The Day of the Game
The morning of a match like this is always a difficult time for any player. We had breakfast, then Neilly Mochan took us on one of his usual pre-match ‘walks’, which over the years put us in some difficult situations. Although brought up in Falkirk, Neilly was used to Glasgow, where the centre of the town is in square or oblong blocks, so it is difficult to get lost, as in theory if you keep turning left at the next corner you will eventually arrive back at your starting point.
Unfortunately for Neilly, he never seemed to take into account that not every town centre is like that, hence the occasional difficulties (a polite word for ‘cock-up’), like in Prague, where we took a short cut through an army barracks where the soldiers – and a squadron of cavalry – were all lined up during a parade and we nicked through them ; or even worse, when in Amsterdam, he took us a so-called ‘short-cut’ down an alley, which turned out to be a red-light district where the prostitutes were sitting in the windows advertising their wares. Just the ideal spot to take a crowd of virile young men at the height of their physical powers.
Anyway, in Tbilisi that morning, everything went OK.
In the Scots press that morning, Jock Stein had a surprise for all the readers
Murdoch Plays in Attack and McNeill at Right-Half
It would not quite work out like that and one of the dailies had cottoned on to the correct set-up on the night ;-
‘It would be no surprise to see Cushley and McNeill acting as twin centre-halves marking the two strikers in Kiev’s 4-2-4 formation with Clark as a free man assisting them’
In actual fact, at the pre-match discussion with the Boss, he was keen to stress that he did not want to play defensively but, by setting the team up like this, it would give us a bit of solidity in the centre at the back and that would allow Tam Gemmell and myself to get forward as often as we did in the first game.
The Lead Up
A light lunch, then bed for a couple of hours, a bit of food in the pre-match meal then back in the bus for a trip to the stadium, where around 45,000 had gathered, the vast majority of the men in flat caps with very wide brims, obviously the style of the time in Georgia. The pitch, as we noticed the day before, was firm and rather bumpy, the grass quite brownish rather than green. However, at least it was better than the snow and ice of recent weeks in Scotland, so we were grateful for that. In fact, the weather was hot and humid.
To be perfectly blunt, this was a rough, bad-tempered match where not much football was played. With the fact that we were 3-0 up from the first leg, that almost suited us but deep down, it was not our style. We started well but went behind when inside-right Sabo put Kiev one-up. That seemed to lift the home team – it certainly gave a big boost to the support, who urged them on constantly – but we got back into the contest with a great shot from TG, who blasted home from well outside the penalty area. At half-time, it still 1-1 and the home crowd gave their heroes a bit of a verbal going-over as they left the field.
The rough stuff continued in the second half. My immediate opponent was another of those not-very-tall wingers I so disliked, this one called Khmelnitsky (whom I shall afterwards refer to as ‘K’ – for obvious reasons). I had found him over the two games quite forceful and aggressive but unfortunately, for him, he kept trying to run past me and that was right up my street, as I was quicker than him!
He kept trying, though, and at one point in the second half, as the ball came towards him, he flicked it past me and tried to turn to chase it.
Now – and for those of you who have never played much football – this is where I let you into a little secret. As he flicked the ball past me and tried to run after it, I turned in towards him as he ran outside me, thus blocking his path. Now, this is a normal tactic used by any experienced fullback but it seemed to upset ‘K’, who shouted at me and gave me a shove. I – unfortunately – did raise my own hands to block any further action and told him, in my best Glaswegian, to ‘gie us peace!’
A stand-off ensued , broken when another Kiev player punched me on the side of my face, cutting the inside of my cheek as it slammed against my teeth and drawing some blood. I immediately swung round to deal with the attacker but before I could get to him, I was surrounded by team-mates and pulled away from the scene.
The referee had a quick word with his linesman, signalled to ‘K’ and myself to approach him and sent the two of us off by means of gesturing with this hands (red cards did not start till the following season).
I for one, was seething,and I don’t think ‘K’ was too chuffed, either. Our contretemps was a minor affair, worthy at best of a booking; the real villain of the piece, the thrower of the punch, who was later identified as th e goal-scorer, Sabo, was by then making sure he was well out of the road. And got off, Scot-free!
Initially, ‘K’ and I refused to go and argued with the referee. My team-mates tried to calm me down, Billy McNeill even putting an arm round me, quietly telling me that you cannot argue with the referee’s decision. The something prodded me in the back and when I turned round, standing there was a member of the Red Army – who were taking up the front two rows of the stadium – and it was his rifle that was doing the prodding! ‘K’ was the subject of another Red Army man’s prompting, so the two of us decided – without speaking – that the odds were against us and we made our way off the pitch and down the tunnel to the dressing-rooms, where Jimmy Steele, the masseur, soon joined me for company. I was appalled at what had happened…but still think the referee’s reaction was right over the top!
