The main headline concerning the forthcoming Old Firm clash was about Rangers new left winger from Dundee United –
‘Two days before the vital Celtic-Rangers League Cup tie at Celtic Park on Wednesday, Rangers Swedish outside-left Orjan Persson spent today at home nursing a sore throat.
If he is still suffering from the condition on Wednesday, look for the return of Willie Johnston, who has been doing well in the reserves’.
I, for one, was willing Mr Persson to recover from his sore throat in time for the match. I would much rather have played against Orjan than Willie. I was quicker in every way than the Swede whereas at the start of a match, Willie was quicker than me and I had to work at reducing that pace. So, I felt like taking some medicines round to chez Persson to see if it would help.
As regards our own side, Stevie Chalmers, who missed the Dundee United match with a leg injury, was fit and seemed certain to come back; while still on the treatment table was Charlie Gallagher, suffering from an ankle knock.
In other news, former Rangers and Scotland full-back Eric Caldow has decided to give up the game. Eric joined Rangers in July 1952.
And a proposal has been put forward to ‘seed’ the League Cup qualifying section draw. This would keep the top teams apart and give them all a sporting chance of reaching the knock-out stages of the tournament. Probably the inclusion of Celtic, Rangers, Aberdeen and Dundee United in the same section that season influenced the thinking round that proposal.
Training had been straightforward that week, with the Boss and his staff in good form. There was plenty of hard work but there was also a great deal of humour and camaraderie.
Just before we left the building at Parkhead, the Boss came into the dressing room and announced that what had become known as the ‘Lisbon team’ would start against Rangers on the morrow, with Willie O’Neill handed the substitute role. He also read out the reserve side which would face Rangers at Ibrox in a Reserve League Cup tie.
That was all included in the papers on that Tuesday evening but it was a Rangers player who dominated the headlines –
Johnston Set for Rangers Wing
‘With Orjan Persson still under the weather, Willie Johnston looks set to take his place on the left wing for the clash with Celtic. Johnston has not been in the first team since the friendly with Eintracht Frankfurt in a pre-season game’.
So, Willie it would be and I had better get my spikes on for some quick runs. No! it was never as bad as that. Between us, Ronnie, Chopper and I had developed a system whereby we made sure that Willie did a lot of extra running in the first half chasing me up-field. And every time that happened, Willie, as an out-and-out sprinter, was getting his stamina tested and slowing slightly whereas I, as a sprinter/middle distance runner, was still maintaining my pace. Ah! the things you have to do.
There was an unusual story in one of the papers that day. Referee Tom Wharton, who would be in charge of the Celtic/Rangers game on Wednesday, would be leaving for Canada on Thursday to take charge of the Inter Milan v Olympiakos friendly in Toronto that night.
Tom would leave Prestwick at 12.30pm Thursday and arrive in Toronto at 3.30pm local time just hours before the game starting at 8.30pm.
He had been asked to travel because the referee in the Inter Milan v Santos match the previous Sunday had given a terrible performance. 3 players were sent off, play was held up for 15 minutes and neither the crowd nor the teams were happy with the officials, so, in a tribute to our game, those in charge decided to send for one of our top refs to take control.
Apart from an appraisal of the team sheets, there was not much in the morning papers. The feeling was that while Rangers would give their all, Celtic were the more competent side and if everyone played to their normal level, then they would do it.
Unfortunately, that thinking was a trifle too casual. This was one of the biggest games in world football with the pressure level quite enormous. While players can get themselves ready physically for such a contest, what is much more difficult to deal with is the mental stress. Not only are you expected to win by your Boss and his staff, the supporters, the directors etc, you are out there being exposed to the abuse – and occasional venom – directed at you by the opposing faction. That can be very difficult to cope with, some players never quite cope with it and that is one of the reasons why there have been some surprising results in this particular fixture.
In the press, there was one heading and accompanying story about Celtic and it might have come as a surprise to many people –
Extra Keen Celtic
‘8 of Celtic’s European Cup-winning players decided to train today – just 3 and a half hours before the all-important League Cup tie with Rangers. They were not under orders to train. They were there because they like to loosen up before every big game.
Jock Stein said “some of the bigger and heavier players feel that light exercise helps them a lot when the match starts. Others, such as Jimmy Johnstone, Stevie Chalmers and Bobby Lennox, prefer to rest – and they will report to the ground one before the 8pm kick-off time”.
I notice that I did not get a mention there but as I was certainly not in the ‘bigger and heavier players’ category, I would not be reporting until ‘one hour before the 8pm kick-off time’.
