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14th September 1968:  Celtic v Rangers – League

12th September 1968

The last few days before any Old Firm tie are always very tense and the ones in that week were no exception. There was an added edge to the manager’s instructions at training, the sharp stuff on the track was performed with intensity, the coaching staff pushed us to the limit and then, after we had left the ground, ready for a bit of relaxation at home, the fans outside made us quite aware of the fact that a win was expected against Rangers and a good one at that!

All morning, the Boss had made no reference to the team but I noticed that one of the evening papers had a comment from him, merely saying “every fit player in the pool will be considered for Saturday’s game”.

“I won’t bid for the Firhill job”. Those were the words of Rotherham manager Tommy Docherty, when asked, in an interview with one of the dailies, about the possibility of his moving to Partick Thistle. The ex-Celtic player was always known for his bluntness and finished his interview in his normally brusque manner – “if people want me, they know where to come”.

13th September 1968

This was not a good day in my life. It started easily enough with the usual routine for the day before a match. Some short, sharp stuff followed by some shooting practice and that was it. All finished and done by 11.30am. Then, after we had showered and changed, the notice went up on the board and I found out that Willie O’Neill was back in at left-back, Tam was at right-back and I was at centre-half in the reserves!

I’m afraid that the whatsit hit the whatsit! I charged in to see the Boss, who I thought was discomfited by my suddenly turning up and put forward my case for inclusion. I was not rude but I must he honest and say that I was pretty good, fluent and adamant. What I said must come into the category of ‘private’ but, even if I say so myself, it was strong, precise and, at least to me, accurate!

Once he had recovered from the blast, the Boss was very civil, made no effort to explain his thoughts but merely told me that he had made a difficult decision and he hoped it would work out for him – and the team. My job was to captain the reserve side, play as well as I could and show that he – the Boss – might have made a mistake.

On reflection, I must admit that he had handled me with some sense and courtesy but I certainly did not think of that at the time and privately, in the solitude of my car, gave him some strong verbals! And when I got home, I’m afraid that I was a bit snappy with Mum and Dad, as well as my brother Denis. The evening meal was not a happy affair, thanks to me and as soon as possible, I headed for the comfort of my bed.

Outside of me, life was going on and the game on the morrow was receiving all the attention, with Celtic expected to come out on top –

It Must Be Celts On Form

And the police even put in their tuppence worth –

‘The Chief Constable wishes it to be known that with the full support of Celtic and Rangers football clubs, stringent measures will be taken by the police against persons waving or displaying flags or banners of any description and using obscene or provocative language’.

 

The Day of the Match

The guys in the reserve match reported around 1pm and soon left for the short journey across the city to Ibrox. Those in the first team came in shortly afterwards.

The Teams

Celtic

Simpson
Gemmell, O’Neill
Brogan, McNeill, Clark
Johnstone, Lennox, Wallace, Connelly, Hughes.
Sub: Chalmers

Rangers

Martin
Jackson, Mathieson
Greig, McKinnon, Hynd
Henderson, Penman, Jardine, Johnston, Persson.
Sub: D Smith

The Play

It had been felt in previous encounters between the sides that Rangers lacked the confidence need to take the game to Celtic but right from the start of this encounter, the took control and got early rewards –

15 minutes
cross into the middle by Henderson and header back across goal by Persson. 1-0 Rangers

17 minutes……a peach of a pass through the middle of the Celtic defence and Johnston was on to it quickly to steer the ball past Ronnie.  2-0 Rangers

The Celtic support was stunned – and I don’t suppose the players were too happy either – but they did work hard and soon pulled one back –

28 minutes
Connelly dispossessed Persson and sent a fine pass to Jinky, who drew Martin to him and then slipped the ball to Wispy, who merely had to tap it home. 2-1 Rangers

And that was still the score at half-time and indeed, well into the second half. But just when the fans were despairing of more goals…they arrived !-

65 minutes
cross by Jardine, knocked in at the second attempt by Penman.   3-1 Rangers

66 minutes
Wispy swivelled on to a pass from Lemon and deceived Norrie Martin with a quick shot.  3-2 Rangers

Stevie came on for a tiring George Connelly and both teams again put a real shift in, with chances at both ends. It was a case of Celtic thrusting forward and Rangers trying to hold out. But just before the final whistle, the Light Blues made a quick break, the ball broke out to Sandy Jardine on the right, he crossed it into the middle and Willie Johnston was on the spot to head the ball past Ronnie.

Final Score  Celtic 2  Rangers  4

Reserve match

Over at Ibrox, the reserves, captained by yours truly, beat Rangers Reserves 1-0. The team was;
Fallon, McGrain, Gorman, Cattenach, Craig, Dalglish, Jim Clarke, Gallagher, McBride, McMahon and Macari;
and it was another of the old brigade – Joe McBride – who got the only goal.
I thought I had played OK, Sean Fallon said he would give me a very good report, so I left the building feeling pretty good. However, I soon became a grump again, as I had to go back to Parkhead on the bus before driving all the way past Ibrox again to get to my parents’ house.? Aaargh!