commentButton2

23rd September 1967: Celtic v St Johnstone – League

21st September

In the press on the day following the Kiev match, we got a doing in the coverage. Most of it was quite justified. We had not played well and probably, in spite of all the effort we put in, particularly in the second half, did not deserve to win the match.

However, at a time like that, some of the press guys – and it has happened time and again in the years since – feel obliged to go OTT in their criticisms. ‘We were getting a bit big-headed after our win in Lisbon’ was one comment; as if the Boss would have stood for that for one minute. ‘We under-estimated the opposition’ was another, completely forgetting that we had played the Ukrainians in season 1965-66 in the QF of the European Cup-Winners’ Cup and only went through after two tough matches.

Frankly, there was no clear answer to our lack of form on the night. In spite of all the preparations beforehand, in spite of all the players getting themselves worked up for the occasion and in spite of the tremendous support and enthusiasm of the home crowd, we just failed to deliver.

 

A resume of the history of sport through the years might show that such occurrences are not all that rare. It is what makes sporting contests so fascinating and un-predictable.

In the press that night, the Boss gave us his reflections on the situation under the heading;

It Will Be Hard

‘It would be wrong to say that we are not concerned about this half-time result but it is not the end of the world and we are not beaten yet. Things cannot run for any team all the time. They did not run for us last night – but now we appreciate that we have a very, very big job ahead of us in Russia’.

The coach of Dinamo Kiev also provided his thoughts –

‘Actions on the football field speak louder than hundreds of words spoken off it. My players obeyed their instructions – and we won last night. Now we are sure we will win the tie in front of our own supporters. If we cannot do that, we do not deserve to be in the tournament’.

 

22nd September

It had been a tough couple of days. We had been back in for training on the day after the Kiev match, where there was a noticeable coolness on the part of the coaching staff. It was not as if they were angry with us or anything like that but it was more a feeling of disappointment and that came across as a quietness. Even among the players, while there no recriminations after the match about the result, it seemed as though everyone just wanted to be on their own and concentrate on their own job.

An attitude like that, of course, does nothing for a group of players trying to make up a team and the Boss, quite rightly, set out to change the mood. We did little on the morning after the match but on the Friday, it was quite tough – not the norm for a day before another match – but the whole exercise was designed to get us out of whatever trough he thought we were in. And to a certain extent, it succeeded. We did some running, some sprinting, a bit of shooting practice then finished the session with one of those 15-a-side contests where everyone had only two touches. That made it quick and brought everyone into the play.

By the time we finished, the noise level was noticeably higher and if it was a planned manouevre, then it certainly seemed to have worked.

 

At the end of training, two sets of players were listed for the morrow. Both the first team and the reserves would be playing St Johnstone – the reserves at Muirton Park – but there was little further info, although I noticed that Pat McMahon was listed among the first team squad.

 

In the evening papers, we found out a bit more. Both the big Glasgow clubs were playing the following day – Celtic at home to St Johnstone, Rangers away to Falkirk – and the reporters obviously fancied their chances;

Old Firm ‘Double’ – They Look Far Too Strong

 

In another comment, the position of Pat McMahon was clarified –

McMahon Plays Against Saints

‘Celtic’s Pat McMahon, who celebrated his 21st birthday on Tuesday, received a belated birthday present today when manager Jock Stein said McMahon would definitely play against St Johnstone tomorrow in a re-cast forward line. Mr Stein is not naming the forward who will drop out but it seems almost certain that his choice will be between two players, centre-forward Steve Chalmers or inside-right Willie Wallace’.

 

While all this was happening in Scotland, down in South America, the Buenos Aires newspaper ‘Cronica’, in its comments last night, cautiously refused to take Celtic’s defeat by Dinamo Kiev at face value.

The news paper expressed surprise that Celtic should have suffered two defeats in less than a week and went on to say that the losses had turned ‘a fiery lion into a mouse’. However, under the headline;

Are Celtic Hiding Something?

’Cronica’ went on to confirm that the Scottish club would still be tough opponents for Racing Club in the forthcoming World Club Championship.


