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30th November 1968: Hibs v Celtic  League

 

28th November 1968

No Rest Celtic Prepare for Hibs

Everyone in for training this morning and as you might imagine, the atmosphere in the camp was excellent. It was quite a tough session too, as the Boss was a great believer in getting any stiffness from the game and the flight straight after the match out of the system as quickly as possible. And he was pleased that there were no injuries from the Red Star game, although Ronnie was apparently not quite ready to play again.

The Boss was also in fulsome mood with the press, explaining how pleased he had been to get back to Glasgow the previous evening –‘if we had stayed overnight, we would have been hanging around Belgrade this morning and probably not have arrived home till sometime this afternoon. We have saved a whole day – and that is an important factor in view of our important match with Hibs at Easter Road on Saturday’.

The draw for the round of the last 16 in the Fairs Cup was made in the afternoon. Rangers were drawn against D.W.S. Amsterdam, with the first leg in Holland; while Hibs were paired with S.V. Hamburg of West Germany, that first leg also an away tie.

29th November 1968

After training, the Boss announced that the defence at Easter Road would be Fallon, Craig, Gemmell, Murdoch, McNeill and Brogan, with the rest chosen from a cast of six, Johnstone, Wallace, Chalmers, Lennox, Callaghan and Hughes. That meant there was no place for John Clark and George Connelly; they would be disappointed but there is little sympathy from above sometimes in football.

In the evening press there a plea from the Boss to the fans – ‘Please be at Easter Road as early as possible to help the entry to the ground in plenty of time. We ask our fans to co-operate with the police’.

And the same paper ran this headline –

Johnstone, Callaghan Back for Celtic

30th November 1968

The chosen squad reported at around 11am and within minutes, the bus was on its way to Edinburgh, heading for our usual hotel for the pre-match meal, with the good result in Belgrade still making everyone feeling on top of the world. However, as was his norm, the Boss had been keen to point out the day before that Hibs would be up for this match and that we could not afford to treat the encounter lightly.

The statement in the press the previous evening by the Boss must have hit home as we made the final stretch into Easter Road through a considerable crowd of our fans, who gave us a great welcome as we arrived. Then it was into the ground and the usual inspection of the pitch, which in those days had a considerable slope from one end to the other. Hibs, if they won the toss, always played up the hill in the first half so that they could put a real drive on in the second, using the slope to their advantage. I cannot really recall if that was the case that afternoon but from the way the game developed, it might have been ourselves who had the slope after the interval.

 

The Teams

Hibs

Wilson
Shevlane, Davis
Cousin, Stanton, O’Rourke
Scott, Quinn, McBride, Cormack, Stevenson.
Sub: Grant

Celtic

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

The Play

I feel that I can state, without any hesitation, that this was one of the most incredible matches that I ever took part in during my Celtic career and it produced a result that no one would have anticipated with 79 minutes of play on the clock. But I am getting ahead of myself so let’s go back to the start.

The match started very brightly, with end to end stuff and some chances. Then, we got a stroke of luck –

8 minutes
Hibs right-half Cousin was accused of handling the ball and Tam Gemmell took the penalty kick, giving keeper Wilson no chance with his effort.  1-0 Celtic

Hibs came back at us straightaway and got a breakthrough shortly afterwards –

23 minutes
cross into the middle and our old team-mate Joe McBride got there first. 1-1

From then till the break, it was quick, tense play, both sides showing why they were doing well in their respective European tournaments and when the whistle blew for half-time, it was still all-square.

Much to the delight of the crowd – estimated at 35,000 – both sides went hammer-and-tongs at it again in the second half, every player on the pitch giving his all and the ball getting whipped round the whole pitch. Hibs were gaining in confidence and;

23 minutes
they got a penalty, which Joe Davis comfortably stroked home
2-1 the Hibees.

Hibs were playing well and making life hard for us. We were by no means playing badly but their tails were up and if you had asked any neutral -‘what would be the final score?’- then they might have gone for one which favoured the guys from Easter Road.  Almost unbelievably, though, the final score was 5-2, four quick goals by McNeill (79), Hughes (80), Lennox (82) and Hughes again (84) putting Celtic out of reach.

It was an astonishing climax to a very entertaining match, with one end of the green-and-white hordes leaving the ground in ecstasy and the other, also in those colours, almost unable to believe that their side had lost from such an advantageous position!

A headline in one of the evening papers that night probably summed up the story of the match –

Champion Finish by Celtic

Other Results

Clyde 2 1 Kilmarnock
Dundee 1 1 Partick Thistle
Dunfermline 5 1 Aberdeen
Falkirk 4 2 Arbroath
Morton 0 2 Hearts
Rangers 1 1 Airdrie
St. Johnstone 3 0 Raith Rovers
St. Mirren 1 1 Dundee United

Table

Team P W D L F A GAv Pts
Celtic 13 10 2 1 33 11 3.00 22
Dundee United 13 9 2 2 25 15 1.67 20
St. Mirren 13 6 6 1 18 11 1.64 18
Dunfermline 13 8 2 3 26 18 1.44 18
Kilmarnock 13 7 3 3 24 14 1.71 17
Rangers 13 6 4 3 30 17 1.76 16

 

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