On Cloud Nine
From the minute Sean Fallon told me that I was in the side for the match against St Johnstone, I was a very happy man. Or, as a Glaswegian would say : “my heid was in the clouds!”. My Dad was delighted, my Mum less so. She still believed that there was this group of thugs on the pitch trying to do damage to her older son and nothing Dad or I said could dislodge this thought from her mind. She had never seen me play and from what I was told, she spent the 90 minutes of every match praying that I would come back in one piece!
Anyway, from the Thursday night until the Saturday, nothing bothered me or was too much trouble to deal with. Even the guy I bought the evening paper from on the Friday night just outside Central Station – whose comment of “are you no’ in that team yet?” used to ‘get on’ a certain portion of my anatomy under the neck and above the waist and normally associated with a woman – even he got a smile and a nod and a ‘maybe soon’. If I was going to tell anyone, it certainly would not be him!
I bought both the Glasgow evening papers the night before the match and also went into a newsagent the following day to check the sports coverage in the morning ones, none of which I bought of course, merely glanced at. Only one had a small piece where my name was mentioned, stating that Ian Young was a doubt for the match in Perth and if he did not make it, ‘young’ Jim Craig would get another chance. Someone had not done their homework; I was a month older than Ian!
The big news of the morning, though, was that ‘Presi’ or Jim Kennedy, to give him his birth name, had moved to Morton, at that time in mid-table in the First Division and there were fulsome tributes not only from fellow-players at Parkhead but also Jock Stein and Sean Fallon.
I reported to Parkhead on the Saturday morning bubbling with excitement which all the boys must have recognised as they all made a point of telling me about. As usual in football circles, I also got the usual ‘that’s some player you will be up against today’ but I just let that go. We used to use that one in my school days!
We headed up to somewhere near Perth for a pre-match meal but all these years on, I cannot think of the venue; then set out for Muirton Park. St Johnstone’s ground was always mentioned in quizzes as it had the reputation of being the second largest pitch in Scotland (I once checked; it was. Muirton Park – 115 x 74; Ibrox 115 x 72; Celtic Park 115 x 75; Hampden 115 x 75).
There was a plaque inside that caught my attention. It stated that FA Cup winners West Ham had come up to meet the Saints in the first match ever played at Muirton under floodlights on 16th December 1964. And when I asked what the building with the green roof was behind the North End, I was told that it was Perth Ice Rink, a famous venue for curling built in 1936.
The afternoon was fine and after a look at the pitch, we came back in and got ready. The team was ; Ronnie Simpson, myself, Tommy Gemmell, Bobby Murdoch, Billy McNeill, John Clark, Jimmy Johnstone, Charlie Gallagher, Joe McBride, Bobby Lennox and John Hughes. In the dressing-room, the strips were always laid out in order – 1 to 11 – so I had Ronnie Simpson on one side and Tommy Gemmell on the other. They could not have been more different; Ronnie all-action, quick in movement and speech, quite obviously a bit nervous in spite of his vast experience; while Tam was laid back, chatting to all and sundry.
We put on black armbands as a tribute to the late Hugh Delaney, secretary of the Celtic Supporters’ Association but just as were ready to go out, the referee came in to tell us that the match would be delayed for a few minutes to allow late-comers into the ground.
To a relative newcomer like myself, I felt that the delay was a long one. Later, though, I read that it only lasted 6 minutes. However, whatever length of time it was, I was glad when the referee came back in again, gave us the ‘thumbs-up’ and we could go out on to the pitch and get the match started.
I am afraid I have very little recollection of the whole 90 minutes that day, as it seemed to race past me in a sort of blur. I can recall that we started well, taking the game to St Johnstone but although we probably had the better of the play and more chances, the only goal of the first half came from Joe McBride in 36 minutes.
After the break, we were more in control and got another three goals ;-
54 minutes…..John Hughes cut in from the wing, side-stepped two Saints and from an acute angle, smashed a low past St Johnstone keeper McVittie. 1-0 Celtic. That brought out a headline in the papers the following day –
A Wonder Goal by Big Hughes
Jimmy Johnstone cracked one home from just outside the box. 3-0
Inside-left Duffy pulls one back for Saints. 3-1
’Yogi’ Hughes makes it 4-1 with another fine shot.
St Johnstone 1 Celtic 4
As you might imagine, it was a happy dressing-room afterwards. There were soft drinks and tea laid on, my teammates were very generous in their praise for my performance and even the Boss said ‘Well Done’. It all made for a very happy trip back to Glasgow, including the stop at the fish and chip shop in Auchterarder. As we had won – and won well – the Celtic fans even let us push our way to the front of the queue.
When I had been in the reserve side, I always wondered if the first-team paid any attention to their results. Well, when we got back to Parkhead, I received a real surprise; more than one first-team regular wanted to know how the second team had got on and Sean was still there to tell them. They had beaten St Johnstone reserves 4-0, the team being;
John Kennedy, John Halpin, Frank McCarron, Sammy Henderson, John Cushley, Willie O’Neill, Stevie Chalmers, Henry Quinn, John Divers, Bertie Auld, Tony Taylor.
The Next Few Days
The journalists were obviously happy with Celtic’s performance as their columns were full of praise. This headline was just indicative of their thoughts ;-
These Celts are Just Super-Charged!
However, apart from the goal-scorers, few others got a mention. I bought the two evening papers on the Saturday and most of the Sunday ones as well but it was Monday morning before I noticed a couple of comments regarding my own performance;-
‘The Celtic defence were never stretched and it must have been satisfying for Jock Stein to see young Jim Craig play so confidently’.
‘After Saturday’s display by his deputy Jim Craig, Celts won’t need to take risks with Ian Young’s fitness.
The Glasgow University student played against Go-ahead Deventer in the previous round of the European Cup Winners’ Cup….and he could easily be played again’.
Not bad….I felt I had played well….but would I keep my place against Aarhus?
A Title Regained
Carlos Ortiz (Puerto Rico) regained the world light-weight title last night by out-pointing Ismael Laguna (Panama) before a 20,000 crowd in an open-air stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The referee, Mr Rocky Marciano, the former world heavyweight champion and the judges all voted in favour of Ortiz.
Ban on Ne’erday Matches
There may be no more New Year’s Day fixtures between Celtic and Rangers. The suggestion to re-arrange these fixtures was made by representatives of the two clubs when they met city magistrates for three hours last night to discuss ways of curbing ‘rowdyism’ in future Old Firm games.
Mr Eamon de Valera will seek a second 7-year term as President of the Republic of Ireland, it was announced by Mr Sean Lamass, the Prime Minister. President de Valera was 83 last month. The election will take place in June.
A Game from the Past…..and a Moment to Remember
Sponsored by the Jim Craig CSC
A Game from the Past
Inside forward Willie McOustra made his official Celtic debut in a 2-0 victory over Queen’s Park in a league match at Hampden on 8th September 1900, although he had already played for the club against the ‘Kaffirs’ from South Africa on 21st September 1899 and also in an Inter-City League match against Hibs at Parkhead on 3rd March 1900.
And a Moment to Remember
Willie McOustra made 30 appearances for Celtic and scored 9 goals. Possibly his most memorable moment came in the so-called ‘Cup-Tie of the Century’ – Celtic v Rangers in a first round tie of the Scottish Cup on 12th January 1901- which Celtic won by a single goal, scored by Willie McOustra.