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29th January 1966: Hearts v Celtic – Part One

The Morning of the Match

I felt hung-over on the Saturday morning yet I had not touched a drop all week. It was all that travelling and getting on and off planes was the cause. As I made my way downstairs, a gentle snoring told me that my brother Denis was still in bed but of Mum there was no sign. Dad would have gone off to work earlier, as Saturday was a busy day in the furniture business.

commentButton2I was making myself some breakfast when the back door was thrown open and Mum charged in, obviously upset by something.

“You ought to be ashamed of yourself” she declared. As I was the only other one in the room, I assumed the remark was about me and asked why I should be ashamed of myself?

“I’ve just been up to the shops and all they were talking about is that you were ordered-off in that game this week. I have never been so embarrassed in all my life”. And then she started to cry! God, I can cope with most things but not women crying so I gave her a cuddle, then sat her down and tried to explain to her what exactly happened.

I don’t know if she was taking everything in but at least she was calming down a bit and by the time I left the house for Parkhead, she was back to her normal self. If she was still ashamed of me, I never found it but I thought the best policy was to never raise the topic again.

I then pushed off for Celtic Park, deciding that the best way – in view of the incident in midweek – would be to take a taxi. This playing football was costing me a fortune!

 

Hearts

In the previous season, Hearts had finished 2nd in the League Championship, on the same number of points as winners Kilmarnock but only losing out on goal average, as the system was then. Nowadays, when goal difference is used, Hearts would have won the title, with a tally of 41 compared to the Ayrshire club’s 29.

In this season of 1965-66, before the match against Celtic, Hearts were lying 6th in the table, behind Celtic, Rangers, Kilmarnock, Dunfermline and Dundee United.

 

At Celtic Park

Once I got to Parkhead, I suddenly felt a lot better when I saw that my teammates all looking tired and lined as well. Obviously, the journey to and from Tbilisi had not only tired me out but had affected them as well.

There were a few comments when I arrived – “here comes the villain” was one of the more polite ones – but they were all done in laughter rather than venom and I laughed along with the others. I got a cheery greeting from Bob Rooney, Neil Mochan and Jimmy Steele; a less than fulsome ‘hello’ from Sean Fallon, who seemed to have something else bothering him (although I view of what actually happened later, he might have been embarrassed at meeting me); and I never actually saw the Boss at all, so there was no chance of conversing with him.

When we played in Edinburgh, we usually had the pre-match meal at the Norton Hotel, just on the west side of the city and we headed for that establishment. The meal was up to its usual standard but to be honest – and I am not saying this to be wise after the event – the usual chat was lacking and it was obvious that nobody was feeling as good as a group of young men should have felt at a time like that.

 

Press Reaction

The papers on that morning were concentrated on two things, firstly, Celtic’s victory which put them into the semi-final of the European Cup-Winners’ Cup and secondly, the club’s epic return trip from Tbilisi, which finished, don’t forget, just around 11pm the previous evening. Some papers, in fact, did not have any comment about the training session at Parkhead the night before, as they had gone to print before that happened.

The one or two comments from the Boss that were put into print covered the fact that he did not think that anyone had suffered an injury during the match and that he was quite concerned that the extensive travelling round Europe might have had a tiring effect on his troops.

As usual, though, he finished on a positive note : “I’m sure that a good night’s sleep would have done them all the world of good”. So, that was us told, then.


 

Question

Last time round, I listed a group of journalists who had accompanied us to Tbilisi – Cyril Horne, John McKenzie, James Sanderson, Alec Cameron, Ken Gallagher, Doug Ritchie, John Rafferty – and asked which two went on to make a name for themselves in radio and TV?

The answer was firstly, Alec Cameron, who became a reporter and later an anchorman on Scotsport; and secondly, James Sanderson, who became a regular on Radio Clyde’s football programmes, where his question during the phone-in slots, asked in a voice dripping with acid, “were you at the game, caller” became a favourite catchphrase of many listeners.

My question this week is about Jimmy Steele, the masseur who accompanied us on all our trips and was an ever-present in the dressing room at all matches. ‘Steeley’ was a great favourite with all the boys but in his earlier days, when doing his National Service in the Army, he became a great friend of – and masseur to – a boxer who became one of the best that Britain has ever produced. Who was he?


Star Break

Beatles Ringo Starr and John Lennon are having the quiet holiday at St Vincent, on the Windward Islands that they hoped for – undisturbed by autograph hunters and fans.

The local girls are more interested in steel bands and calypsos rather than Beatles-type music.

From the Section in the Papers called ‘Last Night’s TV’

Such a tale of woe from Stockholm about Celtic’s travel problems in ‘Here and Now’. You would have thought it was a national disaster. A change to hear that football players had to rough it like ordinary citizens.

Tragic Deaths

Carolyn Mitchell, the American actress and 5th wife of the actor Mickey Rooney, was found dead at the Rooney’s home in Brentford, California, only 10 days after the two had legally separated. She had been the victim of a murder/suicide, shot by her boy-friend, Serbian actor Milos Milosevic, who then committed suicide.