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24th October 1967: Celtic v Motherwell – League

19th October

The day after the win over Racing Club, every newspaper headline had a different way of recording the result and its outcome –

Celtic Find Way Through Suffocating Defence

..

 Magnificent Celts: McNeill Goal Puts ‘Em on Top of the World

..

Victorious Celtic Face Harder Task in Buenos Aires

..

 Celtic Fans Rush to Book for Argentina

..

The Battle of Giants in an Incredible Atmosphere (L’Equipe)

 

It really was a big story for the press and rightly so. Few teams reach the final of the competition like this and for a team from Scotland to do it, with its population of 5 million was something special. By contrast, Argentina was populated by 22.93 million at that time.

I had thought that we might have had the day off but it was not to be. However, we only did some light running, more as a recovery from the previous evening than anything else. Still, never one to miss an opportunity, the Boss gathered us in the dressing-room for a few words and as usual, was brief and to the point.

First of all, he congratulated us for keeping our cool the previous evening. It must have been difficult, he said, not to have retaliated and he was proud of us for not doing so and for getting the win in the end. Secondly, he wanted us to put all thoughts of the second leg in South America out of our minds for the time being. He warned us that the press would be hounding us for comments about the return match but for the meantime, there was a league match against Motherwell and then a League Cup final against Dundee to play and those were our priorities for the next two weeks. The thoughts were delivered in a calm, controlled manner and as I looked round the dressing-room, I could see that they were having the right effect.

 

Later that day, though, he must have given a few other thoughts to the press that he did not mention to us, when he told them that Jinky would play against Racing Club in Buenos Aires on 1st November.

“My mind was made up” Jock Stein said “the moment Racing’s suspended player, Maschio, took to the field at Hampden last night”.

However, Willie Allan, the SFA General Secretary, commented

“there has been no further discussion on Johnstone’s case since he appeared before the SFA Referee Committee. Therefore, any statement made at that meeting still stands”.

One other Celt got injured in the Hampden clash against Racing Club and it caused Bobby Lennox to withdraw from the Scottish side for the match against Northern Ireland in Belfast. He was replaced by Burnley’s Willie Morgan. There was also some doubt about Bobby Murdoch, another victim of some of the Racing players’ challenges.

 

20th October

Chopper was not having treatment at Celtic Park for his leg knock but at the Scotland team headquarters down on the Ayrshire coast. So, while the rest of us did some training at Celtic Park in preparation for the Motherwell match on the 24th, we had to rely on the papers to find out what was happening elsewhere

Murdoch’s Hopes Soar! He Looks Certain to Play against Ireland

‘ Bobby Brown looked a lot happier when Bobby Murdoch returned from training in a gale on a pitch beside the shores of the Irish Sea. And later in the day, he announced the side for the match – Simpson, Gemmell, McCreadie, Greig, McKinnon, Ure, Wallace, Murdoch, McCalliog, Law, Morgan’.


It used to get on my nerves but the sports writers of that era always referred to ‘Ireland’ when they meant ‘Northern Ireland’ just as they had always referred to the Kiev players as ‘Russians’. They were certainly from the Soviet Union but definitely not from the ‘Russian’ area of the vast country. They were ‘Ukrainians’ and as we found out in our trip there, they were very proud of their heritage.


There was a reserve team match the following day against Motherwell at Fir Park and when the team list went up, it was a very strong squad, with John Hughes, who had been in the first team for the previous 7 games, listed among the forwards. The 13 listed were Fallon, Shevlane, O’Neill, Henderson, Connelly, Brogan, Gallagher, McBride, Chalmers, Hughes, McMahon, Quinn, McKellar.

 

21st October

No TV pictures for internationals in those days, especially on a Saturday afternoon when league matches were also being played all over Britain. So, we had to rely on radio and it seemed that the Scottish selection struggled at Windsor Park, with George Best giving Tam a real going-over. I couldn’t wait till Monday to ask him about it!

Apart from Celtic and Rangers, with players in the Scottish squad, other teams in Scotland went ahead with their matches as planned –

International Results

Northern Ireland 1 0 Scotland
Wales 0 3 England

 

Scottish First Division Results

Airdrie 1 2 Clyde
Dundee United 2 2 Partick Thistle
Dunfermline 1 2 Falkirk
Hearts 2 1 Aberdeen
Kilmarnock 1 2 Raith Rovers
St. Johnstone 2 3 Hibs
Stirling Albion 0 6 Morton

And at Fir Park, the reserves won 4-2.

 

22nd  October

When I went along along to Mass – the church was within walking distance of my parents’ house – it was pandemonium, before and after. As I tried to go in – and after I came out – the number of people who wanted to speak to me was quite amazing. I had experienced this before after winning the European Cup in Lisbon but now it was happening all over again. Even the Parish Priest sent a message via one of the pass-keepers asking me to wait behind at the end, as he wanted to know what was going on at Parkhead.

The one good thing, although I only thought of this in retrospect, was that it was before the advent of ‘selfies’. Very few people had a camera so an autograph was what you got.

 

When I picked up the Sunday papers later, the headline on the back page rather jumped out at me

All Irish Eyes Are Smiling!

The sub-editor must have spent hours thinking that one up?

