It was a fairly excited group of players who met at Celtic Park before boarding the bus to take us to the airport for the trip to Portugal. There were 20 in the playing squad;
Simpson, Fallon, Craig, Gemmell, O’Neill, Murdoch, McNeill, Clark, Gallagher, Auld, Johnstone, Wallace, Chalmers, Hughes, Lennox, Cushley, McBride, Young, Brogan and Cattenach.
It was an un-eventful and very pleasant flight, a situation very much to the liking of the nervous fliers, of which we had a few. The food was good and I sat with the usual teammates in the usual positions; me at the window, Chopper next to me and Stevie on the outside. I once asked Stevie why he liked being on the aisle seat and he told me that it was because he could ‘make a bolt for it’ if there was any trouble! Where exactly he was going to make a ‘bolt to’ was something I never found out.
Chopper did not like being in the window seat, as he told me more than once, although he spent most of the journey leaning across me to look out the window. When I offered to swap seats with him, he shook his head, saying that he felt dizzy when in the window seat. Wasn’t I a lucky boy with my choice of travelling companions?
According to the papers, Jock Stein seemed to be very confident about our chances in the final, although there was something that troubled him slightly;
Stein: “I’ve Got Only One Worry”.
‘Jock Stein had only one worry when Celtic flew out from Glasgow in a chartered Comet en route to Lisbon for Thursday’s European Cup final.
His worry was – how some of his players would react to the flight.
Said Jock Stein “I plan to name the team on our arrival in Lisbon later today.The players already know the team but I will not name it until I see how they fare on the flight.
Some of them are not too good travellers and it could be I may decide to defer naming the team if some of them are not too happy on the flight”.
Well, as I already mentioned, there was nothing about the flight that should have bothered anyone and we arrived right on time in the Portuguese capital. Much to our delight, as we came off the plane, we received an amazing welcome from what appeared to be hundreds of supporters and members of the British community, who were waving flags and cheering away.
After going through customs, another bus took us to Estoril and the Palacio Hotel, which I liked on first sight. The main rooms were elegant, the bedrooms were excellent and the swimming poll looked enticing, although out of bounds to all of us. There was time for a cup of tea or coffee before we headed off again for the National Stadium, which was situated in a lovely setting, surrounded by woods and hills.
However, there did seem to be some form of mistake or possibly lack of communication between the Celtic officials and those in charge of the ground, as we were not allowed to train on the main pitch that evening but had to settle for a workout on a pitch just a little distance away. And from the way everyone went about their work with a will, I did not think that the Boss would need to keep anyone out of the team because of a reaction to the flight.
Afterwards, we had a nice meal back at the hotel, a few words from the Boss about the forthcoming match and all its various possibilities, then had an early night.
Back home, though, the evening papers ran a story about a topic which we had not heard about at that point.
Under the headline;
Celts Get a Super Offer
…….came news that ‘Celtic had received a second invitation to play in Spain. Apparently, the day before they had been asked to return to Spain to face Real Madrid in a testimonial match for their star player Alfredo di Stefano; and now Celtic had also been asked by the Spanish Football Federation to take part in the world-famous annual four-team tournament in Malaga at the beginning of August.
Two of the top Spanish teams will be invited. One of them will certainly be Real Madrid, the third club will be Flamengo from Brazil and Spain desperately wants Celtic to make up the fourth club in the competition’.