On the Thursday following the goalless draw against Aberdeen in the league, it was a fairly reserved group of players who boarded a bus at Celtic Park and headed for Seamill. The Boss was noticeably quiet and his aides – Sean, Neilly and Bob – took their cue from him, so the normal banter and good humour was quieter than it usually was.
We – the players I mean – were not in trouble or anything like that. Looking back now, I think the problem was that the Boss had been expecting to have the league title wrapped up by this time but – and here we must give them some credit – Rangers had just refused to give up and were still lying a close second. Which meant that our endeavours were being spread across three trophies – League, Scottish Cup and European Cup – and no one was more aware than the Boss of how small our pool of players was at that time. If we had suffered a couple of serious injuries, we would have been in real trouble.
We spent a couple of days down in Ayrshire, doing some light work, using the golf range rather than the course and taking advantage of the leisure facilities at the Hydro. Then, it was back up to Glasgow on the Saturday evening to spend some time with our families before the trip to Czechoslovakia.
Talking of Rangers, while we had the Saturday off that week, they had an important league match against Clyde and glory be, they messed up, as the headline in the Saturday night papers suggested;
It’s a Flag Flop For Rangers
‘Rangers’ League Championship challenge to Celtic is slipping. At Ibrox today the men who beat Slavia Sofia on Wednesday could only draw 1-1 with Clyde.
It means that Rangers are two points behind Celtic with two games to play, while Celtic have three to play – and the ‘Old Firm’ have still to meet at Ibrox.
Results for 22nd April
The guys all had a couple of days at home after our supposed ‘rest’ period down at Seamill, although I had to work hard that Sunday morning after Mass. It seemed that most of the congregation came up to me afterwards for a few words about the forthcoming game, with everyone very excited about the prospect of Celtic getting to the final and most ‘advising?’ me to make sure that we beat the Czechs.
It is funny sometimes how someone who I had always regarded as a sweet, good-natured older lady could turn into one nasty piece of work when Celtic’s opponents were mentioned? What is it about football that makes that happen?
Anyway, apart from those occurrences at church, the remainder of the day passed peacefully.
24th April – Morning
We reported to Celtic Park early in the morning for the trip to Prague and, judging by what we read in the morning papers, there had been some work we did not know about going on behind the scenes;
Celts use the loaf!
‘A special batch of bread was baked in Glasgow yesterday and today, along with dozens of cans of fruit juice and pounds of tea, it will be packed on to the aircraft and flown with Celtic to Prague.
‘Quartermaster’ for Celtic’s second-last big match in the European Cup is assistant manager Sean Fallon.
He told us – “We know that the food in Czechoslovakia is first-class but we like to be in a position to give the players the homely touch – and keep them happy’.
24th April – Afternoon
The flight to Prague was uneventful and we landed in the Czech capital just after lunch-time. From the airport, we headed for the International Hotel, where we were allocated our rooms but then almost immediately got into our training gear for our final session before the match.
This was held in Dukla’s home ground, the Stadion Juliska, an odd-looking affair with one huge stand on the west side, with very little on the other three. Still, on that day, the pitch was pretty good so we could have no complaints about that and the session went off very efficiently.
Immediately after the training, Jock Stein went in to a room to be confronted by some 20 or so Czech journalists and, in answer to the first question – “can you name us your team? – he replied “Simpson, Craig, Gemmell, Murdoch, McNeill, Clark: and five forwards from these six – Johnstone, Wallace, Chalmers, Auld, Hughes and Lennox’.
So, thanks to some Scottish journalists who were present and told us, we found out the team before being given the official team announcement for the players which would come on the morning of the match. And those journalists also informed us that the Dukla squad was staying in a hostel some 22 miles form Prague to prepare. I just hope that they were enjoying their dinner as much as we were lapping up the Scottish food we had brought along.
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Greece is suddenly in turmoil today. At 5.40am world communications were cut – except for Athens army radio, which told of a coup backed by King Constantine.
Prime Minister Kanellopoulos and leading right- and left-wing politicians, including the anti-royalist George Papandreou were arrested.
Change of Mind
Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana, left Zurich by air today for New York. She had been in Switzerland for six week, having travelled there from India after the U.S. State Department temporarily upheld permission for her to settle in the U.S.
She is being accompanied on the flight by a Swiss federal police officer.
Change of Name
Bonn’s main street in the government district, the Koblenzerstrasse, is to be re-named ‘Adenaurallee’ in honour of former Chancellor Adenauer, who died on Wednesday.