TOMMY GEMMELL was unique as took his place in Celtic history.

The full-back scored the club’s first-ever goal in the European Cup en route to Lisbon and the most famous triumph in their 129-year history.

Gemmell’s barrier-breaking strike came against Switss champions Zurich in the opening round of Europe’s top-flight competition at Parkhead on Wednesday, September 28, 1966.

The game was goalless as it entered the final third and the 47,604 supporters in the east end of Glasgow were getting edgy.

Enter Big Shot Gemmell, playing at right-back that evening with Willie O’Neill on the left, as he raced onto a pass from John Clark just inside the opposition’s half.

He takes up the story: “We had been huffing and puffing all night against the Swiss and getting nowhere.

“It was out first taste of European football at this level and we were determined to make an impact.

“However, Zurich were exceptionally well drilled and were coping okay with what we were throwing at them.

“Then I saw my chance in the 64th minute. I was never shy at having a go at goal and I was delighted to see the Swiss defence back off me as I came forward.

“I was about 25 yards out when I decided to give the ball a dunt.

“I hit it with my right and I knew it was a goal the moment it left my boot. Immediately, it felt good.

“The ball simply took off and went straight into the roof of the net at the keeper’s top left hand corner.

“Joe McBride scored a second and we had a reasonable lead to take to their place for the return leg.”

Amazingly, the sure-shot defender scored two more goals in Switzerland on October 5 as the Hoops celebrated Jock Stein’s 44th birthday in style, winning 3-0 for an emphatic 5-0 aggregate victory.

He laughed afterwards: “I scored three times spread over two games, but I don’t suppose it counts as a hat-trick, does it?

“It would be nice to be able to claim Celtic’s first-ever treble in the top tournament.”

Gemmell’s next goal in the European Cup was the crucial equaliser against Inter Milan in Lisbon as Stein’s green-and-white machine became the first British club to conquer Europe as they overcame the Italians 2-1.

The defender also scored a scorching first-time effort from just outside the box in the 1970 European Cup Final against Feyenoord in Milan.

On this occasion, though, he wasn’t a winner as the Dutch came back to triumph 2-1 with the deciding goal coming three minutes from the end of extra-time.

Always the joker, Gemmell was often asked about his famous goal in the big-game Final.

“Which one?” he would enquire. “I scored in two, don’t forget.”

Gemmell is still the only UK player to score in two European Cup Finals AND the World Club Championship Final.

Celtic played the bruising Racing Club of Buenos Aires for the right to be acclaimed the best team on the planet, in the now-defunct two-legged encounter between the European and South American champions which was known as the Intercontinental Cup.

A trademark header from Billy McNeill at Hampden on October 18, 1967 gave the Hoops a slender one-goal advantage to take to Argentina for the second leg.

Gemmell recalled: “The Argentines were undoubtedly the dirtiest team I have ever encountered.

“Even before the kick-off over there, they were spitting in our faces.

“And when the action got underway, they were kicking and hacking us to pieces. Wee Jinky Johnstone was booted all over the place.

“Our talented little winger was floored inside the box by their keeper and the referee just had to award a penalty-kick.

“These days, the goalie would be ordered off and Racing would be down to 10 men.

“The crowd were baying and sceaming as I put the ball on the spot. The keeper was bawling his head off, too.

“In those moments you have to keep your composure – you cannot afford to show a trace of fear.

“Nervous? What do you think!

“I decided to do what I usually did and that was to hammer that ball as hard as I could and make sure I got it on target.

“There was no way the opposition’s number one could second-guess me because, to be honest, I didn’t know where the ball was going.

“It was simply my intention to blast that sphere with all the power I could muster and get it between the post and under the bar.

“I stepped up and walloped it. Boy, was I happy when the ball crashed into the net. I hit it straight and hard and it did the trick.”

Celtic, of course, lost 2-1 in the Argentinian capital and a third-place play-off was required to settle the issue.

The misbehaviour of their opponents had a few of the Parkhead hierachy contemplating taking their players straight back to Glasgow.

A decision was made, though, to play the game and it became known as ‘The Second Battle of River Plate’ when Racing won 1-0 in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo.

Four Celtic players were sent off by a dodgy Paraguayan referee Billy McNeill always insisted “was bent”.

Jimmy Johnstone, Bobby Lennox, John Hughes and Bertie Auld were all sent packing.

Remarkably, Auld refused to go off and the confused match official restarted play with the midfielder still on the pitch.

Gemmell smiled years afterwards: “Typical Bertie – that man never did as he was told!”

Click Here for Comments >

About Author