I did as I had been told – something my wife says I am not very good at – had a long lie, a light lunch then reported at Celtic Park early afternoon for a wee session, some light running, a few sprints, nae sign of a ball at all!
The atmosphere was quite relaxed and the banter just as boisterous as normal. It was a slightly surreal feeling to be doing some running in a huge empty stadium when in a few hours time, the next bit of running would be in another large arena with a possible six-figure crowd watching!
Once we were showered and dressed, we headed outside the ground where the bus was waiting to take us to the Cathkin Hotel for the pre-match meal. Quite a number of fans had turned up, just on the off-chance that we would be training. They were really dedicated, these guys – and gals – desperate to give us some support, even if it meant travelling firstly to Parkhead, then making the trip over to Hampden later for the match. We were always very grateful for their presence and spent some time outside the ground signing whatever they wanted us to autograph.
After the meal at the hotel, the Boss asked if the serving personnel would kindly leave the room, made sure that all the doors were closed and announced the team. Ian Young and Charlie Gallagher were out; Bertie Auld and myself were in. He then discussed the way he thought Rangers would play, insisting that they would make a change, and explained how he wanted us to respond.
That was always the worst time for me before a game. I used to get a knot in the pit of my stomach as I listened to the analysis, forcing myself to believe in the tactics but with an element of doubt at the back of my mind. However, I was also well aware that I was privileged to be in this situation. I had only been with the club for 15 months and here I was listening to the Boss discussing the tactics for the SCOTTISH CUP FINAL REPLAY! Most players would give their back teeth to be in this position!
There was the usual police motor-cycle escort on the way across to Hampden and the journey seemed to pass in no time at all. Funnily enough, I can recall that a former Celtic player got a mention on the trip. Sean said that he had seen a bit in the papers about Bobby Collins, a former team-mate of the Boss, Sean and Neilly. The Wee Barra had broken his leg while playing against Torino in a Fairs Cup tie back in October and, according to the report, was about to make a comeback playing for Leeds Reserves against Chesterfield Reserves. We all hoped the recovery went well.
Once we arrived at Hampden, even just over an hour prior to kick-off, the place was absolutely heaving. I was surprised, as the crowd looked a lot bigger than on the previous Saturday, but Tam G, who I was sitting beside, pointed out that when it is a match where you have to pay at the gate to get in, the fans arrive much earlier than an all-ticket game, just to make sure they get in and also get a good place to see the action. I was always learning!
When we went out on to the pitch, the noise was amazing, the reaction of the Rangers players to meeting us one of ‘not you again’ and then both teams headed for the dressing-rooms to get ready.
As we did, it was noticeable early on that the Boss kept out of the way and it was up to Sean, Neilly and Bob to create an atmosphere and make sure that our morale was being boosted. Then the Boss came back in again and went through a brief resume of what he had said in the hotel; while shortly after that, referee Tom Wharton arrived to check boots and just say a few words about not reacting to the tension in the stands and terracings. After all that, I was glad to be walking down the tunnel and get into some action.
The Boss had been right, they had made a change, George McLean in, Jim Forrest out. Did that mean they would more defensively again?
The Teams –
Celtic: Simpson, Craig, Gemmell, Murdoch, McNeill, Clark, Johnstone, McBride, Chalmers, Auld, Hughes.
Rangers: Ritchie, Johansen, Provan, Greig, McKinnon, Millar, Henderson, Watson, McLean, Johnston, Wilson.
These excerpts are taken from a report in one of the major dailies of the time;-
‘Rangers won the Scottish Cup for the 19th time last night at Hampden Park when, watched by a crowd of 96,862, they beat Celtic in the replay of the final. The vital goal was scored by their Danish right-back, Johansen, 20 minutes before a relentless, at times ruthless, battle would have had to go into extra-time.
Rangers’ triumph, against all the odds, was built on a magnificent defence and some fortune, since Celtic came close to scoring on a few occasions. The outstanding player in their side was Millar, always there to support Greig, McKinnon and Johansen, and also finding time and energy to urge his forwards on. Behind them, Ritchie was safe and secure in goal.
Celtic, always the more fluently-moving side, had their opportunities but the fact is that this was their 4th successive game in which they failed to score a goal and so all the effort and the leading-up work, much of which was skillfully directed by Auld, came to nothing.
The strongest impression of the first half was the hardness and recklessness of many of the tackles. Bodies and boots flew with scant regard with life and limb and there were constant stoppages for free-kicks.
Rangers struggled to find any cohesion; Celtic made chances, of which Hughes missed two and Chalmers the other; while a McBride shot was diverted past the post.
After the break, the Celtic onslaught continued. McNeill headed just wide, Ritchie saved a shot from Johnstone and when McBride flicked the ball to Chalmers, he shot over the bar.
Then came the goal, a real kick in the guts for all of us but we responded in the right way ;-
Celtic kept up the pressure as they desperately sought the equalising goal…..but as the crowds melted away from the Celtic end, Rangers continued to hold out, sometimes kicking the ball anywhere to keep it away from their goal, sometimes indulging in time-wasting. But Celtic, who were so confidently expected to retain the trophy, instead saw it pass once more into the hands of its greatest rivals.
I was…..well….gutted is probably the best word to use! My first final, I worked my socks off, made sure my opposing winger did not do any damage and then, a humdinger of a shot from Kai gave them the trophy. In the dressing room, everyone went about their affairs quietly as we got dressed. Then a difficult moment, the walk through the foyer at Hampden, with mainly Rangers fans standing in groups, too polite to say anything to rub it in but frankly, their joy was plain to see.
We had to go through it all again as we headed for the bus, then a difficult trip across the city, when the Celtic fans were off the streets and the red-and-blue of Rangers was everywhere. I was glad to get home!
Unfortunately, the next few days were equally uncomfortable, as everybody I met seemed to want to ask about the match and how I felt about the result. For the most part, I was at my diplomatic best but I was also very glad to get to the security of my parents’ house. And I had already told them that any mention of the game was out of bounds!
A Game from the Past…..and a Moment to Remember
Sponsored by the Jim Craig CSC
A Game from the Past……..when one thinks of Celtic and centre-halves, Billy McNeill is the one that obviously springs to mind. But another McNeil – and another centre-half – was signed by the club way before Billy. Junior internationalist Hugh McNeil joined the club at the beginning of June 1900, playing his first match in the friendly against Everton at Parkhead on 20th October 1900.
And a Moment to Remember…..Hughie made his league debut against Kilmarnock at Celtic Park on 27th October 1900 (1-0) and was also in the side for the match against Hearts on 17th November, when Celtic lost 1-3. And those were Hughie’s only two matches for the first-team, although on the Christmas tour of 1900, he played against Blackburn Rovers and Grimsby; he also went on the tour of the Highlands in May 1901.
Hughie went on to have spells with Morton (02-04) and Motherwell (04-14).
Andy Stewart, touring Australia, confessed in Sydney : “I don’t like kilts. There’s no fun in wearing the kilt, especially over here where the weather is so warm”
Luciano Ferrero, a 28-year-old Italian bricklayer, is trying to make a name for himself in Turin by going without sleep for 76 hours.
What Do I Do?
A pilot preparing to take off in a fighter plane startled staff at a New York military airport by asking “where’s the starter button?”. In court, Robert J Scheider was charged with falsely representing himself as an air force officer and attempting to fly a fighter from New York to California