LISBON was a kaleidoscope of vibrant, dazzling colours as the sun gleamed and welcomed the first of the green-and-white carnival. The image was flawless; a technicolour fusion of effervescent hues and vivid shades lighting up the Portuguese capital as the procession made its joyous way into the city. The many shades of green sat serenely among the local blooms of lavenders, pinks, violets, blues and yellows that adorned the pavement terraces and added to the festival atmosphere.
The glorious setting was perfection itself for a celebration. And the thousands of incoming supporters of Celtic Football Club weren’t about to pass up the opportunity of playing their good-natured role in the party of a lifetime.
It was May 1967 and for many of the 10,000 or so who surfaced in Lisbon it was their first time abroad. A typical holiday destination was more likely to be Millport than Marjorca, Rothesay rather than Rome. Obviously, the easiest route was to travel by charter flight. One company offered four full days in Lisbon for £57. To put that in context, the basic weekly wage of a Celtic first team player at the time was £65. A new Austin Morris saloon was £700 and the average semi-detached villa in Scotland cost £4,012. A two-piece suit from Burton’s would set you back £16.50 (£16 10s) and a pint of beer was 10p (2s). So, for the majority desperate to watch their heroes in a far-off land, £57 represented a sizeable chunk of revenue. The fortunate among the travellers who managed to annex a centre stand seat had to fork out £2 7s 6d (£2.38) while a place in the terracing behind the goal was priced at 10s (50p).
The competition among the aircraft rivals was intense and one smart operator offered a half-bottle of whisky to each passenger as an inducement. Presumably, that airline did slightly brisker business than a rival who advertised “souvenir inscribed shillelaghs” as a lure to potential customers.
Hundreds, though, were enticed to dip into their life savings to take to the air for the first time in their lives. On one flight, an enterprising would-be entrepreneur, with a captive audience, managed to persuade the flight staff to allow him to utilise the aisle to sell some merchandise for part of the journey. In the unmistakeable tones of an overworked and well-oiled larynx, more often heard around the Celtic End on matchdays, the future tycoon paced up and down, balancing a large cardboard box in his arms while rasping: “Errza macaroon bars and ra spearmint chewing gum.”
For those of you too young to fully understand that little passage, I envy you your youth.
When one of the aircraft touched down in Lisbon airport, one supporter, in time-honoured fashion, got to his feet, removed his bunnet, threw a few shillings into it and began proffering it under the noses of the other passengers. “Let’s have a whip-roon for the driver,” he appealed, without a trace of irony. Goodness only knows what the ‘driver’ thought of this impromptu gift from the travelling and generous patrons.
Of course, for many, the thought of flying to the game was far too expensive and completely out of the question. There is a limit to how many suits you can pawn. So, a particularly intrepid band of Celtic followers made their own plans on how best to reach Portugal. A footballing convey of around 100 cars, labelled the ‘Celticade’, rolled out of Glasgow four days ahead of the game, embarking on the adventurous trek of some 1,700 miles.
Some of the vehicles had seen better days and the standing joke was: “For goodness sake don’t get rid of the rust – the car will fall apart.” One owner patted his newly-painted green-and-white Hillman Imp on the bonnet upon arrival in Lisbon. With a massive sigh of relief, he was heard to say: “Now, Jimmy, the trick is for you to get me home.”
They arrived in their thousands via bus, ship and rail as well as air. They trekked through France and Spain before reaching their coveted destination. The rail travellers arrived in various states of bon homie at the Santa Apolonia station and their dishevelled arrival was a matter of disbelief to the citizens. At that stage Lisbon was not the tourists’ haunt it is today. The supporters toppled, staggered, struggled and zigzagged their way along the platform. There were unconfirmed reports of some actually walking in a straight line. The incredulous locals took the ‘invading’ jovial hordes to their hearts.
They may well have been astonished at these green-white-and gold-bedecked legions who arrived from ports dotted around the globe to support their favourites, but they were willing to give the Scots their passionate backing, too. They were urged to do so by none other than the great Eusebio, the Benfica legend who was the Cristiano Ronaldo of his day. He had played against the dull, defensively-minded Inter Milan when they had defeated the Portuguese 1-0 in the 1965 European Cup Final. He had been far from impressed by the smothering, spoiling tactics of the Italians and insisted the locals should welcome and embrace Celtic and the club’s support. He reassured the locals a triumph for Celtic would be a triumph for football. He was to be proved right in his assessment. So, the citizenry and the visitors dovetailed in harmony from day one.
