JOHN HUGHES hopes Celtic enjoy High Fives in the Betfred League Cup Final against Aberdeen this afternoon – just as he did in a memorable performance against the Dons at Parkhead on January 30 1965.
The Hoops icon was an unstoppable juggernaut against the Pittodrie outfit in an old First Division encounter just 38 days before Jock Stein officially returned as manager.
Hughes, nicknamed ‘Big Yogi’ after the popular American TV cartoon character Yogi Bear, fired in a FIVE=GOAL salvo – with a little help from some borrowed footwear.
The legendary attacker, the seventh-highest goalscorer in the Hoops’ history with 189 strikes, recalled: “It was a bitterly cold day.
“Of course, there was no such thing as undersoil heating in those days, so the playing surface was flint hard with snow scattered around the pitch.
“Celtic used to spread straw on the ground in those enlightened times and the groundstaff had to sweep it off as swiftly as possible when it got close to kick-off as they did their best to get rid of the surface frost.
“Back then, the players only had two pairs of football boots – one with leather studs and the other with rubber studs.
MEMORIES ARE MADE OF THIS…John Hughes at Celtic Park.
“The players would go out and sample the conditions before the match and I tried both pairs and was far from satisfied. I was a big guy, but I had good balance.
“However, on this particular pitch, most of my team-mates found it a challenge just to remain upright.
“So, I had a bit of a problem when we went back in to the dressing room to get changed and ready for the game.
“Then I noticed a pair of sandshoes in the training kit hamper. They had Billy McNeill’s name on them. I asked the skipper if I could give them a try.
“I quickly got out on the pitch to attempt a few sprints and turns and was satisfied with the grip and the fit. Big Billy told me: ‘If you think they’ll help you put in a performance today, Yogi, go right ahead and wear them with my best wishes’.
Hughes, now a sprightly 75, continued: “I remember we were struggling in the league at the time – around sixth, I think – so no-one could have guessed what would have happened that day, one of the most unforgettable in my career.
“As I recall, we hadn’t won any of our previous five games, losing to Rangers (0-1), Dundee United (1-3) and Hearts (1-2) while drawing with Clyde (1-1) and Morton (3-3).
“Form went out the window 53 years ago. The Dons had a massive keeper by the name of John Ogston who was quite happy to answer to the nickname ‘Tubby’. He must have lost a few pounds in Glasgow that winter’s day!
“I ran riot. I had scored two goals by the interval and told Big Billy the shoes were working a treat. I hammered in another three in the second-half to claim a personal best of five goals.
“Bertie Auld, with a penalty-kick, Bobby Lennox and Bobby Murdoch also scored as we won 8-0.
“Remarkably, seven of the players who would turn out in the historic European Cup Final win over Inter Milan in Lisbon some two years and four months later were in that team. As well as McNeill, Auld, Lennox and Murdoch, the two goalscorers in the Portuguese capital, Tommy Gemmell and Stevie Chalmers, also played along with John Clark.
“Goalkeeper John Fallon, defenders Ian Young and Jim Brogan and I made up the eleven against the Dons.
“Something rather eventful happened the following day, too. Celtic announced Jock Stein was coming back to the club as manager!
READ ALL ABOUT IT…John Hughes with author Alex Gordon and a copy of his tribute book to Yogi’s old Celtic team-mate Billy McNeill, ‘In Praise of Caesar’.
“He was Hibs boss at the time and they made him work his notice until they got a new boss – Liverpool legend Bill Shankly’s brother Bob got the job – and Big Jock didn’t officially take over until March 9.
“I won my first medal when we beat Dunfermline 3-2 in the Scottish Cup Final the following month and the rest, as they say, is history.”
Hughes is confident Brendan Rodgers can pick up his seventh piece of silverware at the national stadium, but warned his old club will have to fight all the way for their success.
He added: “I like Brendan’s style and he will make sure his players are primed and in good condition for this game.
“I haven’t noticed even a hint of complacency in the team since he arrived. Look at last week against Hamilton Accies, for instance.
“Celtic went into the match knowing they had a tough game a few days later against Rosenborg in Trondheim. However, there was never a hint of them easing up against Accies.
“They didn’t take their eye off the ball, got their three goals and were on the front foot for the entire 90 minutes.
“Something of the same will be required against Derek McInnes’ team this time out. Forget all the other trophy wins, they’re in the past. It’s all about what happens today.
“And no-one can ever say Brendan Rodgers does not do an exceptional job in getting his team in players in tip-top shape, physically and mentally for the big occasions.
“I’ll be cheering them on, of course, and if Odsonne Edouard or Leigh Griffths can emulate my five goals from the past, I will be even more delighted!”
* DON’T miss the best of the action from Hampden this afternoon as Celtic and Brendan Rodgers bid for a seventh successive trophy triumph. Your champion CQN will bring you the unbeatable match report and all the top pictures.