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The Birth Of An Era - The Swinging Sixties Part 3
In the meantime, the Beatles had notched their 11 th consecutive Number One hit with the double “A” side

In the meantime, the Beatles had notched their 11 th consecutive Number One hit with the double “A” side

‘Eleanor Rigby/Yellow Submarine'; the Fab Four held the Number One position from mid-August to mid-September, until the Small Faces, who, along with the Who epitomised the “Mod” culture of the mid-sixties, reached the top of the charts for just one week in September with “All or Nothing”; it was their only Number One, and it stayed on top of the pile for just one week…which is one week more than the hugely more successful Who ever achieved throughout their long career!

In any event, the Beatles and the Small Faces were skittled by a man who had been dead for two years by the time his song, “Distant Drums”, hit the top, and stayed there till the week before Celtic's triumph in the League Cup Final: “Gentleman” Jim Reeves.

While Reeves' velvet tones provided the soundtrack of the day, Celtic were drawn against FC Zurich of Switzerland in the First Round of the European Cup. The first leg at Celtic Park on September 28 th saw Celtic overcome a nervy start to dominate their Swiss opponents in the first half, but they failed to score in this period of supremacy. They cranked up the pressure in the second period and two goals in 5 minutes, mid-way through the half, from Tommy Gemmell and Joe McBride, settled the match. McBride thought he had scored a second goal when he shot home right on the final whistle, and indeed some spectators left the ground thinking Celtic had won 3-0, but the referee was adamant the he had already signalled the end of the match before the ball crossed the line, so the score stood at 2-0.

Some Celtic players, and a few pundits, expected Zurich to have a real go at Celtic in the second leg on their own patch the following week, but not Jock Stein; he was convinced that Zurich only knew one way to play – uncompromising defence and speculative counter attack. As usual, the Big Man was proved correct, and in the second leg on October 5 th , Zurich retreated into their shell while the Celts struck top form and put the tie well beyond their hosts before half-time. By then, Tommy Gemmell and Steve Chalmers had doubled Celtic's first leg lead, and big Tam added a third from the spot three minutes into the second half. From there on in it was a stroll in the Tyrol.

Celtic had a long wait for the Second Round of the European Cup – they were drawn against French champions, Nantes, with the first leg in Brittany on November 30 th . While they were waiting, Celtic continued their irresistible start to the season; having beaten Clyde 3-0 at Shawfield in their opening league fixture on September 10 th , then having blown Rangers away with 2 goals in the first four minutes the following week at Celtic Park, Celtic went to Dens Park – always a tough place to collect points, even though Dundee's magnificent Championship side of 1962 had, by then, broken up – and won 2-1 with a late strike by Stevie Chalmers.

There followed a romp in the rain at Parkhead, with Lennox, McBride and Johnstone each grabbing a brace in the 6-1 demolition of St Johnstone. The next outing provided one of the games of the season: Hibs 3, Celtic 5, at Easter Road, with Joe McBride scoring four, including a first-half hat-trick. Celts were actually 4-2 up at half-time; Peter Cormack had given Hibs the lead in the 10 th minute, but McBride in 15, and Chalmers in 30 minutes, put Celtic in charge. Ex Third Lanark full-back, Joe Davis, scored from the spot to level for Hibs in 37 minutes, but then McBride went into overdrive, barrelling through the Hibees defence to net in the 41 st and 43 rd minutes. Joe notched his fourth goal fifteen minutes from time, and Allan McGraw – the man whose goals had propelled Morton to their Scottish record winning streak of 23 consecutive league games in 1963-64 season – completed the afternoon's entertainment with a last-minute consolation for the home side.

Airdrie put up their usual “no surrender” resistance at Celtic Park on Saturday October 15 th , but were duly overcome by goals from McBride and Lennox (2) in the last quarter of the match.

The following Saturday was free for Celtic, as Scotland were playing Wales in Cardiff in the Home International Championship, with Joe McBride making his Scotland debut, and Gemmell, Clark and Johnstone also playing in the match, which ended 1-1.

