There are certain aspects of a footballer’s life that sometimes make his actions seem a little difficult to understand.
Now, that may seem like a very complicated way of explaining something that happened on that Wednesday, the morning after we had beaten Motherwell 4-2 at Celtic Park. The particular aspect I am referring to in this circumstance was the in-built insecurity that affects most football players and it rose to the surface that day.
Just as we had been leaving the dressing-room the previous night, the Boss shouted out to us all that we did not need to come in the next day and he would see us all on Thursday. That seemed good news. The prospect of a day off in any occupation is always to be treasured and can give you a boost. However, with only three days to go before the League Cup final, I thought that I might be better showing my face at Parkhead – keenness and all that sort of thing – so I went in at the usual time of 10am. And what do you think I was confronted by? Yes, all of my teammates, who obviously were thinking along the same lines as me and were determined to keep in the loop as well! Insecure is the right word. Anyway, since we were all there, Neilly took us out on to the track and we did some running, with the exception of Lemon, who had picked up a knock the previous night and was on the treatment table.
The Boss did not say much to us about the League Cup final and the team etc. but he obviously did say a little more to the press, as in the evening paper that night came this comment;
‘Celtic’s League Cup Final team – the one to line up against Dundee on Saturday – is almost certain to be made up of the men who scored four goals against Motherwell last night.
Although Celtic are still adamant that they will play Jimmy Johnstone in Buenos Aires a week today – there is no chance of the suspended outside-right appearing at Hampden and his place is going to be filled by Steve Chalmers’.
Jock Stein was also asked about his statement before that match that he would use 12 players on the night. He gave a surprising answer;
“I went into the dressing-room at half-time expecting to send out Willie O’Neill for the second half. The difficulty was that nobody wanted to go off the field. Everyone said “let me play on. So, what could I do?”
The usual training session two days before a big match. Short, sharp stuff, lots of ball-work, shooting practice etc. Great atmosphere.
It was mentioned in the press that Celtic will be taking 18 players on the trip to South America. When someone pointed out to the Boss that Racing had only brought 15 to Glasgow, Jock Stein mentioned the different situations for the two clubs. Racing had only one match to play in Glasgow whereas that Celtic had to take into account the possibility of a third match if the result in the 2nd leg did not go Celtic’s way.
It was also reported that Celtic would only take a few items with them on the medical side. The club has been advised that Buenos Aires is one of the major cities of the world and anything that a football team would need can be obtained there. So the only items the medical staff will take are salt tablets plus a preparation to make sure that the players do not suffer from upset stomachs through drinking different-type of water.
And we were also given a talking-to by the Boss about ‘sunshine’ discipline, with no player being allowed to slap on the sun tan lotion to take advantage of the hot weather.
Some very light stuff this morning; mainly some sprints. Frankly, though, the whole atmosphere was very relaxed. I got a bit of teasing for the fact that this – if chosen, of course, as at that point, the team had not been announced – would be my first League Cup final and the patter merchants were giving it big licks about how excited I must be and how I just had to treat it as a normal match. Yea! yea! yea!
When asked about the team, the Boss was quoted as saying that ‘he would announce it later’ but gave no clue as to when that would be? But he did announce the 18-strong player pool which would travel to South America; it was Simpson, Craig, Gemmell, Murdoch, McNeill, Clark, Johnstone, Wallace, Chalmers, Lennox, Auld, Gallagher, Hughes, O’Neill, Fallon, Shevlane, Connelly, McBride.
The big headline in the papers today concerned two Scottish internationalists who plied their trade south of the border. Denis Law and Ian Ure were both suspended for 6 weeks for a fight on the field during the Man U v Arsenal match on 7th October at Old Trafford.
In its preview of the match, one of the evening papers was in no doubt that Celtic would win and gave the reason for thinking so in its headline –
Celtic Have the Firepower
So, after having digested not only that news plus the very nice meal that my Mum had provided, I had an early night in readiness for the match the following day. You had to be careful! I might have a League, Scottish Cup and European Cup winner’s medals already but it would be great to add a League Cup medal to that tally.
Morning of the Match
This was a very unusual ‘morning before a Cup Final’. Firstly, we would normally have been down at Seamill or Troon in preparation for such an occasion but with us heading off to South America after the match, the usual plan had been changed and we all spent the night in our own homes. And secondly, instead of arriving for the match without any luggage in tow, on that particular morning we had all arrived at Celtic Park with either one large or two small bags for the journey to the southern continent. These were all stored in the various luggage lockers round the bus before the driver took us to a hotel over at the Cathkin Braes for some lunch.
