TODAY CQN Magazine turns the spotlight on skipper supreme Billy McNeill, the man known as Caesar who held aloft the glittering European Cup at Lisbon on May 25, 1967.

Will anyone every forget the enduring image of the Hoops captain standing on the podium with the sun shining down on him that unforgettable day in the Portuguese capital?
Here is his story…WZe9QyNFGZIr-OH7ncafL220d239E02eKdgjoZsFFtw
STIRLING ALBION’S Jim Kerray gave me a harder time at Celtic Park in November 1966 than Inter Milan’s Sandro Mazzola at the Estadio Nacional in May 1967. Jim Who? Well may you ask.
I hope Big Jim doesn’t mind me making this observation, but he was a journeyman centre-forward playing in a fairly average side. We all know who Sandro is, though, don’t we? A year before we faced Inter Milan in Lisbon, Mazzola had played for the Italian World Cup side in England. Three years after Lisbon, he would lead the attack in the World Cup Final against those wonderful Brazilians in Mexico.
Jim? I can’t recall him ever being mentioned for a possible call-up for his country. However, what I do remember is an evening in Glasgow six months before we played in the European Cup Final and Stirling Albion, who always seemed to spend their time battling relegation when they were in the top division, stuck three past Ronnie Simpson in a league match.
If my memory serves correctly, Kerray got two that night. As he was my direct opponent, I couldn’t have been too satisfied with my own performance. Mind you, we scored seven at the other end to win the match, but Stirling Albion and Kerray had let us know we were in a contest. In fact, so much so that I missed our next league game, a 1-1 draw with St.Mirren through injury, the only league encounter I sat out that season.
I mention Big Jim simply because he gave me such a difficult 90 minutes that Wednesday night. Now I look back at Lisbon and I can honestly say that was the easiest match of the entire season. I really mean that. John Clark and I were rarely under any pressure because the other guys in the middle and up front were doing their jobs so well. My biggest problem that day was whether to pass it out of defence to Bobby Murdoch or Bertie Auld. I would gather the ball and suddenly there was a shout in unison: “Give it here, big man!” I would look up and there was Bobby and Bertie urging me to pass the ball to them and let them get on with it. If only all games had been such a cakewalk – I could still have been playing today!
We discovered fairly swiftly on our travels that reputations meant little or nothing in this game. Some of the biggest names, the so-called superstars of their era, often disappointed. But guys such as Jim Kerray were honest, hard-working pros who went about their job when phenomenal enthusiasm and genuine determination.
I remember Dunfermline scoring four and three against us that season. Hibs also netted three. Strangely, we won all three of those games – 5-4 at East End Park, 6-3 in a League Cup-tie at Celtic Park and 5-3 at Easter Road. In the league game at East End Park, where a certain Alex Ferguson got right in about it for the Fifers, they were leading 4-2 at one stage. Other teams would have folded, but we didn’t possess such a thing as a white flag. We kept plugging away and claimed the three goals that gave us the points. We were prepared to go through any pain barrier for the cause of the club.
That quality was fairly evident in the journey through Europe. There were a few occasions when you felt you were right up against it, that the pressure was really on, but, at other times, you knew you had arrived at the level you craved. Let’s talk about the Palacio Hotel in Estoril, for a start. That was our HQ, situated in a beautiful little coastal town to the west of Lisbon. It was perfect as we prepared for the European Cup Final. Let me tell you, it was breathtaking. Five-star? It was more than that. Out of this world –  I, for one, had never witnessed such opulence. What a place and it made us feel big-time. The club hadn’t spared on lavishing big money on the place where we would be spending the next two days before the biggest match in our history.
It was luxury from start to finish and it made you feel important. It all seemed so right. Making us even more welcome was the sight of large lanterns in their expansive gardens that just happened to be painted green and white. When they were lit up at night it made you feel right at home. It looked as though the complete jigsaw had been put together with great care. You know, I went back there a few years ago and the lanterns have now gone. I wonder if they just put them down for us!