 

Morning of the Match

It was not one of those occasions when lunch was provided, so we reported to Parkhead about an hour-and-a-half before the kick-off, the reserve side having already left by bus for Muirton Park. It seemed a normal match day, with everyone getting themselves mentally ready to get the League campaign under way again after the loss to Rangers – and of course, the set-back against Dinamo Kiev.

 

The Opposition

In the previous season, St Johnstone had finished 4th bottom of the league table, an area which they seemed to habitually inhabit, as they finished 5th bottom in 65-66 and 6th from last in both 63-64 and 64-65.

This season, they had started well, drawing with Aberdeen in their previous league match and certainties to reach the League Cup semi-finals, after thrashing Queen’s Park 5-0 in the League Cup QF first-leg tie.

 

The Teams

Celtic

Simpson
Craig, Gemmell
Murdoch, McNeill, Clark
Johnstone, McMahon, Wallace, Auld, Lennox.
Sub:  Cattenach

St Johnstone

Donaldson
McGillivray, Coburn
Miller, Rooney, McPhee
Aird, Whitelaw, McCarry, McDonald, Wilson.
Sub: Michie

 

The Play

After a couple of quick attacks by Saints, we raised our game and took control, putting together some nice moves, although possibly without our usual fluency. And when we did make chances, we found the Saints keeper, like so many others we played against, in wonderful form. The big moment of the match came just before half-time –

36 minutes
Jinky was tackled heavily by St Johnstone outside-right Aird, who in the next moment was lying flat on his back on the ground apparently out for the count.

Now, I did not see what happened but I wondered afterwards if there was some ‘previous’ between these players. Kenny Aird had been at Parkhead for a few seasons, being released just after Jock Stein came in during March 1965. The two players were of similar heights, played in the same position and could be keen to make up for their lack of height with a determined or even aggressive attitude towards their play. So, there could have been a bit of verbals from the start of the game.

Anyway, no matter what had happened in the moments leading up to the incident, it would appear that the Saints player tackled, the Celt retaliated perhaps too vigorously and possibly with his fist – and Kenny Aird hit the deck. The referee, Mr Padden, of Ardrossan, seemed to be in no doubt as to what he had to do and Jinky was ordered to the pavilion.

You might have though that Saints would have been boosted by being a man up but the opposite was the case. We flew at them and made more chances but either from poor finishing or good goalkeeping, it was still goalless at the interval.

It was not a happy dressing-room at the break. Sympathy for Jimmy – who was apologetic – was split; we were more concerned that we had to go through the next 45 minutes with only 10 players. And that against a side  which could play some good football and had been given a real boost to their morale.

From the re-start, the Saints players went for it and quickly took the lead –

46 minutes
nice cross from the left by Aird and McDonald flicked the ball past Ronnie.  1-0 St Johnstone

From that point on, play was about equally split in terms of pressure. In the 57th minute, the Boss pulled off Pat McMahon, brought in Davie Cattenach at midfield and pushed Chopper up front.

There were chances at both ends but none taken and we had to wait until halfway through the half before parity was restored;

76 minutes
a simple cross into the middle was not cleared by the Saints defence and after it had bobbled about a bit, Chopper slammed it into the net. 1-1

From then to the end, with the fans pushing us on, we moved the ball about well but ten men against eleven is always tough and we just could not get another goal. However, it would be fair to say that the defence had done well in keeping out the Saints attacks.

At the whistle, though, you could hear from the reaction of the crowd that, ten men or not, they were not particularly happy with what they had seen.

Final Score  Celtic  1  St Johnstone  1

Other Results

Aberdeen 1 2 Clyde
Dundee United 2 2 Hibs
Hearts 1 0 Dundee
Falkirk 0 1 Rangers
Kilmarnock 2 2 Airdrie
Motherwell 1 1 Dunfermline
Partick Thistle 0 1 Morton
Raith Rovers 7 1 Stirling Albion

Reserve Match

Just as were leaving the ground, news came through that the reserves had beaten St Johnstone Reserves 2-1 at Muirton, the goals coming from Lou Macari,