A Personal Diary - 50 years on ...


22nd March 1969: Celtic v Morton – Scottish Cup Semi-Final

17th March 1969

We had ground out a reasonable result against Partick Thistle on the previous Saturday – at least it was a win – but there was still a feeling of disappointment among the players over the result against A.C.Milan in the quarter-final of the European Cup.

We had been very happy with the result in the first leg. To play in poor conditions in the San Siro against a team of Milan’s quality in front of a crowd of 80,000 and come away with a goalless draw would have satisfied most teams. Certainly, most people behind the scenes at Celtic Park seemed to be pleased with the result and they had been looking forward to the second leg.

Cesar was the subject of some criticism for the mistake which led to the Italians’ goal but in truth, an analysis of the play over both matches would tend to suggest that the defence did well to only lose one goal in 180 minutes. From our record in the league at that point – where we had scored 69 goals in 26 matches – our fans might have expected us to score at least one over the two legs. As we all know now, we did not…..and the fact that we went out of the European Cup at that stage – or more precisely, the way we went out, by a single goal over 180 minutes -really rankled with us and there can be little doubt that we were slightly off the boil against the Jags.

One piece of good news for us all had occurred on the Sunday morning, when Clyde’s Harry Hood joined the club for a fee of around £30,000. Harry had always been a very talented player and he would be a very welcome addition to the squad. He was present that Monday morning, when we just went through a fairly light session, as we had a match on the Tuesday evening against Dundee at Dens Park.

And Harry was named in the squad which would travel to Dundee on the morrow. It consisted of Fallon, Craig, Gemmell, Murdoch, McNeill, Brogan, Johnstone, Chalmers, Wallace, Auld, Hughes, Clark, Callaghan and Hood.

18th March 1969

We were all still at home when the news came though by phone that the match at Dens Park had been cancelled due to the pitch being both ‘icy and dangerous’. We were given the day off.

19th March 1969

We reported in again and worked pretty hard over at Barrowfield. Bobby Lennox was still receiving some treatment but also did some running and even the papers suggested that he might make the semi-final against Morton on the Saturday.

20th March 1969

Training again. Everyone seemingly in good form but Lemon was not right and it was announced in the evening press that he would not make it.

21st March 1969

We did the usual light session on the day before a match and then went home quite early, just after the Boss announced the squad of squad of 13 for the match.

The two semi-finals were Celtic v Morton and Rangers v Aberdeen and there was no doubt what the press thought would be the outcome of the two semi-finals –

All Set for an “Old Firm” Final

22nd March    The Day of the Match

This was obviously a special occasion as we were taken for a pre-match over in the south of the city, and as the other semi-final was at Parkhead, we were told to report quite early before any crowds started to gather. A police escort was on hand to take us firstly through the streets to the chosen hotel for the meal and then back to the National Stadium for the match.

When we arrived at Hampden, we went right out on to the pitch to check the conditions and the Morton guys were already out there. We had not played the team from Greenock since before the turn of the year but they were all known to us and we had a good chat out on the grass before coming in to get ready for the fray.

The Teams

Craig, Gemmell
Murdoch, McNeill, Brogan
Johnstone, Wallace, Chalmers, Auld, Hughes.  
Sub: Callaghan

Ferguson, Rankin
Jensen, Gray, Strachan
Coakley, Allan, Harper, Sweeney, Bartram.    
Sub: Mason

The Play

The Celtic fans in the crowd of 48,396 were shocked – as were we, to be honest – when Morton scored in their first attack…

2 minutes….ex-Celt Gerry Sweeney swept the ball out to Bartram on the left wing. As I approached him for the challenge he swung a cross into the middle and there was Allan to beat John Fallon with a header.   Celtic 0  Morton 1

It was a real blow to us but to give us credit, we buckled down, grabbed control of the play and started to push the ball around. However, while we might have had the vast majority of the play and made some chances, the Hoops fans in the ground had to wait some time to see their side score a goal-

34 minutes…..High ball into the box from Cesar and Wispy got there first with a header.  1-1

Th next goal came just before the break and this one was also for the Hoops –

43 minutes……corner for Celtic, Bertie Auld got a chance to get a shot in, the ball re-bounded out off a defender right to Cesar, who slammed it home.  2-1

As we came up the tunnel for the half-time break, I, for one, was expecting the Boss to be in a grumpy mood but in actual fact he was calmness personified, merely pointing out one or two things that he would like to change and encouraging us to keep the pressure on. And we did, pushing Morton back in defence and we soon got another goal –

56 minutes……a low shot by Stevie completely deceived keeper Nielson.  Celtic 3 Morton 1

We were completely in control by this time, the vast majority of the play well back in the Morton half, with the guys from Greenock only making the occasional attack. We were not always precise with our finishing but we did take advantage of a chance before the end –

65 minutes…..solo run by Jinky ended with a fine shot. 

