BERTIE AULD, the legendary Lisbon Lion celebrated his 82nd birthday on Monday by sharing some of his memories with CQN followers.
Today, the Celtic great again delves into his treasure trove of Old Firm recollections.
Auld says: “There was always something extremely special about these encounters. I absolutely loved playing on these occasions.”
The Hoops icon opens the pages of his autobiography, ‘A Bhoy Called Bertie’, co-authored by his friend Alex Gordon, for some special revelations.
“I SAY, I SAY, I SAY! My autobiography which was
published in 2008.”
NITRO often merged with glycerine when Celtic met Rangers. Old Firm games were never always classical, but I believe you could say without fear of contradiction that they were most certainly always confrontational. They could be enjoyable; they could be exasperating. And, yes, they could be explosive.
I never needed any extra motivation to go out and give my very best when I was playing against anyone. Just pulling that green-and-white hooped shirt over my head was enough to get me fired up and raring to go.
I always remember signing for the club first time around and Jimmy McGrory insisting, ‘You must be able to fill that jersey, Bertie.’ Even as a 17-year-old I knew exactly what he meant. However, there was always something extremely energising when a match against Rangers was coming up.
I have heard all about the other derby occasions such as the Merseyside, Manchester, Milan and Madrid encounters. Of course, I’ve also been involved in the Midlands version. There are games throughout the world that people insist is THE derby.
With the greatest of respect, forget those observations. I don’t think for one fleeting second any other match on this planet could hold a candle to the Old Firm games. You’ve got to be involved in them to appreciate what these contests are all about. Passions from the fans would rocket through the stratosphere and some of these tussles should have carried a Government Health Warning such was the ferocity at which they were played.
Celtic supporters would be coming up to you days before the game and imploring, ‘Beat them for us, Bertie.’ Or ‘Don’t let us down, please.’ And so it went on. No pressure there, then.
I loved that rivalry. I thrived on these head-on collisions where no quarter was asked or given and the fans on both sides conjured up their own special – if that’s the right word – atmosphere. Bonhomie deserted Glasgow when these games took place. Instead, it was replaced by bedlam. If you were not prepared mentally or physically for these 90 minutes of combat they would overwhelm you.
Both sets of supporters gave it pelters and you could hear the racket that was being generated down in the dressing rooms as you prepared for these games.
You came out the tunnel and it never ceased to astonish me what I was about to encounter. In those days the games were played with the Celtic supporters in one half of the ground and their Rangers counterparts in the other half. It was a 50/50 split. That’s changed nowadays, of course, with so many ticket holders at both clubs.
The away fans are herded into a section behind a goal and, of course, they are heavily outnumbered in the chanting stakes. You knew you were going to get stick when you played in these confrontations.
“GETTING SHIRTY…me and my pal Alex Gordon, who
co-authored my autobiography. I presented him with a Celtic top signed by the Lisbon Lions. I think he was chuffed!”
There seemed to be an ignorance among a fair percentage of the Rangers support who didn’t seem to realise my parents, Peggy and Joe, had actually been married a few years before Robert Auld Esq debuted on this planet. And I’ve got the birth certificate to prove it.
Did I find it offensive? If they were screaming abuse at me at least they were leaving some other player alone. Embarrassed? I’m a Glaswegian – you couldn’t give me a red face with a blowtorch!
You got the distinct impression that Old Firm fans just lived for these games. To some, it didn’t matter that their club didn’t win any silverware – just so long as they beat their illustrious rivals when we locked horns. The vitriol bounced around the ground and created a din from start to finish. I’m fairly sure that a huge percentage of those fans parked their brains outside the ground before the game and picked them up afterwards.
But forget all the bigotry and the like that is associated with these clashes. Believe me, both sets of players, ourselves as well as the Rangers lads, didn’t get involved in any of that. We both wanted to win. It was as simple as that. If you were an over-sensitive wee soul then Glasgow on derby day was not the place for you. The faint of heart were advised they would be far better off staying indoors when these games loomed on the horizon.