 

23rd October

Back to training, including the guys who had played in Belfast. I had thought better of my previous comment about Tam getting a roasting from Bestie and in actual fact did not mention the match at all.

Not that the guys involved would have been in a position to forget about it as the team in general got a going-over in all of the papers that morning – and evening…….

What a Debacle! Brown Must Share Blame!

‘Send a Scottish team to Wembley and they are likely to turn into ‘wizards’…..send one to Windsor Park and the end result is woeful.

We were beaten in 1963, beaten in 1965 and done down once again on Saturday. The latest disaster ended with the score 0-1 but had it not been for that grand ‘old’ goalkeeper Ronnie Simpson, the result would have been a 3-0 or 4-0 ‘hammering’.

 

While this was going on at international level, the atmosphere in our own place of work was great, with everyone seemingly fit and ready to go. This was a big week coming up ; the league match against  Motherwell on the morrow, the League Cup on the Saturday and then off to South America to face Racing again! It made me think just how fortunate I had been to arrive at Celtic just when all these magical moments were beginning to happen. So I went out and gave training my best shot, promising never to complain again…or had I promised that before?


Morning of the Match

The Boss had said nothing about the actual team on the day prior to the match, merely naming a pool of players and this was obviously reported in the press, who had it on their back pages on the day of the match

Stein Plans to Use 12 Celts 

Gallagher and O’Neill Join Pool for Tonight

‘Jock Stein said today “I have listed 13 players for this game and if we get on top I will take off one of the players who has been kept so busy for a long spell and put on a substitute”.

 

There was also some info on the Jinky case –

SFA May Give Johnstone All-Clear for Racing Tie

‘Peter Scott, chairman of the SFA Referee Committee said “we may have second thoughts in the interests of equality. It does seem wrong that Racing should have been allowed to play a suspended player and Celtic should not’.

 

Pre-Match

There was a great atmosphere round the dressing-room at that time and when we all arrived at the park in late afternoon – no pre-match meal on the club for this one – the buzz was infectious. Naturally, everyone wanted to be involved that night, as some really big games were coming up but the Boss played his cards close to his chest for as long as possible before announcing the side –

 

Teams

Celtic

Simpson
Craig, Gemmell
Murdoch, McNeill, Clark
Chalmers, Lennox, Wallace, Auld, Hughes.
Sub: O’Neill

Motherwell

McCloy
Whiteford, McKay
Murray, Martis, W McCallum
Lindsay, M Thomson, Deans, Goldthorpe, Campbell.
Sub: Forsyth

 

The Play

At that point of the season, Motherwell were lying in 3rd bottom place – with a record of  P6 W1 D1 L4 F7 A10 Pts3 – but we all thought that they were better than that and expected a tough encounter. And it did turn out that way, with the defence not having the best of nights, as a report in one of the following morning’s ‘dailies’ suggested –

‘Celtic played as well as they had to at Parkhead last night but not nearly as well as they can. Still, two points are better won than lost and doubtless the heavy programme behind them and the important battles to come bore an equal share of the responsibility for a relatively flat performance.

The sins of the forwards were ones of comission but readily excusable since, through Murdoch and Auld, many more opportunities were created than could, by the laws of averages, be taken – and everyone has nights when he can only pick at an appetising meal.

In defence, however, the sins were ones of omission. McNeill, despite scoring an important goal, did not have a comfortable night and Clark apart, a general slackness prevailed around him. It was twice penalised and allowed Motherwell, never in with a remote chance of winning, to put a respectable face on the result.

The goals came as follows –

12 minutes
simple cross into the middle from the left and Wispy got his head to it. 1-0 Celtic

15 minutes
future Celt John Deans sent a pass through the middle into the path of Campbell, who made no mistake. 1-1

40 minutes
corner by Lemon; header by Cesar. 2-1 Celtic

42 minutes
fine shot by Lemon completely deceived Peter McCloy. 3-1 Celtic

 

I can’t say the Boss was delirious with our showing at the interval and his mood would not have improved shortly after the re-start –

48 minutes
Campbell out-paced our central defence to lob the ball calmly overRonnie’s head.  3-2 Celtic

58 minutes
 chip into the box by Yogi and Stevie reacted quickest. 4-2 Celtic

Final Score  Celtic  4  Motherwell  2

 

It had been a strange game, as, to be perfectly honest, we were never under any real pressure and had lost the goals more through a lack of concentration than anything else.

This was reflected in the summing-up of the report in that same newspaper –

‘It was not really that close a run thing and if Celtic were disappointing it was only because they have set such a high standard of accomplishment and achievement that nothing but the best is expected of them – from defence as well as attack’.

 

Still, it was another win in the league campaign and we were quite happy with the outcome. Footballers are usually derided as not being the brightest but that is a fallacy. No one was more aware that we were not quite the team of the previous season than the squad itself. Certainly, opposing sides were working harder to ‘knock us off our perch’ – as the Boss had so memorably phrased it before the start of the season – but we also knew that the flowing play of the year before was stuttering sometimes, with the occasional injury causing problems with team selection.

However, while we might have exited the European Cup, we were still up there with the best in the League, had the final of the League Cup coming up at the weekend and that was to be followed by a trip to South America for the return leg against Racing Club. So, should we be complaining?

Every club in Britain would love to be in our position.