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7th December 1968:  Celtic v St Mirren –  League

2nd December 1968

The whole squad had the day off today and the papers had to try and concentrate on other matters, one of which involved me. I had been included in the squad for the World Cup qualifying match against Cyprus in Nicosia.

I had spoken to Bobby Brown after the match against Hibs at Easter Road and in the course of that conversation, he told me that, as he was going to give WBA’s Doug Fraser a chance in the side, even as substitute, I would probably not even make the subs bench. I explained that as I had just opened a dental practice – in the summer of that year – I would not travel all that way, taking time off the practice to do so and then find, when I got there, that I was not involved. I pulled out of the trip. This effectively ended my international career as I think the word got round that I was more interested in my dental career than representing my country.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. I was keen to represent Scotland and disappointed that I only got the one chance. However, may I say right here and now that I always thought it was strange that I could hold my place in one of the top teams in Europe and yet be kept out of the national side by guys that I did not think were better players.

There was also a story in the evening press about our major rivals –

Rangers Crisis Meeting

‘It is crisis time at Ibrox. Chairman John Lawrence said today “The Board will meet tomorrow night and obviously recent results will be discussed. But I am only one member of the Board and I cannot make any forecast about decisions which will be reached”.

The paper had its own comment;

 ‘Although Mr Lawrence was not prepared to forecast what action Rangers may take, I predict that the days of big money spending at Ibrox are over.

From now on, the emphasis will be on building a successful team from the youths already at Ibrox or expected to join the club. In the past five weeks, Rangers have splashed out £150,000 to sign £100,000 centre-forward Colin Stein from Hibs and £50,000 for Alex McDonald from St Johnstone.

And in the Rangers reserve side which was held to a 1-1 draw by Airdrie Reserves on Friday evening were two players – Alex Smith and Alex Ferguson – who coast the club over £110,000 to Dunfermline when they arrived at Ibrox’.

There was also a headline referring to Celtic’s performance in the previous match against Hibs –

Super Celts Exploded!

3rd December 1968

All of us back and going through the usual routines. By this time of the season, apart from the injured, everyone was fit and it was just a question of ticking over rather than hard work. The main thing, though, was the Boss and his staff always kept the sessions interesting. That was great from the players’ point of view.

The draw was made in Geneva for the quarter-final stages of the European Cup and Celtic were drawn against AC Milan, with the first leg in the San Siro. Now, I don’t know if the Boss was at the draw but in any case he did not seem to be available for comment. Instead, Chairman Bob Kelly spoke in his place – “This is the toughest assignment that we could have been given”. Just what all the boys wanted to hear?

From the comments in the press by the officials of the Italian champions, they apparently were not too happy about facing us either!

In the draw for the quarter-final stages of the Cup-Winners’s Cup. Dunfermline were drawn against West Bromwich Albion.

4th December 1968

The Rangers Board meeting took place and the directors did come to some important decisions.

Rangers Decide    They Build on Youth    No More Big-Money Buys    All- Weather Pitch

Those headlines in one of the evening papers described the situation quite precisely and it was probably quite a good time to make the decisions, as Rangers were some way off the pace in the race for the league title.

When asked about his views on Celtic being drawn against AC Milan in the next round of the European Cup, Jock Stein was quoted as saying

“Right now we are concentrating all our efforts on Saturday’s match against St Mirren. Every game for us now is a hard game but we are not complaining about that fact.

I expect it will be the turn of the year before I am able to go to Italy to see AC Milan in action”.

5th December

Training as usual; nothing out of the ordinary. We were told very little after the sessions and frankly we sometimes learned more from the evening editions, like the two stories appended here –

‘Brand-New’ Simpson in Comeback

Jock Stein spoke today of two matches of vital importance to his Scotland keeper “I am going to play Simpson in my reserve team against Clydebank on Saturday and if he clears that hurdle he will be in the team against Rangers reserves on Monday night. These matches will give him the match practice he needs”.

And down south, Tommy Docherty has resigned as manager of Queen’s Park Rangers after only 28 days.

“ I am resigning on a matter of principle

he said.

6th December 1968

An easy session as usual the day before a match and we were away from the ground well before 12 noon. The Boss had merely announced a squad to report for the match against St Mirren but the evening press was a little more helpful, firstly about the team for the morrow –“There is a very good chance that I shall play Stevie Chalmers and bring on Willie Wallace for the last 15 or 20 minutes of the game” – and also giving some information about an important outstanding match – ‘No new date has been named for the Celtic v Hibs League Cup Final  – postponed because of the fire at Hampden. The Scottish League management committee today decided to defer any decision until the next meeting’.

The Day of the Match  7th December1968

As it was a home match, we reported about 2pm, had a good look at the pitch – which seemed in good condition – and eventually made our way to the dressing room to get ready. The Boss had obviously had a word with his management team, as Sean, Neilly, Bob and Steeley all went into action as soon as we came into the room, raising the noise level, starting some trivial arguments and so on, all of which were a sure sign that we were playing a side we were expected to beat. This was to avoid any slackening of intensity but in actual fact, we were well up for the match, quite aware that the Buddies were in 3rd place in the table. We would treat them in the same way as some of the better-known sides we had played that season.

The Teams

Celtic

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

St Mirren

Connaghan,
Murray, Connell
Fulton, McFadden, Murray
Adamson, Pinkerton, Kane, Blair, Gilshan.
Sub: Hainey

The Play

Perhaps these words from one of the daily newspapers pretty accurately described the action in the first half of this match.

‘St Mirren came to Parkhead on Saturday with championship pretensions themselves and for 45 minutes looked worthy candidates as they withstood tremendous pressure with admirable composure and more than once caused hearts to flutter with enterprising attack.

But once the Celtic machine began to whirr and click with the inexorable precision that, for me, makes them a better team now than they were when they won the European Cup in Lisbon, there was nothing that St Mirren could do to keep the score down to respectable proportions’.

We did hit them hard in the second half, with the goals coming as follows –

46 minutes
Lennox corner, Hughes header downwards and Stevie Chalmers toe-ended it into the roof of the net. 1-0 Celtic

59 minutes
good run by Yogi, crossfield pass to Jinky…..2-0 Celtic

63 minutes
cross by me, dummy by Yogi, stroked in by Stevie.  3-0 Celtic

68 minutes
good run by Tid Callaghan down the left, cut back to Yogi….4-0 Celtic

78 minutes
L
emon pulled down in box….penalty…it was slammed home by Tam

Final Score   Celtic 5  St Mirren  0

The Celtic fans making up the vast majority of the crowd of 47,000 were delighted with the display and we left the field to roars of approval; and when we got to the dressing room, the management and directors seemed equally happy, which was not always the case.

And the journalist I quoted from above rose to the challenge again in his summing up of the match –‘Yet again Celtic had separated the men from the boys but if it any consolation to St Mirren, they are not alone in their childhood’.

Other Results

Aberdeen 2 6 Hibs
Airdrie 0 2 Kilmarnock
Dundee United 2 1 Falkirk
Hearts 2 3 Clyde
Morton 2 1 Dundee
Partick Thistle 0 1 Dunfermline
Raith Rovers 0 3 Rangers
St. Johnstone 5 1 Arbroath

Table

Team P W D L F A GAv Pts
Celtic 14 11 2 1 38 11 3.45 24
Dundee United 14 10 2 2 27 16 1.69 22
Dunfermline 14 9 2 3 27 18 1.50 20
Kilmarnock 14 8 3 3 24 14 1.71 19
Rangers 14 7 4 3 33 17 1.94 18
St. Mirren 14 6 6 2 18 16 1.13 18