14th August 1965
On the 14th August 1965, there was great excitement in New York, where the Beatles were about to perform the first stadium concert in the history of rock music, eventually playing in front of 55,600 fans in the Shea Stadium. The Beatles were also at #1 with Help! and Sonny and Cher #2 with I Got You Babe
The big football news of the morning in Scotland, though – at least for the supporters of one of Scotland’s major clubs – was that George McLean, the most expensive player ever bought by Rangers ( £27,000 from St Mirren in 1963) had asked for a transfer. And all this on the morning of the club’s first match against Hearts at Tynecastle.
Meanwhile, over in Dundee, a crowd of around 25,000 was heading for Tannadice Park for another of the opening sectional matches in the League Cup, where the Terrors would take on the Hoops.
League Cup: Dundee United 2 Celtic 1 Att: 25,000 Auld
It promised to be a close encounter. At the end of the previous season, Celtic had finished 8th in the table and Dundee United 9th, both sides showing a propensity for being more comfortable in attack rather than defence.
The teams on the day were;
Dundee United: Mackay, Millar, Briggs, Munro, Smith, Wing, Carroll, Gillespie, Dossing, Mitchell, Persson.
Celtic: Fallon, Young, Gemmell, Murdoch, McNeill, Clark, Johnstone, Gallagher, Chalmers, Lennox, Auld.
There were three continental names in the Dundee United team, a fairly new trend in the Scottish game. Manager Jerry Kerr had brought, in total, five players across from Scandinavia, taking advantage of a relatively inexpensive way of bringing in talented players at reasonable prices.
Finn Dossing, a Dane, had arrived in 1964 and spent four seasons at Tannadice; Orjan Persson, from Sweden, played for United for three years before moving on to Rangers; Lennart Wing was also a Swede.
United took the lead on the half hour mark, in a move started by Dossing on the right wing. He played the ball inside to Mitchell, who whipped the ball across goal and ex-Celt Bobby Carroll – of all people – fired the ball home. United had most of the play at this point but Celtic gradually came back into it and got an equaliser in 66 minutes through Bertie Auld with a diving header.
However, just as the Hoops support were hoping for better things after pulling that goal back, United scored a second, this time through Gillespie; and although Celtic put the pressure on the home defence again and again, they could not make the final breakthrough and Dundee United took the points.
Over at Tynecastle, Hearts had beaten Rangers 4-2, so the evening press on that Saturday really went to town with the headlines;-
BIG TWO HAMMERED
BLACK DAY FOR THE STEIN CELTS
It was not the start anyone connected with Celtic wanted and it was a fairly dispirited party who journeyed back by bus to Parkhead.
While the crowd of 25,000 or so was watching the match in Dundee, a crowd of possibly one or two thousand was at Celtic Park to see the reserve teams of both clubs meet in the Reserve League Cup.
I had been playing in the reserves since signing in January and had enjoyed the company – both on and off the pitch – of some really talented lads. As I mentioned previously, not everyone would get the chance to play for the first team but everyone was really keen to do so and a lot of effort was put in, both at training and in matches. This opening match would be another chance to impress those watching.
One curious aspect of football in those days, at least involving Celtic, was brought home to me shortly after I had signed.
I was walking up the driveway outside the stadium, heading for the front door, when two older gentlemen approached. When I say ‘older’, I mean they were probably in their late 50s or 60s, which I regard as almost ‘boys’ nowadays.
Anyway, one of them said, “you’re young Craig, aren’t you?”.
“Yes”, I replied.
“Aye, we’ve been watching you, son, and you’re doing well. Just keep it up and you’ll get your chance in the big team”.
I asked them if they came to many reserve matches and they almost bristled.
“All of them, son. This is OUR team. We don’t go to first team games; we follow the reserves!”
And that was true for a small group of fans. The reserve side was their team and they followed it all over the place. They would be there both before and after the match outside the ground, always keen to have a chat, always courteous and solicitous. They were a great example to football fans everywhere.
On that afternoon at Celtic Park, they would have seen a Celtic team with a few well-known names in it run on to the pitch for the first match in the section.
The eleven was Ronnie Simpson, myself, Frank McCarron, Jim Brogan, John Cushley, Willie O’Neill, George Connelly, John Divers, Jimmy Quinn, Gerry Sweeney and Tony Taylor.
To be honest, I was a bit over-awed to be changing in the dressing room alongside a star like Ronnie Simpson. I mean, I knew the details of his career up to that point as my Dad was a great man for football history. Making a senior debut at just over 14, goalkeeper for the GB side in the London Olympics of 1948 and then two FA Cup medals with Newcastle. Not many players in the English game get one, far less two! And if only we had known, possibly his best days were ahead of him!
The funny thing was, as I was chatting to Ronnie about the game etc. and trying to build up my own confidence, I could see that 16-year-old George Connelly was also having the nerves, so I tried to help him. In the case of some others, like Jim Brogan, John Cushley, Willie O’Neill and John Divers, they had the experience to cope with the tension and were quite helpful.
Once the match started, we dominated the play and won 3-1. I got a few good runs down the right wing and dove-tailed well with George Connelly; I was also full of admiration for the pace of young Jimmy Quinn at centre-forward.
As I left the ground, the two dedicated fans were still there and I got some congratulations for my afternoon’s work. A few fans were a bit disappointed that there was no sign of any Brazilians but paperwork was holding back their appearance.
Then it was off home to listen to some music, like the hits of the period – Satisfaction (Rolling Stones) or I Got You Babe (Sonny and Cher) – or go for a visit to the cinema, where the top choices were Dr Zhivago, Help (the Beatles) and Zulu.
But, and there is always a but, assistant reserve coach John Higgins made it quite clear that we had another important match only four days ahead and he expected us to be ready for it, so no over-doing things at the weekend!