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9th April 1969: Celtic v Falkirk – League


7th April 1969

It was a wonderful day to report for training, as the sun blazed down from a cloudless sky. And once we all got there, the atmosphere was amazing – happy, loud, congratulatory and even bombastic – just what you might expect two days after the team has won the League Cup and made sure of winning the League.

The morning press caught the mood in the camp –

Ruthless Celts Won’t Let Up
Super Johnstone – Super Show

The training was also done with a smile, from both the managers plus coaches and the players. There were, however, things for the manager to ponder, as the evening papers pointed out-

Stein Rests Gemmell Against Falkirk

‘Tommy Gemmell’s ankle knock is still causing the fullback some bother so manager Jock Stein will rest him on Wednesday. John Fallon is also suffering from an injury – to his shoulder – but the Celtic Boss is keen for the keeper to play as at present he is turning in one high-class performance after the other’.

8th April

A light session although we were definitely short of numbers. The Boss was non-committal to us about the situation – merely announcing a squad to report the next evening – but was obviously more open to the press as we, once again, learned more from the papers than the management.

Harry Hood Set for Home Debut

The press also announced that Yogi, as well as Tam, would be out for the match, with some doubt over the inclusion of Lemon. And the article finished with what seemed to be almost a war cry in the direction of the Bairns’ players and their fans –

Take It Easy – Not Celts!

9th April 1969    The Day of the Match

We all reported late afternoon for this match, which was against a team struggling at the wrong end of the table. Falkirk eventually finished second bottom and were relegated but they were a better side than that and came up again as Champions of the Second Division the following season.

The problem was, though, that while everyone thought that this game would be something of a walkover, the Bairns players did not think like that. They would go out on to the pitch relishing the opportunity to pit their skills against the team at the top of the table and determined to show that they could play silky football if necessary but were more determined not to give us an easy passage.

We knew from experience that this match would not be easy.

The Teams

Celtic
Fallon
Craig, O’Neill
Murdoch, McNeill, Clark
Johnstone, Wallace, Hood, Auld, Lennox.  
Sub: Callaghan

Falkirk
Rennie
Lambie, J Hunter
Gibson, Markie, Miller
Graham, Smith, I Hunter, McLaughlin, Watson.   
Sub: Hogan

The Play

As expected, we went into cruise control from the outset and completely dominated proceedings, making several chances but not taking any of them. However, just before the half-hour mark, we did get the opener –

26 minutes……Jinky was pulled down in the box and, in absence of TG, Wispy took over and made no mistake from the penalty spot.    1-0 Celtic

Five minutes later, we added another –

31 minutes…..Harry Hood ran on to a great pass by Wispy and easily beat keeper Rennie.  2-0 Celtic

It would be affair to say that we were the dominant side and we continued in that vein after the interval. However, in one of their occasional breakaways, Falkirk got a break and took advantage of it –

60 minutes…..Shot by Graham, fumble by John Fallon and McLaughlin was there to net the rebound.      2-1 Celtic

The match had suddenly become a ‘see-saw’ affair and the score tilted back in our favour shortly afterwards –

71 minutes…..free kick by Bertie on the left was swung across the goal. The ball was headed back by Jinky and there was Lemon to head it home.  3-1 Celtic

We were all very happy at that point but our joy did not last-

73 minutes…..quick break by the Bairns forwards and McLaughlin swooped on to a loose ball to knock home another goal for the visitors.  3-2 Celtic

We were not an ecstatic bunch at this point; we could see from his gesticulations on the bench that the Boss was not pleased either and we could also hear from the Celtic fans making up the vast majority of the rather small crowd of 24,000 that they were not too delirious with what they were seeing. There was nothing else to do but roll our sleeves up and get on with it, which was exactly what we did, getting our rewards in the final ten minutes –

81 minutes…..cross by Chopper, header by Lennox.  4-2 Celtic

88 minutes…..fine pass by sub Tid Callaghan – on for Bertie – and Wispy did the rest.

Final Score  Celtic  5  Falkirk  2

It would be fair to day that I cannot recall a 5-2 win receiving less acclaim than that win over Falkirk that night. The display was dismissed by the Boss as ‘not acceptable’ – a phrase which I, for one did not exactly agree with – and we all got changed, showered and then dressed in relative quiet. Then came the ‘coup de grace’ from the top, although it was delivered by the assistant manager. We would be back again the following morning for a session and we were not to forget that we would be playing Rangers in the Glasgow Cup semi-final in two days time.