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Jim Craig - I Am A Part Time Full-Timer
I'm the odd man out at Celtic!

I'm the odd man out at Celtic! For my life in football is dfferent from the rest of the first-team pool . . . I am a part-time full-timer.

Let me explain just what that means. I combine my job as a footballet with a career as a dentist.

The old idea of a part-time player who trained twice a week in sessions which he managed to squeeze in after his work has no place in modem football.

I train with the rest of the first-team every morning, I am available for any extra sessions and any foreign competitive matches which we play. However if the team are going perhaps for a golf outing, or a few days relaxation at their coast headquarters, then I am excused attending it.

I am lucky in that, as a dentist, I am able to combine two roles in my life. But I would like to stress that as far as football is concerned I am a full-timer in attitude and approach.

This is my second spell at Celtic Park . . . I must say it has produced more medals than the first time.

I went to Celtic straight from school, and as an amateur played in their third team. Then, when I was in my second year as a dental student, I found it impossible to carry on with my football.

I played only for Glasgow University for a spell after that - I even had a few games in goal and l was picked for the Scottish Universities against England. I had played mostly at right-half for the University, and it was in January 1965 that I received another invitation to join Celtic, and returned . . . as a right-back.

This is an exciting time to be in football. I believe it is changing in many ways, and one of them is in my own position, full-back.

People say football is a simple game . . . I don’t think it is!

Maybe it was in the old days when it was just a question of a defence against an attack. Now there are so many systems that you need intelligent planning to combat them.

It may look simple to the fans, and if it is successful it certainly should appear that way. But I don’t think many fans realise how much work goes on behind the scenes nowadays.

The old ideas of numbers on a jersey which meant a forward played upfield, and a defender at the back have gone for ever.

Unfortunately too many fans cannot get rid of this idea. When I am a spectator I sometimes feel sorry for a player whom the crowd feels is not fulfilling his position the way they want.

They forget that he may be playing the role exactly the way his manager has laid down, and within the team plan.

I know my own style is not popular With some of the Celtic fans. Thev want to see a fullback who dives into the tackle.I prefer to wait if if possible so that the chance is not 50 50, but 70-30 in my favour to get the ball, especially if I managed to force the winger to the bye-line.

Let me give you an example of how we can be asked to play to instructions, and the onlooker does not see everything.

I was criticised by one Sunday paper journalist after the European Cup tie against AC. Milan in Glasgow as ‘having probably the least effective game of my career’.

I had been detailed to mark their danger man, Piero Prati, and he had only once got away from me, when he moved inside as I took a throw-in.

The journalist wrote that I showed how not to play Prati . . . I wonder what he thought about the Ajax full-back in the European Cup Final when the Italian winger scored a hat-trick.

European football has always interested me. Maybe it is because I played in four European Cup Winners Cup ties before I even took part in a Scottish Cup tie.

The great difference between that Celtic side - it was in 1966 when we reached the semi-final of the Cup Winners Cup and were then beaten by Liverpool - and the side of today is in attitude.

We have almost the same pool of players, but then there were some teams we feared, maybe even secretly hoped we could dodge in any draw.

Now we are on equal terms, at least, with any of them. Why not? If it had not been for that one unfortunate breakaway we might have been European champions again.

I must admit it hit me when I was watching the match between AC. Milan and Ajax on television. The Scottish Cup Final victory against Rangers was a great moment for our fans . . . I know they probably rate that the high spot of the season.

But I think the time has come when we must look beyond Scotland, and really European success in the long run is the greater award.

There are other differences in Europe. Celtic were one of the great pioneers of attacking full-backs . . . remember Tommy Gemmell’s equaliser in Lisbon.

Now, other teams try to counteract it. I noticed last season that every time I moved up to support the attack - and remember i am the defending full-back -I was shadowed by the winger.

It happened with Dzajic of Red Star Belgrade and also Berta, the Ieft-winger of French champions St. Etienne. He missed me only once , when I managed to break away and score at Parkhead . . . one of the three goals I scored last season.