Obviously, I’ve got some fabulous memories of these games, including my debut first time around against the Ibrox outfit in a Glasgow Cup-tie in 1957. I was playing at outside-left and was up against the legendary Geordie Young. He really was an icon, captain of club and country, and was a monster of a man. But he played me fairly that evening, I have to say that and, if memory serves correctly, we lost 1-0. For me, though, it was such an extraordinary occasion. The first of many I’m glad to say.
I recall another Glasgow Cup-tie at Ibrox in 1966 when I wished a black hole would open up and I could throw myself into it. I was ashamed of my performance that night which was rather strange because Celtic won 4-0! We did well as a team and Lemon, Bobby Lennox, netted a fabulous hat-trick with skipper Billy McNeill getting the opener.
But I wasn’t satisfied with my display on a personal level. It was just 90 minutes when I could do little right and I was growing increasingly frustrated with myself as passes went astray all over the place. I was playing like I had just been introduced to a football minutes before the kick-off.
We went into that game absolutely determined to beat Rangers. In fact, we wanted to hammer them; to rub their noses in it. We had played our old foes in the Scottish Cup Final only a couple of months beforehand and had somehow contrived to lose 1-0 in the replay after having the bulk of the play and possession over the two games. Our name wasn’t on the Cup that year.
I believe Rangers had one shot at goal in the entire three hours of the two encounters. It was from their Danish right-back Kai Johansen and his 25-yard effort simply flew past a startled Ronnie Simpson. There were only about 15 minutes or so to go at Hampden and we were stunned, to put it mildly, that we were losing 1-0. Big Jock later blamed Yogi, our outside-left John Hughes, for not tracking back and picking up Johansen. That was a wee bit harsh because we shouldn’t even having been playing that night – we should have finished the job in the first game that ended goalless.
“THE CUP THAT CHEERS…me with the European Cup. Who could ever forget that evening in Lisbon?”
Big Billy came closest to scoring in the Saturday clash when he hit the crossbar with a header. I missed that game, but I returned instead of Charlie Gallagher for the second match.
So, as well as everything else, we had revenge on our mind in that Glasgow Cup-tie at Ibrox. It didn’t matter in which competition we were playing – and no-one could claim the Glasgow Cup was the most glamorous tournament – we were hell bent on making our rivals pay big-style for stealing the Scottish Cup.
Our captain, Big Billy, got the opener with a shot from close-range after Rangers failed to clear a corner-kick and then Lemon took over with a tremendous hat-trick. So, our supporters were delirious at seeing the Rangers keeper Billy Ritchie pick the ball out of his net four times while Faither, in our goal, could have taken out a deck chair and read a good book such was the inactivity around our penalty area.
I still wasn’t satisfied, though. I did make one lung-bursting run that took away a couple of defenders and allowed Lemon to score one of his three goals. Big Jock always possessed the ability to surprise you with his observations and he made a fuss of that run from me. ‘Excellent work there, Bertie,’ he said. Maybe he knew I wasn’t happy at my overall performance and was just geeing me up.
Mind you, he could put you down, too. If you were caught swaggering around believing you had just put in a world-beating display, he was there to remind you of the things that hadn’t worked out. No-one was going to get big-headed with this bloke around.
Ibrox was the setting for another game where I came off the pitch a bit demoralised. It was back in the early Sixties and we lost 2-1. It wasn’t the defeat that got to me, though. It was the fact I had been involved in a sickening collision with their left-back Davie Provan that saw him carried off with a broken leg. I was horrified when I realised the Rangers defender was so badly injured. To this day TG, Tommy Gemmell, insists he could hear the awful crack as Provan’s leg gave way. And he was on the other side of the pitch, too.
There is always a lot of innuendo, insinuations and wild stories when a player is seriously injured and, with the Old Firm, there are always added ingredients. You are on the receiving end of some outrageous claims and, naturally enough, some of the Ibrox support believed I had ‘done’ their player. Absolute nonsense.
I had switched over to the right for a brief spell as Chopper, Bobby Murdoch, moved to the left. We did that every now and again just to freshen things up and give the opposition something else to think about. I remember chasing a ball down the right flank at the Celtic end of the ground that afternoon. I was very much aware that Provan was coming across to tackle me.
