I got up early on the Sunday morning and went for a walk round the local park, as it was a beautiful day and I had learned that my body works better if I keep it exercising. There were few people about and I thoroughly enjoyed the peace and quiet.
That all changed a few hours later when I went to Mass. My parish at that time was Our Lady of Lourdes in Cardonald, where the church itself was at the end of a curving drive. Well, on that Sunday, as I walked down the avenue, it was crowded with parishioners, all of whom, it seemed, wanted to shake my hand and wish me all the best for the Final. And it was the same on the way back up again.
Our house was not very far away and when I got home, my Mum said “what did the Canon say?” And when I mentioned that I had not had the chance to speak to the Canon either before or after Mass, she sent me all the way back up to the church to have a chat with him.
I was slightly taken-aback but, I must admit, he did look pleased to see me when I arrived.
The papers all covered the run-up to the final in their differing ways but there was one of them that I thought caught the right mood;
‘They are back from Seamill at the physical and mental peak needed for the European Cup final in Thursday in Lisbon, the greatest day in the long history of the club.
Almost all of the hard graft is behind them and although there will be training sessions on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the final with Inter Milan has now entered the crucial stage – the battle of wits between that crafty signor Helenio Herrera and Britain’s manager of the year Jock Stein.
Celtic’s strategy for the final has already been marked out – and naturally it is being guarded like the vaults in the Bank of England. The last details will be filled in this week by the shores of the Atlantic Ocean as the players and manager Stein stay hidden from prying eyes in their seaside resort hotel’.
There was also a great story about the venue for the final, which when originally built, was ahead of its time and situated on a level site surrounded by trees and rolling hills. However, when the stadium terraces were up on three sides, the stand side and the ends behind the goals, a costing expert discovered that someone had blundered – there was no money left in the kitty for any more building.
Then a genius spoke up – “Why bother with a fourth side at all? We have a unique situation and a wonderful backdrop on that side. Let it stand as it is”. And that plan was adopted, making the Estadio Nacional a most attractive – if a little unusual – football ground.
As Sunday night approached, my Dad had still not said anything about a possible trip to Lisbon. Then, just as I approached him to give me a definite answer, he came towards me and said “son, I would like to go to the final. Thanks for doing this for me”. It was a great moment and also a very emotional one for me, which Dad rather spoiled with his next few words – “ and make sure that you win!”
No pressure there, then.