28th April 1969: Celtic v Morton – League

27th April 1969

The previous evening, the night of the Scottish Cup final, we had celebrated our 4-0 win over Rangers at a party in the house of one of the players, although just which team-mate I find hard to recall after all these years. Anyway, we all enjoyed the occasion, although as we had been told to report on the Sunday morning, we behaved ourselves…..or, at least, we tried to!

I was having my own troubles that night, though. Halfway through the second half, I had received a heavy kick just to the side of my left knee. For the rest of the match and the after-match celebrations, I just ignored it but during the festivities that night, I could feel that the pain was increasing and by the time I got ready for bed, ‘agony’ would be a good word to describe it.

On the Sunday morning, by the time I arrived at Parkhead, the pain was intense and even worse, the kick must have caught me on a nerve trunk, as I had that ‘dead leg’ feeling which is so annoying. So, while the other fitter guys did a light workout on the track, I received some heat treatment from Bob Rooney. Doc Fitzsimmons also turned up and explained that there was definite bruising there which would heal in time but the ‘dead leg’ feeling was more of a problem. It might disappear overnight or carry on for some days. I was then told to go home, do nothing overnight and we would see how it was just before the match.

28th April  1969    The Day of the Match

The press had a field day with their headlines about Saturday’s match –

Torture Final for Rangers
No Escape from Nightmare

And there was some news that should have worried a few Rangers players –

‘Rangers directors will hold a ‘face the facts’ meeting before tonight’s league match with Dundee at Ibrox – and one result may be that a number of big-name players will go on the transfer list’.

As for our match, I came in mid-afternoon but knew before I even got there that I would have to miss this one. The leg was sore but in those days what usually happened at a time like that was that you smothered the tender area in some creamy analgesic or painkiller and then just got on with it. I was quite happy to go along with that scenario – goodness knows I had been in that position often enough – but the ‘dead leg’ feeling, while subsiding, was still occurring enough to be annoying and when it did happen, I just was not in control of my leg.

I did some light running on the grass behind the goals to let them see the problem, although when I tried to turn at one point and the ‘dead leg’ kicked in, causing me to fall, I seemed to be the only one out there – the Boss, Sean, Neilly and Bob were all watching – who did not find it funny. The rest were in hysterics. After he had sobered up, the Boss then told me that he would be withdrawing me from the team that night.

The Teams

I was not the only one on the injured list. Jim Brogan and Bobby Lennox were also injured; wee Jimmy was suspended and Yogi was still not match fit.

Cattenach, Gemmell
Murdoch, McNeill, Clark
Connelly, Chalmers, Wallace, Hood, Auld.  
Sub: Callaghan

Ferguson, Kerr
Rankine, Gray, Strachan
Coakley, Sweeney, Harper, Allan, Bartram.  
Sub: Mason

The Play

It might have been an end-of-season affair but a good crowd of around 30,000 turned up that night, pulled in no doubt by the novelty of seeing the three major trophies won by Celtic during the season – the League Championship trophy, the Scottish Cup and the League Cup – which were on display on a table at the centre-spot. It would have been a happy dressing-room, I would have thought and certainly, around my seat just behind the Directors’ Box, the atmosphere was almost delirious. Then Mr Pringle of Edinburgh blew the whistle to start the match, the play burst into life and we got four goals in the first 10 minutes – three of them against Celtic!

4 minutes…..Tam Gemmell was short with a pass-back and Per Bartram got there before anyone else. 1-0 Morton

6 minutes…..a good run down the wing by Rankin, a low cross into the box and Bartram again beat the Celtic defence to the ball.  2-0 Morton

By this time the crowd – or at least the Celtic part of it – was beginning to show their disapproval but one minute later they had more reason to be cheerful.

7 minutes…..nice cross by Bertie Auld, a hook shot by Willie Wallace.  2-1 Morton

But just when the home crowd was beginning to think that we were back in it, the visitors struck again.

10 minutes….another attack down the wing and when Allan pushed the ball across the goal, Bartram once again reacted quicker than anyone else for his hat-trick. 3-1 Morton

From that point to the break, Celtic were the more dominant of the two teams and Morton had keeper Lief Neilson to thank for some excellent saves. But by half-time, it was still 3-1 to Morton. I wondered what the Boss was saying to the guys? The general feeling up in the stands was that the players had spent too much time at the weekend celebrating. I had my own views on that idea but I couldn’t possibly comment!

We were on the rampage again in the second half but it was all a bit dis-jointed stuff which the Morton defence dealt with comfortably and when they didn’t, goalkeeper Neilson was having the game of his life behind them. And the scoring was not finished –

48 minutes …….nice one-two between Harper and Rankin before the former blasted his shot past John Fallon.  4-1 Morton

65 minutes…….Neilson was finally beaten by a shot from Harry Hood.

Full Time Score   Celtic  2  Morton 4

It was an unfortunate way for the penultimate match in our league season to end and almost unbelievably, one of our players in particular – Bobby Murdoch – had to get away from Celtic Park as quickly as possible and head for one of Glasgow’s top hotels, where he was presented that night with the Player of the Year Trophy awarded by the Scottish Football Writers Association.