I got there a fraction before him to send over a right foot cross. Just as I delivered the ball, the Rangers player’s outstretched left leg appeared on the scene. I couldn’t stop my momentum and, equally, he couldn’t pull out of the tackle. There was a crunch as my boot made contact with his leg and he went down. I knew immediately it was a bad one. I felt sick, but it was a complete accident.
‘HOOP, HOOP, HOORAY! Happy days with Celtic.”
Later in another Old Firm derby Rangers skipper John Greig broke Bobby Lennox’s leg and, as I said earlier, Celtic fans were far from convinced it was purely accidental. Again, that wasn’t fair on Greigy. Lemon was the first to absolve the Rangers player of all blame.
I should say here that Davie Provan was a player for whom I had massive respect. I saw him play against Jinky on loads of occasions and I don’t think he ever kicked our winger. He might have been given the runaround, and I hope he doesn’t mind me saying that, but he never stooped to underhand means to stop Jinky.
It must have been frustrating facing the Wee Man when he was at his tantalising best. Being taken apart in front of thousands watching on cannot be too pleasant. But Davie never lost the rag and never tried to boot our player. You could not say that about too many left-backs Jinky came up against back then. In fact, I rated the Rangers lad so highly as a person as well as a professional that I gave him a job on our backroom staff when I was manager of Partick Thistle.
And, just to underline how well we still get on, Davie was a guest among the Lisbon Lions at my surprise 70th birthday bash at the Burnside Hotel in Rutherglen in March 2008.
He reminded me that night of the story of how he reckons he saved Jinky’s life! Some nutcase managed to get onto the pitch at Ibrox and made a beeline for our player. Davie is convinced the yob was carrying some sort of object in his hand. You could be certain he wasn’t about to make a presentation to Jinky to congratulate him on another fine performance.
However, as he raced past the Rangers player, Big Davie did a quick bit of thinking and grabbed the would-be assailant. He wrestled him to the ground and the police eventually frogmarched the intruder off the field and up the tunnel. Well done, Davie!
I’ve got loads of happy memories, of course. Back on a gloriously sunny evening in August 1967 we faced our old foes in a League Cup-tie. We knew a victory would put us through; a defeat would knock us out of the tournament we had won the previous year when a goal from Lemon gave us a 1-0 triumph over Rangers in the final at Hampden. I’ll talk about that game in a moment.
We were smack in trouble, though, as Rangers took the lead on our ground and were then awarded a penalty-kick deep into the second-half. Something remarkable happened after that and it gave us all the wake-up call we urgently needed. Kai Johansen stepped up to take the kick and thumped it high past Faither, aka Ronnie Simpson.
But the ball crashed against the underside of the crossbar, bounced down and a posse of Rangers players raced into the box to get to the rebound. Johansen was first on the scene and got his head to the bouncing ball. I’m sure there were a couple of other Rangers players in the vicinity who wanted to finish off the job. The referee immediately awarded Celtic a free-kick because Johansen had two consecutive touches of the ball without the opposition getting a kick.
Every Celtic player took a deep breath. We knew we had been let out of jail. We realised how fortunate we had been. There was no getting away from it. We had been given a second chance; a lifeline and we grabbed it.
Willie Wallace levelled after their goalkeeper Erik Sorensen failed to clear a corner-kick and, in rapid succession, Chopper, Bobby Murdoch, put us 2-1 ahead and Lemon, Wee Bobby Lennox, finished it with the third. The Rangers players looked aghast and who could blame them? They were twelve minutes away from taking a 2-0 lead and then, in a whirlwind spell, we had completely turned it around and finished 3-1 winners. I’m glad to say we went on to beat Dundee 5-3 in the final to retain the trophy.
A year before that was another occasion where Rangers didn’t know what hit them and were two goals down inside the first three minutes. These games were normally quite tight as the opposition weighed up each other in the opening spell – just like two boxers in the first round. On this occasion, though, I scored in the first minute and Chopper flighted in a gorgeous second from the edge of the box.
I had a good laugh when I scored and my old mate Joe McBride – Jose to his friends – won’t thank me for this recollection. Wee Jinky fired over an inviting cross from the right and it looked as though Jose was certain to score. He lashed at it and got a fair chunk of fresh air. The ball carried through to me and I planted it behind Billy Ritchie.
