11th April 1969: Celtic v Rangers – Glasgow Cup Semi-Final

10th April 1969

The bad moments of the previous evening were swept under the carpet and frankly, all that we needed to – and wanted to – remember was that we had seen off Falkirk by 5 goals to two and kept our momentum going towards those two still possible big moments of a momentous season, the League and the Scottish Cup.

First of all, though, we had to cope with a semi-final tie in that local competition, the Glasgow Cup, where our opponents would be perennial rivals Rangers. When the timing of this particular match was put forward, I had heard that our management was very pleased, as Rangers were going through a bad spell and it was thought that a match against them – plus a probable win – would be an ideal prelude to our next meeting in the Scottish Cup final.

Unfortunately, on the day before the match, it was announced that our side was decimated by guys being called up to the Scotland squad for a match against West Germany. Six players in total were in the squad – Tam Gemmell, Bobby Murdoch, Billy McNeill, Jimmy Johnstone, Bobby Lennox and John Hughes – so the side which would run out at Parkhead the following evening would bear little relation to what would be regarded as the usual Celtic eleven.

11th April 1969  The Day of the Match

As we did not have to report till about an hour-and-a-half before the kick-off, I had to time my day appropriately, so I got up at the normal time, had the usual breakfast before going for a walk and then having another rest. Then, it was time for the pre-match meal before getting into my suit for the journey up to Celtic Park. And my goodness, it might have been a Glasgow Cup tie but the interest which an Old Firm contest always attracts was once more in evidence as a fair-sized crowd was already gathering well before the off.

The Teams

Craig, O’Neill
Brogan, Hay, Clark
Wallace, Connelly, Chalmers, Hood, Callaghan. 
Sub: McMahon

Johansen, Mathieson
Jardine, Jackson, D Smith
Henderson, Penman, Ferguson, Johnston, Persson. 
Sub: A Miller

The Play

That was as strong a side as Rangers could have put out on the night yet our makeshift outfit had most of the possession right though the match. But Rangers scored more goals, three of which came from my usual opponent in these matches, Wille Johnston. Normally, Bud and I had serious contests, in which my running power gave me a real fighting chance of controlling him but on that evening, Rangers played Orjan Persson against me and gave Willie the opportunity to roam. And that he did, mainly right though the middle of our defence, where the guys just could not cope with his pace and sharpness.

The goals arrived as follows –

13 minutes….a fine effort from Harry Hood, who intercepted a pass in midfield, then ran forward before stroking the ball past Norrie Martin.
1-0 Celtic

16 minutes….a shot by Andy Penman hit the cross-bar and bounced down; as it came up again, Alex Ferguson beat John Fallon to it to head home.  

45 minutes… Willie Mathieson sent a ball down the left-wing to Persson, the Swede hammered it  across goal and Willie Johnston reacted quickest.  2-1 Rangers

50 minutes….Andy Penman flighted a pass into Johnston, who breasted it down before swerving past John Clark and shooting past John Fallon.
3-1 Rangers

61 minutes….corner by Harry Hood, header by Tommy Callaghan.
3-2 Rangers

72 minutes….Norrie Martin fumbled a shot by Jim Brogan and was beaten to the loose ball by Stevie Chalmers. 

It was now frantic end-to-end stuff, with the crowd urging their own men on. And the winning goal came in the last minute from that simple ploy which had always been a feature of football, a cross and a header. Unfortunately for us, it came at the wrong end –

89 minutes…..cross by Persson, header by Johnston.

Final Score  Celtic  3  Rangers  4

To say we were gutted was putting it mildly. It was a strange decision to play the match on a night when so many of our essential guys were on international duty. We still had good players to put in their places but the rhythm of the side had been interrupted just enough to allow Rangers a chance which, to be honest, they took. Now, we had to make sure that we got our revenge in the Scottish Cup final in two weeks time.