LISBON LION Bertie Auld was the midfield mastermind alongside Bobby Murdoch as the team-mates and good friends dovetailed perfectly in Jock Stein’s all-conquering side of the sixties.
CQN are celebrating the life and incredible times of the club legend 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 evening of everlasting glory in Lisbon on May 25 1967.
SO, there we are in the tunnel, ready to step onto that lovely, lush surface where we were about to put on the show of our lives.
Wee Jinky was looking at the Inter Milan team and I have to admit they did look fairly impressive. They were immaculately turned out, hair gelled, teeth sparkling, tans twinkling in their smart, smooth strips.
Jinky said, ‘Look at them, Bertie, they’re film stars.’
I replied, ‘Aye, Wee Man, but can they play?’
He just burst out laughing. Inter Milan’s expensively-arranged team looked around quizzically at what was going on.
FIELD OF DREAMS…Billy McNeill leads out Celtic at the Estadio Nacional on May 25 1967.
Jock had been remarkably calm in the dressing room before we had left to take our place in the tunnel. Collectively, he told us, ‘Go out and enjoy yourselves, you’ve done the hard work. You’ve already made history by getting here. No-one can take that away from you. Just get on that pitch and let everyone see what you can do.’
Individually, he would put an arm around a player’s shoulder and give him some words of wisdom. He knew how to treat us on a one-on-one basis. For instance, he would say to Jinky, ‘Wee Man, I know you are going to win this for us. You’re the star; this is your stage.’
You could see Jinky growing in confidence. And so it went on as he prepared us for the biggest game in Celtic’s proud history. We had come a long way from the team that had been turned over 5-1 by Dunfermline at East End Park and 6-2 by Falkirk at Brockville just over two years beforehand.
A helluva long way – and we had yet to reach our ultimate destination. However, that was only ninety minutes away.
We took the field with yours truly, superstitious as ever, running out fifth in line. Don’t ask me why – it just happened one day, I had a good game and it just stuck. Anyone wanting that fifth place would have had to fight me for it!
BY THE RIGHT…Jimmy Johnstone fires in a shot with Armando Picchi too late to intervene.
We settled early, but were given a jolt when their main man Sandro Mazzola got his head to a Mario Corso ball in from the left and Ronnie Simpson had to make a smart save, diving to his left to push the effort away.
A few minutes later we were in big trouble, though, when Jim Craig was adjudged to have brought down their bustling centre-forward Renato Cappellini and referee Kurt Tschenscher, from West Germany, had no hesitation in pointing the spot.
It looked as though the Italian had made the most of an awkward challenge from our right-back and Cairney, to this day, insists it was never a penalty-kick. Mazzola didn’t hang around to argue – his simply despatched a perfect effort low into the net with Ronnie going the wrong way, diving to his left.
SPOT ON…Sandro Mazzola sends Ronnie Simpson the wrong way with an immaculate penalty-kick.
Funnily enough, I believe this seventh-minute goal acted against Inter Milan. They were known to withdraw into defence when they got any sort of advantage over their opponents and, not surprisingly, they were going to erect barriers in front of Guiliano Sarti, their goalkeeper who had been thought as a weak link but was to disprove these theories with a fair degree of distinction.
His display against us was easily one of the best I have ever seen in my life.
However, the penalty goal invited us to take the game to the Italians and, with eighty-three minutes still to play, we more than welcomed the opportunity. As we trotted back to recentre the ball for kick-off, I said to Jinky, ‘Give us a bit of magic, Wee Man.’
He smiled, ‘I’ll do my best, Bertie’.
We got to the fourteenth minute before the referee warned Sarti about time-wasting! Fourteen minutes! It was going to be a long day. Inter tried to dictate the pace of the game and slow down the tempo, but we weren’t interested in following the script.
BY THE LEFT…Bobby Murdoch thumps in a drive at the Inter Milan goal.
We flooded forward and I knew we were going flat out when Caesar raced past me going down the old inside-right channel. I could hardly believe it as our centre-half rarely ventured across the halfway line unless, of course, it was for a corner-kick or a free-kick.
I could only think he was acting as a decoy because there was no danger I was going to give him a pass! No disrespect, but Caesar’s best work was done when the ball was airborne.
Celtic swarmed down on our opponents in relentless fashion and we knew something would have to give. I thought I had broken the barrier when I got into their box and chipped the ball over Sarti’s flailing arm. My joy was stifled, though, when the ball smacked off the woodwork and bounced to safety.
Then their keeper made an unbelievable diving save from a drive from Tommy Gemmell that he wasn’t even entitled to go for, never mind push round the upright. And so it went on. We drove forward and they reorganised in defence.
It was getting monotonous, but we never believed for a fraction of a second that we wouldn’t score.
TOMORROW: DON’T MISS THE UNFORGETTABLE BERTIE AULD: PART TWENTY-THREE