30th November 1966: Nantes v Celtic European Cup – Part One

nantes28th November
The match against Hearts received very large coverage in the Monday morning and evening papers, with this headline and comment typical of the reactions ;-

Ruthless Celtic

‘Celtic raised their goal-scoring total for the season to 101
McBride was the hero of the terracings but for my money the star of the match was Jimmy Johnstone. He has taken his punishment of being banished for 2 games like a man. He has stopped trying to baffle 3 players in a row when a swerve round one will do the job equally well.
All the others played magnificently and, on this showing, their trip to France should definitely make it a case of ‘French with Tears’ for Nantes’.

Two hours before they flew to France today, Celtic’s 15 European Cup players were hard at work at Parkhead.
The scene at Celtic Park looked a ‘ business as usual’ one. The players were at the ground around 9.30am. At 10 o’clock they were in tracksuits and out on the field training.
Then the hustle started. It was a case of into a bath, into a bus, and off to Glasgow Airport for a noon take-off to Nantes.
Explanation from manager Jock Stein for the early morning training– “We are going to make a 3-hour flight. We did no training yesterday and muscles always stiffen up slightly over the weekend All we were concerned with today was betting the 15 men loosened up.We will do our usual hard training in the Nantes stadium tomorrow morning”.


The 15 men who set out on the important mission were – Simpson, Gemmell, O’Neill, Murdoch, McNeill, Clark, Johnstone, Chalmers, McBride, Auld, Lennox, Gallagher, Young, Fallon, Cattenach.

There were two names missing from that list, one of whom was a regular at that time and the other a newcomer. The regular was John Hughes and the reason he was not in the squad was that he was recovering from an injury.
The missing newcomer was me – and the reason I was missing was my lack of fitness. You might recall that I had firstly missed the tour to North America in the summer and then had taken some time off to sit my final exams in dentistry in the middle of October. So, while I was certainly fit, I was, in the opinion of the Boss, not quite fit enough to take my place in the first team. That meant that while the boys were preparing to meet Nantes in France, I was doing double sessions back home. I could feel myself getting stronger all the time but the Boss had decided that I would benefit more from that training rather than a trip to France.

After my sessions were finished, I attended a match for which I had received a special invitation. The Celtic Boys Club Under-13 side met their counterparts from Partick Thistle in an exhibition game, during which there was a collections. The proceeds of this were donated to the Aberfan Disaster Fund.

Ex-Celt Tommy Docherty doesn’t know whether to take on the job as Scottish team manager. He is unsure because –
(a) He hasn’t been offered it officially, so he does not know how badly he is wanted by the SFA.
(b) He would love to stay at Stamford Bridge till Chelsea win one of the major honours and so prove that he really is the top manager everyone says he is.
That is why, at the moment, the usually voluble Docherty is saying nothing about the reports that have been flying about during the weekend.

29th November
Celtic were not allowed to use Nantes’ Malakoff Stadium when they trained today. The Nantes officials flatly refused to let Celtic train on the pitch where they will play their European Cup tie tomorrow night and ordered the party of 15 to train at a smaller stadium in Nantes.
The refusal, however, did not start an international incident – in fact, manager Jock Stein, was quite pleased at the decision. Nantes explained that the Malakoff ground had been used on Saturday for an important rugby match and that the groundsmen were still engaged in replacing the turf cut to pieces in the rain.
Mr Stein said – “It does not matter where we train, any football pitch will be good enough as long as it is not dangerous. When Nantes come to Glasgow next week and if Celtic Park is soft, we will be able to direct them to Barrowfield without any bickering or unpleasantness”.

In fact, the Nantes players were just finishing their own work-out when Celtic arrived and they all stayed to watch the Scottish champions do their routines. Then the Celtic squad paid a visit to the Malakoff Stadium to check on the lights and the pitch.
Afterwards, both teams were guests of honour at a reception given by the mayor of Nantes after training

30th November
During the previous day and in the early morning hours on the day of the match, the Celtic supporters – in two special chartered aircraft – were flying into Nantes.
On the previous evening, Mr Stein had told the press that the players would be ordered to bed early and should not appear for breakfast before 10 o’clock

Dundee half-back Alec Stewart was unhurt when his Jaguar hit a lamp standard at West Ferry, Dundee. But his 19-year-old fiancée Jennifer Rogerson had to be treated for a leg injury.

New Country
The 166 square-mile island of Barbados, occupied by Britain since 1627, will become the smallest independent country in the western hemisphere at midnight tonight.

Not Working
The November unemployment figures top the half-million mark. The total out of work was 541,585 – an increase in a month of 105,340.