21st July 1968
A Sunday, which meant that I had to run the gauntlet of Celtic fans after Mass. It was getting to the ridiculous stage where even grannies who had never been to a game of football in their lives were asking questions about what was going on at training, what was Jock Stein like and so on. And, of course, the priests who said the Mass liked to have me to themselves for a short time afterwards to ask their own questions. Eventually, my Mum and Dad just went home, leaving me to deal with – as my Mother once said – my public!. And not a cup of tea in sight!
22nd July 1968
Back to training, with everyone seemingly in good form after their weekend. There was a piece in one of the evening papers where Tony Queen, a Glasgow bookie who was a personal friend of Jock Stein, issued his odds for the League Cup. Celtic had been rated at 2 to 1 ON to overcome Rangers, Partick Thistle and Morton in their League Cup section; and they were 5 to 4 favourites to win the trophy for the fourth year in a row.
23rd July 1968
The list of players for the 67-68 season was shown in the press, as follows –
|St Michael’s Kilwinning
|St Mirren’s BG
|Shotts Bon Accord
|St Michael’s Kilwinning
|St Anthony’s Juniors
|St Roch’s Juniors
|St Pat’s Coatbridge
24th July 1968
After another session, the Boss was apparently confident enough to tell the assembled press corps –“there is no trouble of any kind with the squad”.
There was a shock for Hearts. It was well known that one of their ex-players, Dave Mackay, who had gone on to have a very successful career with Totttenham Hotspur, was in the market for a further move and the management at the Gorgie Road side were keen – and also expectant – about bringing him back to Tynecastle. However, they were to be disappointed on this day, when Mackay decided on a move to 2nd Division Derby County.
Unfortunately, that confident statement from the Boss was not quite accurate. I was struggling a bit but only the management and the medical staff were in the know. Oh! I could take part in all the various running sesssions, exercises and shooting practices but I was feeling very tired at the end of it all and that was not like me. I had always prided myself on being right up near the top of the table for stamina and was pretty quick too but while I could take part in all these various activities, there was just something lacking, something just holding me back from being 100%. Perhaps I could have kept the problem from the Boss but I wanted to play fair and I admitted to him that I was still just a bit below par.
He was surprised at first but when he began to watch my work more carefully, he did notice that I was slightly off the pace. Then the questions started. Was I feeling as bad as I had been after the South American trip? No! Was I improving? Undoubtedly! How far away was I from being at full power and strength? That was a more difficult one but I thought a couple of weeks max. That seemed to satisfy him and he just told me to keep working hard. I was feeling good after the chat. He obviously wanted me in the team and I was determined to get there as soon as possible, even increasing my personal training regime.
26th July 1968
Stein Orders a Special Work-Out
Every man in Celtic’s top-team pool of players has been ordered to attend a special ‘work-out’ at Parkhead tomorrow morning.
27th July 1968
The ‘work-out’ named by the Boss the day before was indeed a special one, with more than a few suffering on the morning. I came through it OK, although I could see that the Boss was keeping an eye on me and was quick to ask me afterwards how I had been feeling. I was dead honest and admitted that, although I had done everything that was asked of me, I was still not feeling my usual self, especially in the area of stamina – usually a strong point of mine.
29th July 1968
It was announced that Willie Johnston had been suspended for 7 days and fined £20 for a third caution. This will mean that he will miss the first of the sectional League Cup matches against Celtic.
30th July 1968
The press announced that Jock Stein is ‘almost certain’ to name his team to play against Leeds United at Hampden on Saturday after tomorrow’s training session. At the moment, he has no injury problems regarding injury to face when naming his side.
Except for me, that is. I got called into the Boss’s office after training this morning and he informed me that while I was nearly back to full fitness – he put an emphasis on the ‘nearly’ – he could not risk me in such a high-powered friendly. I would be on the bench and if I was not brought on, I would be in the team to play Hamilton next week. It was good of him to keep me in the loop; I had heard from players at other clubs how un-communicative some managers could be. So I appreciated the Boss’s honesty – and interest!
31st July 1968
Training as usual but in spite of the press expecting Jock Stein to name his side this morning, he apparently was quite evasive over the issue and the press conference did not last long.
Some other friendlies were played on this day, the results being as follows –
Tottenham Hotspur 3 Rangers 1 Glenavon 2 Kilmarnock 7 Oxford Utd 2 Morton 3
Dumbarton 1 Chester 4 Hamburg 0 Manchester United 2
1st August 1968Preview (opens in a new window)
The Boss spoke to the press corps again and this time they got some information. After a ‘super-fast’ practice match, Jock Stein said that he was ‘back at square one’ as regards his eleven for Saturday
“Everybody played so well that I honestly could not give out a firm eleven right now. I will have to a lot of thinking”.
He did, though, give out a list of 13 names – Simpson, Gemmell, O’Neill, Murdoch, McNeill, Brogan, Clark, Hughes, Wallace, Johnstone, Lennox, Auld and Gallagher’; with a ‘subs’ list of five names – Fallon, McBride, Chalmers, Connelly and Craig.
2nd August 1968
Again no comment from the Boss but one of the evening papers was in no doubt as to the outcome of the match – ‘I go for Celtic speed, Celtic skill and Celtic fitness to win the day. This much looks certain – a huge crowd is going to be given something special in the way of entertainment’.
Day of the Match
Glory be…this must be a big match! We were actually taken for a pre-match meal before the trip across the city to Hampden Park. When you have a police out-rider, it always concentrated the mind, suggesting that this was a big occasion and that the fans were expecting to be entertained – and a victory was taken as granted.
A big crowd had turned up for the occasion – later given as 75,110 – and as we went out for a look at the pitch, those already there – and that made up a considerable number – gave us a great welcome. Then, it was back into the dressing-room to get changed and ready for the fray; at a time like that, when I was a sub, I found the situation quite difficult. Certainly, like the rest of the guys, I was getting ready for the contest but as I would at least start the match on the bench, a good part of me felt that I was very much on the periphery and not playing an essential role in the proceedings.
Anyway, the boys were all in good form, it was a blazingly-hot day, the pitch was like a bowling green, the atmosphere tremendous and to contrast the all-white of Leeds, we had been told to put on the all-green outfit. The contrast was very stark
Murdoch, McNeill, Brogan
Hughes, Wallace, Johnstone, Lennox, Auld.
Bremner, Charlton, Hunter
Lorimer, Madely, Jones, Giles, Gray
The idea of playing Wee Jimmy through the middle certainly confused the Leeds defence at first and Celtic made some chances but the English club quickly got themselves organised at the back and Jimmy’s threat gradually diminished. Still, we were the more positive side in the first half and opened the scoring in 36 minutes. In a careless moment, Gary Sprake brought down Bobby Lennox in the box and Tam Gemmell made no mistake with the penalty, giving Celtic a lead they held to the interval.
Leeds were much sharper after the break and scored two fine goals, equalising in 52 minutes when John Giles sent a 25-yarder high past Ronnie and then going 2-1 up in 63 minutes though a very delicate lob by Peter Lorimer.
The crowd – the vast majority supporting the Hoops – was not happy and urged Celtic on. However, although the guys worked hard and made a few openings, Leeds were similarly adventurous at the other end and play swung backwards and forwards. But at the whistle, it was still 2-1 to Leeds and the crowd – while not exactly getting to the stage of booing – was not very complimentary either and the teams left the field in quite a strange atmosphere.
Final Score Celtic 1 Leeds United 2
Even worse, once we were back in the dressing-room, the Boss was not too pleased, either! And the following day, one of the dailies probably summed up the match fairly and precisely –
Celtic Find Leeds Too Hot