3rd January 1969
It was a bunch of fairly disheartened players who came in for training the day after the Rangers match. We were not only feeling low but also seething over the penalty decision by the referee the previous afternoon.
A headline in one of the dailies summed up the general mood of the Celtic fans –
Rangers Won But Was It A Penalty?
The comments by the reporter were also right on the button –
‘Mr Stein declined to talk about the controversial penalty that gave Rangers victory. I also understand that most of the players are convinced of two things, firstly that the shot by Willie Henderson hit Billy McNeill’s chest and NOT his arm and secondly, that the shot was going well wide of goal’.
Quite rightly, at least in my opinion, the Boss did the right thing by not saying anything about the previous day’s match to us. Our disappointment was palpable. What he did talk about was Dunfermline and the problems they might provide. Tid Callaghan seemed to be a slight doubt as regards injury but apart from him, everyone was OK.
We also got an unexpected boost from Cesare Maldini, assistant manager of A.C. Milan, who had been at the Old Firm match with manager Nereo Rocco. He was quoted as saying –
“No Italian team could survive at the pace this derby was played at. It was fast and full of good football for 90 minutes and Celtic were a little unlucky to lose by a penalty goal”.Cesare Maldini
Nice words but from what I had encountered about Italian football in my admittedly short career, it was a load of codswallop. A.C. Milan would be ready for us, with all guns blazing!
4th January The Day of the Match
A home match, so my Mum provided the scrambled eggs and toast that I always liked pre-match and I made my way up to Parkhead in plenty of time. The atmosphere among the players had improved from the previous day – but only slightly – and all of us were in determined mood, keen not to drop any further points in the chase for the league title.
The Boss had made no mention of the team up till then but that was a not unexpected situation and we were quite used to late announcement of the names involved. Although when he eventually did so, there was a surprise for everyone, as wee Jimmy was on the bench –
Murdoch, McNeill, Brogan
Hughes, Wallace, Chalmers, Callaghan, Lennox.
Fraser, Barry, Renton
Robertson, Paton, Edwards, Gardner, Mitchell.
The Pars kicked off but we immediately won the ball back and used it well –
cross by Tid Callaghan and Willie Wallace was there to slide the ball home. 1-0 Celtic
It was a perfect start and threw the Pars right off kilter. It was our chance to impose our will on the match and we did so with enthusiasm, getting another reward before too long –
a shot from 18 yards by Wispy went flying over goalkeeper Duff. 2-0 Celtic
Our fans, making up the vast majority of the crowd of 43,500 were ecstatic and urged us on, which we did with a will. We were well in control of the play but the Pars were coming more into the match as an attacking force and they pulled one back halfway through the half –
Paton sent in a shot from 20 yards which beat John Fallon but hit the crossbar and re-bounded to Alec Edwards, who scored from 8 yards. 2-1 Celtic
It was now an end-to-end encounter, with both keepers being tested. We certainly had more of the attacking play but Dunfermline were never out of it and the fans were loving what they were seeing.
At the interval, the Boss was calmness personified, praising our commitment and just pointing out a few things that he felt we might improve on.
We put those into operation from the re-start and they certainly helped. The crucial moment in the match, though, came just when both sides were needing a boost and it fell to us –
great run by Yogi, who survived three tackles on his run before sending over a low cross which Bobby Lennox threw himself at to head home. 3-1 Celtic
That might have seemed to be the point where the game shifted in our favour but to be fair to the Pars players, they never gave up and kept pressing us right to the end. At the final whistle, the deafening roar that came up from our fans in the ground was like music to our ears.
Final Score Celtic 3 Dunfermline 1
At East End Park, the reserve sides of both clubs met in a Reserve League encounter. The Celtic team was Simpson, Cattenach, O’Neill, Dalglish, Connelly, Hay, Wilson, McMahon, Quinn, Davidson, Clark.
The Celtic Reserves won 4-0.