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21st December 1968: Celtic v Kilmarnock – League


16th December 1968

All the players got the day off from training but there was plenty for the fans to read about in the press-

What Could Maldini Think?

‘Cesare Maldini, assistant coach of Celtic’s European Cup opponents A.C. Milan, returned from his spying mission to the Falkirk-Celtic game wondering why football can be allowed in Scotland on a pitch frozen solid.


The pitch resembled a skating rink and that is one of the reasons why a gallant Falkirk held Celtic to a goalless draw. Every step was a trip into the unknown – but that did not prevent Falkirk from tearing into tackles with scant respect for personal safety’.


Maldini himself, when asked about the pitch, was quoted as saying;

“Ice Hockey, yes; football, no! There is no chance of Celtic being asked to play on such a pitch in the San Siro stadium. During winter it is compulsory for all Italian First and Second Division clubs to cover the ground between matches.
The San Siro system is one of the best. The pitch is covered by plastic sheeting and hot air blown from two powerful fans keeps the turf warm and soft and dry”.

17th December 1968

Back in training. There seem to be a number of minor knocks in the squad but nothing that would prevent someone from playing. The footing at Barrowfield was not great, though, the ground being a little hard and rutted. And one midweek casualty was announced that night when the Clyde v Partick Thistle Glasgow Cup semi-final tie at Shawfield was called off.

18th December 1968

We had a full-scale practice match on the pitch at Celtic Park, at different times using leathers, rubbers and even suction boots, all of which stood up to the task. The pitch itself seemed all right, so after a quote from the Boss

“the pitch is in no danger….and we do not have a single injury in the squad”

and this led to these headings in one of the evening editions

It’s All Go for Kilmarnock v Celtic
Celtic Hot It Up!

19th December 1968

Celtic’s home tie with AC Milan will definitely be played at Celtic Park on 12th March. But AC also rejected one of the proposed dates for the match in the San Siro. Their secretary said today

“On 19th March we meet Fiorentina and on the 5th April we play Inter Milan, so the 26th is definitely out!”

20th December 1968

I have hardly mentioned the players so far this week but to be honest, everything was all ticking over well. There were no injuries, the pitch was standing up to the play and all the off-the-field stuff that the papers loved did not affect our daily lives. It might play a part in one of our future matches but we by that time we had the experience to put such matters to the back of our minds. There would a time when we would need to deal with them but we could leave that to the future.

 ‘Perfect!

That was the word used by Celtic manager Mr Jock Stein to describe the Celtic Park pitch after last night’s torrential rain.

“With things happening so quickly on the weather front it would obviously be unwise for us to name a team. We will have another check tomorrow but it looks as if it will be a last-minute job”.

The reporter also mentioned that Kilmarnock had won their last two matches – against Airdrie at Broomfield and St Johnstone at Rugby Park – both by 2-0.

21st December 1968  The Day of the Match

The pitch may have been perfect the day before when it was raining. Overnight, though, a heavy frost made a difference and by the time we went out to check it, we could see – and feel with our feet – that it was hard on top and would be slippy too. Good for the attackers but not so hot if you were at the back!

The Teams

Celtic
Fallon
Craig, Gemmell
Murdoch, McNeill, Brogan
Johnstone, Callaghan, Chalmers, Auld, Hughes.  
Sub: Wallace

Kilmarnock
McLaughlin
King, Dickson
Gilmour, McGrory, Beattie
T McLean, Queen, Morrison, J McLean, McIlroy.  
Sub: McFadzean

The Play

It was a case of 1st in the table versus 4th, so a good crowd was present, later estimated at around the 40,000 mark. And, while the pitch was not as bad as the one against Falkirk in our previous match, it was definitely quite high on the ‘far from perfect’ scale and made our lives difficult as we tried to string the passes together.

Right from the start, both sides tried to play some neat football, with Killie, in the early stages probably showing up better. As the first half continued, though, we took control, had most of the play and made some chances, most of which went either over the bar or wide of a post. However, just when our fans were beginning to despair a little, we made the breakthrough –

36 minutes
Yogi got the ball way out on the touchline and sent a long cross right on to the head of Stevie, who merely had to flick his head and the ball was home.   1-0 Celtic

The goal at that time made for a happy dressing-room at the break, the Boss urging us, just before we went back out again, to keep the pressure on all the time. We certainly did that but probably too many of us came forward to get a second. Instead, we were hit by a sucker-punch….

60 minutes
from Gilmour to Queen, to Jim Mclean some 25 yards out and he sent a lovely pass into the path of McIlroy, who guided it past John Fallon.  1-1

It was a real blow to the guts and we tried to get back into form. To quote one report – ‘Thereafter Celtic applied the screw but it was all to no avail and the game ended as it had begun with Celtic squandering another glorious chance’.

Full Time Score   Celtic  1  Kilmarnock  1

For the first time for a while, there was an adverse reaction to the result from the Celtic support. They are normally very sympathetic but on that day at Parkhead, they had just seen their team notch up its 3rd draw in 5 matches. Now that might be OK for a side well down the table but these fans were supporting a team they regarded as Champions and they were quite adamant that they were expecting better.

It might not have helped their mood very much but the players were very sympathetic to their wants and desires. Our thoughts were along the same lines; the worrying thing was what to do about it?

Other Results

Aberdeen20Falkirk
Arbroath23Hearts
Dundee United21Partick Thistle
Hibs31Dunfermline
Raith Rovers12Airdrie
RangersPPDundee
St. Johnstone23Morton
St. Mirren10Clyde

Table

TeamPWDLFAGAvPts
Celtic16114139123.2526
Dundee United16112330191.5824
Kilmarnock1694329151.9322
Dunfermline16102434231.4822
Rangers1584335181.9420
St. Mirren1666219161.1920