commentButton2

2nd January 1968: Celtic v Rangers – League

 

Morning of the Match

I was in early for some treatment but I absolutely knew that I was out. The ankle was still swollen and really tender to touch so I had given up all hopes of making the team that afternoon. It is grim when you miss any game; to be injured at the time of an Old Firm game was sickening. Bob Rooney was equally pessimistic and when Doc Fitzsimmons came in to see the ankle, it did not take long for him to rule me out.

Also, Ronnie Simpson had not recovered from his injury sustained in a clash the day before with Clyde’s Dick Staite, so John Fallon was drafted.

We went for a pre-match meal at our usual haunt but curiously enough, not a word was said about the team all the time we were there. There was very little point in the Boss assessing the Rangers side and the way it would be asked to perform – we knew their players really well by that time – but it is nice to get to know the team early, as it sets the chosen ones up for the contest and I think that the boys that lunch-time would have liked to have been told the line-up.

The other regular we were sure would be out was Ronnie, who seemed to be suffering from both rib and ankle knocks, so at least John Fallon knew he was in. And from a selfish point of view, I rather enjoyed stuffing my face with some scrambled eggs – and chips – while the rest had their much lighter pre-match lunch.

 

The Opposition

Rangers at that time were a very good side, having reached the final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup only a few days after we had won in Lisbon. They were also top of the table before the match and would be keen to take the points at our home base. They would be missing Alex Ferguson for a previous misdemeanour; we would similarly be without Willie Wallace.

The top of the table before the match that day looked like this–

 

Team P W D L F A GAv Pts
Rangers 17 15 2 0 47 13 3.62 32
Celtic 17 14 2 1 50 15 3.33 30

 

The bus journey from the hotel over to Celtic Park was as brilliant as ever. It was strange for me to be part of the team and yet, due to the injury, knew perfectly well that I would not be involved so had no problems with pre-match nerves. That’s what should have happened but the reality was that I could feel the tension rising within me as we approached the stadium and I suddenly realised what I was going to be missing over the next few hours. That was very unexpected…..and quite frustrating!


 

Pre-Match

The size of the crowd should have surprised no-one as this had been organised in advance as an all-ticket encounter with the ground limit set at 75,000. And as the bus stopped outside the front door around an hour before kick-off, it seemed that a pretty high percentage of that number were already around the premises, half of them cheering for us and the other half doing the opposite.

From then on, the format was the usual. A walk down the tunnel to check the condition of the pitch and take in the atmosphere; the return to the dressing-room for the team announcement; then the call to get stripped and ready.

As I have mentioned before, even when you are a member of the squad for a match like this, the fact that because of injury (in my case) or non-selection, you are not involved that day, you just do not feel as if you belong in the dressing-room and you usually go elsewhere – anywhere – to try to shake off your disappointment.

That was certainly the feeling I had that day and I headed for the tearoom, where I could have a chat with my fellow non-participants and also meet supporters and press-men. When we all saw the team list, there was a surprise for everyone when it came to the name of the substitute. Jimmy Quinn, the grandson of the famous Jimmy of the early years of the 20th century, had been doing well in the reserves and now the Boss had put him on the bench for that day’s match. Seldom does a substitute not come on so young Jimmy would make his debut in an Old Firm match and that immediately started a conversation about other Celts who had done the same. I chipped in with a couple I knew of – Bobby Collins and Bertie Auld – but it was generally agreed that it was not a common occurrence.

 

The Teams

Celtic

Fallon
Cattenach, Gemmell
Brogan, McNeill, Clark
Johnstone, Murdoch, Hughes, Auld, Lennox.
Sub: Quinn

Rangers

Sorensen
Johansen, Greig
Jardine, McKinnon, D Smith
Penman, Watson, Hynd, Johnston, Persson.
Sub: A Smith

 

The Play

This turned out to be an exciting  match – or ‘dramatic’ as the papers called it – and right from the team announcements, the fans had some things to ponder. For Rangers, there was no Alec Willoughby or Willie Mathieson, so with John Greig at left-back, Sandy Jardine in midfield and Roger Hynd at centre-forward, they obviously had gone for a bit of power among the skill.

Jock Stein had changed our side too. Although it was read out as above, the fullbacks immediately switched, Tam to the right and Davie to the left; Bobby Murdoch was at inside-right; with John Hughes at centre-forward.

John Fallon got off to a good start when he comfortably clutched a fine volley by Orjan Persson and then John Greig brought down Jinky just outside the box.

18 minutes
Bertie Auld took the free-kick and his shot deflected off Sandy Jardine, the ball heading in a different direction to Eric Sorensen. 1-0 Celtic

It would be fair to say that from that point to the interval, Celtic were all over Rangers, completely dominating the play, forcing the Light Blue players back into defence, so much that our own rearguard had very little to do. And, although I was not present in the dressing room, I could imagine that the Boss would have been quite a happy man with the score – and the performance – and would merely have told the guys to go out and repeat it after the break.

The second half started in the same frenetic fashion as the first but now there was one subtle change in the level of play. From being out of it in the first half, Rangers were now the dominant side, the left-wing partnership of Johnston and Persson proving very difficult for our right side to cope with. And it was not long before they got a reward.

 

55 minutes
Willie Johnston got the ball out on the left and just when it seemed that he did not know what to do, he wheeled and sent in a hard low shot. John Fallon went down to get it but the ball squirmed out of his grasp and slowly rolled over the line and into the net.  1-1

We were shell-shocked in the stands and the guys must have felt the same on the pitch but to give them credit, they rallied. Jimmy Quinn was brought on for his debut in place of Bertie and his pace caused some problems for the Gers defence. Rangers, though, still looked the more likely side to score but we dug in and, against the run of play, came up with a cracker.

78 minutes
the ball was passed by Brogie to Chopper, who swiveled and then hit a wonderful left-foot shot high into the roof of the net. 2-1 Celtic

At that point, everyone sitting beside me – and I should imagine, most of the stands and terracings – would have thought that Celtic had done it but unfortunately – perhaps even tragically – fate was still to intervene and waited till almost the final whistle to do so.

 

88 minutes
with the Celtic fans urging referee Bobby Davidson to blow his whistle for an end to the proceedings, Kai Johansen ventured forward and hit what the papers called a ‘speculative shot’ towards goal. As John Fallon went down to stop it, he seemingly mis-judged its pace and, to the horror of the Celtic end and the delight of the Rangers contingent, the ball rolled slowly under his body and over the line.

Final Score    Celtic  2  Rangers  2

As I believed that there was nothing I could say that was relevant to the situation, I stayed out of the dressing-room at the end and waited for the guys out in the foyer. From what I heard later, the Boss seemed completely shocked rather than angry, everyone else thought that any comments were totally un-necessary and the dressing-room atmosphere was probably one of the quietest-ever. Even Steely said nothing!

A Happy New Year? I don’t think so!

 

 

Table

Team P W D L F A GAv Pts
Rangers 18 15 3 0 49 15 3.27 33
Celtic 18 14 3 1 52 17 3.06 31