Like the manager, or so I was led to believe since I was not in the dressing room after the match, the press on the day following the League Cup quarter-final against Clyde was only reasonably enthusiastic about Celtic’s performance. This headline perhaps summed up the evening –
Comfortable Celtic Win Despite Ayr’s Spirited Challenge
However, the wording alongside the headline was more praiseworthy of the manager –
‘They don’t come any smarter in football than Celtic’s Jock Stein. His orders to blitz Ayr in last night’s League Cup quarter-final first leg at Celtic Park served a double purpose.
The instructions, followed to the letter by Celtic in their 6-2 win, snuffed out any glimmer of hope Ayr had of providing a League Cup shock.
And it also means that the astute Stein will be able to rest some of his pool of first team players in the second leg at Somerset Park on Wednesday 27th September, precisely one week before the European Cup match against Dinamo Kiev’.
The other guys got the day off, whereas I was in again – twice! Both in the morning and again in the afternoon, I received some heat treatment in Bob’s room, then did some running on the track at Celtic Park, then showered before dressing again. It was hard going, especially when Bob’s broad fingers were massaging the area round the cut but most of all, it was lonely out there. And you also get the feeling in those circumstances that the injury is not improving, indeed you sometimes feel that the treatment is doing more harm than good.
I was hoping that was not the case!
More headlines –
Old Firm Are Ready
Persson in Rangers 12
Craig Fit for Celtic
Good for Orjan but I was amazed when I saw that headline about me. I was even more astonished when I read the paragraph underneath, which was a direct quote from the Boss –
‘Craig could have played last night but we decided to take no risks. He is definitely available for the Ibrox game’.
Frankly, I could not, at that point, have been any use to the side over 90 minutes. The leg was certainly getting better and I could nearly run flat out but I needed a few more days to be ready for a major game. So, on that Friday afternoon, while the guys set off in their different ways, I was back on the treatment table and on the track.
One man who had been in a similar position for some time and was now experiencing a change for the better was Joe McBride; he got a heading and story all to himself in one of the evening papers.
McBride in Reserve Team
‘Joe McBride will be in the Celtic team against Rangers in the Reserve League Championship game at Parkhead tonight.
Although McBride played in the 9-1 win in a friendly against Queen’s Park at Hampden last Friday, he has not played a competitive match since his cartilage operation in March.
The fact that he is considered fit enough to play against Rangers must mean that McBride is on the way back to full fitness – great news for every Celtic supporter’.
Morning of the Match
If I remember correctly, the players did go for lunch although, as I was once again on the treatment table and then the track, I am not really sure. However, if you were going by the morning press, then you might have got a truly different picture –
Celtic’s ‘Europe Men’ Stand By
Late Test for Craig
Celtic to Nose Home!
An unusual expression, that last one and I suppose it means that Celtic would come through by a narrow margin. I could not disagree with that. The first clash of the season had resulted in a 1-1 draw and although we won the second 3-1, with 14 minutes to go, Rangers were still one-up. So, as has been the case in all the years that this particular encounter has taken place, it would be unwise to be too confident about the outcome, There is a considerable difference between confidence and arrogance. The latter leads to trouble!
On the previous evening, the reserve team match between Celtic and Rangers at Celtic Park had finished in a 2-2 draw. Joe McBride got his name on the score sheet – his effort coming from the penalty spot – while Lou Macari got the other.
I finished the treatment and workout just in time to catch the bus with the rest of the team over to Ibrox. As usual, there were crowds everywhere and it was just as well that we had a police motorcycle escort to get us through.
On a day like that, the football divide of Glasgow really comes to the fore. As we went from one major ground to the other, you would be cheered by your own support and castigated (to be polite) by the opposing one. From the safety of the enclosed bus, it was almost enjoyable but it might not have been quite so pleasant if you had been walking along.
However, from Parkhead to Ibrox, even on a day like that – especially with police outriders – does not take long and soon we were pulling up outside the ground and making our way into the foyer and thence to the dressing rooms. It always feels funny when you are not playing. You automatically take part in all the usual pre-match activities, get an idea of the banter in the dressing-room, even, if asked, listen to the managers’s words pre match yet deep down, you also know that, at one point, you will have to take your leave, wish the guys all the best and go and take your place in the stand like any other punter.
Jardine, McKinnon, Greig
Henderson, Penman, Ferguson, D Smith, Persson.
Murdoch, McNeill, Clark
Johnstone, Wallace, Chalmers, Auld, Lennox.
So, another try-out in the number 2 shirt in my absence. First it was Chris Shevlane and now Davie Cattenach. And for the Gers, Willie Johnston on the bench and Orjan Persson on the left wing. Approximately 90,000 were in the ground by the time referee Mr Syme blew the whistle and the mayhem started.
The dictionary definition of ‘ mayhem’ is ‘chaos’ or ‘disorder’ or even ‘pandemonium’ but whatever word that you pick, the end product is much the same. Both sets of players went at each other right from the start and there were some really hefty challenges going in, one of which was to result in a serious injury for one of Rangers’ defenders –
a clash between Davie Provan and Bertie Auld caused the former to be carried off on a stretcher, with Rangers having to re-arrange, John Greig moving to full-back, Willie Johnston coming on to cover the left side and Orjan Persson getting almost a roving commission. Provan was taken to hospital.
Some words from a report in one of the papers may give some idea of the action;
‘Only a passing nod was given to the most elementary skills of the game; for the most part, power, stamina and scarcely containable vigour rode roughshod over any consideration of disciplined and thoughtful football.
Some of the tackling was intimidating, to say the least, and in this respect several players could feel extremely fortunate not to have their names taken. As it was, a fairly lenient Mr Syme saw fit to book only Chalmers, for the relatively minor offence of booting the ball away in anger after a free kick had been awarded against him and to utter a few words of wisdom to Jardine, Smith, Chalmers and Auld’.
I thought that we did not play too well but Rangers rose to the occasion, making a number of chances, none of which were taken. That it was a tough match was evident by a number of injuries, mainly for Rangers, with Henderson ( shin and scalp), Johnston (twisted ankle) and of course, Provan, all needing treatment.
In another part of the newspaper report, the occasion – and the crucial moment – was summed up fairly precisely
‘In a game like this, victory is the over-riding factor and how it is achieved matters little.
The goal which gave Rangers their narrow but deserved victory just had to bear the stamp of genius……McKinnon began the move in 47 minutes with a deft lob to Persson….in a devastating run of some 30 yards, he beat Gemmell on the inside, swerved past Murdoch and Clark and then again side-stepped Gemmell, who had chased back to cover the route to goal.
Even then a goal seemed improbable, as the angle was acute and the range about 18 yards but Persson, showing admirable control and coolness, suddenly wheeled round a cracked an unsaveable shot past Simpson’.
It was a wonderful goal and if I am being strictly honest ( difficult when an Old Firm contest is the subject) I thought that Rangers did deserve their win. However, when the initial excitement had died down and you picked up one of the papers that evening, the main headline gave us all – players and fan alike – something to think about –
Rangers Pay High Price for Victory Over Celtic
Davie Provan was taken to the Southern General Hospital, just to the west of Ibrox, where after examination, his injury was diagnosed as a broken tibia.