23rd December 1967: Morton v Celtic – League

18th December

The press was fairly positive about Celtic’s performance at Dens Park, with one player singled out for special attention –

Super Celts at Dens Park

Three Late Goals for Celtic

 Hughes is Celtic’s Trump Card


However, another was fairly critical of one aspect of our play –

Dundee Exploit Celtic’s Defensive Weaknesses


I, for one, thought that last headline a trifle harsh. We did not have any ‘defensive weaknesses’; we were 5-2 up with half-an-hour to go and we were going for more. That meant that Cesar was coming up for every corner and fee-kick and occasionally coming forward himself while Tam and I were bursting down the wings at every opportunity. That also means that the defensive set-up starts to unravel and lets the opposition in – which they did – but that is more a display of over-confidence rather than a weakness.


At the SFA Referee Committee, Willie Wallace, Alex Ferguson and Colin Stein were all suspended from football until the 5th January 1968. Bertie Auld fared better, being fined £10 for his ordering-off in the Alfredo Di Stefano testimonial in the Bernabeu. I could just picture wee Jimmy’s reaction –“you clatter Amancio and you get fined a tenner! I might have been banned for life”. Jimmy did have a habit of exaggeration occasionally.


As usual, on a Monday at this time of year, everyone got the day off and I mean ‘everyone’ as there did not appear to be single injury among the squad.


19th December

Everyone back and a tough morning at Barrowfield. We worked on a few things that the Boss had not been keen on recently but I think even he would have acknowledged that we were playing pretty well, were knocking in the goals and were still, for the most part – unlike the end of the Dundee Match – keeping things pretty tight at the back as well.


One comment in an evening paper that night really made me think –

‘Football fame is so fleeting. Celtic have had their hour or two of glory as European Champions. Now, Dinamo Kiev, who put the Scots out of this year’s European Cup competition, are out themselves – beaten by Gornik of Poland, who have now been drawn against Manchester United.


20th December

Training as usual. As Wispy would not now be available until 5th January, all the usual moves in attack were played out without him in a major role, as was normally the case. And there was bad news for another member of the squad; Willie O’Neill picked up a back injury which might keep him out until the New Year.


The Boss obviously had been annoyed by some activities of the supporters as he gave a piece to the evening papers –

“The Morton-Celtic game at Cappielow won’t have a delayed kick-off to allow latecomers into the ground.

The match will start at 3pm as scheduled and I advise Celtic supporters to be at Cappielow as early as possible”.


After training in the morning, we headed for the City Chambers, where, in the Satinwood Room, Lord Provost John Johnston presented Celtic with a silver-coated plaque ‘for the lustre they brought to the city and on behalf of the people of Glasgow, who were thrilled by the club’s success in winning the European Cup’.

The event was attended by many Scottish football personalities, as well as Mr Bob Kelly, the chairman of Celtic, his directors, Jock Stein and his staff and the players.

On that evening, down at Elland Road, Leeds United beat Hibs 1-0 in a 3rd Round first-leg tie in the Fairs Cup.

 21st December

After training, the Boss spoke to the assembled press corps but he was playing his cards very close to his chest, merely commenting that he would not be announcing a team until he had taken a look at the Cappielow pitch. There had been some rain during the week and the pitch might be a bit heavy but I was wondering if might have been considering a run-out for Joe McBride?


22nd December

Nothing from the Boss after training, merely a list of the players to report for the match and all the usual names were on it including, I noticed, Joe McBride.

A journalist in one of the evening papers was very positive about our chances –

‘Certainly Morton will fight all the way but I can’t see them upsetting the victory plans of Jock Stein’s Celtic – even with the suspended Willie Wallace sitting on the sidelines’.



Morning of the Match

We got to the park about 12.30pm, all ready to go and it was an easy trip down to Cappielow. It was the type of ground that is always referred to as a ‘tight pitch’. What that means in a lot of cases is that the stands and terracings are very close to the playing surface, with only a yard or two of track separating them. In the case of Cappielow, though, it meant more than that, it also referred to the dimensions of the pitch.

At Celtic Park, for instance, the pitch was 115 yards by 75 yards; this one in Greenock was 110 yards by 71 yards. Now, the length is not so important but the width certainly is. That 4-yard difference down at Cappielow meant that forwards would have less space to try to stretch out the defence in their attacks; while from the defensive point of view, we would have had 4 yards less to cover in width as we protected our goal.

When we arrived and took a look at the pitch, we found that the forecasts had been quite correct. The pitch was heavy and would definitely cut up as the match progressed. Even in the warm-up, we could feel it breaking up.


The Teams


Murray, Loughlan
Arentoft, Strachan, Rankin
Thorup, Jensen, Mason, Stevenson, Sweeney.
Sub: Taylor


Craig, Gemmell
Murdoch, McNeill, Clark
Johnstone, Lennox, McBride, Auld, Hughes.
Sub: Chalmers


A couple of names we knew well in that Morton line-up. Tony Taylor and Gerry Sweeney had been mainstays of the reserve side at Celtic before moving to Morton and would be keen to show that they should have been kept on. And, of course, we were without the suspended Wispy.


The Play

The score-line may suggest something different but this was one tough encounter and we may have flattered a bit by taking an early lead –

5 minutes
a cross-field pass by Cesar and Joe McBride latched on to it to open the scoring. 1-0 Celtic

Then the hard work started, as the Morton guys rose to the challenge and gave as good as they got. The pitch was a trifle on the muddy side, let’s say, and did not make silky football easy to fashion. So, it turned into very much a competitive encounter, with no quarter asked and none given. Such a surface is liked by some players and disliked by others; one man who thrived on it was Yogi and he was the main man for us that afternoon, using his height, weight and sheer balance to keep the Morton defence under pressure.

There was not much the Boss could say at the interval. He could have no complaints about the work-rate or our enthusiasm for the task; the stumbling block to us making the match secure was the sheer intensity of the Morton guys’ play. They went at it with a will and were a great credit to their manager and the support.

However, as the game went on, you could the Morton players beginning to find things tougher, their pace dropping and their marking less secure. And that gave us the opportunity to get some goals –

76 minutes
Yogi cut the ball back and Joe scored from close-in. 2-0 Celtic

81 minutes
a solo from Yogi, who just bulldozed through and shot from 20 yards. 3-0 Celtic

84 minutes
good run by Yogi, fine cross by Bertie and Joe was there.

Final Score  Morton 0  Celtic  4


Sometimes, after a match in which your team has triumphed in what appeared to have been a bit of a cakewalk, you shake hands and try not to have any feelings of superiority. In this case, I was full of admiration for the way in which the Morton boys had been set up and the determination and endeavour which they had brought to the match. Their situation in the league table after this game was not great (8th place with a record of P16 W6 D4 L6 F27 A25 Pts 16) but on that day they were a credit to both the manager and the supporters.


Other Scores

Airdrie 1 0 Aberdeen
Clyde 2 3 Motherwell
Dundee 4 0 Raith Rovers
Dunfermline 2 2 Dundee United
Hibs 1 1 Falkirk
Rangers 4 1 Kilmarnock
St. Johnstone 2 1 Partick Thistle
Stirling Albion 1 4 Hearts



 Pos Team P W D L F A GAv Pts
1 Rangers 15 13 2 0 38 10 3.80 28
2 Celtic 15 12 2 1 44 11 4.00 26
3 Hearts 16 9 3 4 35 26 1.35 21
4 Hibernian 15 9 2 4 32 19 1.68 20