We relaxed, played cards, read books and generally just took it easy. There was a magnificent pool at the hotel and Big Jock would only allow us 30 minutes to go for a swim. He would point to the sun in the clear blue sky and say: “That is your enemy, remember that. It will sap your energy. Be careful what you do.”
Before I go any further, may I state here and now, once and for all, that I was not, repeat not, Jock Stein’s blue-eyed boy. I know a lot of folk have said he never gave me a rollicking because I was the captain and he wouldn’t belittle me in anyone else’s presence. Fair enough, but I can only point out: Why on earth would you have a go at someone who was always completely blameless and never ever made a solitary mistake in any of the games in which he played?5xE3acK1wrs_Xr1ftbFSixShx6JFFL9O7sVcNcxKLok
Seriously, though, I would like to think Jock and I had a special relationship. I would hope it was the same for everyone at the club at the time. However, I have to say there were occasions when he might point out a thing or two to me. I never took it personally, believe me. Everything he did was for the good of Celtic and I was well up for that. I found him most helpful. I never forgot the fact that he had also played in my position at centre-half for a lot more years than I had and had a lot more experience. So, if he had a little gem of knowledge to impart that would make a better player then I was more than willing to listen.
Big Jock, of course, was blessed with more than his fair share of common sense. You know what they say about common sense, don’t you? It’s not that common! But the boss had the ability to never complicate things. He saw football as essentially a simple game. He had the wonderful knack, though, of finding someone’s strengths. He could look at a player and have the ability to immediately see where they could improve their game. It could be simple little things.
Bobby Lennox was an outside-left when Big Jock arrived. Lemon wasn’t bad on the flank, but just take a look at what he contributed to the club when he came inside. What an improvement. His pace was breathtaking and I honestly wonder just how many legitimate goals the wee man scored that we never got because of dodgy offside calls. He finished his career at Celtic with 273 goals from 571 games; an absolutely fantastic return. How many were wiped out by bad refereeing decisions because of Bobby’s speed off the mark? Probably another 100! I can think of one referee, who has since passed on so I won’t bother naming him, who must have chalked off about 50 himself!
Bobby Murdoch, too, benefited from the arrival of Big Jock. Bobby started off as an old-fashioned inside-right, but the boss thought he would be better off at wing-half. He made the switch against other people’s perceptions of the player and once again was justified in his decision-making. Big Jock also had a presence about him that told you he was the boss. He may be thought of as being a strict disciplinarian – and certainly he wouldn’t tolerate any nonsense – but he could have a laugh and joke with the lads, too.miAsSv2ojYEYP_mqWReDXGi8ryCQeSapV76IqgUf8kc
He was once asked in one of the many European hotels we stayed in at the time if he was Stein. The accent – I think it was Spanish – came out something like Steeyin. Jock, quick as a flash, replied: “No, I’m leaving on Thursday!” He was in no way aloof; he was far too down-to-earth for that. But you always knew he was the gaffer.
He never asked anyone to do anything he believed was outwith their capabilities. That may sound fairly obvious, but I still watch football today and see players in positions that clearly don’t suit them. You’ve got wingers playing at full-back whose defensive knowledge is negligible. You’ve got guys up front leading attacks who might be better served in defence.
Jock would take a player aside and say something like: “Look, I don’t expect you to be top goalscorer at the club, so just you leave the shooting to the others.” Or he might point out: “I don’t want to see you taking on an opponent. Think about passing quickly and accurately and don’t bother running with the ball, that’s a job for someone else.” Another manager might have taken Route One and said: “You’re shooting is bloody awful.” Or: “You dribble like an old lady.” I’m not sure that would get the best out of a player. Simple, but so effective.
All the players were treated alike by the boss. There were no superstars although, I suppose, Wee Jinky could have walked into the first team of just about any side on the planet. But he, too, realised he would get a lacing if Big Jock thought he wasn’t pulling his weight. Jinky, of course, was special, but if he turned up late for training in the morning he could expect to be sent home and told to return and train on his own in the afternoon. It happened a few times, as I recall!
