15th July 1967
It had been a fascinating summer.
After we returned from the final match of the 66-67 season – the friendly against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu – the boys all went their separate ways with their families, most of them heading for the popular and sunny spots of Majorca or the Spanish mainland. I had no plans to go anywhere myself and was quite looking forward to a few days of peace and quiet, as it had been a very hectic season.
As so often happens, though, the reality turned out to be very different from the anticipation and right from my first day back in my parents’ house, the whole world seemed to be on the phone, wanting me to do this or turn up for that. And the fact that I was almost certainly the only member of the Lisbon side who was still in the city at that time only increased the pressure. For a while, I gave it my best shot but it got to the stage where I was reluctant to go out. I would still drive Mum to the shops but while she was in the bigger stores getting whatever was needed, I sat in the car reading the papers, only dashing out to help when I saw her coming back again with the bags.
Eventually, I suggested to my brother Denis that we push off somewhere and we did just that, driving down to Stranraer then taking the boat over to Larne, from where we headed firstly for Donegal, where we had relatives to visit and then swinging across the country back to Dublin, where we had aunts, uncles and cousins.
The weather was good, everyone seemed pleased to see us and Denis and I were treated royally. Only one incident marred the whole trip. It occurred when was driving near the border of the county of Sligo heading for the county of Roscommon. I was doing around 60mph on a fine tarmac road when suddenly the surface changed to something gravelly and the car swung sideways, first one way, then the other, before straightening up itself as it arrived at another tarmac surface.
I just about wet myself and I don’t think Denis was too comfortable either but we carried on as though nothing had happened. A few miles later, though, when I was paying for some petrol at a road-side garage, I mentioned the incident to the guy taking my money and he laughed. “The problem is that the councils of Sligo and Roscommon cannot agree on who has responsibility for that bit of road, so they just put down some gravel. It does give you a fright I must admit…but it is exciting!”.
Exciting was not the word I would have used myself but through the years since since I have always wondered whether he was giving us the true story or was he telling us what could be regarded as an Irish joke?
16th July 1967
There might have been a bit of a flutter among the chests of a few of my teammates on this particular day. Not because it was a Sunday but because it was the last day of the holidays; on the morrow, we would be officially reporting for the first training day of the new season.
Now, I have been told in the past that some of my actions have been a bit on the not-too- sensible side. In other words, stupid! However, when it came to keeping myself fit I was right up there in the sensible category. All through the summer holidays – not just that summer but all through my career, even when I went on honeymoon in 1969 – I kept myself in shape.
I never went to Celtic Park to do the training. After all, would you go back to your school in the summer holidays? My parents lived just along the road from Bellahouston Park in the south-west of Glasgow, there was a one way street at the east end which was ideal for parking and that area was also probably the quietest part of the park, so ideal for a bit of running.
Unfortunately, not everyone prepared along the same lines, hence my comment about the fluttering in the chest. It was always assumed at every club I have been to that the players would keep themselves in some sort of shape during the summer break, so there was no breaking-in period. It was full tilt right from the start. More than a few suffered and little sympathy was handed out. Monday would be an interesting day.
The fact that Monday 17th July would be the first day of training for the new season had been well publicised in the press and an astonishing number of folk came up to me after Mass, the vast majority of them wishing me all the best. However, there were also the jokers commenting on how I was going to suffer etc. I merely smiled but could not help but notice that a spot of training might get their weight back on to a healthy level.
Should I perhaps have asked them to join me in Bellahouston Park?