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The Birth Of An Era - The Swinging Sixties Part 5
The excitement and anticipation of Celtic's qualification for the semi final of the European Cup in 1967 was increased greatly when the draw paired Celts with the Czech army team, Dukla Prague.

The excitement and anticipation of Celtic's qualification for the semi final of the European Cup in 1967 was increased greatly when the draw paired Celts with the Czech army team, Dukla Prague. We had avoided the favourites, Internazionale of Milan, who drew the Bulgarians of CSKA Sofia.

Like Glasgow , Sofia had two teams in the semis of the two principal European tournaments – CSKA and Slavia, who were drawn to play Rangers in the Cup-Winners Cup semi final. Of the three possible opponents, Dukla were probably the preferred choice; despite the fact that they had beaten the exciting Ajax team in the quarters, there was a feeling that the Czechs had been lucky to win. Certainly it was a relief that we would not have to face Cruyff and co., and much more so that we had avoided Inter. The Italians had been awesome in defeating holders Real Madrid 3-1 on aggregate in their quarter final, and were rightly regarded as favourites to lift the Cup.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Celtic faced what appeared on paper to be an easy Scottish Cup quarter final against Queens Park at Parkhead on Saturday March 11 th , three days after the momentous win over Vojvodina. Tommy Gemmell decided to give the amateurs a goal of a start; unable to get out of the way of a low cross from the left after only 15 seconds play, big Tam bundled the ball past Ronnie Simpson and couldn't disguise his mirth at his own misfortune – ach well, at least the Celts had 89 minutes and 45 seconds in which to equalise…Gemmell only needed seven more minutes to atone for his sin, converting a penalty with characteristic gusto. Stevie Chalmers added a second for Celtic in 23 minutes, and just as we were reaching for our new-fangled suitcase-sized “pocket” calculators, the Spiders' veteran inside forward Neil Hopper had the temerity to equalise on the half-hour.

Unperturbed, Wallace restored Celtic's lead within two minutes, and Bobby Murdoch crashed in a fourth before half-time. The punters nearly choked on their interval pies and Bovril as the irrepressible Hopper continued his quest for Cup glory by ramming home his second goal and Queens ' third in the first minute of the second half, and it stayed at a nervy 4-3 until Bobby Lennox settled the issue with Celtic's fifth five minutes from time. As a matter of interest, future Queens ' coach Eddie Hunter played left-half for the amateurs that day. What had been expected to be a walkover had turned into a very thorough workout! Celtic advanced to the semis in the company of Clyde , Aberdeen , and Dundee United.

League business recommenced with a potentially tough home game against Dunfermline on March 18 th . Celtic were fast out of the blocks with a Chalmers goal in only 3 minutes, but Alex Ferguson levelled for the Pars in the 19 th minute. Lennox was brought down in the area two minutes later, and Gemmell converted from the spot. Wallace made it 3-1 three minutes from half-time. There was no further scoring until the future Knight notched his second with a close-in header three minutes from the end. Another hurdle safely negotiated.

Falkirk were slaughtered 5-0 two days later at Celtic Park in a rearranged league game, postponed by the Cup quarter-final the previous Saturday. Chalmers with a brace, Auld, Hughes and Gemmell with yet another penalty scored for Celtic. A surprisingly easy 3-0 win over Hearts at Tynecastle followed on Saturday 25 th March. Once Bertie Auld put Celtic in front in the 42 nd minute, the result was never in doubt. Wallace lashed a drive past former team-mate Jim Cruickshank in the Hearts goal in 62 minutes, and in the 85 th minute, Gemmell surely created some sort of record when, for the fifth consecutive domestic match, he scored from the spot.

Big Tam's name was conspicuous by its absence from the score-sheet as Partick were beaten 4-1 at Firhill on the Monday evening, March 27th. With Bobby Murdoch out injured and Willie Wallace dropping back to midfield, Charlie Gallagher came into the side at inside-right, John Hughes resumed on the left wing, and Bobby Lennox moved inside to accommodate him. Lennox opened the scoring in 41 minutes with Celtic's 100 th league goal of the season – a magnificent achievement with five more league games yet to play. Johnny Flanagan equalised for Partick five minutes into the second half, but Chalmers (59), Wallace (67) and Chalmers again (87) made it safe for Celtic.

Elsewhere at this time, the RAF were bombing a target in British territorial waters…it was the stricken oil tanker Torrey Canyon, which had run aground on Seven Stones Reef, between Land's End and the Scilly Isles. The bombing was designed to destroy the remains of the tanker and thereby disperse its remaining cargo and prevent it from reaching the Cornish beaches. Abroad, the British Army – represented by the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, under the command of the charismatic Lt Col Colin “Mad Mitch” Mitchell - was engaged in quelling riots in Aden , the port city of South Yemen , which was still a British colony. Yemen had been seized by the East India Tea Company in 1839 to prevent attacks on tea clippers sailing to and from India by pirate ships, and the colony had been under British rule ever since. For some reason, the Arabs had spent the next 128 years fighting against British rule. Matters were resolved in November 1967 with the foundation of the People's Republic of South Yemen and the withdrawal of British troops from the colony following an agreement reached at talks in Geneva .