I never saw Jimmy McGrory in a tracksuit. Of course, he was the boss before Big Jock arrived, but he was always immaculately turned out; suit, shirt and tie with that famous pipe sitting at a jaunty angle at the corner of his mouth. Jock arrived, though, and the next thing he was out there at Barrowfield with the training gear on and making a big difference in all our thinking. He would give you some leeway during training, but if he thought we were just fooling around he would step in and bark: “Right, that’s enough of that. Get on with your work.”
Footballers are always at their happiest when they are working with the ball. Lapping tracks can get a bit monotonous and Big Jock knew that. Our practice games could get a bit competitive back then. Remember, we all shared a winning mentality and that was obvious, too, in these so-called bounce games. Big Jock would be watching everything, making certain some things didn’t get out of hand. Wee Jinky, for instance, loved shoving the ball through your legs and running round you. It’s something you can get a bit fed up with when it happens time and time again. “Jinky! Behave!” would come the bellow from the sidelines.TCtZKgwThgr8LMXpsOBn_wzkb_wTU4ugegYAni3f9NQ
If two players clashed – and it would surprise you just how often that actually happened – the boss would wait and see if they were calming down. Training with a competitive edge is fine, but it’s out of hand if someone might pick up an injury. If the two guys didn’t get their act together, then we found ourselves lapping the track again. Big Jock would always get his message across, one way or another!
I have to say I had all the time in the world for the Big Man. I took it as an enormous compliment when someone said I was the centre-half Jock Stein wanted to be during his playing days. I don’t think he scored too many goals, but he always encouraged me to go forward for set-pieces. “Get up there, Billy,” he would shout from the dug-out. “It’s time you used that
head of yours.”
He was also the master of psychology and he proved that once more before kick-off in Lisbon. He and the rest of the backroom staff, including substitute goalkeeper John Fallon, came onto the pitch after we had been led out. Celtic were listed as the home team for the game and Jock and Co, naturally enough, headed for the bench on the touchline allocated to the home side. Jock was confronted by Inter Milan manager Helenio Herrera and his backroom boys who were already seated and waiting for kick-off.
Big Jock was having none of that. If the wily Herrera had thought he was putting one over on our gaffer he was swiftly put right. “Your in the wrong place,” said Jock. Herrera understood alright, but he was simply looking at our manager with a typical Latin quizzical expression. Shoulders were hunching this way and that, hands were splayed out and, of course, the Inter Milan boss was innocence personified. Jock refused to back down. He would be sitting on that bench or there were going to big problems for the officials before the start of the 1967 European Cup Final.Y7MKhwgyin9t0USGwblfchXudhIVKtCv3cy0SWh0QFs
Jock called over my stand-in centre-half John Cushley for him to have a word with the Inter staff. John wasn’t stripped for the game, of course, because only the goalkeeper could be used as a substitute, but it is no exaggeration to say Big John wasn’t unlike the Incredible Hulk without the green dye. If he hadn’t been a fine footballer he would have been in great demand as a minder for some sort of celebrity. He must have made his considerable presence felt. After a few words, Herrera and his entourage decided it would be wise to beat a hasty retreat and walk the considerable distance to the away bench.
Now, all this was going on while we were out on the pitch warming up. We were aware that something was happening at the side of the pitch and we witnessed Big Jock making his stance. It was highly interesting to see the Inter Milan bench capitulate and move on. They didn’t look a happy bunch as they picked up their kitbags and were forced to shift. One up to us before a ball had been kicked!
Actually, I was quite surprised when I was looking back on that extraordinary year in 1967 to see how many goals I scored. Frankly, I was just a little bit disappointed to note how many I claimed in the league games. Not one. Zero. Zilch. However, I did get one in that European Cup run and, even if I do so say myself, I couldn’t have timed it better. I know the manager and all the lads rated Vojvodina Novi Sad as by far the best team we met that year, including Inter Milan in the final.
