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The Birth Of An Era - The Swinging Sixties Part 6
Before Celtic could concentrate their thoughts on the possibility of making history, there were still some domestic chores to attend to.

Before Celtic could concentrate their thoughts on the possibility of making history, there were still some domestic chores to attend to. The League Championship still had to be won: Rangers were only three points behind, and they still had to be faced at Ibrox.

The fairy tale continued for Ronnie Simpson – he was picked to play for Scotland against World Champions England at Wembley on Saturday 15 th April, just three days after the Dukla match, winning his first cap at the age of 36! He became Scotland's oldest ever debutant. Three other Celts were selected to represent Scotland – Gemmell, Johnstone, and Lennox, although Jimmy Johnstone had to pull out of the team with injury and was replaced by yet another Celt, Willie Wallace.

In keeping with this most magical of seasons, Scotland produced the performance of a lifetime at Wembley, and beat England 3-2. The scoreline does Scotland scant justice, as they were vastly superior on the day, and Bremner, Baxter, Law and Gemmell gleefully took turns to rub England's noses in it. Scotland scored first when Banks couldn't hold Wallace's snap shot from the edge of the box, and Denis Law – the man who, according to comedian Tony Roper, not only had the reflexes of a mongoose, but the face and haircut of one too – pounced to whip home the loose ball.

Scotland promptly turned on the style, taunting Alan Ball , calling him Jimmy Clitheroe after the English comedian of that name, whose act comprised of playing a schoolboy…a kind of male Jimmy Krankie. Law produced a breathtaking save from the great Gordon Banks as the Scots carved England apart, flighting a deft chip to which the Stoke man arched backwards at full stretch and miraculously flipped over then bar.

With ten minutes left, Bobby Lennox scored Scotland's second goal, shooting home from a Wallace pass. Geoff Hurst pulled one back for England with five minutes left, but Scotland simply roared up the field again, and their other debutant, young Jim McCalliog from the Gorbals, a diehard Celtic fan who played for Sheffield Wednesday – having been lured south to Chelsea by Tommy Docherty some years previously – cut in from the left, played a perfect wall pass with Law, and lashed the clincher past Banks from six yards.

Jack Charlton, who had been injured and spent the last few minutes hirpling around the Scotland penalty area to provide nuisance value, bundled home England's second in the last minute, but it was meaningless and served only to diminish – on paper – the margin of Scotland's victory. For the record, the Scotland line up that memorable day was:

Simpson (Celtic); Gemmell (Celtic), McCreadie (Chelsea); Greig (Rangers), McKinnon (Rangers), Baxter (Sunderland); Wallace (Celtic), Bremner (Leeds); McCalliog (Sheffield Wednesday); Law (Manchester Utd), Lennox (Celtic);

England fielded their World Cup winning team with one change – Jimmy Greaves for Roger Hunt. Hardly weakened, then!

Back in the real world the following Wednesday, Celtic and Aberdeen fought out a rather drab 0-0 draw at rain-soaked Parkhead, the second time Eddie Turnbull's Dons had held Celtic to a draw in the League that season. This game was brought forward to allow Celtic a clear week to prepare for the historic clash with Dukla in Prague.

So on Tuesday, 25 th April, the men who would become immortalised as the Lisbon Lions took to the field at the trim, tree-lined Juliska Stadium to face the Czech army side who stood between them and a date with destiny.

Three short years previously, Celtic had been in an even better position going into a European Cup-Winners' Cup semi-final second leg against MTK in Budapest with a 3-0 lead from the first game at Celtic Park. Bob Kelly had, with stunning arrogance, stated that “Celtic had an obligation to entertain the people of Budapest” and would be going all out to attack. Whether manager Jimmy McGrory agreed or not was beside the point. Kelly's word was law. With a sad inevitability, the young, inexperienced, rudderless Celtic side were turned over by their more experienced opponents, and lost 4-0.

