5th March 1969: Celtic v Arbroath – League

3rd March 1969

There was an eye-catching headline in one of the morning dailies –

  Stein  Fixed Cup    Saints Before Match

This was a reference to Jock Stein’s late tactical switch which was only announced just before the start of the match, with Bobby Lennox at outside-right, Willie Wallace at centre-forward and John Hughes at outside-left. It seemed to catch St Johnstone unawares and certainly contributed to our Scottish Cup win.

The draw for the semi-final stage of the Scottish Cup was announced. It was Celtic v Morton and Aberdeen or Kilmarnock v Rangers. And this naturally prompted a possible outcome of the final later in the season –

 Old Firm Final?

Apart from the goings on in the press, we had been in for a light session, the norm at this time of the season, when everyone was fit and your main job was to maintain that fitness and try to avoid injury. That did not mean avoiding challenges but it did mean some concentration while under-going them, like not over-stretching for instance.

4th March 1969

Celtic Will Field Their Top Team

Manager Jock Stein said after training –“we will field our strongest possible side against Arbroath. Billy McNeill’s ankle injury – which he picked up against St Johnstone – is showing tremendous improvement already but we will not announce our team till just before the match”.

Celtic officials were apparently delighted with the display of Charlie Gallagher in last night’s friendly with Motherwell, in which the classy inside-forward was making his comeback after a knee operation.

5th March 1969     The Day of the Match

 They’re “ON”

‘All of tonight’s big football games – league championship matches and the Scottish Cup replay are on despite overnight frost. Rugby Park is in excellent condition for the Kilmarnock v Aberdeen replay; and Celtic Park, which had been covered by the new plastic sheeting for the first time in frosty conditions, was described by Jock Stein as being in excellent condition’.

We reported about an hour-and-a-half before the kick-off, were right impressed by the condition of the pitch and were soon out on the surface to check conditions. It seemed to be fine. There were certainly no frosty bits to make life difficult and as we got ready in the dressing-room, you could almost sense that something good was about to happen.

The Teams

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

Booth, Hughes
Cargill, Stirling, Reid
Sellers, Cant, Jack, Bruce, Wilkie.    
Sub: Kennedy

The Play

The first three paragraphs of a report in one of the following day’s papers summed up the action neatly and precisely –

‘Celtic gave their goal-average a mighty boost in this top v bottom League clash at Parkhead.

Arbroath caught the Champions on the rebound from Saturday’s struggling Cup win over St Johnstone – and the Angus side never had a chance.

They were blitzed and bewildered as the Stein-men put in some lethal shooting practice for next week’s European Cup return with A.C. Milan’.

The champions attacked from the start and the expected goal rush started in…….

7 minutes……..Murdoch to Johnstone and on to Wallace who shot home. 1-0 Celtic

9 minutes…….Jinky beat two men before squaring the ball and Stevie was on the spot. 2-0 Celtic

16 minutes….wonderful goal by Jinky, who beat four-defenders as he went from left to right, then doubled back again to beat another before sending in a left-footer. 3-0 Celtic

17 minutes…..cross by Yogi, header by Wispy.  4-0 Celtic

It was naturally a very happy dressing-room at the break and I do not recall seeing the Boss there at all. There is little of any relevance that a manager can say when his team is 4-up at half-time so he was probably right to keep out the road and let Sean and Neilly get on with it. And the fans did not have long to wait for another –

46 minutes……another great cross by Yogi. Stevie just could not get to it but Wispy, following up behind, fairly lashed it into the net for his hat-trick.  5-0 Celtic

48 minutes……this time Yogi did it all on his own, a bit of juggling at the edge of the box followed by a fierce shot. 6-0 Celtic

55 minutes……Stevie got his second, when his shot from a fine shot by Tid Callaghan was dropped over the line by goalkeeper Williamson.  7-0 Celtic

And that seemed to be that but unfortunately, while we were all waiting for the final whistle, a cross from the wing by Jack was headed home by inside-left Bruce to give the visitors some consolation.

 Final Score   Celtic  7  Arbroath  1

And the big news from down south was not in the football scene but the fact that Reggie and Ronnie Kray were both sent down for 30 years a-piece.