Sunday 23rd January 1966
At 9.15am, the touring party arrived at Celtic Park to be taken by bus for the first leg of the trip to Tbilisi. The group consisted of ;-
Bob Kelly, Desmond White, Jimmy Farrell, Tom Devlin.
Jock Stein, Neilly Mochan, Bob Rooney, Sean Fallon, Jimmy Steele
Simpson, Craig, Gemmell, Murdoch, McNeill, Cushley, Clark, Johnstone, McBride, Chalmers, Hughes, Fallon, Young, Brogan, Lennox, Gallagher, Auld
We had a selection from the various dailies and evening papers:
Cyril Horne, John Rafferty, John McKenzie, James Sanderson, Alec Cameron, Ken Gallagher, Doug Ritchie, George Aitken.
We had a selection of businessmen on board, mainly from Glasgow, who had paid for the privilege of travelling with the Celtic party.
We had a crew of 9 on the plane at that point – 2 pilots, 2 flight engineers, one flight planner, 3 hostesses and a photographer.
Celtic had also decided to take some 350 lbs of special food. This included 4 dozen steaks, 12 chickens, 30 lbs gammon, 64 lbs mixed fruit, tea, butter, sugar, soup, orange juice and cornflakes.
The First Stage
By the time everyone was processed through customs, we were running late and at 12 noon, some 30 minutes behind schedule, the plane took off, bound for Copenhagen.
We arrived at Copenhagen Kastrup Airport at 1.30pm (2.30pm local time), where it was cold and snowing. The plan there was to collect two Russian crew members – a radio operator and a navigator – refuel the plane and leave for Moscow.
However, due to inclement weather at Moscow, we were delayed for a short time. However, the buildings in the airport were warm and impressive and we certainly were not bored.
We left eventually at 3.30pm and we all settled down for the trip to Moscow. However, within minutes, the Captain came over the loudspeaker system to inform us that the plane had developed a ‘slight technical fault’ and after consultation with the Russian crew members, we would be returning to the airport.
He also pointed out that, as we had a full load of fuel on board, we would have to circle the airport for some time to burn some of this fuel off.
This was not good news for the players, some of whom, in fact a number of whom, were nervous fliers. On that afternoon, I was sitting at the window seat, with two of the apprehensive types outside me, Bobby Murdoch and Stevie Chalmers. As we eventually came down towards the runway, Bobby leaned across me and said in a very matter-of-fact tone “look at that, there are some fire engines and ambulances lined up alongside the runway. There must be a plane in trouble”. One second later the truth dawned on him and he sat back in his seat and tightened his seat-belt.
Oblivious to all this, Stevie Chalmers, in the outside seat, said “can you see anything interesting out that window, Jim?” but he never received a reply because I had my eyes closed at that point. However, we did land safely without any further trouble.
Next Stop Moscow
Whatever the fault was, it seemed to be corrected fairly quickly and by 6pm (7pm local time), we were on our way to Moscow. The flight was uneventful and we arrived at Sheremenko Airport at 8.40pm (10.40pm local time). It was bitterly cold as we got off the plane and headed into the terminal. Bureaucracy then took over as passports and visas were checked but one of the good things about traveling with a football team as a player is that all those matters are handled by someone else. We then got on another bus for the trip to our hotel.
After dinner, a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast, we did some sight-seeking in the city centre, where we got the chance for a look at the Kremlin
Then it was on board the bus again and we headed back to the airport. By 1.30pm, we were back in the air again and heading for Tbilisi, where we arrived at around 4pm, receiving an unexpected welcome. As one of our dailies put it;-
Welcome – Even a Kiss for the Boss
‘Celtic landed here today to one of the most fantastic welcomes ever given to a British football team.
As our jet airliner swooped into the capital of the Georgian Republic hundreds of friendly fans – men and women- streamed out of the airport on to the tarmac.
As the astonished Celtic players and officials looked out of the windows of the aircraft, the milling hundreds, police and soldiers among them, paid no attention to the safety regulations.
Celtic’s team Boss, Jock Stein went down the steps first, into the seas of fans. All the players, led by captain Bobby Murdoch, had to run an amazing gauntlet of hand-shakes and hugs.
But the climax came when, surrounded by his players, boss Stein was presented with a bouquet – and then kissed by a Georgian football official’.
The fine welcome was great but we were there on football business and within minutes of booking into our hotel, we were back in the foyer in training kit, ready to get on a bus to take us to the stadium for some loosening up work. The Stalin Dynamo Stadium ( as it was called then) was an unusual place, as there were no barriers in place, the locals quite used to wandering in and out of the ground or use the running track surrounding the pitch.
A Quiet Night
While the directors and the businessmen on the trip went out to sample the Tbilisi night life, we were kept in the hotel, so the card schools started, the books and magazines were brought out and an early night was had by all.
Last time I asked which Scottish team had reached the semi-final stage of the Inter Cities Fairs Cup and the answer has Hibs, in season 1960-61.
This time, the question is about that list of newspapermen among those travelling. Two of them made names for themselves in radio and television. Which ones?
Bob Knieval of Montana, and his group of motorcycle mates, put on his first public show under his new name, performing for 2 hours at the National Date Festival in Indio, California as ‘Evil Knieval and the Motorcycle Daredevils’.
Still Not Solved
3 children – 9-year-old Jane Beaumont, 7-year-old Anna Beaumont and 4-year-old Grant Beaumont – disappeared after visiting the beach at Glenelg, near Adelaide, South Australia. No trace of the children was ever found, not were any suspects charged with this possible crime. 50 years on, the incident remains unsolved.
The Big Films
At the Oscars, the best picture was ‘A Man for All Seasons’, which also took the awards in the category of Best Actor – Paul Schofield – and Best Director – Fred Zinneman. The Best Actress award went to Elizabeth Taylor for her role in ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’.