Jock Stein thought he was buying a flying machine at outside-left when he bought Andy Lynch from Hearts for £30,000 in the early seventies. Instead, he unearthed a gem that would solve the club’s problem position, the left-back berth.
Big Jock pinned his faith in Lynch while others ignored his claims to make a breakthrough on the international scene…
HAMPDEN erupted in bedlam as referee Bob Valentine pointed to the penalty spot and was immediately confronted by protesting Rangers players. It was the 1977 Scottish Cup Final, a rain-lashed afternoon on the south side of Glasgow, and Derek Johnstone had just been adjudged to have handled a Johannes Edvaldsson effort on the line.
As the arguments raged and both sets of supporters bellowed their encouragement or their disapproval – depending on which part of the ground you occupied – one man was totally unaffected by the clamour all around him, Celtic left-back Andy Lynch. He stood at the penalty spot, ball in hand and waited for the furore to die down.
In fact, Kenny Dalglish was the designated penalty-kick taker, but, for reasons known only to himself, stepped aside to allow Lynch to take the responsibility.
Eventually, the defender got the go-ahead to take the award and he didn’t hesitate as he arrowed an unstoppable effort wide of goalkeeper Stewart Kennedy’s searching left hand. It was an impeccable effort – the only goal of a dour struggle – and was well worthy of winning the silverware.
Lynch, now 67, had been converted to left-back by Jock Stein after originally arriving from Hearts in a £30,000 deal, reasonable money in February 1973. Big Jock had taken a liking to Lynch as an outside-left, particularly after the player had given Jim Craig such a hard time in a 2-0 triumph for the Edinburgh side in Glasgow in November 1969.
However, Celtic struggled in the left-back area after the legendary Tommy Gemmell left for Nottingham Forest in December 1971. Stein used a procession of players in the problem area including Jim Brogan, Davie Hay, Pat McCluskey, Jimmy Quinn, Danny McGrain and even midfielder Tommy Callaghan as he pursued a reliable left-sided defender.
Lynch, who was slightly built and hardly the type to fly into ferocious 50/50 tackles, was tried in the last league game of the 1974/75 season. It was hardly a raging success as Celtic toppled to a 2-1 defeat from St Johnstone in Perth. The Hoops manager, however, had seen enough to take a gamble and Lynch started the next campaign in the unfamiliar No.3 shorts.
He won three league titles and two Scottish Cups before he left Paradise in 1980 for American outfit Philadelphia Fury. And he quit the Scottish scene without a single international cap to his name.
You would have thought that someone who could keep his head while all about him others were losing theirs might just have been international material. Not so, said the Scotland managers of the time.
Another mysterious oversight from the powers-that-were.