18th August 1968
“Old Firm” Bosses Tell Players – Relax!
With 6 days to go to the vital League Cup qualifying clash at Parkhead, Celtic and Rangers told their players “Rest and relax – we get down to business again tomorrow.
Both managers are certain that they will have a full panel of players to choose from when they start working on their line-ups. Davie White has no doubts about the fitness of Willie Henderson, while at Parkhead, Jock Stein was even more definite about the Celtic health bill. “We have nothing to worry about”, he said.
Former player Jim Kennedy was appointed Supporters’ Liaison Officer at the club.
19th August 1968
The players are back in for training, apart from those involved in a friendly against Morton at Cappielow in the evening. Morton were 3-1 up at the interval and were 5-4 ahead at time up. The Celtic goals came from a Hugh McKellar penalty, a shot from Jimmy Quinn and two from Jim Clarke.
20th and 21st August 1968
Normal training both days. Nice relaxed atmosphere. There was an Old Firm League Cup tie coming up but everyone seemed to be quietly confident of the outcome, at least among the players and management. The press, of course, was more keen to publicise the aggro side of the contest; that’s what the fans like to read. But they were not getting much response from the two managers, who also seemed quite at ease with the situation.
In order to keep the crowd’s attention at the weekend, Celtic have fixed up international-class athletics events before the match and at half-time, consisting of a 3-mile race and a one-mile event. The club hopes that these will leave no time for party songs and abuse – or even worse.
After training, I got a nod from the Boss and went along to see him in his office. Before I could say a word, he came in quick with his comments;
“Cairney, I’m not entirely happy about what I’m seeing but I’m going to give the defence another chance. Sean tells me you’re playing well so just continue with that on Saturday in the reserves and we’ll review the situation next week. OK?”
I was tempted to say that he had said those words the week before but it was a lost cause and I merely nodded and headed out again.
There was trouble in Czechoslovakia as the USSR sent in tanks and troops. One headline summed the situation up –
20,000 Crowd Demonstrate In Prague
Celtic were one of the first clubs to react to this situation, contacting UEFA and saying that no western European club should be forced to play a tie against a country from either the USSR or the Eastern Bloc. Celtic are due to face Ferencvaros in a first-round tie in the European Cup.
23rd August 1968
The comments in the evening papers were short and precise –
‘Celtic manager Jock Stein has already shown his confidence in the side which has won all three League Cup ties by naming them for tomorrow’s all-ticket game. The substitute will be John Clark.
Rangers listed the men who beat Morton 2-0 plus Willie Henderson.
The Clyde-Celtic league game at Shawfield Park on Saturday September 7th will be all-ticket. 20,000 or 25,000 is the likely figure.
The Day of the Match 24th August 1968
The guys in the Reserve side reported early, round about 1pm as Ibrox was only across the city. In fact the whole thing was a pain for me. I was still living with my parents at the time and they had a house in Cardonald, about a mile or so along from the Rangers stadium towards Paisley. Celtic, for whatever reason, were never very keen on players going straight to opposition grounds for a match, so that meant that on that day, I drove to Parkhead, parked my car in the school, got on the bus for the trip to Ibrox, then got bussed back at the end of the match to Celtic Park before driving back home, which, as I mentioned, was about a mile from Ibrox. It was nuts and I have often wondered who the original sinner was when such a complicated system had to be put in place?
Anyway, while we were on the bus and getting ready at Ibrox, the first teams of the big two were getting ready for the fray at Celtic Park and a crowd of some 75,000 was piling in to see the action.
Murdoch, McNeill, Brogan
Johnstone, Connelly, Wallace, Lennox, Hughes.
Greig, McKinnon, Hynd
Penman, Ferguson, Johnston, D Smith, Persson.
Naturally, I never saw this match as I was involved in the reserve version at Ibrox. But from all the reports, it was a tough end-to-end encounter, where both sides made chances which were scorned or needed some quality work from the two goalkeepers. Rangers seemed to have been determined to make it a rough-house, with several of their players putting in some tough challenges; whereas the better football definitely came from the Hoops. The only goal in the match came in the second half and was described in one of the papers as follows –
55 minutes…..Celtic scored a great goal – one that was almost saved by a brilliant bit of work by Martin. A block-buster of a shot by John Hughes was flashing towards the net when the goalkeeper managed to push the ball against the underside of the bar. The ball came straight down and out to Willie Wallace, who knocked it carefully to the back of the net.
Final Score Celtic 1 Rangers 0
Another paper was much more blunt in its summing-up – ‘Celtic were far from their best for the game but they were better than Rangers by a country mile’.
And in yet another, the blame for the defeat was deflected away from the manager and on to the players –
Don’t Blame White – He Was Let Down
In the other match in the group, Partick Thistle beat Morton 2-0 at Firhill, so that left the table looking like this –
Over at Ibrox, there were some well known names in the teams –
Watson, Cairns, White
Willoughby, Setterington, Miller, McPhee, Heron.
Cattenach, Hay, McGrain
Chalmers, McMahon, McBride, Auld, Macari.
To put it bluntly, in this match, we got a going-over. 2-down after 20 minutes, we lost Davie Hay shortly afterwards – ordered off for a challenge on Miller – and by the interval were 0-4 down. We did rally a bit in the second half and pulled two goals back through Joe McBride and John Gorman but Rangers got another and the final score was Rangers 5 Celtic 2.
I played in quite a number of Old Firm contests – both in the first team and at reserve level – and this, by some way, was the worst-ever result.