12th June 1966: North American Tour – Celtic v Atlas

As the Celtic party moved from San Francisco for the final match of the tour, the discussions among the Boss and his staff must have been worth listening to. After all, with one match left, Celtic had three players injured – Cushley, McCarron, Auld – two on leave to get married – Johnstone and Young – and that left just 12 fit players, two of which were goalkeepers!

You can just imagine the remaining boys being told not to get sunburnt, to watch themselves when crossing the road, not to try any fancy food and especially to watch what they drank? To be honest, tours are usually all those things so I don’t suppose the guys were delighted with the situation!

Still, by the time of kick-off at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on the evening of Sunday 12th June 1966, the 12 were ready and willing, with Ronnie sitting this one out, so the team was:
Peter, Tam, Pumper, Chopper, Cesar, Luggy, Charlie, Joe, Stevie, Bobby and Yogi.

One of the dailies described the match as follows ;-

Celtic Keep Record

Jock Stein and his football heroes will arrive home in Scotland at breakfast time on Wednesday – unbeaten on their safari through Bermuda, Canada and America.

Last night, with their panel of players cut right down to the minimum because of injury and the weekend wedding bells that rang for Jimmy Johnstone and Ian Young, they still put on a super show here when they defeated Atlas, of Mexico, 1-0.

This was certainly Celtic’s greatest victory in a tour record that reads –

Played 11, won 8, drew 3, lost 0, goals for 47, goals against 6


Celtic were up against it before the kick-off in the oven-like heat in the Coliseum Stadium. Willie O’Neill was only half-fit and Joe McBride came out with his thigh strapped in plaster.


In Glasgow, neither would have been allowed to kick a ball but Mr Stein, with only 12 fit men – and goalkeeper Ronnie Simpson was the extra man – had no options but to send out patched-up players against the tough opposition from down Mexico way.


In 80 degree heat they played until they were on the point of exhaustion – but by some miracle they still found the strength to grab the winning goal just two minutes from the end.


Tommy Gemmell, as he did so often during the past season, broke out of defence and went deep into the Atlas defence. He crossed at exactly the right moment and Charlie Gallagher was both on spot and on target with a six-yard shot that streaked through the mass of Mexicans in the goal area and sped into the corner of the net.


That was the goal that gave Celtic their final night of glory – and there was barely time to centre the ball again before the players were back rejoicing in the dressing room.


The Celtic party left Los Angeles and returned to New York on the night after the match. On the following day, the 14th June, they had most of the day to do shopping etc and then on the evening of that day, they took off from New York, arriving in Glasgow on the morning of the 15th, where they were met by some 200 or so family and supporters.

Not all the party could go home. Jock Stein left for London where he was presented with a cheque for £1000 for winning the title of British manager of the year; while Steve Chalmers and John Clark joined the Scotland pool of players gathered at Largs preparing for the two friendlies against Portugal and Brazil.

As for the rest, they could do what they liked for the next month or so. Mind you, pre-season training is always a little easier if you keep yourself in good shape!