Now Jose didn’t know whether to congratulate me or burst into tears. He is one of the biggest Celtic fans you are ever likely to meet, but, and I believe I am right here, I don’t think he ever scored a goal for us against our Old Firm rivals. Yet the guy was so prolific against just about every other team in the league. He racked up 35 goals in 1966 before sustaining a horrendous knee injury against Aberdeen at Pittodrie on Christmas Eve. That was the end of the season for this genuinely lovely bloke yet he still finished as the top goalscorer in the country.
Jose didn’t even get on the scoresheet in the January 3 game in 1966 when Celtic beat Rangers 5-1. Stevie Chalmers snatched a hat-trick with Chopper and Gallagher adding two more. The extraordinary thing about this match was that our Ibrox pals had led 1-0 at half-time after a 90-second goal from Davy Wilson.
Talking about Gallagher, I must say he was a very clever and cultured player, but Big Jock didn’t believe we could play in the same formation. That was more than a little strange because Charlie and I played in the 1965 Scottish Cup Final success over Dunfermline and combined to score our first goal. Jock stuck to his guns, though, and, therefore, we rarely teamed up in midfield.
Charlie, of course, could have gone elsewhere and been guaranteed first team football, but he loved Celtic so much he decided to stay and hope he would get his opportunity. When he was called up, I can tell you he never let the team down. Not once.
“IN PARADISE…on the run for the team of my dreams in front
of the best fans on the planet.”
Games against Rangers never passed without incident, take it from me. I recall getting a telling off from the Celtic management after a daft wee incident against Rangers. Their big defender Harold Davis scored an own goal in a Glasgow Cup-tie at Parkhead in 1960 and I couldn’t prevent myself from ruffling his hair as I raced past him. It was meant to be playful, but Davis, who was built like a heavyweight boxer, didn’t find it amusing.
I must have been on the brave pills to have done such a thing because Davis never took any prisoners when he was out on the pitch. I think he had been decorated in the war, too. As I ran back up the park I looked over my shoulder and there was the Rangers defender, red-faced with steam coming out his nostrils, chasing after me. I didn’t realise I could run so fast. Thankully, he didn’t catch me and simmered down shortly afterwards.
My Celtic bosses didn’t see the humour in the incident, either. ‘That is not the Celtic way,’ I was told. ‘That is not the way we expect our players to behave.’ Ach, I was only having a laugh.
Actually, the same thing happened in reverse in a Scottish Cup-tie at Parkhead in February 1970. This time Cairney, Jim Craig, put the ball behind Evan Williams to net for Rangers and Willie Johnston patted our disconsolate right-back on the head. Cairney, thankfully for the Ibrox forward, didn’t possess a short fuse on his temperament and at least didn’t race after him all the way to the halfway line. It didn’t matter in the end as we won 3-1 with goals from Jinky, Lemon and Davie Hay.
The fans up in the stands or on the terracings who roar their heads off and those who spit bile and venom from start to finish at Old Firm games would never believe it, but there were moments of levity among the swinging boots in these torrid encounters. Big TG knew he was always in for a tough time of it when he was up against wee Willie Henderson.
He was a pacy right-winger who was always at his happiest running directly at defenders with the ball. TG used to try to show him inside and pass him onto one of the other defenders to stop him in his tracks. I think Willie would be the first to admit his left foot was only for standing on.
There was one game when TG and Willie were going at it hammer and tongs. The challenges were thundering in all over the place and on one occasion my big Celtic pal caught the wee Ranger and sent him flying. The raging Ibrox support was demanding the referee send off TG and I saw Willie having a bit of backchat with my team-mate.
I sidled up minutes afterwards and asked Tommy, ‘What was the wee man complaining about?’ Tommy laughed and answered, ‘He was just saying if he had known he would be up in the air so much this afternoon he would have brought a parachute!’
On another occasion, Greigy, who also revelled in these encounters, went over to the Celtic end to fetch the ball for a throw-in. A voice exclaimed, ‘Greig, I didn’t realise you were such a dirty bastard.’ The Rangers captain swiftly replied, ‘Have you not been watching me all season!’
