As I mentioned when I had previously journeyed to Aberdeen with the reserve side in the autumn of 1965, Pittodrie was the only ground in Scotland to which we travelled by train. On that Saturday morning, most of the other guys, who had cars, met at Celtic Park, from where a bus took them into town to Queen Street station. Since I was travelling from my house by bus – and coming from the south side of the city – I met them all at the station.
On the train, we had some tea and toast in the restaurant car, then settled down for the long haul north. Some played cards, some read the papers, most just sat chatting. Once arrived in Aberdeen, we walked along to a hotel near the station for a pre-match meal – no pasta in those days; it was mainly fish, chicken or steak – before we got back into our coats as we were told to walk to the stadium, quite a distance away.
After 24 games without defeat, the walk to Pittodrie was almost like a lap of honour, with the early- arrived Celtic fans lining the streets and the home fans keen for a look at us. However, on a personal level, I was not happy to see that a deep frost was covering everything and that there were occasional bits of snow descending from the clouds.
This stadium was apparently responsible for one of the most common features now seen in any football ground. In the 1920s, Aberdeen had a trainer called Donald Colman, a boxing and dancing enthusiast, who was obsessed with this players’ footwork. Because of this, he made a lot of notes during a match – and naturally preferred a dry notebook – so he arranged for the ground-staff team to prepare a sunken, covered area beside the pitch, which soon became known as the ‘dug-out’.
A few years later, Everton came up for a pre-season match, liked what they saw of the dug-out and installed one at Goodison Park. And the rest, they say, is history!
By the time of the Aberdeen/Celtic clash in January 1966, the Main Stand had been increased to hold 6,000 and there would further extensions in the years to come but the boys all liked the stadium as the players were very close to the spectators and the fresh air coming from the sea – only a few hundred yards away – was in stark contrast to the occasional smokiness of the atmosphere in Glasgow.
Once again, as the pitch was hard with frost, the Sambas were dug out of the trunk. The idea behind these was that the holes in the sole allowed the wearer to get a better grip on the hard surface, whereas rubber boots, with a whole series of pimples all over the sole, just slid all over the place.
On that afternoon, certainly in the warm-up, the Sambas seemed to be working, although I did notice, with some apprehension, that some light snow was beginning to fall on the pitch.
And, just before we went out, the Boss warned us – once more – about the importance of the game, which had suddenly become even more crucial, as news had just come through that the Rangers-Dundee clash at Ibrox had been postponed, so a win would put us a further two points up.
The First Half
My immediate opponent that afternoon was Jimmy Wilson, who was not my favourite. I did not dislike Jimmy as a person – in fact he was very likeable and easy to get on with – but I did dislike him as a player, because he was only about 5 feet 5 inches and I did not like playing against little guys whose centre of gravity was so much nearer the ground than mine…especially on a frosty pitch!
Right from the start, the footing was causing trouble for everyone and some good moves broke down. I always felt – and so did the papers – that we were playing the better football and soon into the match, we took the lead;-
after a corner on the left, Charlie Gallagher tried a shot on goal, it was blocked and the ball rose up into the air for Joe McBride to head home. 1-0 Celtic.
After that, we were in control and made a few more chances but the longer the game went on, the more hesitant I was becoming, finding it difficult to keep my feet on the frosty and snowy pitch. I could not understand it; the Sambas had worked brilliantly against Rangers but they were not so good today. I could not figure out why and I noticed that some others were finding the same. And it was thanks to a problem of balance that Aberdeen got back into the match;-
Wilson and Tam Gemmell jostled for the ball, which broke to John Cushley and as he tried a pass-back to Ronnie Simpson, his footing let him down and he was woefully short. The Dons’ Danish striker Ravn beat everyone else to the ball and glided it into the net. 1-1.
Back we came again but there was no real conviction in our attacks and just after the half-hour mark, we lost another goal ;-
centre-forward Winchester was on the spot when a cross arrived in the middle and he gratefully slammed it home. 2-1 Aberdeen.