After negotiating their way to Lisbon, there was now the task for many of those cheery legions of finding a place to park their heads before Thursday’s 5.30pm kick-off.
One particular individual hadn’t bothered with the irksome task of booking a room for the duration. He was positive his big brother would take care of all his needs. He would be occupying a very special suite reserved for some visiting VIPS at a luxury hotel on the outskirts of the city. Which was just as well because this Glaswegian had spent a heavy percentage of his cash on the flight to Portugal’s breathtaking capital and there wasn’t too much left in the kitty. But he was confident his brother wouldn’t let him down.
There was only one problem. And it came in the formidable shape of a bloke not renowned for his patience or tolerance. Some claimed he could be canterkous, others went as far as curmudgeonly.
His name was Jock Stein.
Ian Auld reckoned his older sibling Bertie would look after arrangements and make certain he had a bed for the night at the official HQ of Celtic Football Club at the five-star Palacio Hotel. Big Jock, of course, would not have welcomed such an intrusion on the eve of the team’s most important game in history. The Celtic manager had been meticulous in his preparations for the encounter. Players were ordered inside when he thought they had spent too much time in the sunshine. He would insist: “The sun is your enemy!” They were timed in the swimming pool, when to get in, when to get out, told what to eat and drink and training sessions had been planned with the utmost precision. He had been diligent, thorough and, as some players later agreed, somewhat finicky. Nothing had been left to chance.
It was an accepted fact that interlopers would not be welcome.
Ian Auld didn’t take too much notice of the demands of the Celtic boss. Luckily for him, his brother Bertie, with typical Maryhill bravado, agreed with him. On this occasion, anyway.
The masterful midfielder, who dovetailed so awesomely, bewilderingly and consistently with Bobby Murdoch in the team’s engine room, takes up the story. “Big Jock patrolled the hotel like a sergeant major. He wanted everything to be perfect. He had the habit of charging into your room without knocking on your door. He would always try to catch you off guard just in case you were getting on the outside of a bottle of gin. As if! The night before the game, Big Jock came into the room I was sharing my good buddy Joe McBride. We were tucked up in our single beds.
“He surveyed the scene. ‘Everything okay, you two?’ he asked, still peering around. I answered: ‘I’m just reading a good book, boss.’ Joe said: ‘Me, too, gaffer.’ Jock took one last look around the room and, satisfied all was in order, closed the door behind him and moved onto another unsuspecting team-mate somewhere down the corridor.
“Actually, if Big Jock had bothered to look under my bed he might have got a bit of a surprise – he would have come face to face with Ian!
“My little brother had saved some cash to travel to Portugal to support us, but, being Ian, he hadn’t bothered with the little detail of arranging a room in a hotel or elsewhere. With the help of some of my colleagues, I managed to smuggle him into our HQ in Estoril. It was like something out of Colditz – only in reverse. Ian was trying to break IN.
“He ducked and dived to make sure he wasn’t spotted by any of the Celtic powers-that-be – and, please remember, Big Jock had spies everywhere. I had little doubt of what I could expect if the manager got wind of my part in the invasion of the team’s privacy. A firing squad might have been hastily arranged on the spot!
“No matter how much BIg Jock tried to silently creep up on you, we could always hear him coming. He still had that heavy limp that prematurely ended his playing career and you realised immediately he was about to descend upon you. I was playing cards with Ian and Joe the evening he decided to pay an impromptu visit. The alarm bells went off in my head as I heard him approach, stealthily, he hoped, towards our door. ‘Quick, Ian, hide!’ I practically screamed. ‘Where?’ he asked, almost as frantically. The wardrobe was too obvious. Big Jock had been known to swing the doors open, look inside, touch a garment and say: ‘Nice material.’ Of course, he was fooling no-one.
“The footsteps got closer. ‘Get under the bed. Now!’ Ian didn’t hesitate as he scrambled out of sight. Looking back, I can see it was a hilarious situation. Didn’t seem like it at the time, though. Big Jock had a ferocious temper and I know what I’m talking about because, unfortunately, I was on the receiving end of it a few times. Joe and I grabbed books off the bedside cabinets and threw ourselves under the covers.
