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The Birth Of An Era - The Swinging Sixties Part 4
“The old home town looks the same, as I step down from the train”…so sang Tom Jones as “The Green Green Grass of Home” sat as imperiously at the top of the charts, as Celtic did at the top of the League at New Year 1967.

“The old home town looks the same, as I step down from the train”…so sang Tom Jones as “The Green Green Grass of Home” sat as imperiously at the top of the charts, as Celtic did at the top of the League at New Year 1967.

Elsewhere, Alf Ramsay was knighted in the New Year Honours List for leading England to victory in the 1966 World Cup, Donald Campbell came to a spectacular end when his boat Bluebird was thrown into the air after allegedly hitting a wave whilst doing 300mph in an attempt on the world water speed record on Coniston Water in the Lake District. The huge craft somersaulted in the air and disintegrated on impact with the water. Campbell 's body was never found.

In politics, Jeremy Thorpe took over from Jo Grimmond as leader of the Liberal Party – Grimmond said he was too deaf to carry on. I SAID HE WAS TOO DEAF TO CARRY ON…oh, never mind!

Tragically, three American astronauts – Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee – were killed when a flash fire swept through the capsule of their Apollo spacecraft as it went through a take-off simulation exercise on the launch pad.

The weather in those first few days of the New Year was bitterly cold, and the traditional games against Clyde and Rangers at Parkhead and Ibrox respectively were frozen off. The only game to survive the freeze that gripped Glasgow in January 1967 was the “other” Glasgow derby between Queens Park and Third Lanark at Hampden Park. Poor old Thirds had been relegated from the First Division with a mere 7 points at the end of 1964-65 season, and despite a very brief revival in which the team rose to mid-table in the Second Division the following season, the proud old club from the south side was allowed, shamefully, to slip into unconsciousness and passed away from fatal financial mismanagement in May 1967. However, while Thirds were passing into history, Celtic went from strength to strength.

The first league match of 1967 was a 5-1 pasting of Dundee, wee Jim McLean and all, at Celtic Park on January 7th. The Bhoys blasted their way into the New Year with two goals in the first 5 minutes; a Bobby Wilson o.g., swiftly followed by the first of Wallace's brace of goals before the Dens men could draw breath. The wind was knocked right out of their sails with the addition of two more goals before the half hour, from Jimmy Johnstone and a peach of a right foot drive from Charlie Gallagher, deputising for the injured Bertie Auld. That nippy striker, Kenny Cameron, pulled a goal back for Dundee five minutes into the second half, but Wispy Wallace sent the fans off home singing with his second, one minute from time.

The same score did for Clyde the following Wednesday evening, but this was a much lower tempo affair, played on a dreich rainy night, with Clyde giving as good as they got in the first half - going in level at half time, Joe Gilroy having cancelled out Chalmers' opener. Charlie Gallagher kept up his fine scoring form, putting Celtic ahead from close range ten minutes into the second half, then a devastating burst of three goals in four minutes from Chalmers (72), Gemmell (74) and Lennox (75) killed the game.

Another tough test loomed up on Saturday the 14 th , a trip to Perth to play St Johnstone at Muirton Park on a bitterly cold day. The Saints were then managed by Bobby Brown, who would shortly be appointed as Scotland's first full-time national team manager - in time to guide the Scots to that wonderful 3-2 win over England at Wembley! Brown was the last amateur to play for Scotland, being capped in a wartime international while playing in goal for Queens Park. Celtic found it hard to get going on the rock-hard surface in the first half, but after the break, two goals from Jimmy Johnstone knocked the stuffing out of the Perth side, and two more in the last five minutes from Lennox and Chalmers gave the score-line a rather flattering look.

Hibs were defeated 2-0 at Celtic Park on the 21 st January, in a solid, comfortable win, goals coming in the first half from Wallace and Chalmers. The next Saturday, the 28 th , however, was destined to be one of those that passed into Celtic folklore…

Celtic had been drawn to play Arbroath, from the second division, at home in the Third Round of the Scottish Cup. The match was over as a contest after half-an-hour, with Gemmell, Murdoch and Chalmers putting Celtic 3-0 up. Bertie Auld closed the game out with a fourth goal ten minutes from time, but by then the main excitement was bubbling over.

The fun really started about half-way through the second half; a murmur of excitement started in the stand, and like an early Mexican wave, rippled right round the ground, from the Rangers end, right round the Jungle and finally to the Celtic end. I was standing with my pals at the stand side of the Celtic end, and we watched and wondered as the ripple grew into an explosion of joy all around the ground. Scarves and bunnets were being flung in the air, men were dancing and hugging one another…what on earth could have caused this phenomenon? Finally, the news reached us: the chap next to me turned round and blurted out the immortal line….

