As the 15 players, plus the Boss, Sean, Neilly and Bob, boarded a bus at Celtic Park to take us to the airport, one figure was getting ready to go out to the track for another session…a lonely one.
Joe McBride was that man, fighting his way back to fitness and he told one of the reporters afterwards – “I am determined to be fighting fit for the new season. I will be training every day until Wednesday of next week, when I go to Majorca with my family. Then, when I come back, I will resume training”.
The Boss was also quoted in the press, mainly about Bertie’s fitness – “Bertie looked all right yesterday. I will see how he moves at training tonight before deciding whether he plays. Substitutes are allowed and it can be taken as near certain that changes will be made during the game. This is only a friendly – but we want to win”.
The journey from Glasgow to Madrid was uneventful – although the nervous fliers would be unlikely to say that – and by late afternoon we had landed at the Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas Airport. It was then a case of picking up our luggage, before boarding another bus which took us to our hotel, situated right in the heart of the city. We unpacked, had some light food and refreshments, then boarded the bus again for another trip, with the Bernabeu Stadium the destination.
It looked superb and when we got inside, it was. The entrance hall looked palatial, the corridors were gleaming and when we pushed open the door to the dressing-room, well, let’s just say that it was equally nice. We could not wait to get our kit on and run out for a session.
It seemed vast. Hampden in fact was bigger as regards attendance figures but this ground was all-seated, the sides were sheer and you just felt that when you were taking a throw-in, the guy right at the top could drop something right on your head. It was quite a sight.
And later that evening, the magnitude of di Stefano’s achievements were put in perspective by Billy McNeill, who was in the Celtic side which lost 1-3 to Real Madrid in a friendly match at Celtic Park in September 1962. “The morning after the match me and Mike Jackson were down at the newspaper offices to see if we could find any shots of us in the same frame as di Stefano”.
Quite unbelievable….but true. That just gives us a clue as to the star quality that Alfredo di Stefano exuded!