Afternoon of Match
After that piece in the press the previous day about some of the guys wanting to loosen-up about an hour or two before the match, the whole scenario became a bit of a topsy-turvy situation. Somewhere along the line we all had to fit in a meal as well, so suddenly the usual smooth pre-match routine became quite complicated. Anyway, we ( although I was not involved in the shenanigans at all) eventually found a solution, we all got a pre-match meal and the guys also managed to fit in some loosening-up work beforehand. I much preferred to go out before the match and do a fairly extensive work-out at that point, just before the teams went out for the match itself. However, as my Mum always reminded me, everyone has their own way of doing things!
When we eventually arrived at Celtic Park for the match itself, we realised that it had been a good decision to make the match all-ticket. There was a huge crowd round the entrance and the stewards had to make a corridor for us just to get inside the main door.
There is nothing quite like an Old Firm contest to concentrate the mind and even when we were getting changed, the noisy mob in the dressing room were fairly subdued. Even Steeley was a bit less vociferous than usual, although he worked hard with the massaging.
Murdoch, McNeill, Clark
Johnstone, Wallace, Chalmers, Auld, Lennox.
Jardine, McKinnon, Greig
Henderson, Penman,Ferguson, D Smith, Johnston.
With the exception of the 1969 Scottish Cup Final (where the attendance was 132,870 as opposed to the 75,000 there on that evening) this was my most memorable Old Firm match, mainly because it looked for a long time as though the game was going to slip away from us.
From the off, it was usual Old Firm frenetic stuff, no quarter asked for, none given, with both sides having a fair share of the play. Then the Light Blues made a breakthrough –
pass by Penman, shot by Henderson. 1-0 Rangers
More than one of us at the back thought that Willie was offside but the referee, Tom Wharton, saw nothing wrong and let it stand.
It was a blow to us but we buckled down and tried to get back into the match. Then, suddenly someone – either in a light blue jersey on the pitch or on the management staff in the dugout – made the decision that the Rangers players should go in for a holding operation to protect their one-goal lead.
For us, it was like Manna from heaven and we took the opportunity to control the play and put the Rangers defence under enormous pressure. It would also be true to say that a fair amount of fairly tough challenges were going in. However, while we made chances, we could not get the crucial breakthrough and at the interval, it was still Rangers one-up.
The Boss must have been all a-flutter inside but externally, he was quite calm, telling Tam and I to stretch their defence with some forward runs and wanting Wispy and Stevie to make life more difficult for the Rangers central defensive duo.
In the second half, we continued to exert great pressure but somehow Rangers hung on and even looked dangerous in the occasional breakaway. Occasionally some players went a bit over the mark with their tackling and the names of T Gemmell and A Ferguson went into Mr Wharton’s black book.
There are no clocks inside Scottish football grounds ( there are a few on the Continent) so I did not know how much of the 90 minutes was left but it would be true to say that by that time I was getting really worried. We had most of the play and the chances but they had the goal which mattered. Then it seemed like disaster struck against us!
Luggy made a late challenge on Willie Henderson ( it was late) while in full flight and Mr Wharton pointed to the penalty spot. Up came Kai Johansen to take it. The Dane struck it well enough but the ball crashed against the underside of the bar and bounced down. As it reached him, Kai, probably caught out and not thinking, headed the ball towards goal.
Now, that is a foul; the ball has to be touched by an opponent before any player in the side receiving the penalty award can do so. So, while MrWharton blew for a foul and motioned for Ronnie to take the free kick,the rest of us celebrated mentally and got ready to up our game.
And it only took us two minutes to get a reward –
a corner from the left was not cleared by the Rangers defence and Wispy guided the ball over the line..1-1
Rangers were stunned and now we were in complete control. And it did not us long to go in front-
Lemon teed up a ball for Chopper at the edge of the bus and Bobby sent a vicious one past Sorensen into the roof of the net. 2-1 Celtic.
It must not have happened too often in the history of the Ibrox club but I thought that at that moment, the heads of more than a few players dropped and within minutes, we got another –
indecision in the Rangers rearguard allowed Lemon to intercept a pass and race clear to score another.
Final Score Celtic 3 Rangers 1
As you can probably imagine, the atmosphere in the dressing-room afterwards was quite wonderful and the Directors also piled in to share in the moment. It continued all through the showering and dressing routine then the Boss cleared the dressing-room and brought us all back down to earth with a bump.
“Now, I know you will probably want to celebrate tonight but could I just point out that we have Aberdeen at Pittodrie on Saturday and we will be training tomorrow morning. So, enjoy your night”.
And with that, a more subdued group of players made their way home.
From the morning press the day after the Old Firm match –
‘With one match left to be played in the qualifying round of the Scottish League Cup, the winners of all but three of the sections have been decided. Celtic, Morton, Kilmarnock, Dundee and St Johnstone have gone though to the quarter-finals and Ayr United have qualified for the supplementary round tie against Clydebank or Brechin City, the winner of which will play Celtic.
Saturday’s games will decide whether Queen’s Park or Hamilton Academical and East Fife or Arbroath join the others’