…”Rangers have lost at Berwick!!!”

Incredibly, even though there was nothing else happening in the world that could conceivably have caused such a “bush telegraph” reaction at Celtic Park, it never even occurred to any of us that Rangers might not win their Cup tie against tiny Berwick Rangers at Shielfield Park. Berwick were even more anonymous than Arbroath, but their Player-Manager was a tough ex-Commando who instilled in his men the belief that they could actually beat their mighty Glasgow namesakes….Jock Wallace. The well-known bluenose played in goal for Berwick that day, and he repelled everything that McLean, Forrest, Greig and co. threw at him. Another ‘Gers sympathizing journeyman in the Berwick ranks was ex-Motherwell inside forward, Sammy Reid, and it was his smartly taken left-foot shot in the 35 th minute that caused the biggest Cup shock of the century. Try as they might, Rangers could not equalize, and indeed Berwick's Christie had a chance to score a second and make the game safe in the last ten minutes, but he sclaffed it wide. No matter, it was one of those days when Rangers could have played till midnight and they would not have scored, and the seismic shock became reality.

To give a sense of the magnitude of the result, Celtic's defeat by Inverness Caley at Parkhead was like a hand-grenade to the atomic bomb of Berwick. As a result, neither Forrest nor McLean ever played for Rangers again; they were the scapegoats, and Rangers' gentlemanly manager, John Scotland (Scot) Symon was on borrowed time, despite Rangers' domination under his stewardship for the five or six years prior to Jock Stein's arrival at Celtic. Sammy Reid's name was chanted with gusto from the slopes of Celtic Park for many months afterwards!

Meanwhile, back at Parkhead, the euphoria washed around the ground like a warm breeze on a nippy January day…my esteemed fellow contributor, David Potter, tells me that he was standing fairly close to my position at the game. He recalls the euphoria, but being a wee bit older and cannier than me, and having experienced false rumours of stunning results before, he refused to fully believe the news till he heard it on the BBC!

The Rangers game had kicked off at 2pm due to the fact that Berwick had no floodlights, so it was all over at Berwick while we were scanning the half-time scoreboard at Parkhead. In these days of instant information from matches all over the country on the radio, it is hard to imagine those far off days when the first intimation of match results often came via the stop press in the “Green Citizen” or “Pink Times”, the wonderful old Glasgow Saturday evening football special edition papers. Even motorists driving home from games would be lucky to catch the scores from elsewhere, unless they were one of the lucky few whose cars actually had radios!

The removal of Rangers from the competition at the first hurdle left Celtic as odds-on favourites to regain the trophy, which they had lost to the Ibrox men the previous season.

Meanwhile, the march to the league title continued remorselessly with away wins at Airdrie (3-0) and Ayr United (5-0), before the second round of the Cup brought Elgin City of the Highland League to Celtic Park. The doughty Highlanders held a near full-strength Celtic side to 0-0 until the roof fell in on them and they conceded three goals in the last three minutes of the first half - to a Steve Chalmers diving header, followed by a quick-fire brace from Bobby Lennox. Lennox completed his hat-trick and then Hughes scored in the second half, then Willie Wallace, on as sub for Murdoch, grabbed two in the last ten minutes.

Back to league business the following Saturday, 25 th February, and a tough trip to play Stirling Albion at their picturesque Annfield ground. Albion were managed by ex-Ranger, Sammy Baird - never a shrinking violet in his playing days - and his teams were likewise keen to get stuck in. There were dark mutterings among the conspiracy theorists and cynics in the Celtic support along the lines that Albion always seemed to try harder against Celtic than against Rangers…also, they wore a change kit of orange jerseys when playing Celtic for no apparent reason (other than the obvious one that their normal white tops with two red hoops would have clashed with Celtic's Hoops). Indeed, Albion had beaten Celtic 1-0 at Annfield the previous season, when Celtic suffered a January slump, and this time they managed a 1-1 draw in strength-sapping conditions on a muddy pitch - John Hughes canceling out Peebles' goal for Stirling early in the second half. Billy McNeill looked to have won the game late on for Celtic with a trademark header from a corner, but the referee spotted a mystery infringement and the goal was disallowed.

This kind of exhausting workout was not what Celtic would have chosen as preparation for their European Cup Quarter Final first leg clash with Yugoslavian champs, Vojvodina Novi Sad, in Yugoslavia on the following Wednesday evening. It was something of a surprise that we were playing Vojvodina, and not Atletico Madrid…Vojvodina and Atletico had drawn on aggregate in their second round tie, and the Yugoslavs had won the play-off in Madrid, by 3-2. Obviously they would be no pushovers, but the Celtic supporters were not short of confidence…as one punter put it: “Novi Sad?? They'll be awfy sad when we're finished with them!”

