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 Tommy Gemmell 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!’
READY TO GO…Bertie Auld prepares for a game at Ibrox.
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.
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 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.
ON THE BALL…Bertie Auld with his usual poise.
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!
TWO OF A KIND…Bertie Auld with his co-author and friend Alex Gordon.
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!
TOMORROW: Part Three of Bertie Auld’s Old Firm memoirs – and some of the unforgettable performances from his Celtic mates against their ancient foes.
*Don’t miss today’s big match report from the Glasgow derby in your champion CQN.