Log in or sign up


Bertie Auld - My Most Vital Match
IT WAS only a Glasgow Cup fixture, not perhaps the most glamorous of games in today’s star-studded fixture list.

IT WAS only a Glasgow Cup fixture, not perhaps the most glamorous of games in today’s star-studded fixture list . . . but, for me, it was the most important match of last season. Yes , even more than the League Cup final, the Scottish Cup final, or any of these wonderful European Cup matches.

Before you think I have suddenly rated the Glasgow Cup as the most important trophy of them all, maybe I had better explain. It was last October, and my first-team appearances had been few and far between for Celtic as the early months of the season ticked away.

Then, one morning, the manager Mr. Stein called me into his office after training. He told me that St. Mirren had made an offer for me, and asked me what I thought of a move to Love Street. I just did not know what to think. I still believed that I could claim a place in Celtic's first team, but there was no denying that a lot of very bright kids were pushing for a top place. and I had a fight on my hands.

The manager said that if I did want to go then he would not stand in my way. But it was such a big decision I obviously could not make it hastily, so I asked for time to think it over. I was on the point of deciding that the time had come when I would be leaving Celtic, then along came that Glasgow Cup game. It was against Clyde at Parkhead, and the side was a mixture of the first-team pool, a youngster, Victor Davidson, and our new goalkeeper, Evan Williams.

Clyde scored first, but I snatched the equaliser and we went on to win-4-1. It was a game where I really felt good, every thing seemed to go just right. And by the end of the week I found that my mind had been made up for me, by Mr. Stein. I was back in his office, this time to be told that I would not be leaving Celtic. Can you blame me for thinking that was the best bonus of the season? I realise, of course, that I can’t go on for ever . . . I think some of the youngsters at the park believe I was around when Willie Maley was the manager. I do not know when I shall finally retire. But, in my heart, I will know when the time to quit comes around. If I cannot put into the game as much as I always have, if I find myself labouring, then I will consider it will be time for me to hang up my boots. I did not enter for the sprints in the Commonwealth Games last season, but I don't think I am slow over the period which really matters most, the first twenty yards.

I know that when, like me, you get over 21, you expect to slow down a little, but to hear some people talk you would think I needed a jet-propelled wheel-chair to get around a park. The last few years have been the most marvellous of my career, in fact of any of the lads at Celtic Park. But I do not write off the time before that, far from it. I know a lot of people in England considered me a flop when I played with Birmingham City. They always seem surprised that I am having any sort of success.

I have even heard it on television when a commentator asked the manager about how I have been changed. Fortunately Mr. Stein had the answer: ‘He’s got a European Cup medal, and that’s more than most of the great players in England.’ Well, I am not going to say Sir Alf Ramsey wished I had been born an Englishman when I was at Birmingham . . . but I did not consider myself a flop when I was there. The fact that some of the English press-men forget is that I did not play with a club which was particularly fashionable. And, just as in Scotland, if you don’t play with the really big teams then you don't get rated so highly. But, let me tell you, not all the players even in the top teams are top stars, and that includes Leeds. When I came back to Parkhead, just before Mr. Stein, i never felt I was returning as a reject. The Birmingham City manager, it was Joe Mallet then, and the board had let me decide whether or not I should sign again for Celtic.

I was back at Parkhead under different circumstances from when I departed. I realised that the boys I had left when they were fresh-faced teenagers had matured, it could not be long before they exploded into a winning side. And the spark was lit when Jock Stein followed a month later, for his second spell with the club . . . maybe football is better the second time around. The switch which really turned out to be effective for me was my first move to inside-forward, a change which was first worked on in the 1966 tour of America. I had never been an orthodox touch-line winger.

I liked to get into the action, for I always felt that out on the wing you had to depend too much on the service of other players. So it was not such a drastic change, but it did put me along side Bobby Murdoch in mid-field, and we struck up almost a telepathic understanding of where the other was on the park. I swear that in the 1967 European Cup Final, even if I had been blindfolded, I would have known where to have found Bobby on that Lisbon park. The manager’s instructions were always that the ball had to go from the back four to the mid-field, Bobby and myself. Only in emergencies was it to be belted up the park. Strict tactics have a part to play in the modern game, but I reckon an understanding like that between two players can never be forged by any pre-match schemes. Maybe we were luckier than most teams. We have one of the greatest tactical managers in the game, yet our formulas allow for improvisation.