The Yugoslavs were superb technically, but were also fairly adept in possibly the not-so-finer points in the game. There was also some memorable mind games going off the pitch between the boss and their manager Vujadin Boskov, who went onto to coach at some of the biggest teams in Europe, including Real Madrid two years after playing us.
Big Jock clearly wasn’t impressed by Boskov’s pre-match prediction. The Slav boss stated quite clearly and emphatically he believed Vojvodina would win by “at least two goals”. “Oh, really? We’ll see about that,” said Jock. When they won by a solitary effort from Stanic, Boskov came out again and declared he hadn’t been too impressed by Celtic and his team would win again in Glasgow. Now if Boskov was trying to get Jock fired up for the return he couldn’t have done a better job. The Big Man was ready for them when they flew into Glasgow. “We’ll be ready for them,” he said.
He went public, too, with the Yugoslav Press and went on record as saying: “Vojvodina are a very good team, but we are better and we will win in Glasgow.” It was sheer bravado because we all realised just how difficult the Slavs would be in the return leg.
Boskov and his players turned up at Celtic Park the night before the game and they wanted a work-out on the pitch under the floodlights. It was normal practice for teams to go through this routine as it made a lot of sense for them to get a feel for the conditions they are going to encounter 24 hours later. They would want the training to start at roughly around the same time as the kick-off giving them the opportunity to see how light or dark it might be at such-and-such a time.
Boskov, then, wasn’t best pleased when Big Jock gave him the news they wouldn’t be placing a foot on the pitch at Celtic Park. “Sorry, there’s been too much rain recently,” Jock informed them. “We can’t take the chance of the pitch cutting up.” He did have a point, but Boskov was far from convinced. He made all sorts of protestations; he would take it up with the Celtic chairman, he threatened. Jock waved it away in his usual fashion. “You can train at Barrowfield and I’ll make sure the lights are switched on. Off you go.”
To say the Slavs were not amused would be putting it rather mildly. They were fizzing, but, at least, Boskov and his boys got the drift that Jock Stein was, indeed, the man in charge at Celtic. As far as football matters went, there was no higher power. Vojvodina, who had beaten a strong Atletico Madrid team to reach the quarter-finals, were out to make sure they would have the last word at Celtic Park during the game. Like I say, they were an extremely talented and resilient outfit and they weren’t slow to hand out a wee bit of punishment every now and then.Gm820OV_wDpWV4PFigMjI5gT8feLMUY6CIVGh3wr9fc
We had to endure close to an hour of frustration, before we got our own back when Stevie Chalmers made it 1-1 on aggregate after a typical lung-bursting run and cross from the left by Tommy Gemmell. As a matter of fact, I was delighted for big Tommy because he had taken most of the blame for our 1-0 defeat in Novi Sad in the first leg. He was short with a passback and the ball ended up behind Ronnie Simpson. Tommy looked crestfallen.
He was always a chirpy character and we can only thank the Good Lord there wasn’t such a thing as Karaoke back then. Tommy, of course, looked a bit like an American comedy actor who was all the rage at the time and was always first to the microphone to belt out a Sinatra number or something from the charts. I remember we were in Miami on one of our American trips in the Sixties and we were in this place where Tommy decided to go into one of his routines. I heard this female voice from behind me blurt out: “Gee, is that Danny Kaye? He’s really good!”
So, it was smashing to see the big chap all smiles again after he helped set up that all-important leveller. I’ve always been a great believer that the best time to get a winning goal is as near to that final whistle as possible. There is no way back for teams at that point. Look at the 1974 World Cup Final between West Germany and Holland in Munich, for instance. The Dutch got a penalty-kick inside a minute without a single player from the host nation getting a touch of the ball. The Dutch lads stroked it around until the magnificent Johan Cruyff produced a marvellous burst of speed to get into the box and he was hauled down. And, no, it wasn’t Berti Vogts who was the offender – it was, in fact, Uli Hoeness.
