As I mentioned before, there were a few of our squad who were less than happy that our recently-won European title was being put up for a test against a side of Real Madrid’s quality but I am afraid that they under-estimated the Boss. Just before we headed for the stadium for the match, he announced the side, which showed two changes from the team which had won in Lisbon. The teams lined up as follows;
Calgne, De Felipe
Sanchis, Pirri, Zocco
Serena, Amancio, Di Stefano, Velasquez, Gento.
Craig McNeill Clark Gemmell
Murdoch O’Neill Auld
Johnstone Wallace Lennox
As the teams came out on to the pitch, the ovation was deafening. Once play started, every time di Stefano touched the ball, he received a big cheer which made the first few minutes of the match slightly unreal.
Then, in the 14th minute, came a magical moment. As the ball came to the man-of – the –moment, he bent down, picked it up and then held it high in the air. The crowd of 120,000 rose to their feet and cheered him to the echo. Slowly, he made his way off the pitch and up the tunnel, re-appearing in the directors’ box, from where he watched the remainder of the match.
Back on the pitch, the match now became a contest and a pretty tough one at that. Still, it seemed, to me at any rate, that we were always in control, with Jimmy, in particular, showing his quality. I had felt, and still do feel, that the way Inter Milan set up their defence did not give Jinky the opportunities he wanted in Lisbon; on that night in Madrid, he did get the chances and took them. As the evening went on, even the home crowd began to appreciate the Wee Man’s talent, roars of ‘Ole’ rising up whenever he went on the rampage.
At the interval, the Boss seemed quite comfortable and told us just to carry on as we had been doing. In the second half, we continued to dominate, two moments catching the attention. The first was the only goal of the match, in the 69th minutes, when Jinky went on a fine run before slipping a good pass into the path of Lemon, who knocked it home; and the second moment was a more unfortunate one, when Bertie and his immediate opponent Amancio came to blows and were sent to the dressing room by the referee.
On a personal level, I thoroughly enjoyed the match. I had first seen Gento seven years earlier in the 1960 final at Hampden and now I was playing against him. Even in his late 30s, he was still very quick and I had my hands full.
Still, whenever I got the ball, I came forward as quickly as I could, so he was also having a hard night. At the end, that single goal gave us victory and in the press the following day, in all the countries of Europe, Celtic’s performance was highly praised in a way that had not occurred after the European Cup final, so the decision to take on the match was highly justified.
At the banquet that night, one wall of the main dining room in the hotel was covered with trophies from football associations everywhere, all of them inscribed with di Stefano’s name, all displayed in various cabinets and on tables of all shapes and sizes. It really was a remarkable collection and I often wonder what he did with them all? Still, it was also a wonderful tribute to a great player and I was a very proud man for having been able to play a small part in the evening.