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16th March 1968:   Falkirk v Celtic – League

14th March

One headline in the papers of that day caught the attention –

Clinical Celts Close the Gap

 

-although I got a mention that I was not expecting –

‘Jim Craig looked as though he needed match practice’. I didn’t think I would have looked that rusty?

It was not Celtic who got the best of the headlines but old rivals Rangers, who had lost to Hearts in the Scottish Cup the previous evening. Manager Davie White did not seem to be too happy with the performance and apparently there were going to be changes for their forthcoming league match against Stirling Albion. Dave Smith was going to be moved from the ‘sweeper’ role back into midfield and Alec Willoughby was returning to the first team. And from the wording of the report, there was just the unspoken hint that there was some discord at Ibrox behind the scenes.

All this was good news for the chasing teams, particularly us!

 

And there was more news about Bertie Auld’s injury, with the prognosis that he would need a cartilage operation. Now, today these are done routinely using the ‘keyhole’ method but back then, it was a big operation, a goodly part of the knee needing to be exposed so there was a bigger area to heal and therefore it took longer. He would certainly not be playing during the final two months of the league campaign.

 

15th March

News about a future Celt. Goalkeeper Denis Connaghan had been re-signed by St Mirren after 11 months with the American team Baltimore Boys. Denis had signed provisional forms for Celtic in 1963, was farmed out for spells at Yoker Athletic and Renfrew Juniors before  joining St Mirren in 1966.

He would go back to Celtic in October 1971.

At the end of training that morning, the Boss announced that the team against Falkirk would be the same one that beat Airdrie 4-0. We were all a bit taken aback as that was not the usual practice at that time; you would usually be told the team nearer kick-off. But it was a nice change and we were all appreciative of it.

I was also expecting an announcement that we would be going somewhere for the pre-match meal but nothing was said, so it looked as though I was again having my scrambled eggs on toast at that eating-house called ‘Chez Craig’.

The bookies had suddenly had a change of heart. Before the shock defeat of Rangers at the hands of Hearts, the Light Blues were 3-1 ON to win the league, with Celtic 7-4 against. After that loss, Rangers were now 5-2 ON and Celtic 6-4 against.


 

Morning of the Match

It was a dreadful morning in Glasgow, the rain coming down in sheets, the gutters overflowing on all the houses and tenements. I quite liked to go for a walk on a morning like that. My parents lived just along the road from Bellahouston Park and there was plenty of space there but the rain was so heavy and concentrated that I just stayed in.

The scrambled eggs and toast went down a treat and then it was time to get in the car and head for Parkhead.

When I eventually arrived and went inside to see the guys, the gossip was all about a story in the papers that morning about the possibility of Jock Stein signing a new goalkeeper called Zlato Skoric of Dinamo Zagreb. There did seem to be a problem, though. The boy was serving in the Yugoslav Air Force and was not due to be demobbed until the spring of 1969, so whether the Boss would wait that long was debatable.

 

It would be fair to say that Brockville was not the favourite ground of anyone in the side that day. The pitch was OK in both length and width but the stands and terracings were packed up close to the playing surface, so much so that you got the impression that a fan could reach out and touch you if he wanted to. Not a scenario to the liking of the players.

And, just to make life even more difficult, when we arrived at Brockville, the rain was still coming down in sheets, the surface was covered in water and there was a strong wind blowing from one end to the other. Just what we all loved!

 

The Teams

Falkirk

Devlin
Lambie, Hunter
Markie, Baillie, Gibson
McManus, Scott, Graham, McLaughlan, Watson.
Sub: Kerray

Celtic

.Simpson
Craig, Gemmell
Murdoch, McNeill, Brogan
Johnstone, Lennox, Wallace, Gallagher, Hughes.
Sub…Chalmers

 

The Play

The start of the game was delayed for 5 minutes or so due to the atrocious weather and as we were still in the dressing room and did hear a thing, I was told later that the fans were singing “why are we waiting”.

We found the surface difficult to play on, what with passes stopping short or the ball getting stuck in the mud, so there were few flowing movements in the first half. We did get a goal early on, though, and there was definitely an element of good fortune about it-

20 minutes
.Jimmy sent a cross at chest height into the box and the ball struck outside-left Watson on the arm. Was it intentional? To be honest, Jimmy’s effort was so hard that I doubt if the Falkirk player could have avoided it but anyway, the referee, Mr Anderson of East Kilbride, seemed to have no doubts that he did handle the ball and awarded a penalty. And Tam did his usual efficient job from the spot.
1-0 Celtic

 

And that was about the only interesting moment of the first half. The rest was all blood and guts, both sides going about it with a will. Off the pitch, an incident did occur.

6 minutes from half-time the gale-force wind blew a 20-yard piece of guttering from the enclosure down on top of the spectators and one girl fan was hit on the head by the cast-iron piping.

The game was stopped as ambulance man and the Falkirk trainer rushed to give first aid but the girl did not appear to be too badly hurt.

When the break came, the Boss hardly said anything, as everyone was working hard and it was not a day for trying something fancy or clever. So, I think he was happy enough with what he was seeing.

 

For whatever reason, I though that we played much better in the second half. Perhaps we were getting used to the conditions. We seemed to be in the driving seat and got another goal after 4 minutes

49 minutes
from a high cross , Lemon did a neat back-header and Wispy latched on to it before slamming the ball home.
2-0 Celtic

 

And shortly after that, we scored another –

52 minutes
 I chased a ball – which most people though was going out – to the byeline and whipped it low and hard across goal. And who was there but Lemon.
3-0 Celtic

 

From that point, we coasted. They tried to come back but they were too busy stopping us coming forward and by the end, we were well on top.

Final Score  Falkirk 0  Celtic  3

 

Other Results

Aberdeen 5 0 Hibs
Airdrie 2 1 St Johnstone
Clyde 2 2 Morton
Dundee Utd 3 3 Raith Rovers
Dunfermline 2 0 Dundee
Hearts 0 1 Partick Thistle
Kilmarnock 1 1 Motherwell
Rangers 5 0 Stirling Albion

 

 

Table

P W D L F A Pts
Rangers 26 23 3 0 74 22 49
Celtic 26 22 3 1 78 19 47

 


The family expenditure survey shows that the income per head in England rose from £6/15s a week in 1961 to £9/5s a week in 1966, a rise of £2/10s. 

In Scotland, the income rose from £5/18s in 1961 to £7/19s in 1966, a rise of only £2/1s.