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27th September 1967: Ayr United v Celtic – League Cup QF 2nd Leg

25th September

After two defeats and one draw in the previous seven days, I had anticipated a fairly strenuous session on the Monday following but I could not have been more wrong. The Boss spoke to us before leaving for training, quite calmly pointing out that while it had been a bad week as far as results were concerned, he had not been unhappy with either our commitment or our enthusiasm. The problem as he saw it was that – in his words – we had ‘gone off the boil’ something that can happen to any club at any time. So, taking that into account, what we needed to practice at training was teamwork, the passing moves that we could do so well would be worked on during the session and he was keen for us to work hard at those and make sure that they finished with a ‘result’, in other words a ‘goal’.

And that is what we did on that Monday morning, the first team versus the reserves, and there could be little doubt that play improved during the morning.

The Boss had also mentioned in his talk that he would be making changes to the side for the second leg of the Ayr United quarter-final but, as usual, in the evening papers we found out a bit more’

‘Celtic manager Jock Stein may make at least 5 changes to his team for the second leg of Wednesday’s quarter-final tie against Ayr United at Somerset Park.

The changes are not as a result of Celtic’s defeats by Rangers and Dinamo Kiev plus the draw against St Johnstone. Injuries are the problem. Doubtful starters are Craig, Clark, Wallace and Lennox.

Jock Stein said today “Craig, Clark, Wallace and Lennox are being treated for knocks. We will see how they are before we decide on a team for Somerset Park”.

 

All the players, except Jinky, who was given some time off, travelled by bus to Largs for a stay of a few days.

 

24th September

Down at Largs, most of the players spent the day relaxing. Some played golf; others went to the baths. Joe McBride was the only one who did some training. It must have been a tough time for Joe. He was of the build that could put flesh on quite easily, so there was the constant necessity to diet – difficult when you are a professional footballer – and also, as he was recovering from a serious injury, there was also the constant need to build up the muscles round the knee and also work on stamina and sharpness. And to be fair to him, Joe never complained.

The press was pretty adamant that Celtic were through, although with the Hoops 6-2 up from the first leg, they were not exactly going out on a limb. The headlines were clearly in Celtic’s favour;

It Must Be Celtic

although they were a little more circumspect about who would also go through to the semi-finals. Dundee were already there, having beaten beaten East Fife 5-0 on aggregate. Of the others, though, Kilmarnock were 2-3 down to Morton from the first leg; while St Johnstone were 5-0 up on Queen’s Park at a similar stage. The suggestion was that the first named teams in both those ties – with home advantage – would go through.

 

The Morning of the Match

All the major stories in the morning papers were about Joe McBride;

McBride Wants Midas Touch

‘Joe McBride faces the most important game of his football life tonight.

If he comes through the hard and punishing 90 minutes at Ayr completely fit and right, back to his old form, he will almost certainly play against Stirling Albion on Saturday and then in the ‘all out attack’ match v versus Dinamo in Kiev’.

 

It would be an important match for another Celtic player, with John Fallon making his first appearance between the posts since the friendly against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu in May for Alfredo Di Stefano’s benefit.

It had been a nice couple of days down at Largs. Golf, baths even a visit to the cinema. Ah! being a pro footballer is such a tough life!


Pre-match

Since we were staying just up the road from the venue for the game, it was easy enough to get there. We had gone for a walk before breakfast, had a lazy morning, then went back to bed for a couple of hours before the pre-match meal and then the drive to the stadium.

 

The Stadium

We would have to cope with a slightly different size of pitch for this contest. The pitch at Somerset Park was 110 yards by 72 yards, slightly shorter than Celtic Park but, as the width was about the same as ours – and that is the important criterion for both defending and attacking – it should not make much difference.

 

We knew the team by this time, so it was just a case of going out for a look at the pitch, then getting ready. Everyone was keen to make amends for what had been a hard week, especially the guys who did not usually get a game. They, in particular, were determined to show what they could do. That is the only way to try to force your name into the manager’s thoughts; I was through all that myself fairly recently so I could empathise with their predicament. At the same time, I hoped that they did not ‘star’ too much?

 

The Teams

The supporters who had travelled down to Ayr would have read the papers and knew that some changes to the usual side were on the cards but when the team was read out over the loudspeaker system, there were a number of expressions of surprise. By this time, I was seated in the Main Stand and could hear these quite clearly. As we were 6-2 up from the first leg, I don’t think that anyone had any fears of losing the tie but there were reservations about the number of changes. Would these affect the team’s performance?

 

Ayr United

Stewart
Quinn, Murphy
Thomson, Monan, Walker
McMillan, Mitchell, Ingram, Hawkshaw, Black.
Sub: Barrowman

Celtic

Fallon
Shevlane, O’Neill
Cattenach, McNeill, Brogan
Wallace, Gallagher, McBride, Auld, Hughes.
Sub:Macari

 

The Play

Although it might sound as sour grapes coming from me sitting in the stand, our play was not good. ‘Stuttering’ was a word used in one report and that could describe it very well. There was a lack of fluency in the team play and up front, we did not, at least in the first half, seem to have the firepower necessary to trouble the Ayr defence.

Joe McBride, in particular, looked off the pace. He never really settled against the tall centre-half Monan and his confidence must have taken a further knock when he missed a penalty in the 41st minute. Yogi was the only forward who looked likely but at half-time, it was still goalless.

I do not know what the Boss said at half-time but it must have been a difficult interval for everyone. The Boss was the one who had decided to make all the changes – few of those named as ‘injured’ could not have played – and so far things had not worked out. Joe was a shadow of the star he had been in the first half of the previous season and whereas in a settled team he might have had more help, in this side he struggled like the rest. On reflection, Ayr’s best bet might have been to come out of their packed defence more often to test this uncertain Celtic rearguard.

The fans were not pleased and let the team know it when they come out after the break but it did not make much difference to the play. Five minutes into the second half, there was another change of personnel, when youngster Lou Macari came on for his debut in place of Bertie. Ayr, however, held out quite efficiently until almost halfway through the half until a defender showed his forwards what to do –

63 minutes

Jim Brogan – Opener

Jim Brogan came forward on to a Charlie Gallagher pass and beat goalkeeper Stewart from 20 yards.  1-0 Celtic

Rather surprisingly, even when one-down, Ayr still decided to sit in, which gave Celtic most of the play but it was uninspiring and the crowds began to head for the exit. Just before the final whistle, it was the fans who had not decided to leave early who were rewarded with a second –

89 minutes
Cesar broke forward and passed to Wispy, whose long-range effort sailed over the keeper.  2-0 Celtic

Final Score Celtic 2 Ayr United 0            Aggregate 8 – 2

 

Other Matches

In the other quarter-final, second leg matches, Kilmarnock lost 1-2 to Morton at Rugby Park, which put the Greenock side into the semi-finals on a 5-3 aggregate; and St Johnstone beat Queen’s Park 3-1 at Muirton Park, going through on an 8-1 aggregate.