guys who had been involved in the League encounter got a grilling in the dressing-room, on the way to training at Barrowfield and on the way back again about what went wrong. I think they were glad to get back in their cars and head home.

There was a headline in one of the evening editions that told us something that we expected but were not sure about –

   Hood Plays

‘Jock Stein made the announcement today that Harry Hood will play at Love Street at inside-right as a partner to Jimmy Johnstone’.

The rest of us would have to wait till we got to Love Street to see if we were also included.

29th March 1969  The Day of the Match

No lunch provided and as Paisley is not far from Glasgow, our reporting time was just after noon for the coach trip west. On the journey, the talk was not only about football as usual but also the fact that, later that night in Madrid, the Glaswegian singer Lulu would be representing the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest with ‘Boom Bang-A-Bang’.

When we arrived in Paisley we found, to our relief, that the pitch was in in good condition and certainly would not, as in recent weeks, hinder our movement.

The Teams

St Mirren
C Murray, Connell
Fulton, Young, E Murray
Adamson, Urquhart, Kane, Pinkerton, Gilshan.  
Sub: Blair

Craig, Gemmell
Murdoch, McNeill, Brogan
Johnstone, Hood, Wallace, Lennox, Hughes. 
Sub: Callaghan

The Play

The first three paragraphs of a match report the following day summed up the defining moment of the first half, under the headline –

Craig’s Goal Changes Whole Aspect of Game

‘The game at Love Street was anybody’s until Celtic scored four minutes before the interval, after which there was little or no doubt that St Mirren were in for another hiding………….

This vital goal was scored by Craig who, assuming McNeill’s familiar role in being well upfield at corner kicks, swooped on Johnstone’s windborne cross from the flag and…..found the net high up to goalkeeper Thorburn’s right hand.

The first half, which was more noticeable for salvos than hits, seemed to be dragging to an inconclusive close when Craig changed the whole aspect of the game. Thereafter Celtic shed the nervousness which had characterised their earlier play, whereas St Mirren became more and more cautious as the minutes ticked away’.

The goal made for a happy dressing-room at the break and we were much more impressive in the second half, getting the necessary rewards –

55 minutes……..Brogie swept the ball out to Yogi on the left and he rounded Fulton before shooting high into the net.  2-0 Celtic

70 minutes…….much to the delight of the Celtic support, debut boy Harry Hood knocked in a third.

Final Score   St Mirren  0  Celtic  3

Back in the dressing-room, the Boss seemed happy enough, especially as our three rivals for the title had also won their respective fixtures, although he was also quick to point out that we would be in the following day just to ‘maintain our momentum’. I liked that!