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26th April 1969: Celtic v Rangers – Scottish Cup Final

22nd April 1969
The shock news about wee Jimmy missing the final (see post on Kilmarnock match) was still hard to take in and we enjoyed our day off in something of a dwam. Granted, he was only one player in a team but he was such an important player for us and probably more importantly, he was one of those players who would always rise to the challenge on the big occasion. That’s why we would miss him so much.

Naturally, the press covered the story in great detail but there were also other little titbits to what the appetite, with the headline writers having a field day –

Hughes Improves  –  It’s Happy Celts

Yogi was back in training, certainly not killing himself with the effort he was putting in but looking as though he could last a game.

McKinnon Blow to Rangers

Centre-half Ronnie was suffering from a septic toe and was doubtful for the final.

And the fans and ourselves got a gentle reminder from one of the evening papers as to just what a good season we had come through, especially in the league –

CELTIC  :  CELTIC :  For 4th Year in a Row

It had also been a particularly special season for one of our guys and this was given the main headline in one of the dailies –

Player of the Year   –     Bobby Murdoch

Chopper had been selected for the honour by the Scottish Football Writers’ Association.

23rd April

Hughes is Fit – Will Play against Raith Rovers Tonight

This was not quite as good as it sounded. Yogi was apparently fit enough to take to the field in a reserve fixture against Raith but it was a question of him more or less having to prove his fitness to the Boss and his management team. If he looked good then he would probably be in on Saturday. If he looked less than what those in charge expected, then they would have to make a decision.

After training, the Boss made it quite clear as to what he expected – “We will not be taking 17 or 18 players down to Troon on Thursday. The 12 who will be travelling will be announced after training tomorrow”.

It was a bad night for British clubs. In Bratislava, Dunfermline were beaten 1-0 by Slovan to go out of the Cup-Winners’ Cup on a 2-1 aggregate’ while in the San Siro, Manchester United lost 0-2 to A.C.Milan to exit the European Cup also on a 2-1 aggregate score.

24th April
We did a light session at Parkhead then headed by coach down to Troon, where the Marine Hotel was our base. The atmosphere was relaxed and everybody seemed pretty confident; certainly I was quite sure that we would win.

The evening papers came up with two stories, the first about our opposition –

Rangers Stars Fit

And then one that probably gave us a little boost, when it was announced that Celtic would in the ‘Home’ dressing-room for the final, the one generally regarded as the ‘lucky’ one.

25th April 1969
We did a very light workout down at Troon, then were told the squad which would be involved at Hampden on the following day. Some of the news we expected, others we did not and it was covered quite extensively in the evening press that night –

Hughes Out:  Blow to Celtic’s Cup Hopes

‘Bad news for every Celtic fan in the land! At lunchtime today, a bitterly disappointed manager Jock Stein made this announcement –“John Hughes has failed a fitness test and he will not play against Rangers in the Scottish Cup Final at Hampden tomorrow. It was a tough test and I was tempted to play him but he was just an inch or two short of full fitness and I could not afford to take any chances.

The full squad will be Fallon, Craig, Gemmell, Murdoch, McNeill, Clark, Brogan, Connelly, Chalmers, Wallace, Auld and Lennox”.

The paper also announced that referee Jim Callaghan would make the toss of the coin using one of the new 50 pence pieces and then announced it big print how the match would go –

CELTS TO WIN IN A PHOTO!

26th April 1969   The Day of the Match

My day got off to a most unusual start. I was the first of the players to appear for breakfast and when I entered the dining-room, I was faced by a dilemma. The only person sitting there was the Boss and I stopped just a yard or two inside the room. The natural thing to do was to go and sit with him but that could have led to accusations of ‘crawling’ by those who arrived later and I was caught for a minute or two.

Then the Boss looked up, saw me and pointed to the chair opposite him. As I sat down, he flicked one of the dailies across to me and said “read that drivel on the back page”. The article he had been referring to had been written by a most unpleasant journalist, whom nobody liked, at least among the players and from the way the Boss spoke about him that morning, I don’t think that he had any time for him either.