Final Score  Celtic  4  Morton  1

Other Semi-Final

Aberdeen  1   Rangers  6

League Results

Arbroath  3  Falkirk  0                     
Dundee Utd  2  St Mirren  2        
Kilmarnock  0  Clyde  0
Partick Thistle  0  Dundee  4        
Raith Rovers  1  St Johnstone  3 


15th March 1969: Celtic v Partick Thistle – League

13th March 1969

There was an almost deathly atmosphere at Celtic Park when we arrived for training the morning after the loss to A.C. Milan. In fact, a funeral parlour might have had a more pleasant air about it.

Nobody really wanted to talk about the previous night’s match yet we all were aware that you could not avoid mentioning it. I think we all felt some sympathy for Billy – who had been a major star for us on many occasions – but the general feeling was also that we should have made more chances and taken at least some of them.

The Boss just let us get on with some loosening – with Neilly in charge – but I noticed later that he had opened up to the papers a bit more –

We Paid For Our Mistakes – Stein
‘A.C.Milan are a team of the highest calibre. When you play against opponents like that you just cannot afford to make mistakes and miss chances. We did both in this game – and paid the price!’

The report in the press that night summed up the situation pretty neatly –

Twelve Minutes – and Celts Were Out

14th March 1969

The atmosphere was better, the training was sharper, we were putting the A.C. match behind us and training ended with a brief address from the Boss. It was nothing dramatic, merely a resume of where he thought we had made matters hard for ourselves on the Wednesday and a warning that our opponents on the morrow – Partick Thistle – would be fired up for the trip to Celtic Park and would be determined to take advantage of any drop in our morale after the defeat.

He then named a squad for the Jags match. When I saw the evening paper later and caught the headline –

Stein Leaves Out Clark

-I assumed that he had a private word with John Clark before giving that info to the press and found out the following day that he had indeed done so.

The article then went to say that Chopper would be at right-half; Brogie at left-half; and six forwards were listed – Johnstone, Wallace, Chalmers, Auld, Hughes, Callaghan.

The Day of the Game 15th March 1969

A lazy morning, the pre-match meal in my parents’ house, an easy car journey and a rather smaller crowd than I had been expecting gathered outside Celtic Park. The atmosphere inside the camp was OK; nobody was exactly bouncing around but we were getting over the shock of going out of the European Cup at the quarter-final stage and hopefully, ready to get the league campaign back on track.

The Teams

Craig, Gemmell
Murdoch, McNeill, Brogan
Johnstone, Wallace, Chalmers, Auld, Hughes.    
Sub: Hay

Partick Thistle
Gray, McLindon
McParland, McKinnon, O’Neill
Coulston, Hansen, Flanagan, Bone, Duncan.  
Sub: Cunningham

 The Play

A report in one of the following day’s papers summed the match up quite neatly –

‘Still in the undistinguished form which characterised their play against A.C. Milan in midweek, Celtic at Parkhead had a struggle to beat Partick Thistle.

Indeed, had the visitors put as much energy into their earlier performance as they expended in the closing stages of the match, they might well have snatched a draw, for this was a Celtic team which has yet to recapture its former breezy confidence’.

It would also be fair to say, though, that right from the start, we did dominate the play and while the Jags players had their moments, they were few and far between compared to our own. The problem was that the inability to put the chances away, which had been a feature of a few of our matches in those weeks, was still very evident against Thistle and the only goal of the game came at the right time, just before the break –

42 minutes……a shot by Brogie hit the bar and re-bounded into the penalty box, the Jags defence dithered and Yogi pounced, sending his shot high into the net.

It was not a great afternoon for the crowd of 29,000 – mostly in the colours of Celtic – to watch. However, after that set-back against the Italian Champions, it was full points in the chase for the title and the dressing-room – whether management, directors or players – seemed to recognise this and be pleased with the result.

                                                Final Score   Celtic 1  Partick Thistle  0

Reserve Match

Celtic Reserves travelled  to Firhill to face Partick Thistle and were rather shocked to be beaten 3-1. Celtic’s only goal came from Tommy Callaghan and the team was Wraith, McGrain, O’Neill, Dalglish, Connelly, John Clark, Wilson, Gallagher, Callaghan, Macari and Jim Clarke


12th March 1969: Celtic v A.C. Milan – European Cup QF 2nd Leg

10th March 1969

While we were arriving at Parkhead and then enjoying the coach trip to Seamill, the Celtic fans buying the morning and evening papers would have noticed that the victory over Raith Rovers at the weekend was almost over-looked. Most of the coverage was about the forthcoming European Cup tie with the Italian champions –

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8th March 1969: Raith Rovers v Celtic – League

6th March 1969

We were back in for training on the day following the victory over Arbroath, a result which received a special headline in the morning press –

Celtic Power Sinks Arbroath

It was very noticeable on that Thursday morning that the Boss was missing, so Sean Fallon and Neilly Mochan took the training. We asked the obvious question but the two of them were obviously under orders not to say too much and we had to wait until the evening papers came out before finding out the problem –

Jock Stein Fights ‘Flu

Sean also took the trouble to kill another rumour that was going round the Celtic fans. Many of them were worried when Bobby Murdoch came off to be replaced by Bertie Auld in the second half of the Arbroath match. But it was merely a precaution, firstly in preparation for next week’s European Cup tie and also to give as many players as possible a chance for a match before the A.C. Milan game.

