Monday 14th August
The players were quite delighted in the immediate aftermath of the opening match against Dundee United. As has been mentioned before, we had rather struggled against them the previous season and to start the new season’s League Cup campaign with a victory against the Terrors was a great boost.
Funnily enough, after giving us much praise in the after-match coverage, by Monday morning the tide had turned and there was just the suspicion in the press that we had been a trifle fortunate –
Celts Scrape Home in Injury Time
United Standing Up Well to the Celts
Celts Find It Tough at the Top
In the evening papers, though, one of their reporters obviously had time to think and his comments were probably a more accurate reflection of the match –
‘Let’s say straightaway that Celtic’s victory was deserved. They showed more drive and more spirit than United and on that score deserved their winning bonus’.
For the players, this was just another training day but even in the early morning and two days before the match, the fans gathered outside Celtic Park were keen to remind us that they all expected a similar result against Rangers on Wednesday – or even better.
I should imagine that all of us were carrying some bumps and bruises from what had been a tough encounter against United but the only one on the treatment table was Bertie, who had played on from half-time with an ankle knock. Players can be very kind to each other, I don’t think. As Bertie had been injured in the first half then was still on the pitch almost on the 90 minute mark, just in time to lay on that great cross for Jinky to score the winner, more than a few of us suggested that he should get injured more often. That comment was greeted with silence.
Happiest player at training was Tam G, who had re-signed the previous day after a chat with the Boss and the Chairman. Like everyone else, I did wonder how much he got?….but we didn’t ask!
There was news in the papers that Racing Club of Buenos Aires and Nacional of Montevideo would clash on Wednesday in Buenos Aires in the first leg of the ‘Libertadores of America Cup’ with the second leg in Montevideo on 25th August.
The winner will play Celtic in a two-legged tie for the ‘World Club Championship’, the first leg of which will be in Scotland.
Surprisingly, the match against Rangers at Ibrox would not be all-ticket. It will be first come, first served. And Rangers have organised two track events for the crowd’s entertainment – races at 3-miles and one-mile – just before the match and at half-time.
Tuesday 15th August
I have mentioned before how much the players could rely on the press for information but on that particular day, there was nothing to enlighten us as to the managers’ thinking or indeed, that of his counterpart at Ibrox;
Stein, Symon Stay Silent
No Teams Yet for Big One
Ibrox Teams Still on Secret List
In fact, the big news was about a match in the future-
‘Celtic seemed to have won an off-the-field tussle with Dynamo Kiev, their first round opponents in the European Cup. The Russians have now agreed to play the game on Celtic’s suggested dates – September 20th (at Celtic Park) and Wednesday 4th October (in Kiev)’
And there was also news that a former protégé of Jock Stein’s, Alex Edwards, Dunfermline’s outside-right, was on the transfer list. It was expected that he would move south.
At Celtic Park that night, Celtic beat Rangers 3-1 in a Reserve League Cup tie. Celtic’s scorers were John Hughes and Pat McMahon (2).
One in…….Celtic signed Billy Murdoch, younger brother of Bobby and he immediately went on to the ground staff.
One out……left-winger Tony Taylor was released to join Morton
Wednesday 16th August
Morning of the Match
These could be long days for players. With the match kicking off at 7.30pm, it meant that quite a few hours of waiting needed to be endured and while the old adage about keeping oneself busy is quite appropriate in most cases, when you have an Old Firm tie coming up in the evening, it does make it difficult to concentrate on anything else in the morning and early afternoon.
After breakfast, I took a walk up to the shops and came home with the papers. The Boss had spoken to them so at least we found out something, even though it was short and succinct –
‘We have no injury worries in defence but the attack will be chosen from 6 forwards’
The six turned out to be the five from Saturday plus Charlie Gallagher. John Hughes had been pulled out as he had damaged an ankle in the Reserve League cup tie against Rangers the previous evening.
And the papers also had a quote from the Celtic View , where a comment dealt with, as they put it – ‘the derision directed at certain Dundee United players the previous Saturday’.
It stated – ‘People who think they are supporting Celtic by behaving in this manner can think again. We are displeased at the way a few supporters have followed the senseless, useless chants indulged in at other grounds. We intend to stamp this out’.
Even with a long lie in the morning and a nap after an early lunch, it proved a long day and I was really pleased to get on my way to Celtic Park in the afternoon. We had a talk from the Boss when we arrived, merely going over points about our own performance against Dundee United and some thoughts on the way Scott Symon would be laying out the Rangers team. It was thoughtful stuff and concentrated our minds on the task at hand before we headed over to the hotel for the pre-match meal.
Even the older, more experienced pros were surprised by the size of the crowds milling round the entrance at Ibrox and once inside and out on to the pitch, that revelation increased. This was going to an amazing atmosphere.
Back in the dressing-room, the tenseness was almost palpable and Jim Steele, recognising the nervousness, went into action, as only Steeley could do, singing, joshing, laughing, cajoling, anything to get the players’ minds active as they got changed, Then, after a few final words from the Boss, we headed for the tunnel.
Jardine, McKinnon, Greig
Henderson,Penman, Ferguson, D Smith, Persson.
Murdoch, McNeill, Clark
Johnstone, Wallace, Chalmers, Auld, Lennox.
We all knew each other very well. Indeed, as we lined up I caught the eye of Orjan Persson and smiled. I knew how he must be feeling in his first Celtic/Rangers clash. He smiled back…..and that was the end of the pleasantries.
One of the morning dailies the following day summed up the play very succinctly –
‘The first Old Firm match of the season is over, and at the risk of being presumptious, I would say that the unanimous opinion of the crowd of some 90,000 who thronged out of Ibrox last night was – roll on the next’.
It might have been the fact that they were the home side but Rangers set out to put us through the wringer and nearly got a goal in only three minutes when a great run by Sandy Jardine was only stopped when yours truly got in a great tackle just as he was about to shoot.
Play went from end to end, chances were missed or scorned and both keepers had their moments but the match result probably hinged on three incidents –
38 minutes: Dave Smith pulled down Lemon in the box and TG sent Eric Sorensenthe wrong way from the penalty spot. 1-0 Celtic
60 minutes: Bertie barged Sandy Jardine off the ball and a penalty was awarded. New boy Andy Penman took it but Ronnie threw himself across goal and grabbed the ball at head height.
88 minutes: Andy Penman redeemed himself with the Rangers support when he blasted home a free-kick from 25 yards. 1-1
And that was it. A great game to watch, I imagine, and certainly a very competitive one to play in. And might we have got out of jail? A comment in that same paper listed above probably put the match into perspective –
‘Although Rangers had most of the pressure and enough scoring chances to win the game, Celtic performed so magnificently in defence, particularly in the second half, that it seemed for all the world that their goal via the penalty spot in 38 minutes would be sufficient to carry them through’.
It didn’t, though, and we were disappointed but the Boss, never too happy if we did not beat Rangers, seemed quite philosophical about the outcome. Anyway, we showered and got changed as quickly as we could and boarded the bus for the trip back to Parkhead. And on the way, we were told the shock news that Aberdeen had lost 5-0 to Dundee United at Tannadice.