EXACTLY 60 years ago today, Rangers keeper George Niven hadn’t a clue what was about to befall him at Hampden.
He took his place in the Ibrox line-up against their ancient foes Celtic on a crisp, clear Saturday afternoon of October 19,1957.
The trophy was virtually already bedecked in the colours of Niven’s club who were expected to overcome an erratic Parkhead outfit that would be without inspirational centre-half Jock Stein who was injured.
It was the first Cup Final duel between the two Glasgow sides for 30 years and, in truth, no-one could mount a persuasive argument against the bookmakers who made the Govan side clear favourites to lift the silverware.
Celtic were struggling for consistency and were hardly a threat in the championship. They actually finished third that season which looks reasonable enough.
Closer inspection, though, showed they were a massive 16 points adrift of winners Hearts in the days when you got two points for a win.
The defence also shipped a disastrous 47 goals in the 34-game set-up. Rangers were second, three points ahead of the Hoops.
Players, possessing talent that was never much above the ordinary, passed through Parkhead without the hint of an impact, but the team could boast such exhilarating individual talent in the form of the dazzling Charlie Tully on the wing, the cultured Bertie Peacock in midfield, the skilful Bobby Collins and Bobby Evans, a solid centre-half. A combative Irishman by the name of Sean Fallon was at left-back.
Remarkably, Celtic were actually defending the trophy after winning the League Cup the previous season by beating Partick Thistle 3-0.
However, most of the so-called smart money reckoned the prize would be crossing the Clyde following 90 minutes of action at the national stadium.
Oh Hampden in the sun
Celtic 7 Rangers 1 pic.twitter.com/HRgRwYeTYI
— JT (@J1888T) October 19, 2017
For 22 minutes, Niven had not been invited to retrieve the ball from the back of his net, despite the men from the east end of Glasgow starting the stronger and more eager of the combatants.
And then the roof fell in on the unsuspecting Ibrox custodian with 82,293 spectators viewing events from the packed, heaving terracings.
Sammy Wilson claimed the opener and no-one could deny the Parkhead outfit deserved their advantage. How would Rangers respond?
Neilly Mochan, whom manager Jimmy McGrory had brought back into the team at outside-left at the expense of Bertie Auld, doubled the advantage with an angled left-foot drive a minute before the turnaround.
The Celtic end at the old stadium rocked throughout the interval as the fans celebrated wildly; a hush descended upon their opposite number.
Eight minutes after the interval, Billy McPhail grabbed the first of his excellent hat-trick and, although there was a response from Rangers through Billy Simpson three minutes later, the intelligent centre-forward knocked a fourth beyond the bemused Niven in the 69th minute.
Mochan drove in a fifth five minutes afterwards and it was only a matter of time before McPhail capped a fine individual performance by completing his trio which he duly did in the 81st minute.
With almost the last kick of the ball, Willie Fernie, a lavishly-gifted performer, strode up to slot a penalty-kick beyond the keeper who barely moved as the ball swept into the rigging.
The final whistle was greeted with half of the stadium engulfed in joyous bedlam while their deflated, dejected counterparts, so optimistic at 3pm, flooded out onto the streets of Mount Florida, clearly befuddled at the spectacle they had just witnessed.
Celtic keeper Dick Beattie happily posed for the photographers as he held up seven fingers to indicate the amount of goals tucked into the opposition’s net that memorable afternoon in the south side of the city.
One newspaper the following day produced the banner headline: ‘JUST ONE WORD FOR CELTIC – MAGNIFICENT!’. It seemed apt, to say the very least.
It had been a still, cold afternoon, but the autumn sun certainly shone brightly and welcomingly on Celtic at Hampden that extraordinary day.
For the record, here is the Celtic team that took their well-deserved place in the club’s folklore: Beattie; Donnelly, Fallon; Fernie, Evans, Peacock; Tully, Collins, McPhail, Wilson and Mochan.
OUR SECOND CQN PODCAST this week, featuring interviews with ex-Celts Alan Stubbs and Chris Sutton, previewing the big games this week against Bayern Munich and Hibs at Hampden on Saturday.
Stubbs gives an insight into Liam Henderson as a player and talks about where his career should go from here.
Speaking on behalf of BT Sport, Alan Stubbs also spoke about his regret at leaving Hibs, and looks ahead to the League Cup semi-final between two of his former clubs.