18th April 1968
Everyone I met, or perhaps I should say, every Celtic fan I met, whether it was at the paper shop, the bank (which in those pre-ATM and pre-email days you to visit more often) was euphoric about the situation. Our future was in our hand again. As one fan said in all seriousness – “all you have to do is beat Morton and Dunfermline and the title is ours”. He never mentioned that the players of those two teams would be trying their hardest to make sure that we would not necessarily take the points on the day.
Still, everyone to their own and as I had the day off, like the rest of the guys, I could relax at home and also check on what the press was saying about us.
They were saying a lot, in actual fact. Under the headline –
Super Celts Won’t Slacken
came these words and comments from the Boss –
‘Today manager Jock Stein was more delighted than he has been since that historic evening 11 months ago when the European Cup was won in Lisbon. He said – “it was a great night for us. But we know that the league is not yet won. We have said for months that the struggle with Rangers would go on almost to the last kick of the season – and probably to the last game”.
Mr Stein is most pleased with the manner in which the team has shot to the top rather than the fact that they are there now. “It is a great credit to our staff. They deserve praise because we have been missing 3 key players for a long time – Bertie Auld, Stevie Chalmers and John Clark. I think it shows the strength of the pool, especially when you consider that we have played some of our best football in that time and scored goals at a faster rate than any time during the season”.
Mr Stein finished by telling us all that the eleven who started against Clyde would also start versus Morton.
Meanwhile, Hal Stewart – director/manager of Morton – also announced an unchanged side – “We will play Celtic with the same team and with the same spirit that held Rangers to a 3-3 draw!”.
And in one of the evening papers, one reporter came up with an unusual suggestion –
They Could Handicap Celts!
In for training and the atmosphere was superb. Everyone was in top form, the light training session was easy and we were out of the place well before lunch-time. It was not that we were taking the match against Morton lightly or anything like that. It was a question of the manager and his staff trusting highly-fit athletes do their work in a professional manner. We all knew that the match against Morton would not be easy and would be getting ready in our own way. After what we had been through that season, there was no way that any one of us was going to do something stupid to spoil our chances in the final run-in.
While we got a fair bit of a mention in the evening papers, our rivals in the race to the title also made the headlines –
Killie Keeper Doubtful
Eric Sorensen had missed the match against Morton due to a heavy cold but had now recovered and would be fit to face Kilmarnock down at Rugby Park, where the team would be chosen from a pool of 13.
And ironically, Kilmarnock had a doubt about their keeper, Sandy McLaughlin, who was suffering from tonsillitis.
Morning of the Match
I had been fast asleep and was wakened by somebody shaking my shoulders. To say I got a fright would be something of an under-statement but when I came to, it was my Dad, just leaving for his work at Glasgow South Co-op (he always worked on a Saturday) who had popped in to wish me all the best for that afternoon.
It was very nice of him but after he had gone and I got a look at my watch, I noticed that it was only 8.20am. So, since there was no chance of me ever getting back to sleep again, I just got up, made some breakfast for myself and my Mum and the two of us just sat at the table having a good old natter.
I then had a lazy morning round the house. Mum took a walk up to the shops at the top of the road and brought the dailies back, so I poured over them while having my pre-match repast and then got ready to hit the road to Parkhead, with Mum’s good wishes ringing in my ears.
This was obviously an important match. As I approached the stadium, even at 1.30pm, the roads were packed with cars and many pedestrians too, the latter not able to find room on the pavements. And after I had parked the car in the school car-park on London Road and started walking up to the front door, I was besieged with fans, all wanting to shake my hand and sign this and that. In those pre-mobile phone days, there were only a few with cameras. And, of course, amid all the best wishes, the expectations were also on display, some supporters becoming almost fanatical in their exhortations to ‘beat this mob from Greenock!’ or ‘don’t let those Bluenoses win anything!’
Why do I sometimes think Celtic Park can be a modern-day version of the Coliseum?
