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26th May 1967: Homecoming

All the troops had gone through a late night after the European Cup final. The wives and girl-friends had arrived at the hotel after the banquet to see their men, then they left for the airport to catch their flight home.

Within a short space of time, however, they were back again as there had been a delay in their flight and it was the early hours of Friday morning before they were taken back to the airport. That meant that the guys did not get much sleep before gathering for breakfast. Still, when you have won a European Cup the night before, it gives a certain edge to your life and I, for one, never noticed the tiredness.

 

Eventually, we ourselves left the hotel for the last time and made our way to the airport, where hundreds of Celtic fans were also gathered, waiting for their own flights. It was bedlam as we tried to make our way through the hordes, every one of whom wanted to chat to us, give us a cuddle or get us to sign a programme. As a sign of the times, few had cameras.

 

The flight home was uneventful, we landed neatly and taxied to the terminal. As the Boss and the chairman Robert Kelly came down the steps from the plane, there waiting to greet them was John Lawrence, the chairman of Rangers. I never thought that he received enough praise for this very magnanimous gesture. Indeed, he was castigated for doing so by a section of the Rangers support but I though his actions transcended the bitter rivalry between the clubs.

 

The ensuing bus trip through the streets of Glasgow was just amazing. Contrary to what some people have said since about how good we felt passing Ibrox with the European Cup, we did not go that route. Indeed, the itinerary had been laid out in the evening papers. We headed towards the city from the airport, cut north through the Clyde Tunnel, then travelled east along Argyle Street and the Gallowgate to Parkhead Cross, came down Springfield Road and then west along London Road to the driveway up to the front door of Celtic Park.

 

All along the route, crowds were gathered everywhere, cheering us to the echo. And, much to our surprise, when we eventually arrived at Celtic Park, trooped through the foyer and down the tunnel, we found that stadium was also packed with fans. It was incredible! The reception exceeded all our expectations.

But there was no time to take it all in, as we were ushered on to a lorry with the Cup and set off for a trip round the track, preceded by the Coatbridge Accordion Band on two leisurely laps of honour, then a quicker unaccompanied run around a third and final time.

 

Eventually, though, Jock Stein stopped the lorry at the bottom of the tunnel, we took one final bow in front of the fans and made our way back into the pavilion. It was a memory that will live with me for the rest of my life.

 

Inside, a buffet had been laid on for the team and we tucked in happily, never tiring of the constant congratulations from Directors, officials and friends. We described the play time after time as we circulated round the groups, everyone caught up by the euphoria of the occasion. Also making his way round the room at that point was Neilly Mochan, who informed us that we would be back in for training on the Monday morning.

 

I met many people that night but as the evening went on I was attracted more and more to a red-haired student called Elisabeth, whom I eventually asked out to dinner. But that’s another story!