The screen opens on 26th May, 1967. Scenes from early evening on Kerrydale Street as crowds gather. Then to the tarmac at Abbotsinch Airport. First Sir Robert Kelly and Jock Stein walk off the aeroplane steps, then a group of men, all you see of them are their team blazers, as they carry a large box. Someone within range of the microphone utters in a dulcet Glasgow tone, “That’s the cup in that box”.
Contemporary commentary then begins, “The bus begins its trip from the airport to Celtic Park”.
That’s the first 11 seconds of an hour long programme but the viewer is already captivated. Later we return to now-familiar images from the day The Trophy came to these shores for the very first time, and to the proceeding day, in Lisbon and in Glasgow.
CQN’ers you have read for many years are soon on screen sharing the most important memories of a lifetime. You’re told by the narrator, “As boys, these players beat impoverishment, illness and intolerance”. We hear from some Lions, and Lions’ wives. Their tone is occasionally celebratory, but more often it is deeply personal. It’s often what they’ve hidden, in that peculiarly Scottish manner, all their lives.
Be clear: the Lions’ contribution to Glasgow 1967: The Lisbon Lions, which transmits across the UK tomorrow (24th) on BBC1 (at 9pm in Scotland, 10:45pm rest of UK), was brilliant. Bobby Lennox, Jim Craig, Willie Wallace, John Clark and Bertie Auld took us back in their own words, sometimes to childhood. Collecting his Higher Degree for Understatement, Willie Wallace said, “I was lucky enough to score a couple of goals”. Kathleen Murdoch affirmed that most of us knew her husband Bobby was a great player, adding, “He was also a good man”. The word “good”, was invested with gravitas. Having watched plenty of Lions-related footage I didn’t expect to be brought this close, this personal, to the people involved.
If you have an ounce of spare hydration in you, you’ll shed a tear. Lions did, on camera. You will also smile, laugh and have endorphins rush through your body. The film is all for you, until the final few minutes, when we cut to “In the heat of Lisbon”, chanting through Celtic Park in 2017, with the light display on the 67th minute.
Narration stops for this, almost as though it demands viewers measure the impact of Lisbon for themselves. If ever a film evangelised a football movement, this is it.
Watch it, but not after the event. Do so before the Great Anniversary on Thursday. Context for what we are about to celebrate is difficult to grasp. This film will help us all correctly define its importance.
CQN presents Lisbon Lions and wives, Greenock Celtic Supporters’ Club, Friday 26 May 2017
The Lions were paraded on a coal lorry when they reached Celtic Park on 26 May 1967. We have a coal lorry, we have the Lions. This will be an incredible event. There’s also a live band.
Admission by ticket only, get yours here. They will be posted until tomorrow or collected at the door thereafter.