A headline in one of the dailies after the loss to Dundee United summed up the situation precisely and succinctly;
Vital Points Surrendered by Celtic
And that summed up the feeling running through players, management, directors and fans; the loss to the Tangerines was a real blow to the guts.
In another paper, though, the result was considered from another aspect;
A Kiss of Life For The League Race
As you can probably realize, the atmosphere in the dressing-room the following morning was low. Nobody felt like talking and we just got ready for training as quickly as possible, instead of taking time while we chatted, as was the norm.
The situation was not really improved, either, when we found out that three popular guys in the pool of players – goalkeeper John Kennedy and defenders Frank McCarron and John Halpin – had been freed from their contracts. We made our way up to Barrowfield hardly in the best frame of mind.
Then the Boss took over. Calling us together just before training started, he said all the right things a manager should say at a time like that. How we had tried our best the previous evening but it was one of those rare occasions when the opposition was better on the night; how we must prove we are champions by putting all that behind us; and how we must concentrate all our minds and efforts on Saturday’s match against Rangers.
It would not be an easy one either but just think of this, he finished, what a way to sign off the campaign by winning the league title at the home of our major rivals! The thought of that put a smile back on our faces and we went out to give training our best shot. Even there, the Boss handled things perfectly. The training was all about competitions. Players were allocated to teams and then these would take part in various contests, for passing, sprinting, shooting etc. It was good fun, yet at the same time, we all put a shift in. And it put the smiles back on our faces.
Later that day, the Scottish 16-man pool for the big international the following week against the Soviet Union at Hampden was announced and Celtic had 9 players listed. The full pool was;
Simpson (Celtic), Ferguson (Kilmarnock), Gemmell (Celtic), McCreadie (Chelsea), Clark (Celtic), McNeill ( Celtic), Murdoch (Celtic), Baxter (Sunderland),
McLintock (Arsenal), Wallace (Celtic), Johnstone (Celtic), Bremner (Leeds), McCalliog (Sheff. Wed), Law (Man Utd), Lennox (Celtic), Chalmers (Celtic).
At training, everyone seemed to be in better spirits and the usual banter was very much in evidence. We had a chat afterwards at which the Boss discussed the Rangers team and laid out – without really divulging our eleven – how he expected us to match them. It was very positive and we felt the better for it.
That idea of not telling a squad the final eleven was not new. Apparently it happened in the early days of football, too. If a manager – or in those days, committee – announced the side the day before, it could create some disharmony among the players, especially the ones not involved and this could sometimes spread to their friends and so on.
Delaying the naming of the side until just before the match kept everyone’s attention on the game and did not give anyone time to switch off, as could be the case for someone with a grievance if they were told they were out the day before. Complicated? Perhaps….but you are dealing with human beings caught up in a pressure situation and any reaction was possible.
The papers often told us things we had not found out at the park, like this story that evening;
‘Stevie Chalmers and Bertie Auld are both now almost certain to play for Celtic against Rangers tomorrow in the match that has suddenly become the most important 90 minutes of league football this season.
Dumped 3-2 by Dundee United on Wednesday, Celtic are now more determined than ever to win the league flag without having to go to a last nerve-racking match with Kilmarnock.
Manager Jock Stein was still disappointed today – but is no mood for depression. He said – “Naturally we would have preferred to win and make certain of winning the championship.
The players started off well but seemed to suffer from a bit of a reaction. But we have to accept these things”
Chalmers has now recovered completely from the buffeting he took in Prague and Auld’s leg knock is expected to have healed by tomorrow’.
As to the outcome of the match itself, we were favoured by most of the coverage with this headline in particular being pretty accurate in the opinion of many fans;
CELTS HAVE THE SPEED TO WIN
It was my first experience of a situation like this and, much to my surprise, I found that I was quite enjoying the tension and so on. Much more difficult was having to face the disappointment of the fans we met everywhere. Before a Rangers match like the one coming on Saturday, they were particularly vociferous in their insistence that we blow the Light Blues away. It was always never quite as easy as that but it was hard to reason with a supporter – of either side – before an Old Firm tie.
I came out the front door alongside the forward I had mentioned in a previous piece, the one who was worried about his place in these big games. He really did get worked up about it but as I was pretty sure by that time that, barring injury, I would be in the right-back slot in the team chosen for the big game and he obviously did not think that he was in a similar position, I could only be sympathetic to his plight. His obvious gloom cast a shadow over me for the rest of the day.
