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28th December 1968: Airdrie v Celtic – League

23rd December

In for training after the draw with Kilmarnock the previous Saturday and in spite of Christmas approaching, Parkhead was not the happiest of places at that time. Of the 10 matches played since the beginning of November, we had won 7 and drawn 3, a record that might have regarded as excellent for a number of teams; Celtic were supposed to be different. Dropping a point against Red Star Belgrade might be accepted but to lose points against Falkirk and Kilmarnock – the latter at home – was not what the manager or the fans expected.

So, that training on the Monday was performed in an atmosphere of some disapproval, although the manager was not present, having gone to watch A.C. Milan in action. According to the press, they apparently had not been at their best

‘Jock Stein was the happiest man in Milan today as he set off for Varese – 40 miles away – to fix Celtic’s hotel for the European Cup Quarter-Final First Leg tie against A.C. Milan in February

From what he saw of the Italian Champions’ fumbling football in the 1-0 win over bottom-of-the-table Torino yesterday, he must feel that the outcome of the cup clash is in the bag’.

Mr Stein said after the match

“They were way below form. I am told that they have yet to hit the stride that took them to the league championship by a record 9-point margin last term. I have never seen an Italian club look so subdued”.

According to the report, both clubs are still in discussion about the date for the first leg of the tie in Milan; the second leg will be played on 12th March in Glasgow.

24th December

All in for training and the festive spirit was evident as we went about our business.

There was a great story in the press that day about Kilmarnock’s left-back Billy Dickson. He and his mates would be at Rugby Park early that day for some training, as he was getting married in the afternoon.

25th December

No training. A day spent with our families, although that usually meant endless questions about what was happening at Celtic Park.

26th December

We were all back in again an going through the usual routines. There was a quote from the Boss in one of the evening papers

“All our players were fit when they left here on Tuesday. They returned today after having had Christmas Day off. We have already played our reserve game with Airdrie and that means no game at Parkhead on Saturday. I may name our team for Broomfield tomorrow but I am still undecided”.

The paper also had a little piece about our future fixtures

Hot Time for Celts

‘In January, Clyde on the 1st, Rangers on the 2nd, Dunfermline on the 4th; then Aberdeen on the 11th, Dundee Utd on the 18th and a Scottish Cup tie on the 25th’.

27th December

The news from Airdrie was that the ground was hard but flat and the game should go on.

Jock Stein announced a pool of 17 players for the match; Fallon, Simpson, Craig, Gemmell, O’Neill, Murdoch, McNeill, Clark, Brogan, Hay, Johnstone, Wallace, Chalmers, Callaghan, Lennox, Hughes and Auld.

28th December

The Day of the Match

There would be no pre-match meal for this one and as Airdrie was only about half-an- hour away, we reported to Celtic Park just after noon for the bus trip to the ground, which went un-eventually.

The Teams

Airdrie
McKenzie
Jonquin, Keenan
Goodwin, Black, Whiteford
Wilson, Fyfe, Marshall, McPheat, Jarvie.  
Sub: Caldwell

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

The Play

It would be fair to say that Broomfield, like Brockville, was very high on the list of least favourite grounds for the players at that time. The pitch sloped in two directions, firstly from left-to-right in front of the Main Stand and it also had a downhill stretch towards the far-right corner, so that when you stood where a right-back would be, you were looking uphill both to the front and to the left.

Factor in the fact that on that day, the surface, while flat, was hard and slippy and the tentativeness which most players in the Hoops showed as they came out was not unexpected. And unfortunately, when play started, most of us played like that that – apprehensively.

Once play began, we noticed – which we had not before – that the pitch was not flat all over. There were areas where it was rutted and as the match went on, these damaged areas broke up even more and soon there were divots lying everywhere, waiting to deflect a pass or trip up a passing player.

We tried hard and played most of the football; we even made a few chances. But we were decidedly uncomfortable on the surface and looked it. There was a comment in a match report on the following day which summed up the afternoon –

‘Celtic had much the greater share of the ball on Saturday but Airdrieonians, defending steadfastly and enjoying most of the luck, were always in with a chance ….’

That more or less summed up the afternoon. At the final whistle, our fans, while not exactly booing us off the field, were muttering about ‘three points lost in three games’ quite audibly. And when we got to the dressing-room, the Boss made it quite clear that he was none too happy either!

Final Score Airdrie 0  Celtic  0

Results

ClydePPArbroath
DundeePPRaith Rovers
Dunfermline22Dundee United
HibsPPSt. Johnstone
Kilmarnock21Aberdeen
Morton02Rangers
Partick ThistlePPFalkirk
St. Mirren11Hearts

Table

TeamPWDLFAGAvPts
Celtic17115139123.2527
Dundee United17115332211.5227
Kilmarnock17104331161.9424
Dunfermline17103436251.4423
Rangers1694337182.0622
St. Mirren1676219161.1920