It was a game that perhaps should not have been played…for the previous day, one of the most horrific disasters ever seen in Britain occurred when a slag heap, swollen and unstable following heavy rains, suddenly collapsed and sent tons of mud sliding in a deadly black avalanche towards the primary school at Aberfan, near Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales. The school was engulfed by slurry in seconds, and 116 children and 28 adults were suffocated. It later transpired that there was a natural spring underneath the tip, which effectively turned it into a “water-bomb”; it was only a matter of time before the tip collapsed. Tragically, it happened during the day, when the school was full of pupils and teachers…a few hours later, and probably a whole generation of a village's children would have been spared, and the name of Aberfan would not tug at the heartstrings of those who remember that awful day. Certainly, football was put into perspective that weekend…

Life goes on, however, terrible human tragedies notwithstanding. Celtic FC were among the first organisations to send a donation to Aberfan, no doubt mindful that Jock Stein had been a miner, and that he had been plucked from the obscurity of Llanelli, in South Wales, to join Celtic as a player in the 1950s.

Celtic played their postponed league match against Ayr United at Celtic Park on the Monday evening, and Johnstone (2), Lennox, Hughes and Gemmell scored in a routine 5-1 win in front of 21,000 spectators (although it felt like a damn sight more to me as I was jammed into position in the front rows of the Jungle!!! Surely not an early example of Mr Whyte's creative accounting…!).

The goal glut continued following the League Cup Final win over Rangers, as Celtic played their third of an astonishing four consecutive home league fixtures, thrashing Stirling Albion 7-3. It is amusing to note that, despite having a rock-solid defence (when it needed to be!!) crammed with internationalists, Celtic often conceded 2, 3, or even sometimes 4 goals in games throughout the 1966-67 season; the whole philosophy was “however many you score, we'll score more!” - and it was wonderful to watch.

The first league point of the season to be surrendered was lost in a 1-1 home draw with St Mirren, for whom goalie Dennis Connaghan played a blinder, on Guy Fawkes' day. Rangers remained in second place, still a comfortable 3 points adrift, with Davie White's Clyde, Dunfermline and Dundee battling it out for third place. The Celtic juggernaut was still dominant, though, and Falkirk were duly crushed 3-0 at Brockville thanks to two first half penalties from Joe McBride and a second half strike by Bertie Auld.

No fewer than six Celtic players – Gemmell, Murdoch, Clark, McBride, Chalmers and Lennox (making his international debut) - were selected to play for Scotland in the Home International match at Hampden against Northern Ireland, who were managed by Bertie Peacock. Goals from Murdoch in 14 minutes and Lennox in 35 overtook Nicholson's 9 th minute opener for Northern Ireland, and Scotland won 2-1. Sadly, but predictably, the Celtic players were booed from the Mount Florida end every time they touched the ball.

Celtic's next outing was arguably the best league match of the season; three times, Celts trailed Dunfermline by two goals at East End Park, and three times they hauled themselves level before Joe McBride converted a last-minute penalty to see Celtic home 5-4. Eight of the nine goals were compressed into a 38-minute spell in the middle of the match; Hugh Robertson and Pat Delaney put the Fifers 2-0 up with goals in 31 and 33 minutes, Bobby Murdoch immediately pulled one back in 34, only for Bert Paton to restore Dunfermline's 2-goal advantage in 38. Jimmy Johnstone made it 3-2 two minutes from half-time. Alex Ferguson (who he?) put Dunfermline 4-2 up in 48 minutes, and then there was a barren spell of 15 minutes without a goal! Bertie Auld pulled another back in 62 minutes, and Joe McBride levelled at 4-4 in 69. It was all Celtic now, and the Fifers finally caved in, in the last minute, when Jimmy Johnstone was brought down in the box. What a game!!

Joe McBride scored another brace, including a penalty, in the 3-0 defeat of Hearts which closed out league business for the month of November.

