TOMMY GEMMELL revealed his club and country memories to friend and author Alex Gordon in his best-selling autobiography, ‘All The Best,’ published by CQN in 2014.
In the Part Four of our EXCLUSIVE series, we highlight the mystery of the Lisbon Lion who didn’t win a solitary cap while he was a first pick for Jock Stein and his all-conquering Celtic team.
The Hoops legend, who sadly passed away at the age of 73 on March 2 2017, discussed the puzzle.
Here is an edited extract from that chapter.
PLAYING for my country meant the world to me. One of my most magical moments – right up there with Lisbon – was making my Scotland debut against England at Hampden on the Saturday afternoon of April 2, 1966.
We lost 4-3 to the Auld Enemy, but it couldn’t take away the overwhelming feeling of honour I had when I stepped onto the pitch that day.
Of course, I had been in the national stadium’s stand to witness Scotland games, but to actually go out there and participate and to be taken aback by the sheer volume of noise and all those waving Lion Rampant flags was just something else altogether.
Hampden was just awash with tartan and that was something I had never experienced before as a player.
DEBUT BHOY…Tommy Gemmell prepares for his first Scotland appearance as John Greig leads out the team with keeper Bobby Ferguson behind him. Bobby Moore is the England captain in the game in April 1966 at Hampden with the visitors edging a seven-goal thriller.
Naturally, I was used to big and vociferous crowds at Celtic Park, but this was something different. I don’t know about Braveheart, but it made Tommy Gemmell’s heart beat a little faster, I can tell you. I loved it and I revelled in it.
That particular memory has a special place in my heart. Jimmy Johnstone netted twice and Denis Law beat the great Gordon Banks with a jack-in-the-box leap to fire a header high into the net.
And I remember, too, that we might have got a draw in the last minute when Willie Wallace, later to become a superb Celtic team-mate and loyal friend, had an effort cleared off the line by Nobby Stiles. Now, if that had gone in…
Being asked to withdraw from an international squad wasn’t unique to me, of course. Jimmy Johnstone was easily the best outside-right in the world in his heyday. He could have walked – or waltzed – into any of the great Brazil teams. No argument.
How many caps did Jinky pick up? Twenty-three. Bobby Murdoch was one of the best midfielders on the planet. How many caps? Twelve.
IT TAKES TWO…Tommy Gemmell and Bertie Auld come off the pitch following the 3-0 European Cup win over Benfica in November 1969. Portuguese striker Jose Torres is sandwiched between the delighted Hoops heroes.
The situation involving Bertie Auld was simply downright bizarre. He was one of the most magnificent passers of the ball I have ever seen. He was a crucial cog in the engine room of the Celtic team that conquered Europe and dominated the home and foreign fronts for so long.
How many caps? Three. And they were all won back in 1959 and 1960, long before he switched from an orthodox outside-left to a midfield berth where he excelled with his range of passing, incredible vision and quick thinking.
If you ever want to see two guys at the top of their game and taking over the middle of the park to dictate the entire 90 minutes of a football match, just watch a rerun of Bobby and Bertie against Inter Milan in the Portuguese capital in 1967.
They were unbelievable. Unstoppable. Unmatchable.
But Big Jock never had to offer Bertie a £50 tax free ‘inducement’ not to play for Scotland. Curiously, Bertie, one of the most wonderful exponents of the measured through ball in football, was never selected for any Scottish squad when he was at the peak of his considerable powers.
To be honest – and I’m not saying it because he is still a very good friend of mine – I find that unfathomable, simply beggaring belief.
PARADISE IN PORTUGAL…Bertie Auld and Tommy Gemmell celebrate along with matchwinner Stevie Chalmers at the full-time whistle of the historic European Cup Final triumph in Lisbon on May 25 1967.
Did Scotland have so many excellent left-sided midfield players back then that they could continually overlook Bertie? It would appear the selectors thought so. I know it didn’t bother my wee mate one jot.
He would look at a pool of players for an upcoming international and say, ‘I must be doing something right – Big Jock keeps picking me for Celtic every week.’
Oddly, every other player who won a European Cup medal would get a call-up at some point afterwards for Scotland. Ronnie Simpson, Jim Craig, Bobby Murdoch, Billy McNeill, John Clark, Jimmy Johnstone, Willie Wallace, Stevie Chalmers, Bobby Lennox and yours truly. However, there was never any sign of the name Bertie Auld.
As my pal might have said, ‘Ach, there’s no accounting for taste.’
Mind you, Bertie might not have done too much to push his claims by being sent off on his international debut while playing against Holland in Amsterdam back in 1959. I suppose Bertie was determined to mark the occasion.
He has always protested his innocence when fists and boots were flying around in a melee between both sets of players near the end of what had been a fairly explosive encounter which the Scots, incidentally, won 2-1.
However, a Dutch player took a dull one and collapsed as though he had just been struck by a freight train. The referee picked out Bertie as the culprit and he was immediately dismissed.
Two games later and that was his international career consigned to the dustbin. Strange things happen in the beautiful game.
* TOMORROW: Don’t miss Part Five of the EXCLUSIVE international revelations from the legendary Celt.