Mind you, the Tartan Army will probably still blame Berti, anyway. Johan Neeskens duly scored and it was a perfect start for Holland, but it also gave West Germany 89 minutes to get back into the game in front of their own fans. That’s exactly what they did, of course, and at the end of the day it was their name on the trophy after a 2-1 comeback victory.
I have been told that the referee blew for time-up two seconds after the restart following my goal against Vojvodina. Now that is a late, late goal. I’ll always recall Big Jock waving us all up for one last assault on Ilija Pantelic’s goal. In those days there was no extra-time; the game would have gone to a replay at a neutral ground, Rotterdam, I believe. Charlie Gallagher, who had a sublime touch, raced over to the right wing to take it. Actually, I think Charlie was about to take a short one, but a Slav defender raced to cut it off and Charlie changed his mind. Thank God!
Charlie was left with no option but to put the ball into the mix. There was the usual barging and jostling as I made my way forward. The Slavs had marked me very well at set-pieces and I hadn’t really had a sniff at goal. On this occasion, though, the timing was just absolutely spot-on. Charlie swung it in, I kept my run going, the ball hung in the air, I got a good leap, made superb contact and the next thing I saw was the effort soaring high into the net. Pantelic had strayed a bit from his line and they had a defender on the goal-line who did a fair impersonation of a goalkeeper as he leapt up with his left arm to try to keep the ball out. He was wasting his time – that was a goal all the way as soon as it came off my napper.
Actually, I scored quite a few goals after getting great service from Charlie at deadball situations. He was supremely accurate with corner-kicks, in particular, and could vary his ball into the box. Sometimes he would float one in with precision and then he would follow that by shelling one in at pace. It was difficult for defenders to anticipate what was coming next. We didn’t have any pre-arranged signals or anything like that. I would just trot forward and do my level best to get something on it when Charlie sent it in.BwUDdFN0-t6OxxGaG_JDWi8B9Dk8M9RkO20OV84pwXo
Remember, it was good old Charlie who sent over the corner-kick – this time from the left – two years earlier when I scored the winning goal in the Scottish Cup Final against Dunfermline at Hampden. So, we had a good thing going, but, ironically, I don’t think Charlie would have been playing that night if it hadn’t been for an injury to Bertie Auld. Normally, Big Jock would go with Bobby Murdoch and Bertie in the main midfield roles and overlook Charlie. However, he was a fine footballer and his delivery that night couldn’t have been better.
Vojvodina went crazy when the referee awarded the goal. They were convinced I had fouled Pantelic. I can hold my hands up all these years down the line and tell the world I didn’t even touch their goalkeeper. However, you might ask Stevie Chalmers if he had blocked their keeper! He may have taken a half-yard step in front of the big goalie when he was leaving his goal-line in an effort to cut out the cross. So what? It was all part of the game back then as it still is today. Believe me, the Slavs weren’t slow in getting in front of me any time I came forward. But, thanks to Charlie’s deadball accuracy, there was nothing anyone could do to prevent me from making contact on that occasion and managing to do some damage.
I knew it was late in the game, but, honestly, I had no idea that it was quite as late as that. As I ran back to take my position in the heart of the defence, I shouted over at John Clark: “Keep concentrating, Luggy. We’re not going to lose a goal now.” Luggy just looked at me and said: “What are you talking about, big man? The game’s finished. It’s over and we’re through.” Seconds later it was, indeed, well and truly over and our great adventure was still on track.
I remember the Vojvodina players cracking up as they kicked off and the ref blew for time-up. Actually, one of their own players raced into the melee and started shoving his team-mates all over the place to get them to calm down. He was a big lad, too, and, thankfully, they did as they were told. It could have been very interesting going up the tunnel that evening. That tunnel could tell a tale or two, that’s for sure. These were the days before TV cameras seemed to spring up everywhere and sometimes there could be some “sorting-out” done in the darkness of that tight, little area that led to the dressing rooms. Not that I ever got involved myself, you understand!