Between September 6 1958 and January 1 1960 I played four league games against Rangers and Celtic didn’t win one of them. We drew the first 2-2 at Parkhead with goals from Eric Smith and Bobby Collins. The next was on January 1 1959 and, despite a goal from Bertie Peacock, we went down 2-1 at Ibrox.
The next came on September 5 the same year and we lost 3-1 with Mike Jackson getting our consolation effort. And the misery continued in the New Year derby when I played inside-right in a team beaten 1-0 at Parkhead. Around that period Rangers regularly beat Celtic and you can’t argue that they were the better team with better players. They were also organised which certainly wasn’t the case at Parkhead until Jock returned to sweep through the place with the force of a hurricane.
“AUTHOR! AUTHOR! Me with Alex again, this time at the launch of his second novel, ‘What Spooked Crazy Horse?’ ”
Thankfully, I had better fortune against the boys from Govan during my second spell at Celtic. I remember a smashing League Cup Final against them on 29 October, 1966 when 94,532 crammed into Hampden. We all realised it was going to be a fabulous piece of skill or a huge blunder to break down the barriers both defences had erected.
Luckily, we conjured up something to get the only goal of the game. I sent over a nice pass and Jose McBride magnificently back-headed the ball into the tracks of the inrushing Lemon. The wee man from Saltcoats took the ball first time in his stride and it was in the back of the net before the Rangers keeper, Norrie Martin, could move. Jose might not have scored against our deadly rivals, but he more than played his part in helping us to beat them back then.
Another Cup Final that will never be erased from the Auld memory bank was the meeting for the Scottish Cup on April 26, 1969 at the national stadium which again was packed. 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 who, 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. Lemon 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 Caesar’s prowess in the air. 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 Martin and into the net off the post.
I’m 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!
We simply rolled all over our opponents that day and were an incredible three goals up before the half-time whistle sounded. Lemon, 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 Griegy 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 fourth goal summed up our day as we made about six or seven passes to sweep the ball upfield. As I recall TG started the ball rolling with a clearance to me. I put it across to Chopper 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.
Lemon, 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. Happy days!
Of course, as I said earlier, it wasn’t all sweetness and light on these occasions. I was left seething after a January 2 1968 clash at Parkhead. Chopper and I had scored and we were the dominant force that day. Yet we dropped a point in a disappointing 2-2 draw and our keeper, John Fallon, had a howler. Okay, your goalkeeper can make one mistake and you have to accept it.
We are all human, after all, and there is often no way back for your last line of defence if he makes an error. John – or Peter as he was known and I’ll tell you why in a moment – blundered twice to gift Rangers their result. The first was bad enough as he allowed a half-hit shot from Johnston to go through his legs. However, we still thought we had done enough to rack up a victory when we were leading with about a minute to go. Johansen – that guy again! – tried a speculative shot from about 40 yards out on the right.
I recall it was a foggy afternoon and I don’t know if our keeper saw the effort properly. But it was a sclaffed shot from such a long way out and shouldn’t have given him any trouble. He could have thrown his bunnet on it, as they used to say. However, Peter dived right over the top of the ball as it squeezed under him. Even the Rangers players couldn’t believe it. I swear that neither of their shots that day had enough oomph even to touch the back of the net. They simply crawled over the line.
Peter was a dejected figure as he sat in the dressing room. He didn’t need to be told he had performed miserably. At least, he lived up to his nickname! We called him Peter after a character called Peter Brady in the popular television series The Invisible Man. Fallon, who could be some shotstopper when he was on form, would often go AWOL. The defenders would look round and think, ‘Where on earth has our goalkeeper gone now?’ I think he enjoyed a wee walkabout his goal area when it might have been a better idea to remain on his line.
There was another occasion when Rangers beat us and we should have thanked them for that. Let me hastily explain just in case you think I have taken leave of my senses. A goal from their Swedish winger Orjan Persson gave them a 1-0 victory at Ibrox in September 1967 and, as European champions, we were so sickened by the defeat that we didn’t lose another league game throughout the campaign.
That was only the second league match of the season, too. We were angry with ourselves. We didn’t think we had done ourselves justice that particular afternoon and we all vowed to make sure there would be no more slip-ups. And so it proved. Celtic became the first club since 1935 to secure a hat-trick of titles and we did it by scoring 106 goals and conceding a mere 24 from 34 games. That was the best league campaign in Big Jock’s years.