Morning of the Match
It was wet. Gallons of the stuff poured out of the heavens all morning so the pitch was definitely going to be soggy – and difficult.
We did get a pre-match meal this time and the atmosphere was tense. A big game always brings on that response in most players and believe me, the fact that we were going to be playing in few hours in an Old Firm match only increased the pressure. So, while we made a point of enjoying a well-cooked meal, there was not a great deal of banter. Mind you, if we had been a little more cheerful, someone would undoubtedly have accused of not taking the match seriously enough. Sometimes, you just cannot win!
The journey over to Ibrox hardly helped the mood of the nervous ones. The streets were packed with fans, many of whom were already as high as kites, not from alcohol – at least not yet – but with the excitement, tension, pressure, anticipation and even fear of failure– that an Old Firm contest undoubtedly brings.
Unlike today, and even though the encounter was at Ibrox, a match like that would have almost equal numbers watching, so as the bus pulled to a stop outside the main entrance, there were many green-and-white scarves in evidence and they gave us a great reception as we trooped in.
We went straight out to see the pitch and our worst fears were realised. The pitch was heavy, in some places sticky and by choice, not a surface suitable for such an important. However, it was not bad enough that anyone in authority would think of a cancellation, so the referee, Mr Syme of Glasgow, gave it the thumbs up and we headed to the dressing-room firstly, to hear the team and then get changed.
With everyone fit, it was outing number five for the team which would eventually take to the field in Lisbon;
Murdoch, McNeill, Clark
Johnstone, Wallace, Chalmers, Auld, Lennox
Jardine, McKinnon, Greig
Henderson, A Smith, Hynd, D Smith, Johnston
Before the match, the attendance had been anticipated at around the 90,000 mark but the constant rain made a difference to that and eventually it was listed at around 78,000.
The following day, I thought that a report in one of the papers summed up the situation pretty accurately;
‘When you are playing on top of a barrel of dynamite, you cannot expect fireworks. This was grim stuff. Hard, punishing and tense. Nobody was giving any change for a penny.
The toughest club match on earth between Glasgow’s European Cup finalists, Lisbon-bound Celtic and Nuremberg-bound Rangers for the championship of Scotland.
On the day nobody won – but the championship remains at Celtic Park, a point was all they required.
Let me congratulate Celtic right here. They fully deserved the title’.
That was the outcome but as the reporter suggested, it was tough to play in. Willie Johnston was one of the best wingers I ever faced and that day, he was as difficult as ever, seldom giving me the chance to get forward and when I did, he made sure that he chased me all the way back. On the other wing, Tam had his hands full with the trickery of Willie Henderson; while the unusual choice of the solid Roger Hynd at centre-forward gave Cesar something to think about.
However, over the piece, I though that we had more of the play, made more chances and looked more dangerous but goals make all the difference and in this match, there were four, which arrived as follows;
Davie Smith came out of his half down the wing, cut the ball back to Sandy Jardine, who had time to control the ball before sending in a vicious shot which hit the under-side of the bar before entering the net. 1-0 Rangers
from a free-kick by Chopper, Lemon stabbed a shot towards goal. It hit one of the posts and re-bounded out to Jinky, who prodded the ball home. 1-1
The dressing-room at the interval was a busy place. The tackling in the first half had been ferocious and a few, on our side, were feeling some knocks. Even the Boss looked as though he had gone through the mill in the first half but after washing his face, he went back to his normal calm manner and gave us some instructions for the second half.
As I had kept Bud Johnston under control all through the first 45 minutes, I got a wink and a pat on the back from both Sean and Neilly. “Keep it going” they both said and I went down the tunnel again determined to give nothing away.