“The door swung open, Big Jock looked in, squinted around, said his piece and left without a clue as to the whereabouts of the uninvited ‘guest’. I didn’t have to worry about getting a good night’s sleep – I practically passed out.”
Of course, the outrageous tale of the Auld brothers is just one of the many gems that can be mined from such a momentous few days in Celtic’s history during a remarkably blissful stay in the Portuguese capital. The accounts are every bit as rich and multihued as the beguiling setting. The visiting support was only too delighted to join in the spontaneity of joy, leap on board the carousel and share many light-hearted moments with their generous Portuguese hosts. They were made welcome in the local tavernas, pubs and tapas bars as the carnival atmosphere lit up the city.
And, of course, they listened to the exaggerated tales from their interesting visitors. They were astounded by one character who wore an outsized green-and-white tammy, huge rosette proudly proclaiming, ‘Hail! Hail! The Celts Are Here’. Even in the soaring temperatures the large woolly scarf remained firmly in place around his neck. The locals were in awe of this individual and, in particular, the lengths he had gone to wear the colours of his favourite club. He was even adorned in a green suit. They remarked upon his loyalty to “the famous Glasgow Celtic”, as they had learned to call the team.
The character hadn’t the heart to tell them he didn’t have time to change out of his work clothes before being picked up by his mates in their car to take him on their exhausting journey. Wearing the required dark green uniform of the era, he was, in fact, a bus conductor. Why ruin an illusion?
All sorts of transport was utilised to reach the destination. A week before the game, two extreme optimists were spotted in the Gallowgate in Glasgow, waving thumbs in the time-honoured manner of hitchhikers at passing vehicles. They held a giant placard that spelled simply, ‘LISBON’. No-one would have bet against them being in position at the Estadio Nacional by kick-off time.
Then there was the individual who worked in the circulation of one of Scotland’s biggest-selling national daily newspapers. This chap steadfastly refused even to acknowledge his devotion to a certain club from the east end of Glasgow. No amount of prompting from his colleagues could prise the secret of his allegiance from him. Celtic could win, lose or draw and he would never rise to the bait. Who he supported was his business and no-one else’s.
His cover was blown on May 25 only minutes after the final chirp from referee Kurt Tschenscher’s whistle. He was photographed right there on the pitch alongside triumphant captain Billy McNeill. The world’s press paraded that unforgettable image, including the circulation man’s own newspaper. By the time he got home from Lisbon, his work-mates confronted with the front page picture. Completely non-plussed he looked at the photograph and remarked: “Aye, looks like me right enough.” Then he added: “Can’t be, though. I was playing golf with my brother in Troon all week.”
And he stuck stuck to that story for years to come – despite the fact he was an only child.
He was one of hundreds who managed to get over the moat that separated the trackside from the terracings. One fan warily asked of one of the local constabulary: “Ah hope ye’ve no’ got any o’ them alligators in there.”
In broken English, the policeman reassured the supporter of the absence of any such menacing swamp-dwelling species.
“That’s just as well,” came the retort, “because me and ma mates might get a wee bit peckish roon aboot hauf-time.”
One observer looked around the stadium and the pitch just before kick-off, sighed and remarked: “It looks as though the interior decorators have been brought in.” Celtic always liked to do things in a certain style.
Four hours or so before the grand occasion, a group of Celtic supporters were sitting in the bar of a hotel psyching themselves up for the most massive game in their club’s history. They hardly noticed the quiet, middle-aged couple who sat beside them at a nearby table. The fans were involved in an earnest debate about who would be the team’s top man, who was the day’s main player who would be the key to piloting Celtic’s name into football’s Hall of Fame.
“It’s got to be Wee Jinky,” said one. “Who have Inter Milan got who can match him? Facchetti? He’ll be like Bambi on ice, Jinky will torture him.”
“Naw,” said another. “Boaby’s the man. The Italians will pack their defence and midfield and just leave Mazzola up front. But Boaby will do the business in the middle of the park. Looking at the setting, this is Boaby’s conditions. Perfect for his range of passing. He’ll be the prize guy.”
“Aye,” added another, “but those conditions will be just as ideal for Wee Bertie. And we all know how crafty and astute he can be, don’t we? I doubt if the Italians will ever have come up against anything like him in all their European games.”
“Don’t forget we’ll need Faither to be on his toes in goal,” chipped in another. “We can play, dominate, even, but what use is that if your keeper is throwing them over his shoulder at the other end? Don’t forget the saves he made against Dukla to get us here. He gets my vote.”
