LISBON 67: THE UNTOLD TALES: DAY THREE

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CELTIC fans embarked upon the journey of a lifetime as they followed their favourites into the history books 55 years ago.

Author Alex Gordon, who has penned fifteen Celtic books, including ‘Lisbon Lions: The 40th Anniversary Celebration’, offers a week-long collection of edited extracts from his introduction for CQN’s 2014 publication, ‘Seville: The Celtic Movement’.

The hitherto little-known tales help to embellish a glorious odyssey for the club and the supporters.

Please enjoy.

THERE are many gems that can be mined from such a momentous few days in Celtic’s history during a remarkably blissful stay in the Portuguese capital.

The accounts are every bit as rich and multihued as the beguiling setting. The visiting support was only too delighted to join in the spontaneity of joy, leap on board the carousel and share many light-hearted moments with their generous Portuguese hosts. They were made welcome in the local tavernas, pubs and tapas bars as the carnival atmosphere lit up the city.

And, of course, they listened to the exaggerated tales from their interesting visitors. They were astounded by one character who wore an outsized green-and-white tammy, huge rosette proudly proclaiming, ‘Hail! Hail! The Celts Are Here’.

Even in the soaring temperatures the large woolly scarf remained firmly in place around his neck. The locals were in awe of this individual and, in particular, the lengths he had gone to wear the colours of his favourite club. He was even adorned in a green suit. They remarked upon his loyalty to “the famous Glasgow Celtic”, as they had learned to call the team.

The character hadn’t the heart to tell them he didn’t have time to change out of his work clothes before being picked up by his mates in their car to take him on their exhausting journey. Wearing the required dark green uniform of the era, he was, in fact, a bus conductor. Why ruin an illusion?

All sorts of transport was utilised to reach the destination. A week before the game, two extreme optimists were spotted in the Gallowgate in Glasgow, waving thumbs in the time-honoured manner of hitchhikers at passing vehicles.

They held a giant placard that spelled simply, ‘LISBON’. No-one would have bet against them being in position at the Estadio Nacional by kick-off time.

Then there was the individual who worked in the circulation department of one of Scotland’s biggest-selling national daily newspapers. This chap steadfastly refused even to acknowledge his devotion to a certain club from the east end of Glasgow.

No amount of prompting from his colleagues could prise the secret of his allegiance from him. Celtic could win, lose or draw and he would never rise to the bait. Who he supported was his business and no-one else’s.

His cover was blown on May 25 only moments after the final chirp from referee Kurt Tschenscher’s whistle. He was photographed right there on the pitch alongside triumphant captain Billy McNeill.

The world’s press paraded that unforgettable image, including the circulation man’s own newspaper. By the time he got home from Lisbon, his work-mates confronted with the front-page picture.

Completely non-plussed he looked at the photograph and remarked: “Aye, looks like me right enough.”

Then he added: “Can’t be, though. I was playing golf with my brother in Troon all week.”

And he stuck stuck to that story for years to come – despite the fact he was an only child.

He was one of hundreds who managed to get over the moat that separated the trackside from the terracings. One fan warily asked of one of the local constabulary: “Ah hope ye’ve no’ got any o’ them alligators in there.”

In broken English, the policeman reassured the supporter of the absence of any such menacing swamp-dwelling species.

“That’s just as well,” came the retort, “because me and ma mates might get a wee bit peckish roon aboot hauf-time.”

One observer looked around the stadium and the pitch just before kick-off, sighed and remarked: “It looks as though the interior decorators have been brought in.”

The colourful Celtic support always possessed a penchant for doing things in style.

*TOMORROW: Don’t miss the fourth instalment of ‘LISBON 67: THE UNTOLD TALES’ – only in your champion CQN.

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