Jock Stein had prudently arranged a friendly match at Parkhead against old foes, Dinamo Zagreb, whom Celtic had played and beaten in the Cup Winners Cup in 1964, to provide a test for his players against a leading Yugoslav side; Stein fired up publicity for the game by promising to field an all-out attacking formation. As it turned out, Zagreb comfortably contained everything a disjointed Celtic could throw at them, and scored the only goal of the game through their lightning fast inside forward, Zambata, three minutes from the end….if we played like that against Vojvodina, we would be in big trouble!

In the event, Vojvodina provided the stiffest opposition of the European campaign. They won 1-0 in front of 30,000 fans in the grim little industrial town north of Belgrade; the goal coming from a slack pass-back by Tommy Gemmell in the 69 th minute, that had Jock Stein foaming at the mouth, presenting Stanic with a simple chance. However, although the Celtic forwards failed to penetrate the tough Slav defence, our defence held firm in the face of constant bombardment and damage was limited to the single goal defeat.

There was a note of cautious optimism for the second leg at Celtic Park the following Wednesday, 8 th March.

March came in like a lion in Scotland, and Celtic had to plough through another mudbath just one week after their Annfield trials. This time it was St Mirren at Love Street, and vengeance had to be exacted, as the Saints had been the first team to stop Celtic winning a competitive match this season with a 1-1 draw at Parkhead the previous November. Revenge was gained, eventually, with Lennox and Hughes adding second half goals to Willie Wallace's strike on the half-hour to make the points safe – Hughes' goal being a gem as the big man waltzed through the mud leaving defenders and goalkeeper Connaghan sprawling in his wake before walking the ball into the net. Gemmell, with a penalty, and Wallace in the last minute, made it 5-0 to Celtic.

The European Cup of 1966-67 had thrown up some surprises so far; much-fancied English champions, Liverpool, were thrashed 7-3 on aggregate by Ajax Amsterdam; the Dutchmen inspired by their mercurial inside forward, a weedy looking young lad called Johann Cruyff…they took Liverpool apart by 5-1 in the fog on their own tiny 15,000 capacity ground. Bill Shankly complained bitterly that the game should never have been played, but added that Liverpool would win 5-0 at Anfield; as it turned out, the Reds led twice, but twice the Dutchmen levelled on the night, and in the end Ajax were worthy winners. The youthful Ajax, the prototype of “total football” were in turn eliminated in the Quarter Final by the Czech army side, Dukla Prague, an efficient if unspectacular group of gnarled old sweats who revolved around their cultured left half, Josef Masopust, who was a former European Footballer of the Year and had played for his country in the 1962 World Cup Final against the brilliant Brazilians. But we are getting ahead of ourselves…

Celtic faced Vojvodina under the lights of Celtic Park on 8 th March, without the services of the injured Bertie Auld and Joe McBride, whose season was now over, and the as yet ineligible Willie Wallace. Their places were taken by Gallagher, Chalmers and Hughes, respectively.

The Yugoslavs set out their stall in the chilly Glasgow air to hold what they had; they soaked up pressure from the start and always threatened to upset Celtic with slick breakaways. Almost from the start, the Slav goalkeeper, Ilja Pantelic, began wasting time with prolonged clearances and goal kicks. He drew howls of protest from the 75,000 crowd packed tight into the ground, but he and his team mates held out till the 60 th minute – then the so-casual Pantelic inexplicably dropped a harmless cross at the feet of Stevie Chalmers, who couldn't believe his luck. Steve promptly prodded the ball over the line from six yards out, and Celtic were back in business.

The Vojvodina goal was subjected to renewed siege, but the Slavs held on like grim death for a play-off in neutral Rotterdam (there would be no extra-time if the sides finished level). As the game entered the 90 th and last minute, Celtic won a corner on the right. Over trotted Charlie Gallagher to take it, and in a carbon copy of the Cup-winning goal against Dunfermline, Billy McNeill timed his run to perfection to soar above the despairing grasp of Pantelic and head the ball cleanly into the net.

Bedlam! Pandemonium!! There was hardly time to centre the ball before the referee blew his final whistle and it was all over – Celtic were in the European Cup Semi-Finals at the first attempt!

To be continued


Posted by voc1967 on Friday 06 September 2019 - 13:00:56 | Comments (0)  |  printer friendly
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