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13th September 1967:  Celtic v Ayr United –  League Cup QF 1st Leg

11th September

On the Monday morning after the 3-0 league victory over Clyde, the papers were fairly unanimous in their headlines and comments –

Who Can Stop This Stein Machine?

‘The 3-0 scoreline in Celtic’s favour bore no resemblance to the difference between the sides’.

 

To be honest, as I watched at the action from the Stand, it was something of a romp. The guys were three-up by half-time and rather coasted for the next 45 minutes. The fans don’t particularly like it when their side does that but it is sensible. Any side which is three goals down, especially by the interval, tends to come out in the second half determined not to lose any more, an attitude which invariably means that some rough play can be expected. So, while the team on top must not let their standards drop, it is safer to play the ball around rather than go in for any crunching tackles.

 

In another column, there was news of possible team selection –

‘Steve Chalmers, who was replaced by John Hughes in the Celtic forward line in the closing moments of the game against Clyde, will almost certainly sit out Wednesday’s League Cup quarter-final first-leg tie against Ayr United at Celtic Park.

This, no doubt, is part of Jock Stein’s plan to field a 100% Chalmers at centre-forward against Rangers in Saturday’s all-ticket league game at Ibrox’.

That latter sentence suggests that the writer thought all that out for himself but in reality, there would have been a little – if not substantial – verbal ‘nudge’ from the Boss beforehand.

There was also a piece about my own situation –

‘Right back Jim Craig, who sat out the Clyde game with a shin injury, seems likely to be available for Wednesday’s game. Craig was at Celtic Park yesterday for a training session during which he kicked the ball without any trouble’.

Aye, right! I certainly did the session and kicked the ball but ‘without any trouble’ is a variation of the truth. As regards running, I was not putting the damaged leg down with any confidence as a shooting pain ran up it when I did so; and when the report in the papers talked about ‘kicking’, you could describe my attempts as just better than a strong pass. There was no way that I could play the following day and in the meantime, I came in morning and afternoon for treatment and light running.

 

12th September

The morning papers were unanimous in their predictions……..

 

Should Be Too Easy For Celtic

 

……but were a little less certain of the actual team –

Johnstone Back for Celtic – But Stein Delays Team to Play Ayr

 

While I did my stuff round the outside of Barrowfield, I could look across to check on what the rest of the guys were doing. Everyone seemed to be moving well, even Wee Jimmy – just getting over a bout of ‘flu – and Joe McBride, looking much better now.

As regards my own case, I was definitely a bit better than yesterday but the whole leg was still painful and the actual site of the cut was inflamed and very tender. Unfortunately, Bob Rooney had to change the dressing on a regular basis and when he was rubbing the area, I certainly had to grit my teeth. When I told my Mum, she, like a true caring person, was full of sympathy; my Dad said it was ‘good for my soul’.

 

The other quarter final, first leg ties lined up as follows –

Dundee v East Fife
Kilmarnock v Morton
St Johnstone v Queen’s Park


 Morning of the Match

There was still no official word of the team in the morning press – and we did not know either – but as probably a little sop to the journalists, the Boss had obviously provided one piece of information which they pounced on and put in the headlines –

 It’s 90 Minute Hughes

 

Yogi had been working hard since his injury some weeks previously and had looked OK when he came on as a sub against Clyde. Suddenly, though, the player pool was bigger, as apart from the guys of the previous season, it also included Davie Cattenach, Chris Shevlane and Pat McMahon plus Joe McBride who seemed to be coming back into contention. So, becoming injured, as in my case, wasn’t the brightest thing to do.

 

The Opposition

Ayr had been champions of the Second Division in season 1965-66, thus gaining promotion to the First Division, for the first time in 5 years. Unfortunately, in the following campaign of 1966-67, they had finished bottom of the 18-team league – with a record of P34 W1 D7 L26 F20 A86 – and went back to the lower division, where they seemed to holding their own at that point.

 

Pre Match

There was no pre-match meal provided before this one, a sure indication that a win was expected. To be fair, though, almost as soon as the players – including me – had gathered at the park, the Boss took us all into the dressing-room and gave a little talk, reminding us of his words before the start of the season about the dangers of these matches against lesser-ranked teams and how they would be spurred on to raise their game. The words were undoubtedly appropriate and I could see and sense that they hit home, as the jocularity which had been in evidence dropped in volume and all those involved looked a bit more thoughtful as they started to get ready. For those not taking part, like myself, we wished the guys all the best and then departed for our positions in the stand.

On the way up the stairs, not moving as freely as usual, the words of a hit in the Top Ten at that time by the Tremeloes suddenly flashed into my mind – ‘Even the Bad Times Are Good’. What a load of cobblers those words were!

 

The Teams

Celtic
Simpson, Gemmell. O’Neill
Murdoch, McNeill, Clark
Johnstone, McMahon, Wallace, Lennox, Hughes.
Sub: Cattenach

Ayr Utd
Stewart
Malone, Murphy
Quinn, Moran, Walker
McMillan, Mitchell, Ingram, Hawkshaw, Black.
Sub: McAnespie

 

The Play

For the second time in three days, I had to watch a romp. Our guys were in a different league. Oh! I realize that Ayr scored two but that was because the defence was not concentrating on a couple of occasions, too concerned with getting forward at all times.

From my point of view, losing those two goals was not such a bad thing but frankly, we dominated the play and probably should have scored more. The goals came as follows –

11 minutes
.pass from Wispy into the path of Lemon, who caught it cleanly.      1-0 Celtic

22 minutes
long ball through the middle, Ayr goalkeeper Stewart hesitated in coming out and Lemon got there first.  2-0 Celtic

29 minutes
pass from Pat McMahon to Jinky, who slammed the ball over the keeper. 3-0 Celtic

 

3-up and coasting but we took it too far and moved our foot off the pedal. And back came Ayr –

30 minutes
a real mix-up in our defence, with everyone leaving the clearance to each other and outside- left Black took advantage.   3-1 Celtic

As I was not in the dressing-room at the interval, I do not know what the Boss said but I could not imagine that he was all that happy. And midway through the second half, he would have been even less happy –

67 minutes
good interplay between McMillan and Hawkshaw gave Black another chance, which he took happily.  3-2 Celtic

The crowd of 26,000 had come along expecting to see goals but for Celtic and not by Ayr. They responded angrily, giving the guys a fair bit of stick for what was by now a diffident performance. However, almost immediately, the guys raised their level again and took advantage of the visitors trying to come forward –

68 minutes
pass from McMahon, fine shot by Jinky.  4-2 Celtic

77 minutes
.cut-back by Pumper, hammered in by Chopper.  5-2 Celtic

84 minutes
this time a cross by Wispy was knocked in by Pat.

 

Final Score  Celtic  6  Ayr United  2

 

As I kept out of the dressing-room, I do not know the Boss’s exact words but from what I heard later, he had been less than impressed with the performance. However, managers are always like that and to look at the situation realistically, we had won the first leg of a two-legged quarter-final by 6 goals to 2, which meant that, unless we had a catastrophic drop in form in the second leg, we were though to the semi-final.

Much more important were two other factors. The first was to find out if anyone had received any injury that might put them out of the next match; and secondly, as far as I was concerned, would my injury allow me to play in that match. Who was it against?

Oh! yes, Rangers.

 

Other Results

Three other quarter-final first leg matches were played that night. The scores were-

Queen’s Park 0 St Johnstone 5
Morton 3  Kilmarnock  2
Dundee Utd 1  East Fife  0