No matter how many times you experience these big moments, there is always a slight frisson of excitement around the camp before them. There might have been other games on in Scotland that afternoon but most of the public’s attention would have been on the League Cup Final, so for the 22 players who come out to start the match, it would be a big moment in their football careers. It was not surprising, then, that the atmosphere in the restaurant was a little subdued and this is where Jim Steel, the masseur, came into his own, raising the tempo, getting involved in small arguments and conversations. The Boss was good at that, too, but Steeley was in a different league and the Jock Stein wisely let Jim take the lead. By the time the coach was arriving at Hampden, we all felt a lot better and were really looking forward to the match.
Murdoch, McNeill, Clark
Chalmers, Lennox, Wallace, Auld, Hughes.
Murray, Stewart, Stuart
Campbell, J McLean, Wilson, G McLean, Bryce.
In front of a crowd recorded officially as 66,660, we started extremely well and were two-up with ten minutes –
corner by Yogi, header down by Cesar and Stevie flicked it in. 1-0 Celtic
good control by Yogi as he beat two defenders before slamming home. 2-0 Celtic
As we had a tendency to do that season, perhaps we again took our foot off the pedal or even believed that we had the game won but whatever the reason, we let Dundee back into things, with the defence again possibly not as tight as we should have been. Certainly, the reporters thought so;
‘Celtic’s defence was caught flat-footed and indecisive – even Simpson had his uncomfortable moments – and it was obvious that there will have to be a considerable tightening-up in the rear if the club are to return victorious from Argentina’.
Halfway through the first half, George McLean brought the Dark Blues back into the match –
hesitation in the heart of our defence gave McLean a chance and he got a shot away which was deflected past Ronnie. 2-1 Celtic
In my opinion, this is when the trouble started for us. From that point until half-time and then again until halfway through the second half, no matter how hard the Dundee players were working to get back into the match, we were holding them quite comfortably in defence and the forwards were getting the occasional chance. Teams do become over-confident and perhaps we were.
At the interval, the Boss, while not exactly delirious with the standard of our play, merely told us to keep it going and probably for the first 15 minutes or so, we did exactly that. And we even got a boost halfway through the half –
fine pass from Chopper into the path of Stevie, who took the ball round John Arrol before sliding it home. 3-1 Celtic
It looked all over and almost certainly should have been. I cannot quite recall my feelings at that moment but I suspect that, like most teams in that position, with only 17 minutes left to play, we all thought that we had done it. During the following 17 minutes, though, the game opened up, with Dundee obviously thinking that they had nothing to lose and rather suspect goals were lost at both ends.
John Clark headed out a corner from just under the bar, it went straight out to Jim McLean, who scooped it over Ronnie. 3-2 Celtic
quick turn and shot by Lemon. 4-2 Celtic
good work by Dandy Mclean inside the box, slipping past two of us before shooting past Ronnie. 4-3 Celtic
slip-up in the Dundee defence and Wispy raced forwards to slip the ball under the body of John Arrol.
Final Score Celtic 5 Dundee 3
It was not the level of scoring which one would expect in a Cup Final and we got more criticism than praise for our efforts –
Celtic Triumph But Give Cause For Disquiet
However, while we might have occasionally looked a bit suspect in defence, I must point out that the system we played at the time rather lent itself to that. There was never a game at that time ( the Dukla Prague match in Czechoslovakia was the last time and the Boss said afterwards that we would never play that way again ) when we went out to play defensively and when you employ those an attacking system with nearly every outfield player involved, there is always the opportunity for the opposing team to make a breakthrough. Fortunately, few had the courage – or you might say ability – to do so but when a team does make the effort, they can get rewards. On this occasion, for instance, in spite of the fact we dominated the play, played some nice attractive football and scored five goals against a fine team from Tayside, the newspaper reports tended to give Dundee praise for their performance and focus on the fact that we had lost three goals. C’est la vie!
Still, we did not know the reaction of the press immediately after the match and celebrated in the dressing-room the way every team does after a cup final win, with champagne flowing, a very happy group of players and management staff making a lot of noise and directors coming in to share the glory. It was Celtic’s 3rd League Cup victory in succession and it also completed my set of winner’s medals – League, Scottish Cup, League Cup, European Cup – not a bad return for two years as a professional footballer.
Unfortunately, all the celebrations were rather abruptly brought to an end by the manager, who reminded us that a bus was waiting to take us down to Prestwick Airport for the next big challenge of the season. When we came out of Hampden, we received a wonderful response from the hundreds of fans who had waited after the match to wish us all the best in our bid to be World Champions. It made us feel ten feet tall and determined to do our best to bring the trophy home. South America – here we come!