The writer said that as Celtic were slightly off the boil, Rangers would win, Willie Henderson would be too tricky for Tam Gemmell and Orjan Persson would be too quick for Jim Craig. I frowned and said to the Boss “but I’m quicker than Persson” and the Boss immediately required “of course you are” and then exhorted me to take the chance to ram the journalist’s words down his throat. And, I did notice that when the other guys eventually arrived, they were given the same advice. This might turn out to be an interesting afternoon, I thought, as I enjoyed my breakfast.

We went out for a walk along the beach after breakfast, then had a rest before an early lunch and the coach trip up to the city. They had been expecting a big crowd for this match and judging by the numbers lining the streets as the police motor-cycle outriders took us through the city, there was certainly a great deal of interest in the contest. Once we arrived at the approach to Hampden, passing by Lesser Hampden on the way, we could see that the crowd was going to be large and as we left the bus and entered the stadium itself, the Celtic fans decked out in the green-and-white gave us a huge welcome. It was such a great feeling to know that such support was there for us, especially on an occasion like that.

The Teams

Celtic
Fallon
Craig, Gemmell
Murdoch, McNeill, Brogan
Connelly, Chalmers, Wallace, Lennox, Auld.   
Sub: Clark

Rangers
Martin
Johansen, Mathieson
Greig, McKinnon, D Smith
Henderson, Penman, Ferguson, Johnston, Persson. 
Sub: Jardine

The Play

A report in one of the dailies the following day summed up the proceedings quite neatly –

‘Celtic, with ruthless professionalism, took heavy toll of their opponents’ defensive blunders and technical naivety and play was noted more for its violence than artistic content.

Bluntly, the first half was a disgrace to football. Tackles were intimidating, even brutal. Man went for man. Tripping, kicking, hacking and jersey-pulling were rife. How on earth can the management of both sides raise their hands piously in horror against the hooliganism among their supporters when the players themselves indulge in an orgy of crudeness which made this so unpalatable a spectacle….

…..The wonder of it all was the game finished with 11 men in each team. From what I saw of this bitter, spiteful battle, the referee would have ban quite justified is sending off a couple of players from each side’.

I remember this match well and have seen the full match on film several times since that day. It was a brutal encounter, no doubt about that but there was some previous. Firstly, we were going for a Treble and Rangers were trying to stop us achieving that. Secondly, they had beaten us in the Glasgow Cup only a few weeks before and that loss rankled with us. Thirdly, there was a lot of prestige at stake with the top two teams in the land paying in the major Cup Final. And lastly, the reporter that I mentioned above was not the only one who tried to inflame the tension surrounding the match by letting his personal feelings intrude on what should be a sporting occasion. Certainly, the players deserve some blame for the proceedings becoming inflamed but we would not be human if we did react to provocation from people who should know better.

To go back to the actual action, frankly, the contest was over by half-time thanks to three Celtic goals before the interval –

2 minutes…..corner by Lemon, dreadful marking by the Rangers players and Cesar rose above everyone else to nod home the opener.  1-0 Celtic

44 minutes…George Connelly intercepted a pass from Persson meant for Mathieson and laid it into the path of Lemon, who raced forward and slid the ball past Martin.  2-0 Celtic

45 minutes…Martin took a short kick-out to Greig, who was not expecting it and lost the ball to Connelly, who rounded the keeper before slipping the ball home.  3-0 Celtic

I can say without fear of contradiction that the atmosphere in the dressing-room that afternoon at half-time was the best one ever. The Boss did make an effort to say that Rangers would try to come back but the comment was almost treated with contempt. There was no way back for them and we showed our superiority with another halfway through the second half –

76 minutes….pass from Bertie Auld into the path of Stevie Chalmers and he took the ball into the box before almost contemptuously driving it past Martin.

Final Score  Celtic  4  Rangers  0

It had been a wonderful afternoon and the Celtic fans in the huge crowd of 132,870 enjoyed themselves as much as we did. And we all had a good laugh when we discovered later that Rangers had been so confident of victory that they had arranged a post-match party at Ibrox, complete with accordion bands?  This was apparently cancelled. I sure hope the guys in the band got their money up front?