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1st March 1967: Vojvodina v Celtic European Cup – Part One

 

27th February
The headlines and reports in the morning papers on the Monday morning gave some not-so-good news for Celtic fans –

Johnstone is Doubtful

Jinky – Doubtful

‘Jimmy Johnstone was the only one of Celtic’s European Cup stars to be injured in the bruising 1-1 draw with Stirling Albion but at breakfast time today the 17-strong party set off as chosen for Novi Sad and the important first-leg match with Vojvodina on Wednesday night.
The players gathered at Parkhead at breakfast time and travelled to Glasgow Airport where the weather forecast was ‘gale force winds in the area’.
The team flew out on a charter aircraft – but they may be late in arriving at Belgrade this afternoon because of severe head winds expected on the journey.
Before the party left Glasgow, manager Jock Stein said “Johnstone took a couple of knocks on the leg at Annfield – but it is too early to say whether he will be able to play against Vojvodina. He will have some treatment when we arrive in Novi Sad but he will only start if he is completely fit”.


Frankly, Jimmy had a bigger problem before thinking about being fit for the match in Novi Sad. There was the prospect of a lengthy flight to get there and as a reluctant flier, that would have been the main issue in his mind at that point. Most of us tried to encourage him but unfortunately, there were some whose idea of ‘help’ was not particularly helpful, with shouts like “are those wings shaking or is it my imagination?”, “I hear the pilot only got his wings the other day” or “ did you hear that steward, they were all out on the thrash last night?”. Jimmy did not find any of those comments funny at all.
However, we arrived in one piece and got a bus to our hotel. Novi Sad was an unusual place, where the main roads were excellent but the side ones were not as well laid out, so when we headed for the stadium that evening for some training, we were not sure what we would find there. My goodness, were we surprised!
Not only was the pitch in excellent condition, the floodlights were wonderful, easily the brightest I had ever seen. Apparently, the club had employed teams of electricians and fitters to get the lights ready and this would be the first big match to be played under the new system.


28th February
The back pages of the papers were full of European news –

Lennox Stands By For Celts

‘Celtic will not announce their team to meet Vojvodina in the European Cup here tomorrow night until the day of the game – although Mr Stein has now reduced his party of 16 players to a short leet of 13.
Willie Wallace, who played against Stirling Albion and flew to Yugoslovia with Celtic, cannot play tomorrow night and in the forward line will be Bobby Lennox. The only other players who may not find a place in the side are full-back Willie O’Neill and midfielder Charlie Gallagher.
The 13 players are Simpson, Craig, Gemmell, Murdoch, McNeill, Clark, Johnstone, Gallagher, Chalmers, Lennox, Auld and Hughes’.

 


Having trained the previous evening at the stadium, we wanted to do our next workout at the same venue but on the morning of the day before the match, when we turned up at the stadium, we were refused admittance. Apparently, heavy rain had fallen during the night and the groundsmen did not want to take any chances with the pitch getting cut up, so we trained on a nearby ground. There was obviously a great deal of interest from the local fans in the tie, as very large crowds turned to see us train on both occasions.
The guys in charge – like the Boss, Sean, Neilly and Bob – were always cagey about giving out too much information regarding what the papers back home were saying but as it had been a charter plane, there were a number of fans with us, who spoke to the journalists on the trip and then relayed any news from back home to us. Complicated, eh! How much easier it would be today with mobile phones etc.
Anyway, what came across was that the manager of Novi Sad had initially been very gloomy about his side’s chances but had since changed his mind – he must have seen us training, where one of the rules was not to give anything away – and was now predicting a 2-0 victory for his side.
In the afternoon, Neilly took us all for a long walk, a tradition on these trips. When planning these walks, Neilly took as his rule of thumb the layout of Glasgow, where the centre of the city is a series of blocks. So I reckon that Neilly assumed that all cities were built on the same principle. Now, if you left a hotel in the centre of Glasgow and kept turning left at every intersection, you would eventually arrive back at your hotel. Unfortunately, Neilly never seemed to work out that not all cities were built on the same principle and during the years, we ended up in some interesting situations. In Amsterdam, for instance, we ended up in the Rossebuurt (the Red Light district), where the working ladies were sitting at the windows of their apartments – wearing very little – and this bunch of very fit young men were walking past, with Neilly shouting that we had to keep our mind on the match.
One of our guys once told me that he had also said that we would get an ice cream when we reached the other end but I’m not sure about that one!
Anyway, on this trip round the centre of Novi Sad, everything went according to plan.


Also in the news back home was Rangers, who had a European Cup-Winners’ tie against Real Saragossa at Ibrox on the Wednesday evening. The manager, Scot Symon, was not giving too much away about his tactics for the first leg contest but the headline in one of the evening papers made it quite clear what everyone thought –

All- Out Attack Is Rangers Plan

And another story was about former Celtic right back John Donnelly, who was in the number two slot when Celtic beat Rangers 7-1 in the League Cup final of 1957. John, by then with Preston North End, had been watched by Dundee manager Bobby Ancell when playing for the Preston reserve side against Blackburn the previous Saturday with a view to moving back to Scotland.

Morning of the Match
For those not with the party in Novi Sad, there was very little news in the papers that day. This version was typical –
‘Jock Stein now knows the team he will send out against Vojvodina here tonight – but he is keeping his European Cup cards covered up as carefully as a Mississippi riverboat gambler.
All Jock would say this morning was this;-
“The team will not be announced until we reach the stadium. We are ready. We know the importance of the job we have to do – and we will not lose by doing stupid things on the field tonight”.

Why all this secrecy about the team selections? Why has Jock refused to go no further than to say – “Lennox will play. Gallagher is listed along with five other forwards and the full backs will be chosen from O’Neill, Gemmell and Craig”.


After a long lie, then breakfast, we had done a little training in a park near the hotel that morning, then, after lunch, went back to bed for a couple of hours. As usual, I was rooming with Tam Gemmell and we were both quite confident that we would be in the side.
Our conversations at a time like that were quite commonplace. He never seemed to get too uptight and my own nerves started to dissipate the closer I got to the match. There was one thing we agreed on, though….we were about to go into a European Cup quarter-final tie knowing very little about our opposition.

A couple of hours later, Neill came round to waken us up. It might seem surprising to many people but both of us had slept well. We then went downstairs for the pre-match meal and afterwards, the Boss asked all the staff to clear the room before announcing the team and going over what he knew of our opponents. Suddenly, there was a different atmosphere in the camp; we would soon be in action in one of the big moments of the season!


Tragic Death
St Johnstone inside-forward John Kilgannon died today in Falkirk Royal Infirmary less than 24 hours after being seriously injured in a three-vehicle pile-up near Cumbernauld.
His brother Jack (22), who plays for Third Lanark and who was also seriously injured, remains in a critical condition.

Together or Apart?
Lord Snowden, with a beard of several weeks growth, left Tokyo secretly yesterday to join Princess Margaret on holiday in the Bahamas.
In Paris, ‘France Soir’ France’s largest newspaper, had this front page headline today – “Britain fears Margaret and Tony will break up”.
The paper’s London correspondent said that British newspapers had published stories attempting to discredit rumours of any marital rift.

A Scot at the Palace
Scots swimming ace Bobby McGregor, 22-year-old silver medalist at the Tokyo Olympic Games, received the M.B.E. from the Queen today in recognition of his services to sport.
He was one of 170 decorated at Buckingham Palace in the fourth of a series of six investitures.