Back on the pitch, the team was re-organised, with John Clark taking over the right-back slot. The loss of ‘K’, though, seemed to hit Kiev quite hard and although they continued to fight, a lot of the flair and passion had gone out of their play and the rest of the boys held out for the draw which took us through
The Boss was delighted that we had won but he was not pleased with me, although I got the impression that his stern demeanour when talking to me was something he was doing because it was expected of a manager and that, deeper down, he perhaps some sympathy with me. But my own mood was not improved when he informed that I would have to apologise to the Chairman for being ordered-off. It was, apparently, club policy. I could not believe my ears. The word ‘apologise’ means that you have done something wrong; I never did anything that should have came into that category. I did raise my hands as a precaution, I did tell him to ‘gie us peace’ but surely, neither of those would come into the category of an ‘ordering-off offence?’ I refused outright to apologise.
Unfortunately, that did not resolve the issue. Over the ensuing days, the topic resurrected itself on several occasions, with the Boss asking me if I had apologized yet and getting the same answer. I did wonder, though, if it was such a big issue with the club, why the chairman did not approach me for a chat?
The Journey Back
There is a very appropriate word to describe the journey back to Scotland and that word is ‘nightmare’. We began with a trip from Tbilisi back to Moscow, where we had a five-hour wait, all of which had to be taken in the airport, as we were not allowed into the city centre. With snow falling and ice forming, it was important to get into the air as quickly as possible and eventually, we did so, only for another problem to crop up.
The pilot of the plane decided that, because of the weather, he could not get back to Glasgow in time to land, so we headed for Stockholm, in Sweden. This turned out to be one of the big nights in my life, as we were put up in the Grand Hotel, a truly palatial establishment in the centre of the Swedish capital, where the evening meal, the rooms, the ambience and the breakfast were among the best I have ever experienced.
It seemed that all the problems were behind us and that all we had to do was get on the plane the next morning and fly the three hours or so to Glasgow. But on that trip, nothing was the norm. A new aircraft had to be re-routed from Brussels to take us home and it was late in the evening before we set off, arriving back in Glasgow around 11pm. It would be great to
get home and get to bed….but unfortunately, the Boss had something else in mind.
The league match against Hearts was less than 16 hours away, the club officials apparently having decided against contacting the Scottish League to ask for a postponement. At the airport, a bus was waiting to take us back to Celtic Park, where we would be picked up by relatives or friends. When we got there, however, we were all told to go into the dressing-rooms, where our kit was all laid out and we went out on to the track and the pitch for a light work-out, for the purpose of – as we were told – taking the stiffness out of our legs.
It was a fascinating end to an exceptional few days. But would it have the desired effect on the morrow?
A Game from the Past….and a Moment to Remember
Sponsored by the Jim Craig CSC
A Game from the Past……Full back Bobby Craig was taken on Celtic’s tour of the Highlands at the end of the 1905-06 season and signed for the club on 16th May 1906. He made his first-team debut against Motherwell at Fir Park on 18th August 1906, a good day for a debut, as Celtic won 6-0.
And a Moment to Remember…..Bobby had some tough competition for his place at fullback at that time – Orr, McNair, McLeod and Weir were all on the staff – and only made 13 appearances in total. Unfortunately, he also made an off-the-pitch appearance at the first meeting of the newly-constituted SFA council at Carlton Place on the side of the Clyde in Glasgow on 28th May 1909, charged with kicking a Queen’s Park Strollers’ player. Bobby asked for leniency as he moving south to Brighton and Hove Albion and was given a two-week suspension.
Bobby Craig served in the First World War with the South Wales Borderers and
The first crash of a Lockheed SR – 71 Blackbird, the fastest aircraft at that time, occurred when pilot Bill Weaver and co-pilot Jim Zwyer were making a turn while flying Mach 3.18 at an altitude of 78,800 feet.
The jet disintegrated round them but the pilot’s pressure suits and parachutes initiated automatically and both landed on a cattle ranch in New Mexico. Weaver survived unharmed but Zwyer sustained a broken neck.
Radio Caroline – where disc jockeys like Tony Blackburn and Johnny Walker cut their teeth – started in 1964 and broadcasted from the MV Mi Amigo, anchored off the south coast of England. At the end of January 1966, the MV Mi Amigo lost its anchor in a storm, drifted for a while then ran aground at Frinton-on-Sea. It was the end of April before the MV Mi Amigo took up its original position.
At the end of 1965, the stats covering the year in Britain were issued. The yearly inflation rate was 5%; the average cost of a new home was £3660; the average cost of a new car was £600; and the average cost of a gallon of petrol was 26 pence.