EVAN WILLIAMS, who celebrated his 80th birthday on Saturday, may have had his run-ins with Jock Stein, but Celtic’s legendary manager never hesitated in giving the keeper the nod to play in Old Firm encounters.
The games against the club’s fiercest foes brought out the best in the netminder who recalled: “I played against Rangers 18 times – 14 wins, two draws and only two defeats.
“I think my overall shut-out rate was 46 per cent.”
It was an excellent record for the shotstopper who had arrived at the club from Wolves in October 1969 as Big Jock continued his search for a long-term replacement for veteran Lisbon Lion Ronnie Simpson.
JUST IN TIME…Evan Williams scoops the ball away from Rangers raider Willie Johnston as Jim Craig gets a worm’s eye view.
Williams can vividly recall his first derby and said: “I took my place in the tunnel at Ibrox behind Billy McNeill , but Bertie Auld squeezed in front. ‘Son,’ he said, ‘when you’ve done something for this club you can stand here. Billy’s the captain and I’m the general. I’ll go second today.’
“He asked me if I was nervous. I said I was excited. I was keen to find out if I could play in front of 80,000. If I couldn’t I knew it was probably Dumbarton or St Mirren for me.
“We had to wait ages for the Rangers boys. Referee Tiny Wharton had to rap on their door. Bertie must have thought the delay would get to me. Then John Greig and the rest of that crowd appeared.
“‘How are you doing, John?’ said Bertie. ‘Fine, Bertie,’ said John.
“‘John, this is our new goalie. He says he’s not nervous, he’s excited. Can you believe that?’
“Then Bertie said: ‘By the way, we’re on eight quid a man to beat you today.’
“Greig said: ‘We’re on 32 quid to beat you.’
Bertie said: ‘Aye, but our eight quid’s guaranteed!’”
Celtic won, Williams kept a clean sheet and he was on his way to an enviable record in the do-or-die Glasgow derbies.
*TOMORROW: Don’t miss Day Four of CQN’s EXCLUSIVE Evan Williams’ Celtic memories.