LISBON LION Bertie Auld was a midfield mastermind as he and Bobby Murdoch dovetailed perfectly on the day Celtic conquered Europe on May 25 1967.
CQN are celebrating the life and incredible times of the Hoops great in an EXCLUSIVE series with extracts from his best-selling autobiography, ‘A Bhoy Called Bertie‘, co-authored by his friend and writer Alex Gordon.
The remarkable life story continues with Bertie reminiscing about the journey to Celtic’s most supreme triumph in the Portuguese capital.
ONE question that followed me around long after my playing days were over was, ‘Did the Celtic players think they had a chance of winning the European Cup in 67?’
The answer is always the same, ‘Of course, we did!’
That may sound arrogant and I can’t be contradicted now as it’s there in the record books for all to see. But I would have said the same back then when we were about to embark in our first-ever game in the competition against Zurich in Glasgow.
Fair enough, if anyone wanted to write us off, but that would have been a huge error of judgement. For a start, we had played in the European Cup-Winners’ Cup semi-final the previous year and were ridiculously unlucky to lose 2-1 on aggregate to Liverpool.
PICK IT OUT…Bobby Lennox lashes in the winner to leave Liverpool keeper Tommy Lawrence and defenders Gerry Byrne and Tommy Smith helpless for the winner in the first leg at Parkhead.
If anyone had witnessed our performances in those two games they would have realised what we had to offer and just how dangerous and professional we were.
We could even have gone into the European Cup as holders of the Cup-Winners’ Cup. No-one would have dismissed us then. We absolutely tore Liverpool to shreds at Parkhead, but could only muster a one-goal advantage with a typical Bobby Lennox whiplash effort in front of goal.
The Anfield guys knew they had got off the hook big-style. If it had been 4-0 or 5-0 there would have been no grounds for complaints. Don’t accuse me of exaggeration, either. We dismantled the team that would go on and win the English League that season and they hardly got across the halfway line in that first match.
ANFIELD AGONY…Ronnie Simpson is left helpless as Liverpool net one of their two goals that ended Celtic’s European Cup Winners’ Cup hopes in 1966.
THE END OF THE DREAM…Ronnie Simpson is disconsolate as Tommy Gemmell fetches the ball from the Celtic net.
And, as I recall, we were doing well at Anfield in treacherous conditions. It looked as though it had rained in Merseyside for about a week, but we were still confident of getting the result that would get us to the final which, ironically, was being held at Hampden Park that season.
What a double incentive. It was goalless until around about the hour mark and Liverpool were beginning to panic. Then they were awarded a free-kick and up stepped Tommy Smith to belt one in from about 25 yards. Ronnie Simpson looked to have it covered, but it whipped up off the muddy surface and beat him at his right-hand post.
We could hardly believe it. Five minutes later we were left thunderstruck – they had scored again. Geoff Strong, who was a superb exponent when the ball was in the air, demonstrated his aerial ability only too well when he rose to thump an unstoppable header wide of our keeper.
All was not lost, though. We realised that a second goal for us would tie the aggregate at 2-2 and we would go through on the away goals rule.
MY BALL…Ronnie Simpson dives bravely to save at the feet of Liverpool striker Ian St John as team-mate Bobby Lennox looks on.
We started to turn the tide and once again our opponents were hanging on by their fingernails. Near the end there was utter chaos when it looked as though we had got that crucial goal only for the referee, a Belgian named Josef Hannet, to rule it out for offside. It was a diabolically wrong judgement call from the match official.
Wee Lennox had turned the ball wide of sprawling goalkeeper Tommy Lawrence and their left-back Gerry Byrne on the line. The defender tried to handle it, missed and Bobby’s effort nestled in the back of the net.
What a beautiful sight – Hampden here we come. Or so we thought.
The referee inexplicably wiped it out for offside and awarded Liverpool a free-kick. You wouldn’t have to be a football anorak to know that if there is a goalkeeper in front of you and an opposition player on the goal-line then you cannot possibly be anything else other than onside.
It didn’t do much for our simmering resentment when, a week or so later, Hannet, after viewing the ‘goal’ again, admitted he got it wrong.
*TOMORROW: DON’T MISS THE UNFORGETTABLE BERTIE AULD: PART NINETEEN