7th March 1969

Still no Boss although we were assured that he would be there for the match at Kirkcaldy. In fact, there was some comment in the press that Jock Stein would be ‘saving’ Stevie Chalmers for Milan and would bring in Bobby Lennox in place of him.

As for us, we were merely told the squad that would be involved and told to report the following lunchtime for the trip to the east coast.

8th March 1969 The Day of the Match

This game was obviously one of those where we were expected to win reasonably comfortably. We could all work that out in advance as we had to provide our own lunch at home before reporting to Celtic Park for the trip to Kirkcaldy.

It was actually a tough time for all of us. The guys at Raith Rovers would be doing their best to make life difficult for us yet all the fans wanted to talk about was the match coming up against the Italian champions. Not one fan mentioned the matches against Scottish teams; everyone wanted to talk about A.C. Milan.

However, by that time we were a fairly experienced bunch and just knew that the guys in the strip of Raith Rovers had no intention of making life easy for us.

The Teams

Raith Rovers
McDonald, Gray
Miller, Polland, Bolton
Cunningham, Falconer, Wallace, Sneddon, Wilson. 
Sub: Judge

Craig, Gemmell
Murdoch, McNeill, Brogan
Johnstone, Lennox, Wallace, Callaghan, Hughes.   
Sub: Auld

The Play

We were expecting a tough match and even before we got underway things got tougher, as the start was delayed for 8 minutes. When play did begin, any fancy moves were then cancelled out by the wind that was whistling round Stark’s Park. It would be true to say that we dominated play during the first half but chances were few and far between and as the half continued, Rovers came into it more and more. Half-time was reached, though, with the game still goalless.

It was a fairly subdued dressing-room at the break and the Boss, from the state of his voice not yet 100% was obviously not happy but also aware that we had been trying so his tone was more encouraging than critical. His mood, though, might have changed one minute after the re-start –

46 minutes…..Gordon Wallace gathered the ball in the penalty area and ran into the 6-yard box before firing the ball low and hard behind John Fallon.  1-0 Raith

I do not know if the Boss was shocked but we certainly were. However, it was a time to just roll up the sleeves and get on with it and we certainly did that, although it took most of the half to get the rewards we were looking for –

63 minutes…….cross by Lemon and Wispy rose above everyone else.  1-1

79 minutes……a fierce shot from 20 yards by Bertie – on for Tid Callaghan – gave keeper Reid no chance.  2-1 Celtic

89 minutes……a loose ball in the box and Wispy reacted quickest.

Final Score Raith Rovers 1 Celtic 3

Other Results

Hearts10Dundee United
Kilmarnock11Partick Thistle
Rangers60St. Mirren
St. Johnstone31Airdrie



24th February 1969: Celtic v Clyde – Scottish Cup Replay

20th February 1969

It was a pretty satisfied Celtic party that made the trip back to Glasgow the day after the match against A.C. Milan – apart from me! I had taken a heavy blow to my right knee in the second half and although I was able to finish the match, it stiffened up overnight and then sitting in the cramped seats of a plane for a few hours hardly helped the situation.

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19th February 1969: A.C. Milan v Celtic – European Cup QF

13th February 1969

After a 0-0 draw against Clyde in the Scottish Cup, all of us might have thought that we would receive a bit of criticism in the press but, in actual fact, the opposite was the case. We were actually praised for our play on what was admittedly a very frosty and rutted pitch at Shawfield against a side which had set out its stall to defend with as many players as possible. The one thing we did not do was put the ball in the net and that would mean a replay back at Parkhead in ten days time.

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12th February 1969: Clyde v Celtic – Scottish Cup

3rd February 1969

Nine of the squad – including myself – were in the Scotland pool of players who had undergone a day of light training down at the Centre on the Clyde coast on Sunday 2nd February. The session was based mainly on organisation – both in defence and in attack – and some variations for free kicks and corners. It always puzzled me though, right throughout my pro career, that, no matter which team I was with in Scotland, England or South Africa, there was little in the way of attempts to try out variations at throw-ins, of which there were many more than free-kicks or corners during any game. And on that Sunday, there was again a lack of thought put into throw-ins.

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1st February 1969: Celtic v Hearts – League

30th January 1969

We were all in for training that morning but the session was a very limited one, really designed to take the stiffness out of our legs rather than anything else. Naturally, after an 8-1 victory the previous evening, everyone was in a good mood but when I bought a copy of one of the evening papers on the way home and noticed this comment –

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