THE LISBON LIONS came down to the wonderful Greenock CSC last Friday as guests of Celtic Quick News. Here’s what happened…
BERTIE AULD turned up before anyone else, he was over an hour early!
This meant that we had to hurriedly get the night underway and allow the capacity crowd to enter the upstairs function room earlier than expected.
Bertie had been outside, enjoying the evening sunshine, and chatting away to all the Celtic supporting youngsters who had gathered outside awaiting the arrival of the Lions. What a treat they got, with Bertie taking a great interest in each and every one of the kids, posing for photographs, signing shirts and having a laugh and a joke with them.
As soon as everyone was ready we got underway with Bertie telling his legendary stories, to roars of laughter and appreciation from the hundreds of Celtic supporters in the audience.
After the laughter and before he sat down, Bertie asked us all to say a prayer for Stevie and Billy who couldn’t make it tonight. It was a sad, yet lovely moment.
Paul67 presented Bertie with the various gifts from the Celtic support for Bertie himself and also importantly for his wife. All the Lisbon Lionesses received the same present.
Just as Paul had finished explaining how CQN’ers had got together over the past 6 weeks to buy the Jock Stein Lisbon 1967 t-shirt and tell the story behind our latest book In the Heat of Lisbon, more Lions started to arrive.
John Fallon strode into the hall, full of confidence and pride to be among his own people. Big Yogi was next, a little slower and then came the modest of all Celtic legends, Charlie Gallagher. All three received warm applause and scores of handshakes as they made their way to the stage.
We got these 3 Lions seated on the stage ready for a Q&A session with Phil Agnew, Mr Celtic on these occasions.
Then there was another loud roar at the back of the hall. Everyone looked round to see that Willie Wallace had arrived.
Yogi spoke of his own personal disappointment in Lisbon, when a kick on the ankle against Clyde has robbed him of a place in the team. He spent most of his time during the time Celtic were in Lisbon, in bed at the club’s hotel nursing his injury. His foot was the size of a football.
He explained that players are disappointed not to play, whether it’s because of injury or non-selection, but they all know that their job is to make themselves available for selection if it is possible. Yogi tried his best but not even he could argue when the decision was taken by the Celtic Doctor. Yogi was out.
John Fallon spoke about being told, as the teams emerged in Lisbon, to run ahead to get the bench that Jock Stein wanted. When the Italians got there and tried to intimidate the Holy Goalie into moving aside to give them the bench of their choice, they were met with some industrial Scottish language.
Anyone who has seen and heard John at away matches will know what we mean!
It’s hard to imagine anyone being able to intimidate John Fallon!
Charlie didn’t want to say too much in the Q&A but told us he was honoured to have been invited and that he couldn’t believe that the Celtic supporters would have asked him to the event in order to thank him for what happened so long ago.
Willie, like the other Lions, had been at the Celtic Foundation Lisbon Lions lunch that afternoon and the Hydro the night before. You would have expected him to be tired, especially as he had come over from Australia with his entire family a few days before. Well Wispy was full of beans, as he eventually made it onto the stage to join in with the Celtic chat.
He told us that he would be presenting the winners medals with fellow Lisbon Lion John Clark at Hampden to the Celtic players. He was asked if he’d still be presenting winners medal if we lost. He screwed his face up, giving a look that he thought we were daft, and said “Im presenting the winners medals to Celtic.”
The next day while on the road home from Hampden on the Tommy Gemmell CSC, Willie called. After struggling to hear him I told him to hold on a second and got the bhoys and ghirls on the bus to shut up for a minute as I was speaking to a Lisbon Lion!
‘Which one’ someone asked?
‘Willie Wallace,’ I told them.
They gave us a minute, 60 seconds exactly, then 50 voices started singing ‘There’s Only One Willie Wallace, One Willie Wallace,’ …
Willie listened, laughed then said he’d call when things had calmed down.
In that minute he said that he wanted me to thank everyone on Celtic Quick News for the gifts for him and Olive, he wanted to thank everyone at Greenock for a memorable night and he wanted to thank BRTH and everyone who went to Lisbon in tribute to the Lisbon Lions.
Back on the bus, with Willie away for a well deserved rest, the bus started to chant Tommy Gemmell’s name.
The Big Shot wasn’t forgotten on his bus.
Back to Greenock, after Paul did the honours with the gifts for the four Lions, Alex Gordon spoke about Tommy, Jinky and the other Lions no longer with us.
He told a great story about Jinky refusing to play for Scotland in a bounce match because the opposition was Celtic. He was then asked to be the linesman by a Kilmarnock coach helping out with Scotland and the wee man was none too pleased.
A few weeks later Celtic were at Rugby Park, Jinky ran riot, Wispy scored 4 as Celtic won 6-0. At the end Jinky approached the coach and reminded him, in no uncertain terms, that he was no *****’ linesman.
Apparently he also told big Tam when he signed Jinky for Dundee that he wouldn’t turn up if he was selected to play against Celtic.
We finished off the night with a Celtic cabaret and a live Celtic band, a wonderful way to spend a pre-Trebling winning evening.
Thanks everyone who attended and especially to everyone who ordered the In the Heat of Lisbon book and/or the Jock Stein t-shirt.
On Saturday morning I got an email from Jock’s grandson, delighted to have seen the t-shirt and asking could he buy some. No, we said, you can’t but you can have them.
The raffle was drawn by Paul and the winners will all be notified shortly. The Lions all signed the magnificent Celtic shirt from Lisbon 1967 and it is currently with Kevin at the Penalty Spot being framed.
The other Lisbon Lions and the families of those no longer with us will be getting their gifts this week.
Celtic (the old board) had treated the Lions poorly on the 25th Anniversary and it caused plenty of resentment. They thought that their families had won the Big Cup for Celtic, not the Lions.
On the way to his car Willie said to me that the supporters had been fantastic as he expected but this time even Celtic had recognised and looked after the Lisbon Lions.
Going to Hampden we were one big happy Celtic family.
Thanks to Geo for the photography and to the Greenock CSC for hosting such a memorable occasion for CQN.
And tonight say a prayer for Billy and Stevie.