Sometimes the manager's talks last only ten minutes, sometimes they last two hours, yet Mr. Stein can talk away without ever repeating himself. We don’t have these talks before every game. I think he considers that, as the team has matured, so they are able to take more responsibility themselves. Yet when he does talk he digs up facts as if he was a computer. When he watched Leeds in the two FA. Cup semi-final replays against Manchester United, he was able to tell us exactly how many times their two link-men, Billy Bremner and Johnny Giles, picked the ball up in the middle of the park. Just try counting the number of passes one player makes the next time you are at a match, and you will get some idea how difficult it is... So in the European Cup semi-final he wanted me to make sure Billy Bremner did not get the ball, to cut out the supply to him, and even-although I am not the world’s greatest tackler-to try to dispossess him.

And, apart from one lapse, in the second game at Hampden, for which I blame myself, it worked well. But full credit to Bremner . . . that goal he scored was one of the best Hampden has seen for years. Maybe Jock Stein’s secret is that he never asks a player to do a job that is impossible, for he knows that if someone does not have football ability then all the tactics in the world cannot help him. These so-tense matches against Leeds did not allow me to indulge in a little bit of showmanship. I do not apologise for making the crowd laugh a bit sometimes.

The Celtic crowd are the greatest in the world, and I think they like to see a few tricks now and then. But it sometimes lands me in hot water with the manager. I remember once at Shawfield sitting on the ball. Perhaps he will stand for some of my showmanship, but that particular act was definitely not top of the bill with him. And, after the game, I was told so in no uncertain manner. Maybe I borrowed a few of the tricks from Charlie Tully, who was still at Parkhead when I joined . . there I go, giving you more clues about my age again. I think Charlie was a great player, and would have been a great player in any age.

All the talk about comparing past and present football is a lot of hot air as far as I am concerned.

I have been fifteen years in top-class football, and I have seen some fantastic changes since them. But, as I have already said, there is only one yardstick to judge a player-has he ability? And if a player in the old days showed that, then good luck to him! He would have been a success today, once the training sharpened him up. As a kid I got myself a bit of a reputation for getting into trouble, ordered off playing for Scotland against Holland, and ordered off after a famous punch-up with Johnny Haynes, then England’s number-one name, when I was with Birmingham. I’m not proud of it all when I look back, but I also feel that it was part of the process of growing up in soccer. I took a bit of stick from some English writers about a tackle on Leeds centre Mick jones in the semi-final at Hampden.

I don't know if they will believe me, but it was perfectly accidental and happened so simply... I was looking to push the ball to Billy McNeill in mid-field, but I let it roll slightly too far ahead of me. I stretched to try to send it on to Billy, then big Mick came charging in to tackle and collided with me... It was as straightforward as that, although to read some comments it seemed as if it was the worst foul in football. Some of the Leeds players did not like it. They made that pretty clear by what they told me. Maybe we should have switched the subject, and talked about superstitions.

Leeds are supposed to be the most superstitious team in the League, and I go in for a bit of it myself. My family have always been superstitious, especially my mother. She always said that if you saw a bit of coal in the street you had always to pick it up for luck . . . we had the best fires in Glasgow! I never walked under ladders as a kid, and I can't get out of the habit to this day. If the team lose when I am wearing a particular suit, it gets put to the back of my wardrobe for a long time.

I would like to chuck it away, but I can't do that . . . my name is Auld, not Onassis. Anyway. I would need to be like George Best and keep a boutique if I really wanted to take that superstition the whole way... However, I do stick to some routine. I always sit on the sixth seat on the bus, and always next to Tommy Gemmell.

but i always run on to the park as the fifth player. John Clark used to go right ahead of me. now it's jim Brogan ,and Bobby Lennox comes behind me. Billy McNeill always wanders round the dressing-room with only his jersey and underpants on until the minute before we get the signal to go on to the park . . . I hope he doesn’t forget one day ! And Tommy Gemmell always bangs the ball straight into the back of the net as soon as we get on the field, just watch him the next time. Why do players believe in it? It’s simple, it’s all in the imagination, and it's just a way of reassurance. We know the result won't really be changed because of where we sit on the bus, there are a lot more factors than that, but it helps us just the same.

Sometimes, not long before the game, we don’t know the team. We have a pool of eighteen players, every one of them is capable of playing in the first team. I admit it, I feel I should be playing every game. Whenever I am not playing I am disappointed, even although I know it's not possible every match. I even wanted to play in the international team again. I was upset I was the only one of the 1967 European Cup team who was never capped. I must admit that rankled a bit. Maybe it is because football is my life. And when you get older in the game you realise how short a career it really is . . . I can remember incidents in games that happened ten years ago as if it were yesterday.

However, before we all start getting misty-eyed together, just let me say that when I lose the desire to go on a football field, and I am quite content to sit in the stand, then I’ll know, before anyone needs to tell me, that it will be good-bye Bertie Auld.

Playing for Celtic no2 By Rodger Baillie

Submitted By Lizardking Randalstown Hoops


Posted by voc1967 on Tuesday 30 June 2020 - 13:38:45 | Comments (0)  |  printer friendly
News Categories