By the way, I am sorry to inform the Rangers support that they did not beat the European champions that day. I have heard it said many times that the Ibrox loss was the first by the Lisbon Lions, but that is not the case. Davie Cattenach, a talented utility player, was in at right-back for Jim Craig at Ibrox, so that was not the team that had conquered Europe. Thought I might just clear that one up!
Old Firm games, of course, were seen as the absolute acid test. You would swiftly discover the stature of friend and foe in these meetings. Some could handle it and others, unfortunately, simply disappeared off the radar. These games engulfed them and stifled their abilities. The intensity, the sheer insanity of it all, in fact, turned some legs to jelly. You could touch the electricity in the air in the dressing room before kick-off.
“ON THE BALL…don’t ask me where the hat came from!”
The cacophony of noise, as I said, carried downstairs and you knew what you were about to encounter. Some could go out and show off. Others, alas, could go out and switch off. The entire atmosphere could suck the strength out of some players’ muscles. There was a lot of excessive muscular activity around. That’s nervous tension to you and me. Folk have said the ball was like a hot potato in these confrontations. Hot potato? More like a live hand grenade, as far I am concerned.
One Celtic manager was asked his views when a vitally important Old Firm match was only days away. The inquisitor wanted to know how he was feeling. In that special Glasgow sense of humour, he replied, ‘It’s time to look out the big nappies!’ Strange way to the answer query, I suppose, but it got the message across loud and clear. There was absolutely no hiding place and a few backsides fainted at the prospect of the hurly burly that is unique to the Old Firm.
Each player handled the strain in his own particular fashion. Some, naturally enough, were more on edge than others. Big TG, for instance, could have been preparing to go out and smell the flowers as he got ready. Some players, like Stevie Chalmers, liked to be well prepared about an hour before the start. TG would be out dispensing tickets to supporters and chatting to friends before wandering into the dressing room looking as though he didn’t have a care in the world. He was always one of the last to get dressed.
That routine didn’t seem to do him any harm at all. I read somewhere that a former player has admitted he used to put his fingers down his throat to help him throw up before going to play. That seems a bit drastic.
I would like to think I stood up to be counted on these occasions. Back in Big Jock’s days we went into these meetings brimming with confidence. We knew we had better players than Rangers and, if it came to a fight, we could also give as good as we got. One guy who never shirked an Old Firm game was my wee pal Jinky. There wasn’t much of him, but he had the heart of a lion.
‘THE LAST HURRAH…my farewell to Celtic, chaired by Tommy Gemmell and Billy McNeill with Willie Wallace joining in.”
Actually, Jinky was a really powerfully-built guy. He had tremendous upperbody strength and that was because he trained so hard. He always reminded me of a light-middleweight boxer in his physical stature. He was strong, too. He was rarely injured and that suspends belief when you consider the amount of kicking he took during 90 minutes. The Wee Man enjoyed life, as we all did, but he never abused his body.
There was one game on 6 May, 1967 at Ibrox when the Wee Man put on as spellbinding display you could ever wish to witness. He was unstoppable that day and when you consider the conditions it made it even more astonishing. The game was played in monsoon conditions and it poured down from the heavens all day. The pitch quickly became a bog and you would expect someone who measured up to 5ft 4in to be swallowed up by the conditions. Not Wee Jinky. He decided to pirouette and prance all over the place while other players couldn’t keep their feet on an extremely tricky surface.
We were due to play Inter Milan in the European Cup Final nineteen days later and their manager Helenio Herrera was in the stand that day to run the rule over his opponents. He couldn’t have failed to be massively impressed by the Wee Man. It ended in a 2-2 draw and Jinky got both our goals. That draw also sealed the league title for us. I will always remember that awesome performance by our winger. He was skipping past defenders like they weren’t there, setting up opportunities, scoring himself and generally just creating chaos in the Rangers rearguard.
The Ibrox side actually took the lead when Sandy Jardine rifled a long-range drive into the top corner. It was hit so well and with such marvellous accuracy that Faither didn’t even bother going for the ball as it soared past him. Cue Wee Jinky to enter proceedings. Lemon smacked an effort off the upright and, before their keeper Martin could get back to his feet, Jinky came flying in to prod the rebound over the line for the equaliser.
