7th August 1968
We were all back in for training this morning and did a pretty strong session. Even the guys who had played at Hamilton the previous evening had been told to turn up. Sean Fallon was in charge of affairs as the Boss had travelled down to Leeds who that same evening were playing Ferencvaros in the first leg of the Fairs Cup final. Trust the big guy not to miss a major occasion.
In one of the evening dailies, this headline and comment appeared –
Celtic’s Unusual Request To Fans
‘As the Celtic and Rangers players sweated in the sunshine today to get their play honed to a fine edge for Saturday’s big League Cup tie, the Celtic View came up with a most unusual request.
They asked supporters ‘who have no desire to get into trouble of any kind but who may be tempted to retaliate when provoked’ to stay away on Saturday.
Celtic will almost certainly announce their team when Mr Stein returns tomorrow morning but Rangers are likely to delay until Friday or Saturday’.
8th August 1968
The Boss is back – having seen Leeds win 1-0 – and we go through the motions again. As we came back into the foyer at Celtic Park after the session at Barrowfield, I got the call to report to the Boss’s office. It always felt like visiting the head teacher’s room back at school, when it was usually for a misdemeanour rather than for praise. But on this occasion, it was just for a chat. He explained that Sean had been very pleased with my performance at Hamilton and thought that my injury worries were nearly at an end. I listened carefully, waiting for the ‘however’ and sure enough, that word soon fell off his lips.
“If it was any other match, Cairney, I would have no hesitation in putting you in. However, it is an Old Firm clash and if there is the slightest possibility that your fitness might let you down, we can’t afford to take a chance. So, I’m going to play you in the reserve match against Rangers at Parkhead and if you come through that OK, then you will be in for the next match – OK?”.
What could I say? He was the man in charge and I had to go along with his decision. I was disappointed, though.
9th August 1968
After a light session, the Boss announced the 13 players who would travel to Ibrox…..and naturally, my name was missing. Instead, it was on the sheet pinned up in the dressing-room for the reserve match at Ibrox. However, the one name that caught the attention in the first-team list – and also was the subject of major headlines in both the evening press of that day and the following day’s morning dailies – was that of teenager George Connelly, paired with Jimmy Johnstone on the right wing.
There was one other story about a future Celtic assistant manager, although at that time he was a player with the Jags – ‘Davie McParland, who has been a ‘fixture’ at Firhill for 13 seasons, ended his difference with Partick Thistle and re-signed as a player again.
The Day of the Match 10th August 1968
As I was not involved in the first-team match, I have not the foggiest idea what they did on the morning of the match. Presumably, for such a major occasion, they would probably have gone somewhere for a pre-match meal but I cannot say with any certainty that they did.
In my own case, I reported to Celtic Park at 2pm for a 3pm kick-off.
The Teams at Ibrox
Greig, McKinnon, D Smith
Henderson, A Smith, Penman, Ferguson, Persson.
Murdoch, McNeill, Brogan
Connelly, Johnstone, Wallace, Lennox, Hughes.
According to the reports in the press, it was Rangers who took control right from the start of the proceedings, forcing Ronnie to make a fine save from a ball sweeping in from the right-wing. But Celtic withstood the attacks and soon took the lead-
A slip by John Greig gave the ball to Jinky and he raced in on goal. Norrie Martin came out to block the shot but it landed right at the feet of Wispy and he hammered the ball into the net.
The goal gave us a real boost but to give them credit, Rangers refused to buckle and for the next 25 minutes, the play went from one goal to the other, the one notable difference between the teams being the poor finishing of the Light Blues, who came into the box on several occasions but did not take advantage of their chances. Then we got a second –
John Greig, operating in the left-back role, cut the ball square back to Norrie Martin along the 18-yard line but for some unaccountable reason, the keeper missed it completely and it landed at the feet of Wispy, who had the simple of tasks to score the second.
Just before the break, Ronnie had to make great saves from a Persson shot and a Ferguson header but once the second half started, the Rangers players seemed a little low in spirit. However, to be fair, they did snap out of that and although Celtic probably dominated the play, the Light Blues did have other good chances. However, Celtic did have an even better one and Lemon should have scored with a great opportunity from eight yards.
It had been a good, exciting match for the crowd of around 80,000 to watch but when referee Jim Callaghan blew the whistle for time-up, it was still 2-0 to Celtic.
In the other match in Section Four, Morton lost 1-3 to Partick Thistle at Cappielow, which put Celtic and the Jags level on points at the head of the table.
The Reserve Match
At Parkhead, Celtic beat Rangers 2-1 in a reserve League Cup tie. Our team was;
myself, John Gorman
Pat McMahon, Davie Hay, Davie Cattenach
Steve Chalmers, Joe McBride, Jimmy Quinn, Charlie Gallagher and Lou Macari
Both goals coming from Joe McBride.