I NEVER spot people in a crowd at a League match.
I NEVER spot people in a crowd at a League match. As you can imagine, I have far too much on my mind to try to recognise familiar faces. But it is different at a reserve game.
Usually on the terracing there is only a handful of fans, and it is easier to pick out someone whom you may know. However, I must admit it is a rare occurrence even at a reserve fixture . . . but the day it happened to me it changed my entire football career... It was at a reserve match between Wolves and Liverpool at Molineux about eighteen months ago
Suddenly, during a break in the play, my Wolves team-mate, Francis Munro moved up beside me and muttered: ‘Take a look behind your goal when you can. I’m sure that’s Sean Fallon standing there.’
I took a peep round, and sure enough it was the Celtic assistant manager, who had paid his way on to the terraces , although I was so surprised I had a second look just to make sure.
The only two Scots on the field were Francis Munro and myself. By the way, my “Welsh-sounding name is my only connection with Wales.
As I knew Celtic were looking for a ’keeper, I wondered if perhaps it was me he was watching; however, as time went on I heard nothing more about a transfer to Scotland, and I began to think that the Celtic interest had evaporated. And, in fact, the next transfer I was involved in was to another English club . . . I went on loan from Wolves to their Midland neighbours, Aston Villa. on a two-month contract. The manager then was the mercurial Tommy Docherty, who later left Villa mid-way through the season.
However, when the time came for my temporary contract to expire, the Doc wanted to make it a permanent transfer, and he offered me a two-year contract at Villa Park, with a two-year option... I was undecided about it, so I decided to have a talk with Wolves’ manager, Billy McGarry, about the situation before I finally made up my mind. As we sat in his office discussing the Villa bid, he asked me if I was still keen to return to Scotland, for one of the clubs there had been asking about me.
Finally he revealed it was Celtic. I just could not believe it; I thought he was joking. However, he put through a call to Glasgow to try to contact Mr. Stein, but unfortunately he was not available at that moment.
So, to pass the time, I decided to join the reserves at a training session. I was just about to step on to the track when I was called back to Mr. McGarry’s office. It was Mr. Stein on the phone. He asked me if I could catch the first train north, which left Wolverhampton at 11.30 am. . and it was not far off that time by then! . I dashed back to the dressing-room to change again. I’ll never forget the look of amazement on the faces of Francis Munro and Derek Dougan. They thought that perhaps some of my family in Scotland had been taken ill when l gasped that l was rushing for the Glasgow train . . . they just would not believe that l was going to sign for Celtic. I sped out of Molineux for the last time, after the most breathtaking thirty minutes of my career, which had changed the course of my football future entirely. So instead of an Aston Villa player I was going to be Celtic player and that‘s how it worked out. But I will always be grateful to Bill McGanry for allowing me the chance.
He had told me that if a Scots club ever came along for me he would not stand in my way. and Wolves would only take a nominal transfer fee... Naturally neither of us ever imagined it would be the top Scottish club who would want me. But it did not change his attitude . . . he kept his promise. Perhaps some fans have wondered why I should succeed with Celtic when. I must admit, I was no great success in England. They said the same thing in England about Bertie Auld, after his great achievement with Celtic when he came home from Birmingham City, although Bertie's spell down south was more successful than mine, maybe it’s another part of the Parkhead magic. In my case I was signed by Wolves from Third Lanark to be one of the reserve 'keepers at Molineux, and I am afraid I could never quite overcome that tag. After only three months I asked away, then things did improve and I got a run in the first team-one of my games was against Manchester United and the man I consider to have one of the most dangerous shots in English football, Bobby Charlton... But it was soon back to reserve football.
For i am convinced that in English football today, if you are transferred-and it’s not for a huge sum-you can be disregarded very quickly. There had been other clubs alter me before I got the chance to join Aston Villa. I used to discuss it with my wife for hours, but I never fancied moving into the Third or Fourth Divisions of the English League. I always felt that if I could get the right move I would be ready to grasp the opportunity, although never in my wildest dreams did I imagine it would be Celtic.
I am not bitter about English football. But don’t believe all the propaganda that is peddled about how backward Scottish football is compared to the soccer down south. Players can succeed in Scotland who have not starred in English football. But it’s not necessarily because the standard is higher there. I have found a tremendous difference since I came back, and the training methods Celtic use for my own position is just one example... They are far ahead of any manager I worked under in England.
Take Tommy Docherty, for example. I’ve a great admiration for the ‘Doc’. I think he’s the complete football fanatic, and that’s not a bad thing for any manager. But I never agreed with him on his training methods for 'keepers. I would not make a good out-field player. I’m not a great runner; Bobby Lennox does not need to worry about me challenging him.
However, at Aston Villa I did the full out field players’ schedule, and then the specialised 'keepcr training.