His next effort was just a shade more spectacular. Rangers were making a real game of it because they didn’t want their oldest foes to clinch a title on their own pitch. Also, they were a very good team at the time. They reached the European Cup-Winners’ Cup Final that year only to lose 1-0 in extra-time to the formidable Bayern Munich, Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Muller et al.
However, they just could not pin down Jinky. He was irrepressible as he weaved around the pitch with that wonderful mazy, snake-hipped style of his. It was still locked at 1-1 when he decided to come wandering inside; the ball, as ever, glued to his toe. Rangers backed off, their defenders wondering where he was going. The ball was on his left foot and their defenders seemed quite relaxed about letting him drift inside. That was a mistake.
Despite the atrocious conditions, the driving rain in his face and the pitch now a quagmire, Jinky, with his jersey soaken wet and flapping outside his shorts and socks down at his ankles, looked up and from about 25 yards sent a left foot effort thundering high past the startled Martin. He made a superhuman effort to stop the drive, but there has been no goalie born who could have kept that shot out of the net. Even Jinky’s team-mates were left open-mouthed at this piece of genius.
It was truly astounding and the watching Herrera must have had a sinking feeling as he saw this piece of magic from our diminutive winger. God knows where he summoned up the power to launch that blistering effort into the roof of the net. He didn’t just beat the Rangers defenders that day, he also took on and beat the elements. They got a late leveller through Roger Hynd, but it didn’t matter. We had all witnessed a virtuoso display by a genuine world-class player. And we also had our second successive title to boot!
You could always rely on Jinky rising to the occasion – as he did even as an 18-year-old in the 1963 Scottish Cup Final against Rangers. I was at Birmingham City at the time and would rejoin my old club two years later, but I was still keeping tabs on all things Celtic. I received reports that Jinky had been magnificent at Hampden and was hugely influential in helping the team to a 1-1 draw.
Chopper scored the goal and Frank Haffey, one of life’s truly eccentric goalkeepers, had a tremendous game to defy Rangers time and time again. But I was told Jinky had a stormer and worked the left-hand side of the Rangers defence all day with his outstanding dribbling.
“HAPPY DAZE…a salute to the wonderful Celtic supporters.”
The Wee Man must have been looking forward to the replay. Remember, Celtic had lost both their league games to their opponents, 1-0 and 4-0, that season. Jinky hadn’t played in either of these defeats. So the 1-1 draw was a step in the right direction as everyone with Celtic at heart believed. The winger’s reward for his scintillating performance in the first game? He was dropped! It could only happen at Parkhead back then.
Rangers must have been overjoyed at the news. There was a lot of meddling with the team, of course, and chairman Bob Kelly would have had made that unfathomable decision. Into Jinky’s place came a guy called Bobby Craig and he must have been as surprised as anyone that he got the nod over the Wee Man. Jinky watched from the Hampden stand as Rangers ran amok and eased to a 3-0 replay triumph.
Why did Craig get the go-ahead to play in the second game? Your guess is as good as mine, but there was a train of thought that Celtic had paid a few thousand quid to Blackburn Rovers for him and they wanted to show it had been money well spent by a board of directors who would never become famous for throwing cash around. Now they were looking to get something back for their investment. It didn’t quite work out and, in fact, Craig never played for Celtic again. Jinky missed a handful of games at the start of the next campaign, but was back in his rightful berth on the right wing for pretty much the rest of the season. Someone must have seen the error of their ways, but they never owned up!
I wasn’t to know it at the time, but I would line up against Rangers in a Celtic jersey for the last time on January 3, 1970. After being involved in so many enthralling, engrossing, frantic, hectic Old Firm games throughout the years this one passed fairly quietly.
It ended goalless and there wasn’t much to note except it was a bitterly cold afternoon in the east end of Glasgow. What a way to say farewell to the most memorable and intoxicating fixture in the world.
* TOMORROW: ‘BIG JOCK AND ME’. Bertie Auld reveals all about his life and times with Celtic’s legendary manager. Another exclusive in your champion CQN.