On the Tuesday night prior to this match, I pushed my luck to the limit. What I did is going to sound very arrogant and perhaps even big-headed but sometimes you have to take a chance in football – or indeed any walk of life. Admittedly, there were a number of my colleagues who would not have had the gall – or was it stupidity? – to do what I did that evening but my natural Glaswegian ‘gallusness’ pushed me to the fore. I took a deep breath and entered the lion’s den. What did I do?….well, I’ll come to that later but first I want to review the League Cup quarter-final coming up.
With all due respect to our opponents, Raith Rovers, Celtic were regarded as virtual certainties to go through to the semi-finals, especially as the quarter-finals were played on a two-legged basis. While the Hoops had qualified from quite a difficult section involving Dundee, Dundee United and Motherwell, Raith had come through what appeared to be an easier campaign; –
A fine performance by the Fifers. Indeed, they had played 9 matches already that season and were unbeaten.
Jock Stein was a realist. While never under-estimating any team, he would have been aware that this was an encounter where he could play some of the guys who no doubt had been complaining that they were not in the first team. He would also have checked the fixture list and noted that the next match was against Rangers, definitely a game when any manager would want his strongest side to be on the pitch. So, should he save some players for that encounter?
One other feature that Jock Stein would have had to take into account was the size of the Stark’s Park pitch. In those far-off days, the size of pitches was not standardized, so the dimensions could vary quite considerably depending on the club. The Celtic Park pitch, for instance, was 115 yards long by 75 yards wide. The Raith version was both 5 yards shorter and 5 yards narrower. So, should he change the personnel or even the style of play to accommodate for the reduction of space?
The Boss says no!
The sports press were carrying stories that both Tottenham Hotspur and Motherwell were watching Jimmy Johnstone and had indeed gone so far as to make inquiries. However, Jock Stein said that the winger was not for sale at any price.
Into the Lion’s Den
The part-timers all reported for training on the night before the League Cup quarter-final. Our reserve team was unbeaten so far, which had made us all feel good and everyone was also aware that a good result against Raith was being expected on the following evening. So, when I noticed that Jock Stein had put in a rare appearance at evening training, I went up to him and asked if I could a word. “Sure”, he replied and took me into his office. “What’s up?”. Very respectfully, I explained that I thought I was doing well in the reserve side and was hoping for a break in the first team soon. His face was expressionless but I sensed that I had caught him unawares. If he was also annoyed, it did not show, no matter how tempted he might been to show me the door. However, he did not throw me out but very calmly told me the usual stuff about how well I was doing, how those in charge of the second team were praising my performances and that my chance would soon be coming. And with that, I thanked him and left.
A Sudden Illness?
Deep down, I was a bit disappointed but there was no point complaining. I had made my point, been received with courtesy and my request had not been greeted with either laughter or annoyance. I had also received an offer from the Boss to go with the team on the bus the following afternoon to Kirkcaldy, an offer I felt I should take up. At the same time, my heart sank. My next job would be to convince my lecturers at the Dental Hospital just after lunch the next day that a sudden illness had suddenly stuck me and that I would have to leave the premises! Could bubonic plague or yellow fever strike as quickly as that?
Films, Flicks, Movies, Cinema, Pictures
While me and my team-mates were running our lungs off round the Parkhead track, our friends – all of them great film fans, like everyone else in those days – were out watching the latest offerings, which were:
The Greatest Story Ever Told (Biblical Epic with Charlton Heston & Max von Sydow)
Cat Ballou (Fun western with Jane Fonda & Lee Marvin)
And we were all have been music fans, keeping an eye on the charts
In the month of September in 1965, three records all had spells in the number one slot;-
Sonny and Cher: I Got You, Babe
Rolling Stones: I (can’t get no) Satisfaction
Walker Brothers: Make it Easy on Yourself
What you don’t hear at the club, you often find out from the papers
The whole world was wanting to know what was happening to the Brazilians! At least, that’s what it felt like to those of us lucky enough to be part of the club. All the supporters we met just assumed that we knew everything that was going on behind the scenes. In actual fact, we heard little and knew even less.
We did know, of course, what Inacio and di Sousa were doing. They were playing in our reserve side and doing well. We had to learn from the papers, though, that the clearance for the other two guys – Consul and Fara -had not come through and they were still not in a position to play a match.