Funnily enough, our next game afterwards was a Scottish Cup-tie against Queen’s Park at Celtic Park and our fans rolled up in their thousands, still on a high from our midweek success and the news we would play Dukla Prague in the semi-finals. As I recall, Sean Connery, James Bond himself, turned up, too, and had his photograph taken with the Celtic team before the game. The crowd was still filtering in when Tommy Gemmell scored for the Queen’s in the first minute!LZ74FUXJEwUV8Jy3Xv9OJXKA0b_9ob58Z1EJrGIxo3A
He turned the ball behind a startled Ronnie Simpson and we all looked at each other. Surely, there wasn’t another Scottish Cup shock on the cards for, remember, Rangers, then the holders, had gone out at the first hurdle, beaten 1-0 by little Berwick Rangers a couple of months earlier. We recovered our composure quickly, though, and I believe Big Tommy equalised before we went on to win 5-3. But it was a game that hammered into us that, if we were to do anything in football, concentration would have to be our watchword.
We had that in abundance in Lisbon, you better believe it. It may seem a strange observation to make, but Inter Milan scoring so early with that penalty-kick was one of the best things that could have happened to us. It was their natural style to try to hold onto anything they had. They had a goal to protect and they seemed quite content to filter into their own half and do their best to keep us out. Although I was a central defender, it was not the way I was brought up to play football.
It certainly wasn’t the Celtic way. Our supporters wouldn’t have tolerated that and, in any case, we all knew the fans deserved better. I said it then, I’ll say it now and I’ll say it again – those guys on the terracings were absolutely brilliant; they were our 12th man. We never, ever took them for granted.
We were invited to take the game to the Italians and it was an invite we so readily accepted. We really should have been in front by half-time, but their goalkeeper, Giuliano Sarti, was quite outstanding. When we got in at the interval, we couldn’t wait to get out to restart the second-half. The penalty-kick decision really inspired us. We were all rattling on about the injustice of it and there was no way we were going to be beaten by a dodgy refereeing decision.
Cairney, Jim Craig, won’t thank me for this, but, having watched the incident several thousand times, I now think the referee called it right. Back then, though, we were all united in believing the match official had done us no favours whatsoever. I know Cairney will still argue that it was never a spot-kick, but let’s just say it certainly acted as a catalyst for us to get out there and turn them over.
I recall it was actually quite calm in our dressing room at half-time. There were no histrionics and, of course, we didn’t have any prima donnas in our team. Big Jock simply repeated: “Keep doing what you are doing and we’ll be okay.” He did make one telling observation, though, when he asked our wide men to think about pulling the ball back closer to the edge of the penalty box because Inter were crowding into the six-yard area as they tried to protect their goalkeeper.
When you look again at our first goal, you’ll see how good that advice was. Cairney was calmness personified when he came racing into the box onto Bobby Murdoch’s pass. His cutback for Tommy Gemmell was just right and Tommy simply belted one of his specials high into the net. Sarti had no chance. Eleven Sartis would have had no chance!
We were on course and nothing could stop us taking our place in history. Look, before that game the European Cup was a trophy that belonged to other teams. Glamorous sides from other parts of Europe. Only Real Madrid, six times, Benfica, twice, Inter Milan, twice, and AC Milan, once, had won the most prestigious prize European football had to offer. British football merely had its nose pressed up against the window, wanting to get in, but being completely ignored. Celtic, in Lisbon, opened that door. We proved it was possible. The mystique was stripped away. The barrier had been broken. And, by God, did it feel good!
Stevie Chalmers duly knocked in the winner with about five minutes to go and Inter Milan were out of it. They were a beaten team. If, by some chance, they had equalised, then the game would have gone to 30 minutes of extra-time. Believe me, those guys didn’t want to endure another half-hour of what they had already been through.