From the whistle, the play became as competitive as it had been before, with both sides making some chances. Then came a wonderful moment:
Jinky made a run from the right across the park just outside the ‘arc’ on the outside of the 18-yard box and sent in a stunner of a shot which sailed into the top corner of Norrie Martin’s net. 2-1 Celtic
The goal seemed to knock Rangers back – fighting immediately broke out at the Rangers end and play was held up for two minutes – we got more control and made more chances, through Stevie, Bertie and Tam. However, just as we were thinking that were finally turning the screw, Rangers broke away in attack:
Willie Henderson came down the right wing and cut in towards goal. I saw him look up just before he crossed the ball and noticed that he was, quite clearly, going to cut the ball back to an un-marked colleague some yards out from goal. I read the move, came out to cover the cut-back and then Willie mis-kicked the ball right across goal -between me and Ronnie – where Roger Hynd managed to get a toe to it. 2-2
To say that the final few minutes were tense is an under-statement. We were slightly unsure whether to pack our defence or try to get another and the play in the final moments was as frantic as that prospect sounds. Eventually, to our relief – and the delight of the Celtic support both in the ground and throughout the world – Mr Syme blew his whistle and we could add the League Championship to the Scottish Cup, the League Cup and the Glasgow Cup.
Final Score Rangers 2 Celtic 2
Much to the surprise of the fans, we did not do much celebrating on the pitch. The Rangers players congratulated us in a very sporting fashion and we returned the compliment, well aware of how sick they must have felt at that moment. However, photos of the time show both sets of players leaving the field together, neither showing their true feelings.
Once we got back in the dressing-room, however, all hell was let loose! The champagne was brought out, the guys all took some, that loosened the tongues, the singing started and continued for some time. Then, it was out to the bus, around which the fans were waiting, before making a wonderful journey over to Parkhead, with the Celtic fans packing the pavements and the Rangers supporters noticeable by their absence.
It had been quite a day…….and as for that night, well……!
One late guest had watched the match from the stands. Helenio Herrera, the manager of Internazionale, was originally going to come over to see us play in the final league match of the season against Kilmarnock but a late change of plan meant that he witnessed the Old Firm clash instead.
After the game, Herrera made no official comment but was apparently very amiable to everyone as he headed back to the airport. I often wondered if his friendliness continued on the plane as he would have noticed that one of his fellow passengers was Jock Stein, who had decided to travel over to Italy to see Internazionale play Juventus the following day.
And, of course, as it was a very big day for Celtic, James Bond (Sean Connery) was also in the directors’ box.
While all this was going on at Ibrox, the Reserve side was playing in a first leg of the Reserve League Cup Final against Aberdeen. The team was;
Fallon, Young, Brogan, Cattenach, Cushley, McCarron, Connelly, Henderson, Quinn, Hay, Macari. They led 2-0 at half-time and went on to win 3-1.
Help our Own First
The General Electric Company in Schenectady, New York, has announced that it was dropping plans to engage 100 skilled workers from Britain, due to opposition from a local trade union which said that the firm should up-grade present employees to fill vacant jobs.
Fall from Grace
The great Casanova toppled from his lofty pedestal before a meeting of namesakes from all over Europe in Milano Marittina, Italy.
They decided that the world’s most famous lover probably invented many of the innumerable affairs he chronicled in 10 volumes.
Even if he really did have affairs with a hundred women, it was nothing to write home about, the contemporary Casanovas declared.
Considering his affairs were spread out over 40 years, the annual average was much lower than that recorded by more recent lady-killers, like Rudolf Valentino.
Another Big Night in Glasgow
Celtic and Rangers players are to get civic recognition from Lord Provost John Johnston for their achievements in winning through to the finals of European tournaments.
The players, with the club officials and members of the Scottish Football Association, may attend a civic luncheon or a bequest in the City Chambers. It is likely that their wives will also be invited.
Star Drops Out
Susan Hayward will replace Judy Garland in the film version of ‘Valley of the Dolls’, the best-selling novel about New York show business, 20th Century Fox announced in Hollywood.
Miss Garland relinquished the role of Helen Lawson, a veteran entertainer, for what the studio said were personal reasons.
Yes, he is….No, he isn’t
The choice of Frank Sinatra to head a group formed in New York to protect the interests of Italian-Americans brought disapproving comments from the New York Times.
The ‘Times’ declared – ‘Frank Sinatra is a remarkable entertainer, even if he does sing off-key, he is a good actor, as he has proved on the screen and he is a very famous personality. Also, he is very wealthy.
Does all this make him the ideal choice as the Italian-American to represent and lead the many millions of immigrants who came from Italy? It does not!
The Guys Come Home
The Antarctic research vessel Shackleton is due to dock in Southampton next week, bringing home 11 British Antarctic survey men who have spent up to two-and-a-half years in the region.