16th – 23rd May 1968
According to the chats I had with the guys after they returned from the North American tour of 1968, a good time was had by all when on holiday at the beginning of the tour in Florida.
After the journey across the Atlantic from Prestwick to New York, there had been a much shorter flight to Miami, where the party was put up at a magnificent hotel situated right on the beach at Newport, a suburb of Miami.
Over the following few days, the players occupied their time with deep-sea fishing and golf during the day and as for the evening activities, well, I think we will draw a veil over them. Let’s just say that all the boys seemed to enjoy themselves. At the same time, as there were matches coming up, there were some training sessions down on the beach but it was nothing too strenuous. In fact they were quite light-hearted.
While this was all going in the USA, Rangers were playing a couple of games on their tour in Denmark. On the 20th, they beat Frem in Copenhagen 4-1 and then on the 22nd, had a 2-0 win over Odense.
And Hibs were in action in Nigeria, firstly drawing 1-1 with Green Eagles in Lagos, then beating Northern Lions 1-0 in Kaduna.
In a friendly at Wembley, England beat Sweden 3-1; while in the first leg of the Fairs Cup semi-final in Budapest, Ferencvaros beat Bologna 3-2.
Back home, the draw was made for the sectional stages of the League Cup and for the second consecutive season, Celtic and Rangers were paired together in Section 4, along with Morton and Partick Thistle
The Celtic party said good-bye to Newport and headed for the airport, where they boarded an early flight for the trip back to New York, just in time to book into their hotel and then head by taxi to Madison Square Garden, where Bob Foster was meeting Dick Tiger for the Light-Heavyweight Championship of the world. There was an early finish to the fight, with Foster knocking out Tiger in the fourth round.
A light warm-up in Central Park in the morning then after a quick lunch, the boys were taken, again by taxi, to New Belmont Racetrack for an afternoon’s entertainment. That night, for probably the first time on the trip, Jock Stein had a chat with the players about the match on the morrow.
He apparently told the guys that they would have to at their best, a comment that would have been treated with amusement. They were all well aware that the opponents, AC Milan, had won the European Cup-Winners’ Cup the previous week when they beat SV Hamburg 2-0 in Rotterdam. So, all the boys knew that the opposition would be quality and the Boss’s comment was probably a trifle un-necessary?
The Celtic party was taken by bus just after lunch on this Sunday to Jersey City and the Roosevelt Stadium, for the clash with AC Milan. The team was
Simpson, Cattenach, O’Neill, Clark, McNeill, Brogan, Chalmers, Murdoch, Wallace, Gallagher and Lennox. Subs…Quinn and McBride.
According to the reports, Celtic had the better of the first half, with AC’s keeper Belli having more to do than Ronnie. Celtic also got an early lead when Charlie Gallagher’s powerful shot re-bounded off Belli and the ball was pushed in by Wispy.
Only eleven minutes later, though, the Italians equalized, Angelino scoring from Sormani’s short pass.
In the second half, Milan pushed much harder and Celtic were back in defence, although there were not many clear-cut opportunities. One of these came nine minutes from time, when a Trappatoni shot hit a post, the ball came out to Sormani and his well-hit shot was equally well saved by Ronnie.
Final Score AC Milan 1 Celtic 1
The name of Tam Gemmell was noticeably missing from the left-back slot. Tam injured a groin at training before leaving for the USA and it was hoped that he would recover during the stay in Miami. Unfortunately, that did not happen, he missed this match and the decision was taken to send him home later that week.