Then, The Bhoys celebrated St Andrew's Day with a 3-1 first leg victory over Nantes in France. Despite falling behind in the 16 th minute, Celtic were always the better side, and Joe McBride squared the match eight minutes later. Celtic continued to dominate after the break, and Lennox raced through on a perfect lofted pass from Murdoch to score decisively in the 50 th minute. By the time Steve Chalmers added a third in 67 minutes, the Nantes crowd, normally among the most passionate in France, were watching proceedings with academic detachment. The tie was secure already, and Celtic coasted to the final whistle.

The first week in December 1966 was a momentous one for Celtic. On the third of the month, they were held 0-0 at Rugby Park in the league by Kilmarnock; arguably, it was a point won rather than lost, as Killie could and did still field virtually the whole of their title-winning team from 1965. No need to panic, as the Bhoys maintained a four-point lead over Rangers.

On the Monday morning, the papers carried a story that Jock Stein was set to sign ex-Partick Thistle winger, Ian Gibson, from promotion-chasing Coventry City, managed by Jimmy Hill, of the English Second Division, for £60,000 – a fee which would have equalled the Scottish record set by Rangers in the summer when they signed Alex Smith from Dunfermline.

However, this story did not come to fruition. Instead, Stein took advantage of Rangers' absence from the country on European business: they were playing the away leg of their European Cup Winners' Cup tie with the holders, Borussia Dortmund, and indeed they successfully defended a 2-0 first leg lead gained the previous week at Ibrox with a hard-fought 0-0 draw in Germany. It was widely understood that Scot Symon's first piece of business on his return would be the signing of Hearts' unsettled inside-forward, Willie Wallace.

Wallace, a hard-as-nails powerhouse with the skill and versatility to play half-back, winger, inside-forward or striker, was already a Scottish internationalist, and was known to be a Rangers supporter. However, “Wispy” was also a realist, and when Stein invited him to join Celtic for a fee to Hearts of £30,000, he didn't hesitate, correctly judging that Celtic were a far better bet for honours than his boyhood heroes!

The following day, Nantes were beaten again by 3-1 at Parkhead. This time, Jimmy Johnstone ran them ragged, scoring Celtic's first goal himself and laying on simple chances for Chalmers and Lennox in the second half. Celtic were through to the Quarter-Finals of the European Cup, to be played in March 1967.

Willie Wallace made his Celtic debut against Motherwell on Saturday, December 10 th , replacing the rested Joe McBride, and had a quiet but efficient game. Celtic won 4-2, with a Chalmers hat-trick and a fourth from Bobby Murdoch. The following week, Wallace opened his account in spectacular fashion, scoring two goals in the first half hour as Celts swept Partick aside by 6-2 at Celtic Park. The first was a simple header on the line from Joe McBride's headed pass across goal, but the second brought the house down: a thunderous half-volley from the edge of the box that almost uprooted the goal net. Willie Wallace had arrived! Stevie Chalmers kept up his good scoring run with another brace, and the other goals came from McBride and Murdoch.

The timing of Wallace's signing was almost uncanny; on Christmas Eve, Celtic travelled to Pittodrie and in a hard-fought 1-1 draw, Joe McBride suffered a cruciate ligament injury, which eventually put him out for the rest of the season. He had been in blistering form, and his haul of 33 domestic goals was good enough to see him finish the season as top goal-scorer in Scotland – not bad for half a season's work! It was, however, a devastating blow to Celtic and it remained to be seen how Stein and his players would react.

On Hogmanay, Celtic suffered their first league defeat of the season, going down 3-2 to Dundee United at Tannadice after Lennox and Wallace had given Celts a 2-1 half-time lead. Dennis Gillespie levelled for United in 72 minutes, and Iain Mitchell scored the winner 3 minutes later.

Despite this setback, the Glasgow Evening Citizen was in no doubt that Celtic would retain their league title, portraying Stein striding like a Colossus over his domestic rivals in their “Green Final” review of the year.

To be continued……..

Posted by voc1967 on Monday 02 September 2019 - 12:57:22 | Comments (0)  |  printer friendly
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