For some people, Jock Stein could never do any wrong.
For some people, Jock Stein could never do any wrong. Perhaps this game showed that he was as human as the rest of us and this game is an illustration of an instance where he put pride and ambition above all else. He was correct to believe that we could take on Racing and beat them but didn’t take the environment risk into account. Uruguay may have been more “neutral” territory compared to Argentina, but it wasn’t the solution. The previous two legs hadn’t been football. Bob Kelly was against our playing the game and Jock Stein in retrospect is likely to have regretted going ahead with this game.
he rules had stated that in the event that the ties weren’t decided after the two games (no away goals rule in those days) that there was to be a play-off match on neutral territory. Chairman Bob Kelly, after the displays from Racing in both Glasgow and Buenos Aires was against the team playing and for heading straight home. Manager Jock Stein was of the opinion that Celtic could and would win, though he clearly for the sake of the players did not want to go on immediately to Montevideo. Desmond White (a future Celtic chairman) whinged that we couldn’t stop without the replay as we had spent so much money on this trip so far. Celtic demanded guarantees for their security and a change of referee; in retrospect, even these conditions were too little.
It was finally decided that the third game would go ahead after only three days later, in Montevideo the capital of Uruguay. Whilst not Argentina, whether this was “neutral” given the fact that the countries border each other is a matter of opinion. The close proximity to Argentina allowed a large contingent from Argentina to travel over (30,000), a number of whom decided to congregate outside of Celtic’s hotel at 2:00 in the morning to keep the players awake.
Prior to the game Jock Stein reported to have said: “I cannot send my team into this game, with one hand behind their backs.”
The match kicked off with a referee from Paraguay - changed from the Uruguyan Marinho of the second leg - but still a South American. Immediately the match went into freefall. From the start, the referee was simply out of his depth, the cynicism and violence shown by the Argentinians carried straight on from their behaviour in the first and second legs, and fisticuffs were the order of the day. The referee had to call the captains together in the middle of the first half to try to control the behaviour of both sides and to attempt to regain his own sense of security and office. It didn’t work, and in retaliation against the abuse the Celtic players suffered, they fought back, and to the chagrin of all the Celtic players ended up being the ones who were punished! and seen as the perpetrators. There were 30 fouls given against Celtic and 21 against Racing. For anyone who had seen Celtic play over the past year or so, they knew Celtic were not a dirty side. Yet the Celtic team were being hounded to death in this cauldron both during the match and in the subsequent furore.
“Johnstone, in the middle of the pitch slid the ball to Wallace and got free to receive the return. Martín without bothering about the ball, threw himself at Johnstone’s waist. Both fell and Johnstone struggled and Martín rolled on the ground as if he had been the victim of a blow. Without hesitating, Peréz [the incompetent referee]... sent Johnstone off! Thus he who had been the constant target of all the aggression since the beginning of the match... became the victim of a man whose aim was to protect the footballer against the fakers and the foulers. For my part, I have never seen such a staggering decision.”
So how did others see it:
A dark day for the beautiful game, but there's one great moment from the whole mess that should be recalled and retold:
In an interview with a Racing player years later, his comments showed a side to then Celtic captain Billy McNeill's character that depicted him as a giant above all other men. The player saw Billy McNeill approach at the final whistle and expected an assault after what had transpired in the previous 90 mins. Instead, Billy McNeill graciously and humbly held out his hand and they shook hands followed by an exchanging of jerseys.
The player was so taken by the gesture in the strained circumstances that he grasped McNeill's jersey tight and ran back to the dressing rooms so as to ensure no one could take it from him. He stated that after all that happened he was humbled by Billy McNeill and hoped they might play again in the World Cup 1970 (which Scotland sadly didn't make and neither did Argentina who also failed to qualify).
It was the mark of the man that McNeill was able to still be a gentleman even in the face of so much tension and havoc.
After everything, this if little else from these games this last tale should make us proud to be Celtic fans.
Posted by voc1967 on Sunday 11 August 2019 - 19:01:49 | Comments (0) |
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Date published: Tue, 20 Aug 2019 06:59:04 +0000
Date published: Tue, 20 Aug 2019 16:44:36 +0000
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Date published: Tue, 20 Aug 2019 19:01:05 +0000
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