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CELTIC’S MOST IMPORTANT TRIUMPH – AND IT’S NOT LISBON: LEGEND REVEALS ALL

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FIFTY-FIVE years ago, Celtic beat Dunfermline 3-2 to win the Scottish Cup – the club’s first trophy success in eight agonising, barren years.

Midfield mastermind Bertie Auld, who netted two goals that day before Billy McNeill’s memorable winner, insists the barrier-breaking success was even more important to the Hoops than the historic European Cup victory over Inter Milan in Lisbon two years later.

To mark the anniversary, CQN are presenting the entire EXCLUSIVE chapter from Auld’s acclaimed autobiogarphy, ‘A Bhoy Called Bertie’, co-authored by Alex Gordon.

Enjoy the trip back of a lifetime as Bertie reveals all.

MY dad Joe would never have claimed to be one of life’s great philosophers, but there were occasions when he would make a remark that would make you sit up and listen.

After we had started the silverware landslide by beating Dunfermline 3-2 to lift the Scottish Cup in 1965, he said to me in a matter-of-fact tone, ‘You know, son, if Celtic keep playing like that, I’m going to be forced to leave an hour earlier to get my place in the Jungle on a Saturday.’

He could have said something vague along the lines of, ‘Celtic are playing well,’ and that would have been enough, but he always enjoyed putting his own particular spin on things. My dad and his pals had their own particular place on the terracing opposite the main stand. Older fans will surely remember the rusting ramshackle Jungle with affection.

Supporters used to cram in there and Celtic, for decades, never did anything to upgrade the place. A fan I knew said he could have found his place in this part of our ground blindfolded if it was raining. ‘How?’ I asked innocently. He answered, ‘Because there’s been a huge hole in the roof above me and it’s been like that for years. I get soaked when it’s pouring down.’ I countered, ‘Why don’t you shift?’ I was met with an incredulous stare. ‘Because it’s MY spot!’

My dad, you should know, could have got seats in the stand courtesy of his son, but he never took me up on my offer. He preferred to be with his pals in The Jungle.

IN THE NET…Bertie Auld and the ball are over the line for the first equaliser against the Fifers.

I’ve touched on our victory over Dunfermline all those years ago and, for me, it was the breakthrough to all the good things that were awaiting us. Actually, that was one helluva game that see-sawed throughout a dramatic 90 minutes. I couldn’t have had a clue as to what was around the corner when we went a goal behind in only fifteen minutes of that Cup Final.

Our defence failed to clear their lines and the ball fell kindly for Harry Melrose to hammer into the net past our grounded keeper John Fallon. We could have thought, ‘Here we go again.’ Things, under Big Jock, had changed somewhat dramatically, though. I looked at my team-mates and I realised they felt to a man just like me, ‘We’re going to win this one’ seemed to be the unified message.

Sixteen minutes later I was lying on my backside in the Fifers’ net, but I wasn’t one bit upset. The ball was also sitting there beside me. I had equalised. I remember the goal like it was yesterday. John Clark slid a pass to Charlie Gallagher and he took a couple of steps forward, shaped to play it wide, changed pace and then sent a thunderbolt of a shot towards their goal from about thirty yards.

Jim Herriot, the Fifers’ extremely competent goalkeeper who would become a team-mate of mine at Hibs later on, threw himself at Charlie’s effort, but he failed to divert its course and it thumped against the face of the crossbar. I saw my chance as the ball swirled high into the air. Herriot was on the ground and was desperately trying to get back to his feet as I moved in for the kill. The ball seemed to be suspended by an invisible hand. It appeared to be up there for ages.

I was aware of their right-back Willie Callaghan coming in at speed from my right. He was wasting his time – I was never going to miss this opportunity. The ball came floating back down after what seemed an eternity and I launched myself at it to head it over the line. One-one – game on!

BANG…Bertie Auld slams the second leveller beyond keeper Jim Herriot.

It was never like this Celtic’s side to do anything the easy way. It even took us a replay against Motherwell to reach this stage; drawing 2-2 in the first game before winning 3-0 in the second encounter. Once again, we gave ourselves a mountain to climb when we gave away a daft free-kick smack in front of goal about twenty yards out. There was only a minute to go until the interval. Could we hold out? No-one should have been unduly surprised when Melrose touched the ball sideways and their big centre-forward John McLaughlin toe-ended it through our crumbling defensive wall.

From where I was standing, it still looked saveable, but it  managed to elude the grasp of our keeper, low down to his right. Bang on half-time is an awful time to hand the iniative to your opponents for all the obvious reasons. They go in buoyed up by the goal and we get to the dressing room wondering if the fates are conspiring against us again. The one thing I recall vividly in the interval team-talk is that not one of us believed we would lose. The worst we thought we could get was a draw and another game as they had replays in those days. Thankfully, we didn’t need it.

‘Get that early goal,’ ordered Big Jock as we left the dressing room for the second-half. ‘Get that early goal and we’ll win this game.’ Prophetic words, indeed. Seven minutes into the second period and Tommy Gemmell turned the ball to me and I swiftly passed it to Bobby Lennox. He took off like a sprinter on the left and I chased into the penalty area. Bobby couldn’t have hit a sweeter pass into the danger area and I arrived on the button to first time a right-foot shot low past the helpless Herriot. Two-Two – we’re going to win!

CUP THAT CHEERS…Bertie Auld chairs captain and matchwinner Billy McNeill after the crucial silverware breakthrough.

It couldn’t have been scripted better. With nine minutes remaining we were pushing for the winner and it looked as though the Fifers were the ones who would have been happier with a second chance. We won a corner-kick out on the left and Gallagher trotted over to take it. We were all making nuisances of ourselves in the box, darting this way and that, in an effort to leave a gap for Big Billy to expose.

Charlie duly delivered with sublime accuracy, Billy was exactly where he should have been and he did precisely what we wanted him to do. Our skipper soared high above everyone to get his head to the ball as Herriot frantically grasped thin air behind him. There was perfect contact with head and ball and there was the very satisfying thud as the sphere reached its destination and strangled itself in the net. Three-Two – we’ve won the Cup!

I’ve always maintained that was a massive victory for Celtic. I will never think otherwise. It shows you how much things have changed in football when you look back at the crowd for that game – 108,800 was the official figure, but I think more than a few extra thousands must have scaled the walls.

The receipts were a record at the time – ú36,973. Celtic and Dunfermline each got ú14,397. An average Premier League player wouldn’t get out of bed if that was his weekly wage these days.

This triumph was not about cash, though. It was about bringing back that winning feeling to Celtic Football Club. We succeeded and that sparked the most sensational and spectacular period in the club’s history.

I’m glad I got to play a part.

 
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