In the cinemas, “The Sound of Music” was still packing them in, but there was a new wave of avant-garde British films, typified by “Blow Up”, starring David Hemmings, which were becoming increasingly popular. Jane Fonda, soon to be disowned daughter of Henry following her “un-American” opposition to the Vietnam War, and a visit to North Vietnam at the height of the conflict which earned her the monicker “Hanoi Jane”, made her mark in the romantic comedy “Barefoot in the Park” (co-starring Robert Redford) and as the eponymous Barbarella in a sexy sci-fi romp of that name made by her future husband, Roger Vadim, in 1968. In the music charts, Engelbert Humperdinck was still clinging doggedly to the number 1 spot with “Please Release Me”, a song rivalled only by its flip-side, “Ten Guitars”, as the most popular rendition by guests at Scottish weddings of the time! Curiously, the song at number 2 was “This is my Song”, written by Charlie Chaplin and sung by Harry Secombe….the Petula Clark version had reached number 1 in February, immediately before Engelbert's occupation of the summit, and was still in the top ten! It was not uncommon to see more than one version of the same song in the charts in those days.

To get back to the football, the Scottish Cup semi-final between Celtic and Clyde was played at Hampden on Saturday, April 1 st , but the Bully Wee never looked like making fools of Celtic, despite the 0-0 score. Celtic made one change from the Firhill line-up, Bertie Auld coming in and Charlie Gallagher dropping to the bench. It was a cold, blustery day, and the closest either side came to breaking the deadlock was in the last five minutes when Clyde left-back Souter deflected a Jimmy Johnstone drive over the bar with his elbow. The ref ruled it unintentional, so we all reconvened at the same venue the following Wednesday night. Hughes dropped out, Gallagher came in and Auld and Lennox formed the left-wing partnership. This time, Lennox (2 minutes) and Auld (24) killed the tie stone dead, and Celtic strolled through the second half and into the Final. Their opponents at Hampden on April 29 th would be Aberdeen , the Dons having bested Dundee United by 1-0 in a dour encounter at Dens Park , an own goal by veteran United defender Doug Smith separating the teams.

It was back to league business on Saturday 8 th April, and a solid 2-0 win at Fir Park took Celtic to within 2 points of retaining the Championship. Murdoch was still out through injury, but Wallace displayed his professionalism and versatility by slotting in effortlessly, and indeed it was he who broke the deadlock with a trademark thunderous drive early in the second half; Tommy Gemmell added number two near the end with a penalty which nearly separated net from stanchion. Motherwell's line up featured two men who would figure in many Old Firm duels of the future: goalkeeper Peter McCloy and centre-forward John “ Dixie ” Deans!

And so to possibly the most important game in Celtic's history to that point - the European Cup semi-final first leg at Celtic Park versus Dukla Prague of Czechoslovakia . The Czechs major star was Josef Masopust, European Footballer of the Year in 1962, the year he helped Czechoslovakia to the World Cup Final in Chile , against the mighty Brazil . Although the Czechs lost 3-1, Masopust acquitted himself exceptionally well. In the present era, he would undoubtedly have been the subject of a mad transfer scramble featuring a host of Europe's “elite” clubs, but times were different in 1962; although there was a trickle of British stars like Denis Law, Joe Baker, John Charles and Gerry Hitchens who were lured to Italy by the super agent of the day, Gigi Peronace, they were very much the exception to the rule. There were a few lesser lights such as the Irishman Johnny Crossan who played for Sparta Rotterdam, but they were few and far between. Masopust would in any case have found it very difficult to leave iron-curtain Czechoslovakia without defecting, as Puskas and Kubala had done from Hungary in the 1950s. So one of the world's great players found himself trotting out at the 15,000 capacity Juliska Stadium in Prague every other week instead of strutting his stuff at the Camp Nou or the Bernabau or the San Siro.

However, Masopust led Dukla out at Celtic Park in front of a crowd of 75,000, shoe-horned into Celtic Park on the evening of Wednesday 12 th April, 1967 . Celtic started well enough, establishing territorial superiority without seriously threatening Viktor in the Czech goal…..until Jimmy Johnstone played a one-two with Stevie Chalmers in the 27 th minute, and lofted the ball over the advancing keeper and into the net from six yards. The roar of relief and joy could have been heard in Prague .

Celtic could not add to their lead, and the Czechs dealt a sickening blow with an equaliser one minute before the break. They looked to have lost their chance when a neat passing move broke down outside the Celtic box, but McNeill and Gemmell got into a terrible fankle, and winger Stanislav Strunc found himself with the ball at his feet and only Ronnie Simpson to beat; he smartly rapped the ball home, and the visitors cavorted off to the dressing room at half-time delighted with the way the game had gone thus far.

Whatever Jock Stein said to his players during the interval, it had the desired effect. Celtic came out for the second half re-focused on the task in hand, and they set about Dukla with gusto. Willie Wallace, playing his first Euro tie for Celtic, wrote his name in the Club's folklore with two brilliant goals, which highlighted a sparkling personal performance. First, in 59 minutes, he chased a long ball deep into the Dukla box, and stabbed it home when Viktor hesitated to come off his line. Wispy's speed and aggression continued to trouble the Czechs, and he scored his second goal six minutes later from a free-kick awarded when he himself had been fouled some 25 yards from goal. Bertie Auld worked one of his well-practiced wheezes, stooping as if to re-spot the ball, catching the defenders napping, and tapping sideways for Wallace to drive home a venomous shot. Celtic were two goals clear and firing on all cylinders; Wallace nearly made it a hat-trick, hitting the bar with a snap shot late in the game, but the final score of 3-1 set the Celts up well for the second leg, and a date with destiny.

To be continued……..


Posted by voc1967 on Monday 09 September 2019 - 18:34:41 | Comments (0)  |  printer friendly
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