The result was that when I came to the part which should have done me the most good, I was exhausted. Yet I must admit there were times in the first few weeks at Parkhead when i was a complete flop: ieven wondered if i had made the right decision.
gradually that specialised training which Mr. Stein gives his ‘keeper began to pay off . I had one weakness in my game , l‘m not going to give away any trade secrets-but the manager new or said amthing to me about it. He just kept plugging away at it in training until he remarked one day:
‘You don't like that.’ And then he took me aside to show me how to sort it out. Looking back , i am grateful that I was not pitchforked into the League team. I was allowed to get used to my new surroundings. my new training schedule, and adjust myself before I was given my chance. The biggest shock I got was when I was told I would be playing in the League match against Rangers at Parkhead on 3 january . . . only thirty minutes before the kick-off . I had never imagined I would be selected for that match, so I did not have time to get any real pre-match nerves. Everyone at Celtic Park has been wonderful to me since I joined the club. For I must admit I was a bit worried about how the rest of the lads , who have won so many trophies-they never tire of telling me that-would react to a newcomer.
I need not have had any fears. When I first went to the ground the only player who was there from the first-team pool was Bobby Murdoch. I knew him from my previous spell in Scotland, and I mentioned these fears. I always remember him saying: ‘Don’t worry. The lads will get to know you, before you even know them.’ One player who has been particularly helpful is Ronnie Simpson.
Believe me, it’s only now that I have had a spell as Celtic ’keeper that I appreciate just how well he did during his magnificent spell. One problem facing a Celtic ’keeper, which you can apply to few other teams, is that there is rarely constant pressure. Maybe you think that should make life easier . . . but in fact in some ways it’s harder. It’s always best for a ’keeper to be where the action is, keeping his eye in constantly with a string of saves. I sometimes go two, or even three games with really not all that much to do. Then suddenly you have to guard against a snap breakaway to stop the opposition scoring, and ruinng all your team-mates’ attacking efforts. It’s a question of keeping your concentration on the game to be ready for anything.
That’s why I run around my penalty area a lot of the time when play is at the other end of the field. I also shout instructions to my team-mates but, although 'keepers are supposed to be daft, I have not just got to the stage of talking to myself yet. I know I have to keep my mind on the game.
Fortunately in many ways I am my own biggest critic. For I consider you should treat every move in the match with respect. It’s a bit like golf. If you can cut out stupid mistakes, then you immediately lower your score. Of course the player who never made a mistake has not yet been born. But if a ’keeper really works to cut down his quota of mistakes, then obviously he reduces the chances of losing stupid goals. I like to be a little nervous, too, before a match. I find it helps me to have a better game, and one match I was certainly edgy about was the second leg of the European Cup quarter final against Fiorentina in Italy. I could hardly sleep for three days before the match for thinking about it, as it was the first game I had played for the team abroad. However, it worked out well, for although we were beaten 1-0 in Florence, we won on a 3-1 aggregate.
As I have told you, I notice a great difference in the standard of football in Scotland now, compared to the time I was with Third Lanark. I think Celtic's 1967 European Cup victory was the best shot in the arm Scottish soccer ever had, for it swept aside the feeling that we were always destined to be second best. Every team does not have the resources of Celtic. But more teams than ever are working hard, plotting and planning to try to topple the big sides, and that can't be a bad thing-even although I hope their victories against us are few and far between. My previous club was Third Lanark and , although they often struggled before they finally went out of existence, I enjoyed playing with them . .perhaps because I had never known anything else. Now I find it hard to believe that I am playing in the same League the professional standards have risen so much. Perhaps Third Lanark’s constant financial worries contributed to that. Money was always tight at Cathkin, and it was never shown better than on one trip north we made to Aberdeen. We had been relegated to the Second Division and, because we had a blank Saturday on our fixture list, a match had been arranged against Aberdeen Reserves when we played our full League side.
It's a long way back from Aberdeen to Glasgow and on the road home we imagined we would be stopping at a restaurant for a meal. However, we rolled on in the mini-bus towards Glasgow, and when finally we did stop, a club offiial handed us our ‘tea money' . . . enough for one fish supper each! That was life at Cathkin; I can look back now and have a good laugh at it.
The reason I joined them in the first place was, for the very good one, that they were the only club who made me a signing offer. When I was with Vale of Leven juniors, I had played almost half-a-dozen trials for various senior clubs, but I got so fed up with these trials that I decided I would play no more . . . until I got a definite signing offer. So when Thirds came along I accepted their terms. Later the manager, Mr. Bill Hiddlestone was always telling me Celtic were interested in my transfer, but I never found out if it was true or not. And I had to wait a few more years for the dream I had cherished, to play for the Parkhead club, to come true.
Playing for Celtic no2 By Rodger Baillie
Posted by voc1967 on Monday 08 June 2020 - 13:21:55 | Comments (0) |
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Oh what a beautiful sunday
PintsMcL did you bring me a bar of rock ?
HH guys, jet lagged to fuck but finally got signed up. Niall.
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