There was no possibility of Jock Stein being browbeaten into playing in a manner not of his own choosing, but it still came as a surprise to see the most exciting attacking eleven in Europe setting out their stall with the clear intention of protecting their 3-1 lead from the first leg. The major prize was too tantalizingly close to risk throwing away the chance of history by sticking to principles, however laudable. Accordingly, Celtic stood firm around Billy McNeill, who played majestically and was unbeatable in the air, and Ronnie Simpson had only one save to make throughout the game, which finished 0-0. By midway through the second half, it was clear that Celtic had Dukla's measure, and the Czechs knew their cause was lost. Jock Stein almost felt embarrassed afterwards that he had given in to temptation and sent his team out to play in such a manner, but if ever there was a case of the end justifying the means…

Celtic arrived back in Glasgow on a euphoric high, and immediately set up camp at Seamill to prepare for the Scottish Cup Final against Aberdeen on the coming Saturday; the game, on April 29 th was played in bright sunshine, in a light breeze. The Dons were disadvantaged in that their boss, Eddie Turnbull, had to stay behind at the Gleneagles Hotel with a stomach ailment as his team set off for Glasgow. In fact, the Aberdeen bus took a wrong turn at Cumbernauld, got lost on the road to Glasgow, and only arrived at Hampden at 2.15pm!

Hardly the best preparation for the Final, but at least the players had no time to get nervous.

Celtic fielded the heroes from Prague, and Aberdeen, probably with the dour Turnbull's instructions dinned into them, defended deeply and restricted Celtic's attacking flair. Stein sprung a surprise from the start, with Jimmy Johnstone playing through the middle and Stevie Chalmers operating on the right wing. Celtic made all the running, and opened the scoring in the 43 rd minute. Lennox and Auld worked a short corner routine which resulted in Wallace knocking home Lennox's low cross from the by-line at the near post.

The result was sealed two minutes into the second half when Johnstone chased Chalmers' through pass to the line and turned it back perfectly for the unmarked Wallace to thunder home from eight yards. 2-0 to Celtic.

Aberdeen rallied late in the game, with their star forward, Jimmy “Snakehips” Smith – another Celtic fan nicked from under the club's nose by that arch talent-spotter Bobby Calder – finally showing the 126,000 crowd what he could do. He sent Harry Melrose clear, and his pass created a chance for the Dons' Danish left half, Jens Petersen, but Petersen slipped as he shot and Ronnie Simpson recovered position in time to hoof the ball clear off the line.

That was that, as far as chances went, and Celtic duly completed the third leg of their historic nap hand: they now held the Glasgow Cup, the League Cup, and the Scottish Cup. The following Saturday would see a League Championship coronation at Ibrox with all the pressure off – as long as they could beat Dundee United at home on the Wednesday!

Wednesday May 3 rd was a big day for both Celtic and Rangers; Celtic could win the league with a draw in their fixture against United, postponed because of the Cup Final, and Rangers could create their own piece of European history if they avoided defeat against Slavia Sofia at Ibrox in the second leg of their Cup-Winners' Cup semi final. The first leg in Bulgaria had ended in a 1-0 win for Rangers. It would be the first time two teams from the same city had reached the final of the two premier Euro competitions in the same season.

Ironically, the same possibility applied to the Bulgarian capital, because, on this same evening, Slavia's more illustrious city rivals CSKA were involved in a play-off with Inter Milan for the right to face Celtic in Lisbon! Both legs of their semi-final had finished 1-1, but it was Inter who won the neutral play-off 1-0 with a goal by striker Renato Cappellini, who had stamped his class on the competition with goals home and away in the 3-0 aggregate quarter-final win over holders Real Madrid.

As it turned out, Celtic slipped to a shock 3-2 home defeat to Dundee United, despite twice leading. Gemmell's penalty gave Celtic a 1-0 half time lead, but Hainey levelled for United shortly after the break. Willie Wallace chased a pass into the box and scored with a typically uncompromising piledriver on the hour mark, but veteran Dennis Gillespie hauled the Tannadice side back level 8 minutes later. Only three minutes later, the Celtic support were stunned when Jim Craig got into a fankle under pressure from Orjan Persson, United's Swedish winger who would be Ibrox-bound in the summer. His attempted pass back was miscued straight to Graham, who promptly struck home the winner. Thus, United completed an historic double over the prospective European Champions.

