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L Day -1: 24th May 1967

Eve of the match and after a leisurely – and early – breakfast followed by a stroll in the grounds of the hotel, we later headed off to the National Stadium for a training session on the pitch itself.

Unfortunately, we then hit a slight problem, neatly reported by one of our evening papers back in Glasgow;

Casing the joint!

Herrera Puts One Over On Stein

‘Signor Helenio Hererra pulled a last-day fast one on Celtic when the two teams who will battle for the European Cup here tomorrow night put in their final training session.

The Portuguese Football Association had given both Celtic and Inter Milan training facilities on the beautiful turf of the National Stadium in Lisbon.

The times were rationed. Inter Milan were told they could train between 10 and 11 o’clock this morning, with Celtic going on to the pitch immediately afterwards.

Jock Stein planned to surprise Hererra by taking his players to the stadium and watching the Italians in training.

But the shrewd Italian manager brought his team all of 20 miles and into the stadium at 9 o’clock in the morning.

When Celtic arrived at 10.10 Inter had finished their work-out, were back dressed in their track-suits and they, instead of Celtic, sat in the scorching sunshine and weighed up the form of their final opponents’.

 

I suppose it was a serious business but, to be honest, at the time I found it quite funny. The Boss and Herrera were like two boxers circling round each other trying to find an opening. I mean, what could you possibly tell from watching the opposition train on the day before a major match, apart from checking their heights and weights?

No manager in his right mind was going to put his players through routines that would give any clue to the tactics of the team or the capabilities and qualities of individual performers.

 

In fact, the journalist who wrote the above piece also commented on the training workouts of both teams;

‘I watched both sessions and they were almost identical in pattern – a light loosening-up session of exercises and then a practice match of seven minutes each way’.

 

Unfortunately, we did not see these comments till after the match but had we seen them before, another remark would have given us a real boost ;

‘Even thought the stadium itself is seven miles outside of Lisbon, Celtic had quite a gallery of Portuguese football fans to watch them work. When the Italians came out to train they were greeted by a stony silence but Celtic were given a wonderful ovation from about 400 football followers’.

 

From that point on, the rest of the day followed the usual pattern. Lunch, rest, keeping out of the sun while sitting outside under umbrellas, chat, noise etc. Just before dinner, the Boss brought us into a largish room and re-iterated his earlier comments about the match – how Inter would play, what he wanted us to do, some tactical variations, our individual roles and so on.

As I looked round the faces, I could sense the excitement matching my own and suddenly realised just what a huge occasion we would be involved in on the morrow. I had though of that before, of course, in previous discussions but just at that moment, the enormity of the challenge struck home and curiously, I did not feel apprehensive but enormously grateful for the opportunity.

After dinner, we got a surprise. The whole squad left the hotel by the front door, headed down to the main road, then to the left. After a few yards, we turned left again and headed up what looked like a country road, eventually arriving at the house of a friend of Jock Stein. A very large mansion it was, too, and in it, we gathered round the TV set and watched a match from Wembley, where England beat Spain 2-0 in a friendly.

 

Neilly – a wee shortcut!

We then headed back down the country road again towards the hotel and by this time, dusk was setting in and the street lights were on in the town ahead.

Suddenly, Neilly Mochan, pointed to his right and said “There’s the sign for the hotel there; let’s take a short-cut down here”. And with that, he set off down a hill, in near darkness – a hillside which could have been full of holes or rubbish – followed by  the players who would be performing in the European Cup final the following day. At the bottom, we reached the wall surrounding the hotel, climbed over that and dropped into the grounds. An inspired move…or a touch of madness?

 

Whatever you think, it was an amazing ending to a remarkable day; but what would tomorrow bring?