Aberdeen could have had a penalty just a few minutes later when I, struggling to keep my feet, up-ended Jimmy Wilson but thankfully, the referee went for an indirect free-kick. And the half ended with Jimmy Wilson – seeing my discomfort – taking the ball up to me, waving me into the tackle and shouting “come on, Jim; come on, son”. I could have kicked him…but would probably have lost my balance and missed!
Naturally enough, the Boss was not a happy man at the interval and let us know it. He could not – and did not – criticize our commitment; his comments were more about our not transferring chances into goals.
But I knew, and many others afterwards said the same, the big problem we were having was in keeping our feet, so, while the Boss was talking, I pulled one of my Sambas off, checked the sole and noticed the problem straightaway. The holes which had been so effective in helping us to keep our feet in the Old Firm match at a hard and frosty Celtic Park, had become blocked with the snow covering the Pittodrie pitch, so the effect was to make the sole a flat frost- covered surface and very slippery. I immediately pointed this out to everyone alongside me and we all pulled the Sambas off and went over to the hamper to dig out our rubber boots! And as soon as my feet touched the turf when I went out for the second half, I felt more comfortable right away.
The Second Half
We all seemed to be more at ease wearing the rubber boots and for the first 20 minutes or so we dominated the play, made several chances but unfortunately did not take any of them, Bobby Clark in the Dons goal saving them on more than one occasion. Just as we tried to keep the pressure on, though, we got hit by a sucker
a cross came over from the left wing and both John Cushley and Winchester went up for it, the ball broke to Little who sent a fierce shot past Simpson.
It was a quiet dressing-room. The manager did not say much but in some ways, this only made things worse. We as players were very angry that our 24-game unbeaten run had come to an end; he would have been just as disappointed.
When we went outside the ground, a bus was there to take us to the station, with a sea of Dons fans surrounding it, giving us laldy! We made the journey in almost complete silence; at the station, we were quickly ushered on to the train and even though we were given a meal on the way back down to Glasgow, the atmosphere did not lighten one bit. But there was more than one comment to the effect that the pitch was just not suitable for any game of football to be played on! Or was that just sour grapes!
One headline summed up the whole proceedings precisely and succinctly ;-
Great Dons Dump Celtic
A Better Afternoon at Celtic Park
On the same day, Celtic Reserves beat Aberdeen Reserves 2-1 at Celtic Park. The team was Fallon, Halpin, McCarron, Henderson, McNeill, Brogan, Connelly, Sweeney, J Quinn, Auld and ‘Newman’. Gerry Sweeney and Jimmy Quinn got the goals.
A Game from the Past….and a Moment to Remember
Sponsored by the Jim Craig CSC
A Game from the Past…..centre-forward Sam Hemple made his first-team debut against Stirling Albion at Annfield on 5th February 1953 and although Celtic lost 1-2, this match went into the record books as the first time the club had played in a league match with a white ball.
And a Moment to Remember……Sam only played 4 matches for Celtic, probably the best day being the 7-1 victory over Clyde on Boxing Day 1955, when Sam scored the 2nd goal. Unfortunately, John McPhail was preferred at centre-forward for the Ne’erday encounter with Rangers and Sam realised that his chances of a regular game were not good. In August 1954, Sam Hemple moved on to Albion Rovers.
The Vatican Objects
The Vatican newspaper, ‘Osservatore Romano’ has hit out at violence and sadism in European-made ‘Westerns’ and ‘James Bond-type films’. The article included the words : “We cannot forget the appalling cruelty, the gratuitous brutality, the blind violence and the sadism of some scenes in these types of films”.
Everton football manager, Harry Catterick, who was attacked by a mob after the Blackpool v Everton game on Saturday, is suffering from severe bruising and a shaking-up. The incident took place after the match at Bloomfield Road, Blackpool as the Everton party was leaving for Liverpool.
A Scot Behind the Iron Curtain
Lulu, the 17-year-old Glasgow pop star and her backing group, the Luvvers, are to start a 12-day tour of Poland on 7th March.