And with that grand total I topped my own personal scoring average...It was nice to turn goal-taker instead of goal-maker, although that role has had its memorable moments, especially in the European Cup Final against Inter-Milan in Lisbon, when I gave my full-back partner Tommy Gemmell the pass from which he scored his wonderful equaliser.

We had been given the role of pulling the ball back into the path of the half-backs or forwards if we went upfield, to try to get it past the wall of the Inter defence.

A few minutes before Tommy scored there was another move when I passed to Bobby Murdoch, but he was not quite expecting the ball, it went to his left foot and the shot went past.

Yet if it had not been for a decision of manager Jock Stein’s in an earlier tie I would not have been in Lisbon.

During the middle of that season I had not been playing well, things had started to go badly for me after Christmas.

When we went to Yugoslavia to take on Vojvodina in the quarterfinal I really expected to be dropped. It was such a vital time we were still involved in three competitions - that I realised that if I lost my place then it would probably be for the rest of the season.

However I was fortunate for although we lost 1-0 I had been picked for the match, and had played reasonably well enough to keep my place.

Two full-backs combining for that goal in Lisbon with the help of a pass from a wing-half, Bobby Murdoch to start it off would have been a soccer rarity ten years ago.

But now football is in such a state of change that every position has to contribute something different . . . in an effort to break down defensive systems.

Eventually I predict all this planning and counter-planning will result in a new style of football, where positions will mean even less than they do now.

I have noticed on TV that if Eddie McCreadie dashes upfield with Chelsea, he does not have to chase back, someone slots in behind him.

Every team uses a cover method to some extent. But eventually I see no reason why a full-back should not stay upfield for as long as five minutes if someone else is in his position.

There won’t be a basic system then, players will be specialists who can fit in to almost any position.

Changes are already on the way. The British and Continental styles are beginning to merge.

We are borrowing from them, and they are copying us. The Continentals are tackling more . . . did you watch the way AC. Milan tackled in the European Cup Final against Ajax, it was just as hard as any British side.

And now in Britain there is more shielding of the ball to stop your
opponents getting to it. That is keeping your back to an opponent, so as he cannot tackle.

I am convinced this is the reason for the higher rate of fouls especially in England.

Perhaps some time really hard tackling will be eliminated from the game. It will never disappear , it is too much part of football’s framework but I see the emphasis going more on interception.

Even though I am the defensive full-back of the Celtic team, I prefer to intercept if it is at all possible.

Every full-back has various styles of wingers whom he does not like to play against . . . I must admit I would hate to have to play such a close-dribbling stylist as Jimmy Johnstone.

Hibs left-Winger Eric Stevenson is one of the club wingers in
Scotland whom I respect very much, and in Europe I can only say I’m glad I was against Gento, of Real Madrid, when he was supposed to be past his best.

He and I were opponents when Celtic played Real Madrid in the benefit match for Alfred Di Stefano. Gento might have been on the
way down then but he was still extremely fast. I look forward to these European matches most of all. I am a player
who needs to be mentally under pressure . . . and with the rest of the Celtic team I have come to look forward to the European matches. I like these big games. Football in Scotland will always be Vital to us . . . but it is in Europe
that the significant tactical developments will take place. And it is in Europe that a team’s real stature is measured. Any side
could win domestic trophies in their own country for season after season and still be relatively unrecognised, but one victory in the European Cup Final makes them known all over the world.

Look how Lisbon established Celtic on the soccer map! Every member of the Parkhead staff wants to repeat that victory . . . and you can bet that we will have a few tactical surprises ourselves to help us to that goal.

Jim Craig - I am a part time full-timer .

Playing for Celtic no 1

By Rodger Baillie

Submitted By Lizardking Randalstown Hoops


Posted by voc1967 on Wednesday 18 September 2019 - 15:48:34 | Comments (0)  |  printer friendly
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