Another injustice, and this time the perception is 100 per cent accurate, that really motivated us in Lisbon was the fact that we had gone so close to playing in the European Cup-Winners’ Cup Final the previous season. We had faced Liverpool in the semi-final and beaten them 1-0 going on 4-0 or 5-0 in the first leg at Celtic Park. Bobby Lennox was our scorer that night with a typical whiplash close-range effort that left their keeper, the Scot Tommy Lawrence, helpless. We pummelled them that evening, but just couldn’t add to our tally. A one-goal advantage seemed scant reward for the amount of possession and effort and endeavour we had put in.
We went to Anfield for the return match and I can tell you we were not one bit afraid. We reasoned we had played them off the park in Glasgow and we could do something similar on their own patch. Everything seemed to be going okay until they were awarded a free-kick on the hour mark about 30 yards out. As I recall, it was a filthy night on Merseyside and Tommy Smith stepped up to take it. He fired the ball goalwards and, unfortunately for Ronnie Simpson, it took a wicked bounce off the muddy pitch. Ronnie looked as though he had it covered, but it actually seemed to pick up momentum as it hit the turf in front of him and flashed low into the corner of the net. We couldn’t believe it. We were level.
It got worse five minutes later when Geoff Strong got up really well to power an unstoppable header away from Ronnie. There was nothing flukely about that effort; I would have happily claimed it as one of my own. However, the real controversy was just around the corner. Near the end Bobby Lennox turned the ball wide of Tommy Lawrence and left-back Gerry Byrne on the goal-line. A goal, surely. Alas, not according to the man who mattered, Belgian referee Josef Hannet.
He ruled it out for offside which was a fairly strange decision when you consider they had a full-back behind their goalkeeper. In actual fact, there is absolutely no way the goal shouldn’t have counted. We didn’t get any consolation much later when Hannet admitted, after watching reruns of the incident, that he had, in fact, got it wrong. Thanks, ref – that was just another for the growing Bobby Lennox collection of injustices!
Yes, we were furious. So, too, unfortunately were our fans and a few bottles were thrown. I would never condone such actions, but their frustrations were understandable. They had just seen a perfectly legitimate goal ruled out and their team was out of Europe. Making it even more galling was the fact that the European Cup-Winners’ Cup Final was due to be played at Hampden Park that season. Can you imagine the scenes if we had played in that game?
Dear, old Hampden would have been rocking to its foundations. As it turned out, Liverpool took our place and I think they must have used up all their luck against us in the previous games. They lost 2-1 in extra-time to the West Germans of Borussia Dortmund and, ironically, the winning goal came off Ron Yeats, who was one of my main challengers for the centre-half slot in the Scottish international team at the time. I remember a Borussia Dortmund player, a guy called Reinhard Libuda, lobbing Tommy Lawrence and the ball hitting the crossbar. Ron Yeats, running back in an effort to clear off the line, couldn’t get out of the way of the rebound and it came down, struck him and bounced over the line. Trophies are won and lost in such bizarre moments.
So, a year later, when we turned up at Lisbon we were a team on a mission. That European Cup had our name on it, we were certain of that. But, as I said right at the start, John Clark and I couldn’t have had a more comfortable 90 minutes. Inter simply had no answer to our pulsating, attacking play. There is absolutely no way they would have encountered anything like that in their league matches back in Italy. Inter Milan, and we should remember they also won the World Club Championship in 1964 and 1965, were top dogs, hugely successful and, therefore, it made sense to some coaches to copy their methods. We may have changed a few mindsets after our performance in Lisbon, eh?
To my mind, the greatest thing about our European Cup victory is that we did it in the Celtic manner. We always wanted to play with flair, adventure and style. We were determined for people to remember us for our attacking philosophy. I would like to think we managed that in Lisbon. It was a breakthrough for British football. It was marvellous for Scottish football.
However, the main thing for everyone connected with the club, the manager, his assistants, the players and tea ladies, it was truly wonderful for Celtic Football Club.
* Adapted from ‘Celtic: The 40th Anniversary’ by Alex Gordon. Published in 2007. Next week ‘The Road To San Siro’. Don’t miss some special tales on www.CQNMagazine.com throughout the week.
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