CELTIC enjoyed one of their most satisfying and spectacular Scottish Cup Final triumphs EXACTLY 54 years ago today.
On a bright, cloudless afternoon on the south side of Glasgow, Jock Stein’s team were due to meet old foes Rangers in a grand finale at Hampden.
The Hoops were 90 minutes away from sealing a glorious treble and their city rivals were determined to halt the Parkhead juggernaut in its tracks. Didn’t quite work out that way.
GRAND FINALE…captain Billy McNeill with the Scottish Cup 54 years ago today while keeper John Fallon, Bertie Auld and Tommy Gemmell wait to be presented with their winner’s medal.
An unstoppable Celtic eased to a breathtaking four-goal victory after racing into a 3-0 lead by the interval. It was a peerless performance by Stein’s side and the men pulling the strings in the middle of the park with a masterful presentation were Bobby Murdoch and Bertie Auld.
The irrepressible Bertie, who sadly passed away at the age of 83 in November 2021, was at his gifted and graceful best as he swept mesmerisingly across the lush playing surface at the national stadium that unforgettable afternoon.
The midfield mastermind recalled the celebration in his best-selling autobiography, ‘A Bhoy Called Bertie‘, co-authored by his friend Alex Gordon, which was published in 2008.
In ANOTHER CQN EXCLUSIVE, here is an edited extract from that chapter.
“A CUP FINAL that will never be erased from the Auld memory bank was the meeting for the Scottish Cup on April 26, 1969 at Hampden which once again was packed to the rafters long before kick-off time.
“Rangers had been playing well and had overwhelmed an excellent Aberdeen team 6-1 in the semi-final. We had beaten a more modest Morton side 4-1 on our way to Hampden.
“I believe our rivals were favourites that day. They were without the suspended Colin Stein, who had been scoring so many goals since his £100,000 transfer from Hibs. However, we were also going to be going into the game minus the skills of Jinky Johnstonewho, like his Rangers counterpart, was banned from the occasion. John Hughes, too, was sidelined with injury.
“The match turned into a stroll for us in the most remarkable of circumstances. Bobby Lennox took a corner from the left wing in the second minute and flighted in an inviting cross. Now everyone and their auntie knew about our skipper Billy McNeill’s prowess in the air.
WALKING ON AIR…Billy McNeill leaps for joy after heading Celtic into an early lead against Rangers in 1969. The captain is about to be congratulated by Bertie Auld.
“He was virtually unbeatable and his timing was impeccable. He surely couldn’t have believed his good fortune when he got the freedom of Hampden to leap unchallenged, snap his neck muscles, make immaculate contact and send the ball soaring past the static Norrie Martin and into the net off the post.
“I had been told the Rangers manager, Davie White, had detailed a guy called Alex Ferguson to pick up our captain at set-pieces. However, there was no sign of their centre-forward when Caesar timed his run into their penalty area to complete perfection.
“The Ibrox bosses couldn’t have been happy with Ferguson because he never played another first team game for them. I wonder whatever happened to him!
MAGNIFICENT SEVEN…George Connelly glides past fallen keeper Norrie Martin and is about the do likewise to covering defender Ronnie McKinnon as he prepares to score Celtic’s third goal in the 4-0 romp.
“We simply rolled all over our opponents that day and were an incredible three goals up before the half-time whistle sounded. Lennox, so often the torturer-in-chief against the Ibrox side, rolled in the second and George Connelly got the third with astonishing assurance from a such a youngster who was hardly a first-team regular.
“Rangers made a complete mess of a goal-kick. The keeper knocked it to John Grieg and he carried it about six yards before shaping to pass the ball. Big Geordie anticipated the actions from the Rangers skipper and intercepted the ball.
“He then waltzed round his startled opponent, strolled away from centre-half Ronnie McKinnon, walked the ball round Martin and plonked it in the pokey. It was such impudence from a young boy from Fife who probably wouldn’t have been in the side that afternoon if Jinky hadn’t been suspended.
THE CUP THAT CHEERS…Bertie Auld (on floor, right) celebrates an unforgettable triumph with his ecstatic team-mates in the Hampden dressing room.
“The fourth goal summed up our day as we made about six or seven passes to sweep the ball upfield. As I recall, Tommy Gemmell started the ball rolling with a clearance to me. I put it across to Bobby Murdoch who gave it back to me.
“I waited for my midfield partner to advance and I passed it to him again and he delivered a defence-shredding ball into the path of Stevie Chalmers. Rangers hadn’t a clue what was going on.
“Stevie, who had pace to burn, simply took off towards the unprotected Martin as McKinnon tried desperately to get back.
“Lennox, as you might expect, raced with Stevie in support, but his colleague was in no mood to share the glory. Stevie shaped to pass across goal and then nonchalantly flicked the ball off the outside of his boot and into the net at the near post.
“Rangers were well and truly routed.