commentButton2

25th April 1967 – Dukla Prague v Celtic European Cup SF – Part Two

The Morning of the Match

After breakfast, we had gone for a little walk round the area in which our hotel was situated. I was back a couple of years ago and found that it was not the International any more but was now the Crowne Plaza, although the original layout inside seemed to be much the same. I took a number of photos at the time but later on the trip, someone lifted my camera out of a bag I was carrying so these shots are from the official website.

The team talk that morning was quite tense. The way we played in Prague has since been the topic of much discussion, with players having differing views of how we had been asked to play etc. My own recollection – and I have checked these thoughts against comments I made in the press at the time – is that the Boss, quite logically, told us that since Dukla were 3-1 down from the first leg and that the vast majority of the fans in the – admittedly small – ground would be supporting the Czechs, he was quite sure that the home players would come at us right from the start and we must be fully aware of that and ready to hold out against them, even if that involved extra numbers back in defence.

His hope was that once the initial thrust had been blunted, we would get more chances to come forwards ourselves.

It was quite an unsettling pre-match talk and we all went up to our rooms for a rest that afternoon with a few thoughts in our minds.

 

The Teams

Dukla Prague
Viktor
Cmarada, Novak
Taborsky, Zlocha, Geleta
Strunc, Pnebort, Masopust, Nederost, Vacenovsky.

Celtic
Simpson
Craig, Gemmell
Murdoch, McNeill, Clark
Johnstone, Wallace, Chalmers, Auld, Lennox.

 

The Play

You will have noticed that it was another outing for the team known as the ‘ Lisbon Lions’.

As we ran out on to the field, the surroundings were quite surreal. Most of the crowd – or that’s how it appeared to me anyway – seemed to be soldiers in grey uniforms, tier after tier of them. Other colours were conspicuous by their absence.

It was a bitterly cold afternoon with arctic-like winds blowing round the ground. We had the wind behind us in the first-half but that did not stop Dukla taking control of the play from the first whistle. Just as the Boss had anticipated, they threw everything at us, with Ronnie making two early saves from Strunc and Masopust running the show in midfield. And this is where the confusion about the tactics arose.

What the Boss had considered in his pre-match talk was that we would have to absorb the initial onslaught and as they began to drop off – you cannot keep pressure up like that for ever for physical reasons – we would get the chance to come out of the defensive shell and make some chances ourselves.

For whatever reason, though, that did not happen. Certainly, their attacks became more sporadic but we did not impose ourselves on the game. We were still back in defence for the most part and I have never worked out whether that was from a mis-understanding of the Boss’s intentions or just a little bit of worry that if we did come out we would leave ourselves open at the back.

Whichever was the case, we were in the trenches for the whole match, with the defence performing heroics (even if I do say so myself) and Stevie doing the work of three men up front just to keep the Czech defence busy. At one point, I came out of defence with the ball myself as there was no one in front to pass to; as I got to the halfway line still without an out pass in sight, I got two shouts from the bench. One said “keep going”, the other yelled “get back”. It was that sort of day! It was a long afternoon and we were all very glad to hear the final whistle and know that we were in the final of the European Cup.

 

Post-match

As you might imagine, at the end of the game we went ballistic, with hugs and cuddles the order of the day. Someone told me later that Masopust had refused to shake hands with us at the end of the match but to be honest, who cared. To give him credit, though, he did come into to our dressing-room to make amends.

The atmosphere in the dressing-room was euphoric. The team, the reserves, the Boss and his aides – everyone was ecstatic. When we eventually reached the outside, the Scottish press corps was equally pleased and showered us with questions. It was then a question of getting on to the bus and a trip to the airport through very disappointed Dukla fans.

Everything at the airport went smoothly and we were soon on the plane, having a nice meal and wondering who we would be playing in the final?

Everyone was in heaven……except for the team’s right back, who was sitting by himself well away from the other players, as he was not feeling too well!

Aftermath

The journey from the Stadion Juliska to the airport was quite quick, which was probably just as well, as most of the bus was as high as a kite. We were like schoolboys on a day out, laughing and joking, although more than a few had some sympathy for the ‘ordinary’ Dukla fans we passed en route (not the soldiers) who were making their way home in despair.

I said ‘most of the bus’ deliberately, as one of the group was not feeling quite as happy as the others. That player was me and the reason for my lack of enthusiasm was that I could feel some form of chill coming on and nausea was also beginning to grip me. When we arrived at the airport, I went over to see the Doc – John Fitzsimmons – and told him news that I’m sure he did not want to hear. We went from there to the Boss, who was sympathetic but also practical, telling me to keep away from the rest of the players. I felt like a leper and my discomfort got worse when we got on the plane, as the Boss had arranged for me to sit right at the back of the plane, with no one beside me.

 

While the rest of the plane –especially the guys – got tucked into what they said was an excellent meal, I sat there with a cup of tea and a biscuit, sweating one minute, feeling cold the next. I was nearly in despair. In four days time, the Scottish Cup final against Aberdeen was coming up and I was feeling hellish! Would I be able to recover in time?


High Winds

A swarm of tornadoes ravaged Northern Illinois, killing at least 60 persons and injuring more than 1500.

But it was feared that the death toll will go much higher. Thousands more were left homeless as the black clouds of disaster ripped through Chicago’s densely- populated suburban areas.

A New Adventure

Tom Jones is hoping to be a hit – as a racehorse owner! The singer has bought Walk on By and is having it trained by ex-jockey Brian Swift at Epsom, Surrey.

Trouble Expected

A Cologne newspaper said today it had received a note, saying that left-wing German extremists were planning to kill President Johnson.

The American President is expected in Bonn late tomorrow for the funeral of Dr Adenauer on Tuesday.

Nearly 10,000 police and troops will be on duty in the Bonn and Cologne area to ensure the safety of the President.

 

Uproar

Greece is suddenly in turmoil today. At 5.40am world communications were cut – except for Athens army radio, which told of a coup backed by King Constantine.

Prime Minister Kanellopoulos and leading right- and left-wing politicians, including the anti-royalist George Papandreou were arrested.

Change of Mind

Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana, left Zurich by air today for New York. She had been in Switzerland for six week, having travelled there from India after the U.S. State Department temporarily upheld permission for her to settle in the U.S.

She is being accompanied on the flight by a Swiss federal police officer.

Change of Name

Bonn’s main street in the government district, the Koblenzerstrasse, is to be re-named ‘Adenaurallee’ in honour of former Chancellor Adenauer, who died on Wednesday.