Inside, everyone appeared in good form but by that time, I was experienced enough to recognize the signs of nervousness among the boys. It was never very open in its display but on that afternoon there was just a touch there, just a reduction in the usual level of boisterousness and bonhomie. When that happened, it meant that the occasion was an important one and that we were under some pressure to deliver. It was not a situation that we had not come across before but this season had – in terms of trophies won – not been up to the standard of the previous one and we all knew that. Right at that particular moment, we were in a position to make some amends for our earlier below-par performances and I think everyone realised that and wanted a victory badly. I had no doubt that the Boss recognised the players’ state of mind at the time but there are times when he can only do so much; it is the players who have to go out and do their utmost. And this was one of those occasions. So, with a final – very brief – comment about how crucial the game was and a good luck from him – we went down the tunnel to be met with an enormous roar from a crowd later given as 51,000.
Murdoch, McNeill, Brogan
Johnstone, Lennox, Wallace, Gallagher, Hughes.
Artentoft, Strachan, Rankin
Jensen, Gray, Mason, Allan, Taylor.
This was one of the most frustrating matches that I ever took part in during my years at Celtic Park. Right from the start, we were in control of the play and got off to a good start with an early goal –
cross by Yogi, header by Wispy. 1-0 Celtic
When I spoke to some fans later, they said that they all expected us to go on to give Morton the kind of drubbing that Clyde had received in the Glasgow Cup final only three days previously.
They were forgetting two things, though.
Firstly, the importance of the occasion and secondly, the fact that the Morton players had no inclination to be the victims of an assassination and wanted to prove that their draw against Rangers was no fluke. So, for the rest of the first-half, they dug in deep in defence, only making the occasional break forward but after two near-misses – Allan hitting the bar from 35 yards and Tam Gemmell kicking a Taylor shot off the line.
They did come back when a Mason right-foot drive fairly screamed past Ronnie for the equaliser.
Half –Time Score Celtic 1 Morton 1
We were a bit down at the break and the Boss worked hard to renew out spirits. But we did come out ready to deliver and did so, as these words from one of the following day’s dailies might confirm –
‘The second half had to be seen to be believed. The longer it ran the more corners Celtic forced. The more chances they created and the more opportunities such as Lennox, Johnstone, Hughes and Gemmell missed from good position. Morton were on the ropes and out – but they would not go down’.
On the pitch, we could almost feel the frustration of the crowd. We were making all these chances but they were not being taken. And time was running out. Then, just as it seemed that Morton had pulled off another draw against one of the Glasgow Big Two, the Cappielow dam broke.
In what could only be described as a ‘goalmouth scramble’ in the last minute of normal time, Bobby Lennox lunged at the ball and sent it past goalkeeper Crawford for what would undoubtedly be the winner.
What followed next was amazing –
‘There was Jock Stein trying to fight his way past a policemen to get on to the field ….Tommy Gemmell was doing cartwheels….Bobby Lennox being chased by a pack of joy-crazed men….and the terracing was bedlam!’
Seconds later, referee Mr Paterson from Bothwell, blew the whistle and the pandemonium started all over again.
Final Score Celtic 2 Morton 1
It might have been a most frustrating game but the result was perfect and the atmosphere in the dressing-room was euphoric. The only dampener on the day was when the result came through from Rugby Park and we heard that Rangers had won 2-1. Mind you, so had we. The status quo was thus preserved and we were still top of the table on goal average, with one game left for each of us, Celtic visiting East End Park to face Dunfermline and Rangers heading to Pittodrie and a match against Aberdeen.
Aberdeen 3 Airdrie 2 Dundee United 1 Dunfermline 4
Falkirk 2 Hibs 3 Hearts 2 Stirling Alb. 1
Kilmarnock 1 Rangers 2 Motherwell 0 Clyde 1
Partick Th. 0 St Johnstone 4 Raith Rovers 0 Dundee 2
A claim for compensation by Glasgow gambling club boss Arthur Thomson, 39, for injuries received in August 1966, when a booby trap exploded under his car outside his home in Provanmill Road, Glasgow, causing the death of his mother-in-law, Mrs Margaret Johnson, who was in the car, was rejected by a panel of three from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board at Barlinnie Prison, Glasgow today.
Thomson is serving a 4-year term in Barlinnie for theft.