1st April 1969: St Johnstone v Celtic – League

30th March 1969

I went to 9 o’clock Mass in my own parish on the Sunday morning but left straight after the communion as I had to report to Celtic Park for around 10am. In the event, I got there about 10.15 and was by no means the last one in, so there was no reason for me to worry. As usual, on a day like that, we just did some short stuff on the track, the whole idea of the exercise being that the men in charge like to have that role of power and tell you to come in so that you might behave yourself on a Saturday night.

We all knew the reasons behind it but went ahead with it anyway, as the Boss seemed to have a network of informers all over Glasgow and district, all ready to call in and report that one of his players was on the thrash. As if we would?

31st March 1969

Back in again and a light session, with everyone taking part, the first time for a while that no one was suffering from an injury of some sort or another. The Boss told us to wait after we had dressed and eventually came into the dressing room to announce that the squad for the match against St Johnstone at Perth would be the eleven who played against St Mirren plus Stevie Chalmers and Bertie Auld.

The press seemed to be confident of our chances for another league title –
And my goal also got a mention –

Celts Have Flag Look

‘Jim Craig, at the end of a first half in which every Celtic player, with the exception of Fallon, had been laying a barrage of shots on the St Mirren goal, scored with a lob to the far post and Hood had the satisfaction of taking a goal coolly and calmly in his first match for his new club’.

1st April 1969

We reported early afternoon and left by coach for a hotel in Stirling, about halfway to the Fair City of Perth. After the shock of the defeat by A.C. Milan, we were recovering a little of our poise, although not quite at the top of our game, so the atmosphere was good and we were pretty sure that we could both get both points at Muirton Park.

The morning papers headlined the match with –

Celts fit  –  But Stein Waits
Same Celts  –  If The Perth Pitch Is Good

What we did not know at that point, though, because nobody had bought an evening paper, was that the Boss had gone into some detail to their pressmen about the quality of the Perth side, pointing out that Saints had played 14 matches since 4th January, of which they had won 11, drawn one and lost two. That is an excellent record and I’m glad it was not mentioned before the match. All the Boss said in the pre-match discussion was that they would give us a hard game and we would need to be at our best.

When we got to Muirton Park, it was obvious that the pitch was in the best of condition, so the Boss was able to pick the team of his choice.

The Teams

St Johnstone
Millar, Coburn
Gordon, Rooney, McPhee
Aird, Hall, McCarry, Wilson, Connelly. 
Sub: Rennie

Craig, Gemmell
Murdoch, McNeill, Brogan
Johnstone, Hood, Wallace, Lennox, Hughes. 
Sub: Clark

The Play

With an ex-Celt in Kenny Aird on the right-wing and Benny, the son of our physio Bob Rooney at centre-half, we certainly knew a bit about the Saints quality. And that quality was put into operation straightaway as the men from Perth went into a two-goal lead before the break –

8 minutes…….cross by Wilson was cleared to the edge of the penalty area and Kenny Aird caught it on the volley to fairly blast it home.  
1-0 St Johnstone

42 minutes…..John Connelly collected the ball some 20 yards out and as John Fallon came out, expecting a cross, he drove the ball past him into the net. 
2-0 St Johnstone

With us being two goals down and having lost Yogi to a leg injury in 35 minutes, we were expecting that the dressing-room would not be a pleasant place at the interval. In fact, the Boss was totally productive, pointing out that on the few occasions when we had come forward, we had stretched the Saints defence and that we just had to do that more often in this half. It was right to the point and very helpful and we came out for the second period feeling ready and positive.

However, although we put the Boss’s words into operation, the Celtic fans had to wait until halfway through the half before they saw a goal they wanted to see –

67 minutes……..Lemon corner, Cesar headed the ball down and as it came up, Wispy headed it into the net.  2-1 St Johnstone

Eight minutes later, we got another –

75 minutes……..Tam Gemmell hit a scorcher which screamed past keeper Robertson, hit the far post and then rolled back into the net.  St Johnstone 2 Celtic 2

By now, Saints were on the ropes and we were in charge but in spite of all our possession, we found it hard to make chances and when they did come, we did not take advantage of them. Then, just as the ref was looking at his watch and deciding when to blew the final whistle, the miracle occurred –

90 minutes……..swinging cross by Chopper from the right, Wispy headed it against one of the posts and when the ball came out again, Harry Hood was on the spot to push it home.

Final Score  St Johnstone  2  Celtic  3

When referee Tiny Wharton eventually blew the whistle for time-up, every Celtic player on the field lost control and went bananas, hugging each other and then running over to the bench where we did the same to the Boss, Sean, Neilly, Bob, Jim Steele and anyone else who was there.

The Celtic fans in the crowd of some 13,000 went equally ballistic. And when the players eventually arrived in the dressing room, they went though the same procedures with the directors, the reserves who had travelled with us and even the bus driver. It was pandemonium! Right up there with the happiest-ever dressing-rooms I can recall.

However, within a few minutes, the Boss had shepherded everyone apart from the players out of the room, made us sit down and very calmly reminded us that in four days we would be playing at Hampden in the League Cup Final against Hibs and that we must keep that in mind. So, he concluded, although tonight was a very important match with an excellent result, an even bigger one was coming up at the weekend and all our thoughts – and actions – must be directed towards that. When he finished and walked out, you could have heard a pin drop! He really did know how to impress an audience.