Other Match
Over at Ibrox, a crowd of only 6,400 turned up for the match against Dundee, which ended in a 1-1 draw. It looks as though there might have been more fun at the Directors’ meeting!

26th April 1969: Celtic v Rangers – Scottish Cup Final

22nd April 1969
The shock news about wee Jimmy missing the final (see post on Kilmarnock match) was still hard to take in and we enjoyed our day off in something of a dwam. Granted, he was only one player in a team but he was such an important player for us and probably more importantly, he was one of those players who would always rise to the challenge on the big occasion. That’s why we would miss him so much.

Naturally, the press covered the story in great detail but there were also other little titbits to what the appetite, with the headline writers having a field day –

Hughes Improves  –  It’s Happy Celts

Yogi was back in training, certainly not killing himself with the effort he was putting in but looking as though he could last a game.

McKinnon Blow to Rangers

Centre-half Ronnie was suffering from a septic toe and was doubtful for the final.

And the fans and ourselves got a gentle reminder from one of the evening papers as to just what a good season we had come through, especially in the league –

CELTIC  :  CELTIC :  For 4th Year in a Row

It had also been a particularly special season for one of our guys and this was given the main headline in one of the dailies –

Player of the Year   –     Bobby Murdoch

Chopper had been selected for the honour by the Scottish Football Writers’ Association.

23rd April

Hughes is Fit – Will Play against Raith Rovers Tonight

This was not quite as good as it sounded. Yogi was apparently fit enough to take to the field in a reserve fixture against Raith but it was a question of him more or less having to prove his fitness to the Boss and his management team. If he looked good then he would probably be in on Saturday. If he looked less than what those in charge expected, then they would have to make a decision.

After training, the Boss made it quite clear as to what he expected – “We will not be taking 17 or 18 players down to Troon on Thursday. The 12 who will be travelling will be announced after training tomorrow”.

It was a bad night for British clubs. In Bratislava, Dunfermline were beaten 1-0 by Slovan to go out of the Cup-Winners’ Cup on a 2-1 aggregate’ while in the San Siro, Manchester United lost 0-2 to A.C.Milan to exit the European Cup also on a 2-1 aggregate score.

24th April
We did a light session at Parkhead then headed by coach down to Troon, where the Marine Hotel was our base. The atmosphere was relaxed and everybody seemed pretty confident; certainly I was quite sure that we would win.

The evening papers came up with two stories, the first about our opposition –

Rangers Stars Fit

And then one that probably gave us a little boost, when it was announced that Celtic would in the ‘Home’ dressing-room for the final, the one generally regarded as the ‘lucky’ one.

25th April 1969
We did a very light workout down at Troon, then were told the squad which would be involved at Hampden on the following day. Some of the news we expected, others we did not and it was covered quite extensively in the evening press that night –

Hughes Out:  Blow to Celtic’s Cup Hopes

‘Bad news for every Celtic fan in the land! At lunchtime today, a bitterly disappointed manager Jock Stein made this announcement –“John Hughes has failed a fitness test and he will not play against Rangers in the Scottish Cup Final at Hampden tomorrow. It was a tough test and I was tempted to play him but he was just an inch or two short of full fitness and I could not afford to take any chances.

The full squad will be Fallon, Craig, Gemmell, Murdoch, McNeill, Clark, Brogan, Connelly, Chalmers, Wallace, Auld and Lennox”.

The paper also announced that referee Jim Callaghan would make the toss of the coin using one of the new 50 pence pieces and then announced it big print how the match would go –


26th April 1969   The Day of the Match

My day got off to a most unusual start. I was the first of the players to appear for breakfast and when I entered the dining-room, I was faced by a dilemma. The only person sitting there was the Boss and I stopped just a yard or two inside the room. The natural thing to do was to go and sit with him but that could have led to accusations of ‘crawling’ by those who arrived later and I was caught for a minute or two.

Then the Boss looked up, saw me and pointed to the chair opposite him. As I sat down, he flicked one of the dailies across to me and said “read that drivel on the back page”. The article he had been referring to had been written by a most unpleasant journalist, whom nobody liked, at least among the players and from the way the Boss spoke about him that morning, I don’t think that he had any time for him either.

The writer said that as Celtic were slightly off the boil, Rangers would win, Willie Henderson would be too tricky for Tam Gemmell and Orjan Persson would be too quick for Jim Craig. I frowned and said to the Boss “but I’m quicker than Persson” and the Boss immediately required “of course you are” and then exhorted me to take the chance to ram the journalist’s words down his throat. And, I did notice that when the other guys eventually arrived, they were given the same advice. This might turn out to be an interesting afternoon, I thought, as I enjoyed my breakfast.

We went out for a walk along the beach after breakfast, then had a rest before an early lunch and the coach trip up to the city. They had been expecting a big crowd for this match and judging by the numbers lining the streets as the police motor-cycle outriders took us through the city, there was certainly a great deal of interest in the contest. Once we arrived at the approach to Hampden, passing by Lesser Hampden on the way, we could see that the crowd was going to be large and as we left the bus and entered the stadium itself, the Celtic fans decked out in the green-and-white gave us a huge welcome. It was such a great feeling to know that such support was there for us, especially on an occasion like that.

