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LISBON LOOKBACK: TOMMY GEMMELL’S MEMOIRS (Day Four)

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CELTIC celebrated the 53rd anniversary of their unforgettable European Cup triumph in Lisbon a week ago yesterday.

Today, CQN continues to celebrate the historic achievement with another EXCLUSIVE extract from the late, great Tommy Gemmell’s autobiography, ‘All The Best’, co-authored by Alex Gordon, and published in 2014.

It was, of course, Big TG who walloped in the equaliser against Inter Milan to put Jock Stein’s great side on their way to victory on May 25 1967 in the Portuguese capital. 

Gemmell, who sadly passed away in March 2017 at the age of 73, had a keen sense of humour and it comes across in these memoirs.

Please enjoy Day Four of this CQN special.

JOHN CLARK could have starred in the lead role of one of my favourite movies, The Quiet Man. He doesn’t look a bit like John Wayne, of course, but he could certainly do the silent bit. You could sit with Luggy in the dressing room and forget he was there.

On the park, he was the perfect foil for Billy McNeill in the middle of the Celtic defence. They both complemented each other perfectly. Billy did his best work in the air where I never saw anyone master him. He may not have been as flawless on the deck, but that was where Luggy came into his own.

He read play brilliantly and was outstanding at covering behind Billy and cleaning things up. The Celtic support christened him ‘The Brush’ and he took that as a huge compliment. Not the most exciting of nicknames, but one that meant a lot to Luggy.

He was never one to blow his own trumpet and that’s probably why he has never put his thoughts into an autobiography. The things he could reveal would be highly interesting, but he insists he will never tell all about his days as a player or assistant manager to Big Billy. I’m not surprised because he is a genuine tranquil sort of guy who has never sought out the spotlight. He was a very effective player for us, but rarely hit the headlines.

That didn’t bother him one jot. In fact, if anything, it suited him down to the ground. It was Big Jock who converted him from the old-fashioned wing-half role to sweeper and it was a magnificent piece of manoeuvring from our manager. I think it would be fair to say most of us were going through the motions on matchday before Big Jock appeared on the scene.

He arrived from Hibs in March 1965 and held a meeting with all the players before we went on our summer holidays that year. We had just won the Scottish Cup – our first piece of silverware in eight years – and were on a high. Jock, though, wasn’t satisfied.

We had been playing in the time-honoured 2-3-5 formation with two full-backs, a centre-half, two half-backs on either side of him, two wingers and three forwards who helped out in midfield and attack with the centre-forward staying up front. Big Jock told us there would be massive changes in the way we played. It was the start of the Stein revolution as he introduced a more fluid 4-2-4 system.

Luggy was one of the guys who was told his position would be changing. And for the better, I’m happy to add. He was a workmanlike wing-half – and I’m sure he won’t mind me making that observation – but he was outstanding as a sweeper.

He made his Scotland debut in the summer of 1966 when he was up against Brazil legend Pele. Stevie Chalmers scored in the first minute in a 1-1 draw with the-then world champions at Hampden, but the main thing was that the great Pele hardly got a kick of the ball. Luggy saw to that.

Another reason I liked our defender was the fact he owned a wee bar in Chapelhall that had a hotel licence. Back in the sixties, public bars didn’t open on a Sunday.

If you fancied a quick snifter you had to go to a hotel. Chapelhall wasn’t too far from my house in Kirkintilloch, so every now and again, Luggy would be joined at the bar by yours truly.

Aye, he was a handy man to know!

TOMORROW: LISBON LOOKBACK: Tommy Gemmell continues his memoirs with some hilarious tales of the irrepressible Jimmy Johnstone.

 
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