TOMMY GEMMELL played in two of the biggest League Cup Final sensations in history – and Celtic lost out on both.
The Lisbon Lion, who won 14 trophies with the Glasgow giants including four League Cups, played for and against the Hoops in two unforgettable upsets at Hampden.
Gemmell, now 71, recalled: “I scored in two European Cup Finals, a World Club Championship and netted 64 goals in 418 appearances for Jock Stein’s team and people still want to talk about THAT game against Partick Thistle in 1971!
“Well, I suppose it was a bit of a shocker, wasn’t it? The Maryhill boys didn’t follow the script that afternoon, that’s for sure.
“We had a team packed with international players such as Bobby Murdoch, Jimmy Johnstone, Davie Hay, George Connelly, yours truly and two young lads getting ready to make a name for themselves in the game, Kenny Dalglish and Lou Macari.
“What could go wrong? Well, just about everything!
“Billy McNeill was injured and sidelined for only his second game during that entire campaign. How we missed our inspirational onfield leader that day – and that’s absolutely no disrespect to George Connelly, who deputised.
“Centre-half wasn’t his best position, he was more suited to a Beckenbauer-style of role where he could utilise his awesome range of passing.
“We just didn’t settle and we couldn’t believe we were four goals adrift at the interval.
“To put that into perspective, we played nine games in reaching Hampden and conceded four goals in total. Two of the ties were against Rangers and they got zero.
“So, to concede that amount in only 45 minutes was nonsensical. And it would be unsporting not to give credit to Thistle.
“They displayed a lot of bravado against us and just went for it. They took us totally by surprise and we couldn’t get into our stride.
“Alex Rae, Bobby Lawrie, Dennis McQuade and Jimmy Bone were their goalscorers, but I can tell you that no-one in the Celtic dressing room at the interval thought the game was over.
“Far from it. We reckoned if they could score four against us in one half we were more than capable of scoring five against them over the same period of time.
“Didn’t work out like that and we had to be content with an effort from Kenny.
“Someone told me afterwards that Thistle had five shots at goal in the entire 90 minutes and four went into our net.
“I think I had about five efforts on my own, but Alan Rough, it must be said, was having one of those days goalkeepers dream about.
“A month after that amazing result, we played Thistle at Firhill in a league game. We hammered them 5-1 – there was no way they would take us by surprise again!”
Gemmell returned to the national stadium for a Final in the competition two years later, but this time as captain of Dundee after leaving Parkhead in December 1971 for a spell at Nottingham Forest.
Former Rangers boss Davie White brought him back to Scotland to shore up the Dens Park defence in July 1973 and, ironically, the iconic left-back took over as team gaffer four years later.
Gemmell remembered: “Again, Celtic were favourites and, in fact, had beaten Rangers 3-1 in the semi-final when my old mate Harry Hood rattled in a hat-trick.
“I was moved to centre-half by the manager and the pitch was a quagmire. The game kicked off early on a wicked December afternoon with electricity being saved because of the miners’ strike. I recall the crowd being only 27,924.
“To be honest, it was a bit of a surreal atmosphere and hardly like any Cup Final in which I had previously played when Celtic were involved.
“The rain poured from the heavens all day and we realised that anything was possible in those dodgy conditions.
“Gordon Wallace got the only goal of a fairly scrappy encounter when his low shot from 12 yards slithered past Ally Hunter.
“I think there were only 14 minutes left to play and we knew it was going to be our day.
“I have to admit I was really embarrassed when I went to receive the trophy at the end.
“As I made my way up through the stairway in the stand to the presentation area, I passed so many friends who were Celtic fans.
“To be fair, each and every one of them congratulated me.
“As was the tradition, I had to stand at the top of the gantry and wave the newly-won League Cup to the Dundee supporters.
“Never has a captain ever handed over that trophy so quickly!
“If you check footage, you will see I held the League Cup for something like 10 seconds.
“Goalkeeper Thomson Allan was immediately behind me and it was in his hands as soon as I had done my bit.
“I was delighted my team had won, of course, but, deep down, I was a Celtic man. Still am today, of course.”