I did mention in a previous piece that all the guys were getting a bit annoyed that no actual matches seem to have been arranged before the friendly with Spurs on the 5th August and possibly those noises got though to the top brass as it was announced that two games had been arranged for midweek. However, after telling us that, no further news was put out so we were no further forward as to the opposition.
However, someone in authority had been talking to the press, as most of them in the first part of the week ran with the same story, which was some reflections on our proposed game against Spurs.
Firstly, they were all adamant that it would be the most important ‘friendly’ in Scottish football since Rangers had played Eintracht Frankfurt for the switch on of the Hampden lights in October 1961, which had attracted a crowd of 104,679.
Secondly, all the papers had seemed to have been given the nod that the eleven which had won the European Cup in Lisbon would take to the field for the friendly. And thirdly, they had also been obviously promised that the crowd could expect to see Celtic play in an attacking manner.
Isn’t it amazing sometimes what a player can learn from the papers?
The bigger news in the early part of the week came from Ibrox, where the press officer announced that Rangers had signed Dunfermline’s goal-scoring centre-forward Alex Ferguson. The fee of £60,000 was a club record for Rangers and makes Ferguson the most costly player to wear the light blue strip.
Ferguson arrived at 10.30am and dashed through the front door. One hour later, Pars manager George Farm, who yesterday paid £20,000 to his former club Raith Rovers to sign inside-forward Pat Gardner, arrived at Ibrox. Just before 1pm, Rangers manager Scot Symon, Ferguson and Farm emerged to meet the press corps and Symon announced “Ferguson has signed!”
Then when the Celtic View came out there was a big surprise for the Celtic fans – apparently Tam Gemmell had not signed a new contract. The Boss, though, was quick to put the minds of the fans at ease – “it is true that Gemmell has still to sign on. There is a slight dispute about his contract – but he is still under contract and he will be playing on Saturday”.
Now at this point, I am going to give you all a little tip. When a manager of that generation made a comment like that – “there is a slight dispute about his contract” – especially to a player of Tam’s ability, then it was certainly not about the type of boots he was wearing or the quality of the shampoo in the showers. It was definitely about money. To be honest, like the rest of us, Tam did not think he was being paid enough and was just making a point. Good on him…I, for one, was right behind him!
On the Tuesday evening, we – all the signed players – reported to Celtic Park for a so-called ‘closed doors’ match. These were very popular with the guys who were not in the first team whereas, as you might imagine, the experienced pros could see them far enough. They were more concerned about coming through such a match – where the guys were just mixed up into two teams with fairly constant substitutions – without an injury before the real stuff started on the following Saturday. The young guys, by contrast, knew that this was a rare opportunity to show what they could do in front of the Boss and his staff, so they treated it like a cup final. And it did turn out a bit like that, plenty of effort put in before an empty and painfully quiet stadium, although the regulars who always turned up at Parkhead on the chance of seeing the players or picking up an autograph or two would have heard plenty of noise from the players as they waited outside.
Afterwards, just when the first team pool was counting the cost in physical terms of the first competitive match of the season, checking for cuts, bruises and so on, the Boss came into the dressing-room and announced that on the next day – Wednesday – we would do a light loosener in the morning then report again at 5pm to travel to Coatbridge where we would meet Albion Rovers in another ‘closed doors’ match. As food was not mentioned, we just assumed that the pre-match meal would be provided by us.