The discussion went on for about half-an-hour until one of the supporters decided to bring the couple at the table next to them into the conversation. “What’re your names?” he asked. “Alfie and Margaret,” came the response.
“Okay, Alfie and Margaret, do you agree with any of our votes? Big Caesar’s my choice. He always rises to the occasion, doesn’t he? Quite leterally at times, too. Remember that winner against Vojvodina at Parkhead? What a goal. Only Caesar can score goals like that. Head meets ball. Bang! In the net and Celtic are in the semi-finals. Lisbon’s only three hours away.”
Alfie, a strict teetotaller, considered for a moment, sipped his glass of ice-cold water, and said: “There’s little doubt Caesar is a leader of men and great at both ends of the pitch, but, sorry, he wouldn’t be my choice. Don’t get me wrong, though, he will play an enormous part in our success.”
“Really?” responded his inquisitor, an eyebrow arching. “Jinky, then? You’ve got to be a Jinky fan.”
“Oh, aye, the Wee Man’s one of my favourites,” Alfie replied. “In fact, one of the best Scottish footballers I have ever seen, but, no, he wouldn’t be my pick, either.”
“Lennox? The Buzzbomb?” asked the fan, determined to discover Alfie’s main man for the game ahead. “What a player, eh? Inter won’t have come up against anyone of his pace in their league.”
“There’s little doubt he has his qualities and, yes, he will have a huge part to play in proceedings. But I still think there is another guy who will have a major say.”
“Wait,” said the fan. “Don’t tell me, let me guess.” He paused for a moment. “I see you’re drinking water, so obviously you don’t let bevvy interfere with your thought process. is that right?”
“I have a sweet stout at the bells on Hogmanay,” replied Alfie, “and I don’t touch another drop for twelve months.”
“Right, so you’re an observer and no’ a drunk like us lot,” he swept his arm around the table and smiled. “Wispy? I bet you Willie Wallace is your type of player. Thoughtful, can perform just about everywhere in the team; even did a marking job on that Masopust bloke in Prague. Made sure his contribution to the game was zilch. Wispy, then? Am I right?”
“Wrong,” smiled Alfie. “I have to admit, though, he is one of my favourites, too. I’ll tell you this, I was delighted when Big Jock bought him from Hearts in December. He was a right nuisance against us. Aye, I would much rather have him with us than against us. But, no, he’s not my main threat on this occasion.”
“Okay,” said the good-natured interrogator, getting a trifle frustrated in his attempts to unlock the thought process of his fellow-fan. “It looks as though we’re going to have to go right through the whole team.” He paused for a moment, snapped his fingers and grinned. “I know the answer, Alfie. I think you believe the most important guy at the game today isn’t a player. It’s Big Jock, isn’t it?”
Alfie took another swig of his water. “Sorry, my friend, wrong again,” he smiled.
“Not Big Jock?” The incredulity in the persistent cross-examiner’s tone was getting higher. “Sean Fallon, then?”
“No, it’s a player, I promise you,” answered Alfie.
“Aye, you look the studious type, right enough. Cairney! It’s got to be Jim Craig. Right?”
“I don’t think he gets the credit or praise he undoubtedly deserves,” said Alfie, turning to his right to wink knowingly at wife Margaret. “That lad is an athlete. He can run all day and gets up and down that wing without complaint. Dovetails brilliantly with Wee Jinky. Maybe doesn’t score as many goals as you might want, but sets up plenty. He’s a real unsung hero in my book. ”
“So, it’s Cairney,” beamed the questioner. “I thought you looked the sober, intellectual type. I should have guessed you would go for a dentist.”
“No, it’s not Cairney,” replied Alfie, another nod and a wink to Margaret. “Good player though he undoubtedly is.”
“Hands up,” said the quizzmaster. “I’ve got a game to go to. I’ve got to be home by Saturday. Go on, then, put us all out of misery. Who gets your vote? Who is going to be Celtic’s matchwinner today?”
Alfie grinned from ear to ear. “I’ve no doubt who you will be toasting this guy tonight.”
“Go on,” he was urged. “We’ve got to know.”
….continued in Part 2. Enjoy!
FROM SEVILLE – THE CELTIC MOVEMENT from CQN Books. Available at www.cqnbookstore.com
This is chapter 1 and was written by Alex Gordon.