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12th October 1968:  Hearts v Celtic –  League

10th October

The inside of Celtic Park was like a war zone this morning, with various players making their way to and from the treatment room while the un-injured ones squeezed past to get to training.

I personally noticed McNeill, Murdoch, McBride and Hughes definitely going in, with some others not feeling too good either but aware that the more serious casualties came first. The fit ones did a bit of work up at Barrowfield but were provided with no info as regards the problems and had to rely on the evening press for some news. And they came up trumps –

Under the heading – Injuries – the Boss was quoted as saying –

“Joe is not too good. His back is giving him a lot of pain and he may have to have some stitches put in one of his eyebrows. In the circumstances, I thought he did very well to stay on the Hampden field until 18 minutes from time. But that is typical of McBride”.

There seemed to be better news about Bobby Murdoch – although it was certainly not too positive – who had been suffering from some kind of leg problem and Billy McNeill had received a slight leg knock. The Boss also had a lot of praise for our opponents at Hampden  –

“I thought that Clyde were a very well-drilled team. They use the ball well and I was impressed with their ideas on defence”.

One of the evening papers was equally complimentary, leading the match report with this headline –

Now It’s the Big Three! Clyde Deserve to Have a Following

 

11th October

A light session on the track, the usual stuff the day before a match. None of the injured ones made the session and it was difficult to find anything out about how they were getting on. In fact, once we had showered and changed, we were almost ushered out of the place.

However, just before we left, we heard the names of the squad which would report for the match the following day and were even told what time we had to be there. At Celtic Park, I mean, not Tynecastle.

Later in the afternoon, news came through from UEFA Headquarters that Rangers had been drawn against Dundalk in the second round of the Fairs Cup.

12th October The Day of the Match

We reported in time for the bus to leave at 11am and made the usual journey to the Norton Hotel, on the west side of the city, our usual place for lunch when we played Hearts. Everyone seemed a bit tense, the injured ones had obviously been told not to say anything, so the lunch was not the usual high-spirited affair, with even Jim Steel for once in the quietest of form.

It was quite frustrating to be sitting among your peers, unsure of who was fit and who wasn’t. They had obviously been told not to make it public until we reached the ground. It might have been necessary but it was annoying!

Once inside Tynecastle, we had the usual walk out to see the conditions and frankly, the weather was terrible, a very powerful wind blowing all over the field. It would certainly not be an afternoon for silky football and it was equally obvious that the team who would turn out to be the winners would be the ones that fought hardest rather than played some good football. Then, it was back into the dressing-rooms, where the Boss used a key hidden at the bottom of one of the hampers to open the safe we had brought with us wherein lay an envelope with the team sheet inside!  I jest, of course, but it really was Secret Service stuff that weekend and the team, when it eventually announced, really did not have too many surprises.

The Teams

Hearts

Cruikshank
Sneddon, Mann
Townsend, E Thomson, MacDonald
Ford, Hamilton, Moller, Traynor, G Fleming.
Sub: Miller

Celtic

Simpson
Craig, Gemmell
Clark, McNeill, Brogan
Connelly, Wallace, McBride, Chalmers, Lennox.
Sub:  Macari

The Play

So, after all the fuss about injuries, the team list showed that Murdoch and Hughes were out, with Clark back in and McBride, obviously not 100%, also making the side. And we had been quite right to be wary of the conditions. They were atrocious and any semblance of team play was missing from both sides in that first period. It was more a question of trying to get the ball forward (even that was difficult) into the opposing box and see how their defence could cope.

We actually had the wind behind us in the first half but it was more of a hindrance than a help and play became a bit bogged down in midfield, with neither goalkeeper being seriously troubled. At the break, the Boss was fairly calm, merely telling us keep plugging away, not to make any effort to play sweeping passes and make sure that we were always behind the ball in midfield and defence.

It was sensible advice but, as soon as we started a push for more control, Hearts started to play a bit with the wind now behind them and the match became more competitive. For the supporters of both sides, it must have looked that a stalemate would be the result but with about 13 minutes to the end, we got a breakthrough –

77 minutes
the simple things work best on a day like that. Tam Gemmell swung over a simple cross from the left, Stevie Chalmers beat the defence to the ball and sent a header into the corner of the net via one of the posts.  1-0 Celtic

It was not glamorous but it was extremely effective and on such a day a sensible approach was probably the best idea. As you might imagine, Hearts came back at us in the time left, made one great chance which fell to their captain and best player on the day – Jim Townsend – but much to the delight of our support and the horror of theirs, he shot wildly past from about six yards.

Final Score  Hearts  0  Celtic 1 

Other Results

Airdrie 2 2 Morton
Clyde 1 1 Hibs
Dundee 0 0 St. Mirren
Falkirk 0 1 Dunfermline
Kilmarnock 3 0 Dundee United
Partick Thistle 1 0 Aberdeen
Raith Rovers 3 1 Arbroath
St. Johnstone 2 0 Rangers

 

Table

Celtic 6 4 1 1 11 6 1.83 9
Dunfermline 6 4 1 1 10 7 1.43 9
Dundee United 6 4 0 2 12 9 1.33 8
Rangers 6 3 2 1 12 9 1.33 8

Reserves

Back at Celtic Park, in spite of two goals by Jimmy Quinn, Celtic Reserves lost to Hearts Reserves by four goals to two.