All week, I had been struggling with a problem and so far, had not done anything about it.
You may remember that, thanks to the Kiev match in Tbilisi having been eventually switched to the 26th January, I missed the Final Year Dinner of my dental year, held that evening in the Royal Stuart Hotel in Glasgow.
I was sorry to miss it as, judging by the comments of the guys in my class, it was very enjoyable but I was also annoyed to be told that, in his speech, the Dean – or Director – of the hospital had been a bit derogatory about my having been ordered off in Kiev!
I was tempted to ignore it but one afternoon during that week was pulled into his office by a consultant, who told me in no uncertain terms to go in and see the Dean and set the record straight. From what he –the consultant – had read in the press, there seemed to more than a doubt about the correctness of the referee’s decision and I had to tell the Dean that.
“Never let anyone say something about you that is untrue” was his message. Now, while I wholeheartedly agreed with his comments, I felt a bit compromised. After all, I was the guy involved, the Dean was the head man in the Dental Hospital and I still had six months of my course to go. So, for the moment, I had let it go…..but every time I saw the consultant, he was still nagging me!
Stranraer had been founded in 1870, the 3rd Scottish team to come into existence and in all those years since, they had never had a manager, the team being picked by the 12 directors. At that time, they were, as they had always been, in the second division.
Now, through the years, Celtic, mainly through the Scottish Cup, had played many a side from a lower league, like Carfin Shamrock (1891), 6th GRV Dalbeattie (1898), Lochgelly United (1904), Solway Star (1925) or Burntisland Shipyard (1939), yet in the years since Celtic came into top competition in season 1888-89, they had never played Stranraer in a match in any of the major Scottish trophies.
The Morning of the Match
This was pretty normal in my own house. I always got up around 8 o’clock, had a light breakfast, a chat with Mum, then got washed and dressed, did a bit of work on the study side before having my pre-match meal around mid-day and heading out for Celtic Park. As the match was against a team from a lower division, there would not be a big crowd in the stadium and I decided to just take the bus again, as the taxis were taking up too much of my wages.
These had been increased since I made the first team but not substantially and I was just keeping an eye on things and trying to do a bit of saving. I was also keen to see what sort of bonus we would get for beating Kiev, as I had my eye on a car.
Once I got to the ground, there was the usual cheeriness and banter from the guys but it was not long before we were taken into the dressing-room for the announcement of the team. ‘Wilbur’ (John Cushley) was out; Billy McNeill was in; the rest of the defence was the same as the week before; and the forward line read Jimmy Johnstone, Charlie Gallagher, Joe McBride, Bobby Lennox and John Hughes. Then a very stern Jock Stein told us to get ready and go out for the warm-up.
I was a bit puzzled as the Boss and the coaching staff seemed far from their usual self and I quietly asked Tam Gemmell, getting ready beside me, if there was a problem. He laughed, then told me that when he first came into the team, a day like this used to confuse him as well.
The problem was, he went on, that Celtic were overwhelming favourites to win –especially against a team from a lower division – and that made the staff uncomfortable, as they were always waiting for disaster to strike. If Celtic won well, as they were expected to do, then no praise would be handed out; but if they did not win convincingly, or, God forbid, if the visitors managed a draw and a replay, then everyone would be hammered by both press and public.
Tam went on to warn me that we would get a really stiff warm-up, more to calm the nerves of the coaches and manager rather than because we need it.
And he was quite right. We were out on the pitch before 2.30pm – the match was due to kick-off at 3pm- and were put through a series of drills before coming back in for the final change of gear. And even then, the Boss was in warning mood, ‘advising’ us to take control of the play from the first whistle.
And that we did, putting the Stranraer defence under the cosh, with Jimmy J thriving on the service from Murdoch and myself. We certainly made the openings but there were not many shots on target, our opening goal probably the first;-
8 minutes……Another good run by JJ ended in a nice cut-back to Charlie Gallagher, who swept the ball home. 1-0 Celtic
That set the tone for the first half, Celtic with most of the possession, Stranraer defending desperately but their keeper not really having many shots to deal with. Our second goal came after a corner just before the interval.
42 minutes……Jimmy’s corner was cleared only as far as Bobby Murdoch, who caught the ball knee-high and drove it home. 2-0 Celtic.
At the interval, the Boss seemed pleased and just told us to keep it up in the second half.
And we did, although as one of the reports in the press the following day said ; ‘Celtic’s good outfield work was being wasted by weak and thoughtless finishing’.
62 minutes…..we got a third goal, when a Joe McBride free-kick from 20 yards fairly
flew along the ground and inside the post. 3-0 Celtic
And our fourth came just before the end.
82 minutes…..the Stranraer goalkeeper got caught off his line and Bobby Lennox took advantage. 4-0 Celtic.
The dressing-room was a happy place afterwards, the Boss relieved to get what could have been a tricky tie out of the way.
On the days following, the press were guarded in their comments. After all, it had been a clash of a major side against a so-called ‘minnow’, so not much praise was handed out and their headlines were of the ‘muted’ variety;-
Gallagher on Target Celtic Too Good
In the other ties, some results were ;-
Cowdenbeath 1 St Mirren 0
Dundee 9 East Fife 1
Dunfermline 3 Partich Thistle 1
Hamilton 1 Aberdeen 3
Hearts 2 Clyde 1
Hibs 4 Third Lanark 3
Rangers 5 Airdrie 1
A Game from the Past…and a Moment to Remember
Sponsored by the Jim Craig CSC
A game from the Past…….centre-half Billy Thomson, at the time playing for Wishaw Hibs, was given a trial for Celtic on 16th March 1895 at Parkhead, when the club beat Leith Athletic 4-0. Unfortunately, the visitors outside-left, a player by the name of Marshall, broke his leg in a tackle with Celtic left-back Dan Doyle, the snap of the bone being clearly heard by the spectators on that side of the park.
And a Moment to Remember….Billy played only one more game for Celtic, a friendly at Renton on 23rd May 1895, when the rain poured down so heavily that the clubs officials eventually decided on two 35-minute halves.
The panel of referees for the World Cup finals will be selected in Barcelona later this month.
This will be done by the referees committee of FIFA who will select a maximum of 30 names from the 141 put forward by the 81 national associations who are members of FIFA.
Willie Gets a ‘Dig’ In
In the Government’s view, Princess Margaret’s visit to the USA was an outstanding success and the country should be grateful, said Mr Walter Padey, Joint Minister of State, Foreign Office, in the Commons yesterday.
He was replying to criticism of the Princess’s trip by Mr William Hamilton, Socialist MP for West Fife.
Traffic wardens will extend their activities outside the meter zones in Glasgow and can slap £2 fine tickets on the windscreens of cars parked in ‘No Parking’ or ‘No Waiting’ areas.