31st December 1966: Dundee United v Celtic League – Part Two

I was quite heartened by the first team’s draw with Aberdeen as every drop in level of performance by the guys went towards helping my claims for a first team spot. And a draw at that time had to be considered in that vein.

I had also been very pleased with my own performance in the Reserve match at Parkhead. Conditions were far from perfect – the pitch very hard and a little icy – but the rubber boots did the stuff and I put in a good stint at centre-half, not only in defence but taking the opportunity on a few occasions to come forward into midfield.

I had a strange relationship with these types of conditions. Beforehand, I was always slightly apprehensive about keeping my feet, yet once the game started, I usually felt quite comfortable. However, on a wet surface, with hard ice underneath, well, that was a different matter, those conditions better suited to players whose centre of gravity was closer to the ground than mine.

Still, when the teams were being set up at training in the days before the Dundee Utd match, it was patently obvious that, while I was in the squad of 18 players given out to the press, it was still going to be Tam and Pumper in the fullback roles.
And, just to make my week, the reserve match which was due at Parkhead on the Friday, was cancelled due to poor conditions. Now, it may seem that a trip to Dundee with the first team would be preferable to a reserve match in Glasgow but unless I was playing, I was not getting the chance to show my form, so I was well and truly gutted!

There was one man on the roster who had every reason to be much more disappointed than me – and that was Joe McBride. The reports in the press all said that Joe had received a slight leg injury either against Aberdeen or in training but, although no one was aware of the problem at the time, the injury was much more serious than that.

Now, all those years ago, there were no ‘scans’ to help the diagnostic process. X-rays were available but apart from that, it was the experience and knowledge of the medical staff that had to be brought into play to make a decision. Should he be operated on or not?

That is not such a stupid thought as it seems. Unless a surgeon knows precisely where the problem is situated, he is not going to take a chance and open up a knee. There was no keyhole surgery in those days, either, so if the doctors were unsure whether the problem was on the inside or perhaps at the back, then a larger incision would have to be made to discover the cause and a longer period of recuperation would follow.
And while the medical team were assessing the case, Joe was also receiving some advice from people with no medical training, frankly people who should have known better. One of these was that he should stand up on the treatment table – fully clothed and in particular with shoes on– and jump down on to the floor, slamming his feet down as strongly as possible. The theory behind this was that if the knee was slightly out of alignment, this would put it back in situ again.

To be honest, I have no idea whether or not Joe took the advice. I can recall, though, and quite clearly, how depressed he became all during this period as he went from physio to club doctor to specialist without getting an answer to his problem.

Before the match
We all reported to Celtic Park mid-morning and boarded one of the usual Cotter’s buses which then took off for Perth, where we stopped for lunch in a hotel just by the station. Then, as usual, Neilly took us on a short walk to stretch the legs before the bus caught up with us for the remainder of the trip to the city known for the three Js.

The Teams

Dundee United
Davie, Millar, Briggs, Neilson, Smith, Wing, Dossing, Hainey, Mitchell, Gillespie, Persson. Sub: Berg
Simpson, Gemmell, O’Neill, Murdoch, McNeill, Clark, Chalmers, Lennox, Wallace, Auld, Hughes. Sub: Johnstone



The Play
This was a very competitive encounter in which the play swung from end-to-end, with both teams having their moments. Our guys started well and got the first goal ; –

13 minutes
Tam Gemmell raced up the right wing and crossed hard into the middle. It looked fairly innocuous but goalkeeper Davie dived over it and Bobby Lennox was there to roll it home. 1-0 Celtic

Only 10 minutes later, the Terrors equalized ;-

22 minutes
Dossing came forward, played a one-two with Mitchell then slammed the ball into the corner of the net. 1-1

It did not take long for Celtic to go ahead again.

23 minutes
Davie was again at fault. He only parried away a not-too-powerful shot by Willie Wallace and it hit the inside of the post and rolled home.
2-1 Celtic

And that remained the score at half-time. Both managers would have been pretty happy with the efforts that their sides had put in, although Jerry Kerr would no doubt have glared at his keeper. He would also, though, have been happy with his defence’s very capable use of the offside trap. Now, he just needed his forwards to add to their tally.

From the start of the second half, though, it was Celtic who applied the pressure, firing on all cylinders. Once near goal, though, the final passes were careless, And it was quite noticeable to me, sitting up in the main stand, that when United did attack, our defence looked less than impressive. In fact, they were extremely uncomfortable, with the two fullbacks struggling against their two European opponents, Finn Dossing and Orjan Persson. Halfway through the second half, the home side struck again.

73 minutes
a wonder goal by Gillespie, who latched on the ball and from 25 yards,sent his shot high into the net.

And before Celtic could re-organise, they struck again.

75 minutes
Mitchell chased a long ball through the middle which the Celtic defence rather left to Ronnie to deal with. Unfortunately, the United striker got there first, waltzed the ball round Ronnie and trundled the ball into the net.
Final Score Dundee United 3 Celtic 2

It had been a great game to watch, full of action and excitement and we were all disappointed at coming out of the clash with a defeat. However, (and I realize that I might be repeating myself here) professional footballers who are not in the first team are always looking for an opportunity to win their place back. Sometimes, this can come because a rival is injured – which did not seem to happen in my case – and sometimes your chance comes when your rivals are made to look not so good.

This was definitely the case when Tam and Pumper were struggling with Dossing and Persson, so although I was genuinely annoyed that we had dropped two points, I was also very aware that as a consequence of the result, my chances of a first-team slot had suddenly improved.

Other Results
Bang went Celtic’s unbeaten record.
Fortunately results elsewhere went in Celtic’s favour –

Aberdeen 4 0 Kilmarnock
Airdrie 0 1 Hibs
Ayr 1 2 Partick Thistle
Clyde 0 1 Stirling Albion
Falkirk 1 0 Dunfermline
Hearts 1 2 Motherwell
Rangers 2 2 Dundee
St Johnstone 3 0 St Mirren


Team P W D L F A GAv Pts
Celtic 17 13 3 1 58 22 2.64 29
Rangers 16 11 3 2 59 15 3.93 25
Aberdeen 17 11 3 3 59 21 2.81 25
Dundee 17 8 5 4 32 21 1.52 21

Great Year
What a great year this has been for Walter McGowan – despite losing his world fly-weight title to Thailand’s Chartchai Chionoi.
He had 6 contests, won 5, won admittance to the Scottish Hall of Fame and won the British and Empire Bantamweight titles.

Surprising Statement
Cardinal Spellman said in Saigon that he stands by his statement that anything less than an Allied victory in Vietnam was ‘inconceivable’.
That statement and others provoked criticism of the cardinal from Soviet commentators and from Communists who accused him of contradicting the words of Pope Paul V1, who appealed in his Christmas message for a ‘miracle of peace’.
Cardinal Spellman was told of the Communist accusations and replied “Whatever I said, I stand by it”.

Close Call
Donald Campbell said that he ‘ducked’ when his jet boat Bluebird hit a bird at 200mph during a trial run on Coniston Water.
Mr Campbell said that a flock of ducks took off in front of him; “I thought one of them was coming through the canopy so I ducked below the level of the windscreen. There was no chance at all to avoid them”.