Having played the night before, and with the first team having a home match on the Saturday, the most logical thing for me to have done would have been to go along to Parkhead to see the game. However, if I am being perfectly honest, I did not fancy the idea of sitting watching Celtic take Stirling Albion apart on a fine afternoon at Celtic Park!
Now, if that sounds a bit like heresy for a Celtic fan to say, let me put my thoughts into some sort of perspective.
One Way Traffic
Like most fans, I was expecting the Bhoys to come out that afternoon and play the visitors off the park. Normally, an exhibition like that would fill me with excitement and appreciation but…there is usually a ‘but’…at that precise time in the history of Celtic, I was trying my hardest to force my way into the first team and, as a defender, the last thing I wanted to do was watch a match involving my team where the defenders were strolling through the game. I would only get a chance if they did not do so well and that meant playing against a side which would give them a bit more trouble. Do you see my point?
I Was There!
However, a phone call on the Saturday morning made up my mind for me. My Mum had taken the call in the hall of our house ( remember the fixed point) and shouted up the stairs that “Mr Fallon was on the phone”. She later started to sing Sean’s praise a bit – “what a nice man that Mr Fallon is” – although, as far as I was aware, she had only ever spoken to him on the phone.
Anyway, once I got to the phone, alongside a pleased-looking Mum (Sean had obviously said something nice in their conversation), the assistant manager merely said that he hoped to see me at the game, adding, just to give me a sweetener, that there would be some good news for me.
Who Needs Public Transport?
After a bit of studying (it was quite a difficult job juggling my workload in dentistry with training and playing) I walked up to the top of the road to get the bus into town but was lucky enough to cadge a lift from one of the neighbours. He was a nice laddie, a Rangers fan and to my delight, he was heading for their away match against Hamilton, so he was going to be driving right past Celtic Park. What a stroke of luck! It turned out to be a good day for him too as the Light Blues won 7-1!
A Big Ask
That stroke of luck got me to Celtic Park a lot sooner than I had expected. The players involved were already there, sitting about in the snooker room, as a few of the guys showed their skill (or sometimes a lack of it) on the table. As part of the Boss’s re-structuring of the players’ activities, this piece of green baize would soon be disposed of, a table-tennis table taking its place.
Just as I was sitting there with the rest, soaking up the banter and atmosphere, Sean Fallon appeared in the doorway and motioned with his hand for me to go with him. We went through to the manager’s office where the Boss was sitting and he handled the rest of the conversation.
Keep My Thoughts to Myself
The gist of it was that they were happy with the way I was playing, it was his intention to give me another chance in the first team as soon as possible and I had just to keep up my standard. He then said he was disappointed that I could not get time off from university to go to Denmark for the Aarhus match. I started to explain why and he just lifted his hand to stop me. He fully understood, he said, before going on to say that what he was about to tell me I had to keep to myself. I nodded agreement.
He then told me he was confident of beating the Danish side over two legs. That would put us into the quarter finals of the Cup-Winners’ Cup, the two legs of which would be played after the turn of the year. And what he wanted me to do was to make sure that whatever date was chosen for Celtic to play the away leg in the tie, I had made sure well in advance that the Dental Hospital would let me travel.
Shock is a sensation that I had seldom experienced up to that point but it very accurately described my feelings at that moment. As we walked back to the snooker room for the Boss to announce the side for that afternoon, I felt quite disturbed, aware that I had been given the equivalent of state secrets. The rest of the afternoon passed with me saying very little, possibly worried that some of what I had been told about the future might slip out. At the same time, I was quite delighted at the news…..now I only had to persuade the Dean of the Dental Hospital to come to my rescue.
Not surprisingly, Jock Stein played the same team as in the previous two matches, both of which had resulted in good wins ; Simpson, Young, Gemmell. Murdoch, McNeill, Clark, Johnstone, Gallagher, McBride, Lennox and Hughes. And, as I had anticipated, Celtic took the visitors to the proverbial cleaners, as the papers mentioned;
Easy for Celtic ; Just a Practice
Hughes is Celtic Hat-Trick Hero
‘Easy for Celtic. The Parkhead boys got a stranglehold right from the start and won by the proverbial mile. Stirling never had the class to outshoot or outwit a side who played for a win without breaking sweat’
That was the feeling after the match but in truth, it did take Celtic some time to get going. Bobby Murdoch got the first in 28 minutes and Joe McBride made it two after 32 minutes and John Hughes in 42 ; but just before the interval, Stirling had pulled one back to make the half-time score 3-1 for Celtic.
After the break, Hughes took over, picking up his hat-trick with goals in the 50th and 58th minutes, before McBride got his second – and Celtic’s 6th – 12 minutes from the end.
It was a comfortable victory and a great afternoon for the fans. Celtic had come out in the all-green strip, a fine contrast to Stirling’s all-white and the League Cup had been paraded round the pitch at half-time, which, as you could probably imagine, brought the biggest roar of the afternoon.
The Boss was very pleased with the result and did mention to the assembled press that it would have given the whole club a boost for the forthcoming trip to Aarhus. I would have to miss that trip….but I did know things that other folk did not know!
Japan’s super express ‘bullet’ trains will start travelling at 140 mph from today, cutting journey time on the 330-mile trip from Tokyo to Osaka to 3 hours 10 minutes.
No Can Do
Lindertis Evulse, the Aberdeen Angus bull bought by Black Watch Farms, Wappingers Falls, New York for £63,000 at the Perth Bull Sales, may have to have another operation to try to make him fertile.