JOHN ‘YOGI’ HUGHES played in five of Celtic eight ties during their great adventure that took Jock Stein’s team to the European Cup Final against Inter Milan in Lisbon on the unforgettable date of May 25 1967.
The non-appearance of the iconic Hoops forward has been the subject of conjecture ever since.
The goalscoring winger offered an insight in his acclaimed autobiography, ‘Yogi Bare: The Life and Times of a Celtic Legend’, which was co-authored by his friend Alex Gordon and published in 2014.
As we conclude another superb CQN EXCLUSIVE series, we provide the answer to the Lisbon question.
ON the flight to Lisbon I could feel the ankle begin to swell. Club doctor John Fitzimons was correct and there was clearly a reaction to the pressurised atmosphere inside the aircraft.
By the time we reached our hotel in Estoril I was wondering if I could remove my footwear. I was rooming with John Cushley and he helped me ease my foot out of the shoe.
I took off my sock and, at that very moment, liquid spurted out of my ankle.
Unfortunately, the injury had become poisonous and the four hours or so on the plane brought everything to a climax. Cush managed to find some tissue paper to stem the flow.
We called in Fitz and he took a look at my ankle. He didn’t waste too much time in summing up the situation.
“Complete rest throughout the summer,” he said. “Don’t even think about kicking a ball.”
CHAMPIONS OF EUROPE…John Hughes (top, extreme right) celebrates with his Celtic team-mates after their historic Lisbon success.
My season was finished. But a new era for Celtic was just beginning. It would be fair to say I had mixed emotions. Alas, there was a little bit of grief amidst the glory.
It had been a very different tale, however, at the beginning of that remarkable campaign.
We may have been novices in the European Cup – that was out first time in the competition at a time when you had to be champions of your country – but people shouldn’t have forgotten that we managed to reach the semi-finals in the European Cup-Winners’ Cup on two occasions, losing out only by the odd goal both times.
So, we did possess some sort of pedigree although, to be absolutely truthful, I never heard any of my team-mates actually saying we could go on to win the trophy when we were preparing for the campaign. We were a fairly confident bunch, but that would have been stretching it a bit too far.
I’m willing to bet that none of my mates even knew where the European Cup Final was to take place that season.
And, so, on May 25 1967, a date embedded in every Celtic-minded person’s memory bank, I took my place in the stand at the Nacional Stadium in Lisbon
HAIL THE HEROES…Tommy Gemmell, Bertie Auld and Billy McNeill hold aloft the European Cup with John Hughes, Jimmy Johnstone and Willie Wallace in attendance.
The swelling in my ankle had gone down a little, but I had found difficulty in putting on my shoe. I cheered along with our unbeatable support as my team-mates came back from conceding an early penalty-kick goal to Sandro Mazzola to pummel Inter Milan into submission.
Tommy Gemmell equalised with a blockbuster in the 63rd minute that even their tremendous goalkeeper Guiliano Sarti couldn’t get near. When that whizzbang effort struck the net everyone knew Celtic were going to be crowned the European champions.
Stevie Chalmers turned in a low ball from Bobby Murdoch five minutes from the end and the most glittering prize in football was heading for Celtic Park.
Just take a quick look at the statistics for the match. Celtic had a remarkable FORTY-TWO attempts on goal with TWENTY-SIX on target. Two hit the bar while Sarti saved 13. The others were either blocked or deflected.
Ronnie Simpson was required to make two saves. That’s unbelievable. We forced 10 corner-kicks and they didn’t get one. It was as one-sided a football match as you will ever see.
Inter Milan, acclaimed world club champions in two of the previous three years, just couldn’t live with the Celtic players that day.
My heart was bursting with pride in the dressing room afterwards. I looked around and all I could see were so many happy faces. The guys were genuinely delighted they had done it for Celtic. It wasn’t about financial bonuses or personal fame; they had achieved it for the team we all loved.
It was a special day in the history of an extraordinary football club.
In the midst of all the gaiety, the whooping and hollering, I couldn’t help but think about how our fortunes had changed so dramatically and excitingly in such a short space of time. Just over two years earlier, in April 1965, to be precise, I had played in two back-to-back away league games.
PROUD BHOYS…John Hughes, Bobby Lennox, Jim Craig and John Clark with the European Cup on the 55th anniversary at Celtic Park on May 25 2022.
We were trounced 6-2 by Falkirk at Brockville and, a couple of weeks later, were hammered 5-1 by Dunfermline at East End Park. Billy McNeill, Tommy Gemmell, Bobby Murdoch, John Clark, Jimmy Johnstone, Bobby Lennox and Bertie Auld had been team-mates during at least one those embarrassing drubbings.
And now they were the proud possessors of European Cup-winning medals.
I looked at them and I felt a heady mixture of pleasure, joy and happiness for my team-mates. Like myself, they had been so much turmoil in a dark period in the club’s past. Now they had conquered Europe.
If only I had been fit enough for selection in Lisbon. Fate, though, decreed otherwise.
The players and team that triumphed that day deserve their special place in Celtic’s rich heritage.
I can always use my imagination, though.
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