Meanwhile, over at Ibrox, a Willie Henderson goal was enough to take Rangers into the European Cup-Winners Cup Final in Nuremberg against Bayern Munich with a 1-0 win over Slavia Sofia, to complete a 2-0 aggregate win. Your writer remembers this evening very clearly…I was standing at a bus stop in Jamaica Street waiting for a no.59 bus to Mosspark after the Celtic game, when the sounds of an invading army marching towards the Jamaica Bridge from the south came wafting over the still evening air. The sound of breaking glass and the unmistakable songs prompted me to glance anxiously up toward Renfield Street, whence the bus would surely emerge soon to rescue me from the approaching madness. No bus came, and I elected to remove my Celtic scarf and stuff it in my pocket. Fortunately, there was an older couple also waiting for a bus, and I hoped that the rampaging horde would assume I was with them. On they came, smashing plate glass shop windows all the way up Jamaica Street in an orgy of destruction, with Glasgow's finest nowhere to be seen. Perhaps they were hiding on the 59 bus, which was also sickeningly conspicuous by its absence. Finally, the maelstrom was upon us and I huddled as close as I could to the couple beside me, who were probably as terrified as I was. After an eternity, the swarm moved past us and turned up Argyle Street towards Bridgeton Cross, accompanied by the tinkle of glass and the bellowing of their anthems of hate. THEN the bus arrived. I leapt aboard, thinking to myself – not for the last time – if that's what they're like when they win….

Saturday, May 6 th dawned with leaden skies which duly vented teeming rain which did not cease throughout the day. Celtic went to Ibrox in search of the one point that would secure their second consecutive League Championship. Charlie Gallagher and John Hughes, who had replaced Lennox and Auld from the Cup Final team, were dropped as Stein reverted to his first-choice eleven.

Rangers, playing with typical determination, dominated the opening exchanges, but Celtic's well-drilled defence held firm. However, on the 40-minute mark, the ball fell to young Rangers' half-back Sandy Jardine, and he crashed a superb volley past Ronnie Simpson from the edge of the box. Jardine went on to play for Rangers for 17 years, and he never again scored against Celtic!

Hardly had the rainbow of blue risen above the Copeland Road end of the ground than it spectacularly collapsed. Celtic went straight up the field from the kick off, and Lennox squeezed a shot past Norrie Martin in the Rangers goal. The ball hit the far post, and Jimmy Johnstone, following up, gleefully tapped it over the line.

The second half saw Celtic, in front of Internazionale boss Helenio Herrera, soak up everything Rangers could throw at them, then hit their hosts with a classic “rope-a-dope” sucker punch. In the 74 th minute, Jimmy Johnstone gathered a throw in from Steve Chalmers on the Celtic right and set off on a diagonal run towards the Rangers goal; finally, as he reached the edge of the box, he swerved away from a challenge and hit a magnificent left-foot drive high past Martin into the top left corner of the net. It was a goal fit to win a title, and that is just what it did.

Rangers were done in, and although Roger Hynd netted the rebound when Simpson failed to hold Henderson's shot with only 8 minutes left, it was too little, too late, and strangely even the Rangers legions greeted the score with muted celebrations. The conditions had drained both sets of players, and Celtic easily held out to take the title of League Champions.

There is a lovely picture of both sets of players leaving the field arm in arm, with Bobby Murdoch sportingly consoling Willie Johnston with his arm round the Rangers man's shoulder. Perhaps some of the spirit and mutual respect of those days would not go amiss now.

Celtic duly completed their League programme the following Monday week, the 15 th , with a routine 2-0 home win over Kilmarnock. Goals in each half from Lennox and Wallace, John Cushley given a “shop window” outing for the benefit of the watching West Ham scouts, and then it was down to serious preparation for the one remaining competitive match of the season…

Posted by voc1967 on Friday 13 September 2019 - 10:37:06 | Comments (0)  |  printer friendly
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