The Teams

Craig, Gemmell
Murdoch, McNeill, Brogan
Connelly, Chalmers, Wallace, Lennox, Auld.   
Sub: Clark

Johansen, Mathieson
Greig, McKinnon, D Smith
Henderson, Penman, Ferguson, Johnston, Persson. 
Sub: Jardine

The Play

A report in one of the dailies the following day summed up the proceedings quite neatly –

‘Celtic, with ruthless professionalism, took heavy toll of their opponents’ defensive blunders and technical naivety and play was noted more for its violence than artistic content.

Bluntly, the first half was a disgrace to football. Tackles were intimidating, even brutal. Man went for man. Tripping, kicking, hacking and jersey-pulling were rife. How on earth can the management of both sides raise their hands piously in horror against the hooliganism among their supporters when the players themselves indulge in an orgy of crudeness which made this so unpalatable a spectacle….

…..The wonder of it all was the game finished with 11 men in each team. From what I saw of this bitter, spiteful battle, the referee would have ban quite justified is sending off a couple of players from each side’.

I remember this match well and have seen the full match on film several times since that day. It was a brutal encounter, no doubt about that but there was some previous. Firstly, we were going for a Treble and Rangers were trying to stop us achieving that. Secondly, they had beaten us in the Glasgow Cup only a few weeks before and that loss rankled with us. Thirdly, there was a lot of prestige at stake with the top two teams in the land paying in the major Cup Final. And lastly, the reporter that I mentioned above was not the only one who tried to inflame the tension surrounding the match by letting his personal feelings intrude on what should be a sporting occasion. Certainly, the players deserve some blame for the proceedings becoming inflamed but we would not be human if we did react to provocation from people who should know better.

To go back to the actual action, frankly, the contest was over by half-time thanks to three Celtic goals before the interval –

2 minutes…..corner by Lemon, dreadful marking by the Rangers players and Cesar rose above everyone else to nod home the opener.  1-0 Celtic

44 minutes…George Connelly intercepted a pass from Persson meant for Mathieson and laid it into the path of Lemon, who raced forward and slid the ball past Martin.  2-0 Celtic

45 minutes…Martin took a short kick-out to Greig, who was not expecting it and lost the ball to Connelly, who rounded the keeper before slipping the ball home.  3-0 Celtic

I can say without fear of contradiction that the atmosphere in the dressing-room that afternoon at half-time was the best one ever. The Boss did make an effort to say that Rangers would try to come back but the comment was almost treated with contempt. There was no way back for them and we showed our superiority with another halfway through the second half –

76 minutes….pass from Bertie Auld into the path of Stevie Chalmers and he took the ball into the box before almost contemptuously driving it past Martin.

Final Score  Celtic  4  Rangers  0

It had been a wonderful afternoon and the Celtic fans in the huge crowd of 132,870 enjoyed themselves as much as we did. And we all had a good laugh when we discovered later that Rangers had been so confident of victory that they had arranged a post-match party at Ibrox, complete with accordion bands?  This was apparently cancelled. I sure hope the guys in the band got their money up front?

21st April 1969:  Kilmarnock v Celtic – League

20th April 1969

We were in on the Sunday for some training and there was just the vaguest hint from those in charge that they had not been too pleased with the performances against both Rangers in the Glasgow Cup and Airdrie in the League. You will all have through similar situations, when the guys at the top do not issue any direct criticism but there are hints that such-and-such was not too good or that we could perhaps have done some aspect of our play a bit better. At a time like that, you are better just keeping your mouth shut and not draw attention to yourself; and by that time, we were all experienced enough to know what to do.

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19th April 1969: Celtic v Airdrie – League

14th April 1969

Day off for those in the squad not involved with the Scotland group down at Largs prior to the match with West Germany. It gave us time to lick our wounds after the defeat in the Glasgow Cup by Rangers. At the time, supporters were saying that it was nothing to worry about as it was only the Glasgow Cup but the result would certainly have given the Light Blues a boost and we had a Scottish Cup final coming up in less than two weeks.

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1st April 1969: St Johnstone v Celtic – League

30th March 1969

I went to 9 o’clock Mass in my own parish on the Sunday morning but left straight after the communion as I had to report to Celtic Park for around 10am. In the event, I got there about 10.15 and was by no means the last one in, so there was no reason for me to worry. As usual, on a day like that, we just did some short stuff on the track, the whole idea of the exercise being that the men in charge like to have that role of power and tell you to come in so that you might behave yourself on a Saturday night.

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24th March 1969 Celtic v Hibs  League

23rd March 1969

We actually got the Sunday off, although there was another match coming up on Monday evening. Mass on a Sunday morning was always the time when I had most close contact with Celtic fans and that morning was no different. They crowded round afterwards to ask their questions and you could almost anticipate their response. They were pleased that we had manage to reach the Scottish Cup final but – like the more experienced players – there was still an air of disappointment at our exit from the European Cup at the hands of A.C. Milan.

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