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

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CELTIC recently celebrated the 53rd anniversary of their unforgettable European Cup triumph in Lisbon.

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 Nine of this CQN special as he continues his Hoops revelations.

BERTIE AULD was always more of a rascal than a rogue in my eyes. And, of course, there is a world of a difference between the two.

Bertie had a reputation as being a hard man and just let’s say he often got his retaliation in first. No-one messed around with my wee pal. ‘You’re an effin’ hooligan,’ I would say often enough. ‘Aye,’ he would nod, ‘and nobody better forget it!’

Actually, Bertie was another superb exponent of making the ball do all the hard work. He possessed a magnificent left foot – his magic wand, as he said – and could float balls all over the place. He was also part of Big Jock’s shake-up in the summer of 1965.

Before Jock arrived, Bertie had played as an outside-left, going up and down the flank in front of me. Jock, though, spotted something in Bertie’s play he believed would be of more benefit to the team. He moved him into midfield and he really flourished in his new role. His quick thinking, eye for a pass and devastating accuracy in his delivery made him one of the best midfielders in the game, in my opinion.

He had a wicked sense of humour and he put to a good use once in a game against Stirling Albion at their old ground at Annfield. Sammy Baird, the former Rangers player, was the Stirling boss and he had ordered one of his players to man-mark Bertie straight from the kick-off.

The guy was giving Bertie some serious attention. When there was a lull in play, with one of their players receiving treatment, my mate sidled up to me. ‘Hey, TG,’ he winked, ‘just watch this.’ Without warning, Bertie suddenly took off down the wing and, would you believe, the Stirling Albion player raced after him for about forty yards! The game had stopped, but Bertie’s marker was still sticking like a limpet to him. Now that’s dedication.

ON THE BALL…Bertie Auld threatens the Inter Milan defence in Lisbon.

Bertie was a shrewd wee cookie and as fly as a bag of monkeys. But he was a fabulous guy to have on your side. When we played Leeds United in the 1970 European Cup semi-final there was a lot of talk of how Bertie and Bobby Murdoch would match up against my good friend Billy Bremner and his equally tough midfield partner Johnny Giles, who had a bit of a nasty reputation.

It was almost being billed as a game within a game with those four going head-to-head. How did my mates fare? We won home and away. That tells you all you need to know. Bertie was frightened of no-one. But there might have been a few who would have given my mate a wide berth.

Bertie, Wispy and I were all very good friends and we did a fair bit of socialising. Now is the time, though, to put a persistent rumour to bed. The three of us did NOT go out for a drink on the evening before the European Cup Final in Lisbon. I’ve read it and I’ve heard it, but, trust me, it is not true. If I was the litigious type I would sue. It’s some people’s good fortune that I am a fairly equable type.

I will concede Bertie, Wispy and I did go for a couple of beers, but folk are getting their days mixed. We arrived in Portugal on the Tuesday and the game was due to take place in Lisbon on the Thursday. On Tuesday, as we settled in at our plush HQ at Estoril, we decided to do a quick bit of sightseeing. We didn’t need to seek Big Jock’s permission, so we just went ahead and made our own arrangements.

We jumped into a taxi and went to a quiet little spot just outside Estoril called Cascais. There was a pub called the John Bull which was, as you’ve guessed, an English bar. We had been travelling most of the day and had worked up a bit of a drouth, so we pulled up three chairs and sat outside in the tranquillity of this picturesque spot.

There wasn’t a Celtic fan in sight. They were congregating in Lisbon and this was a wonderful wee haven for us three. I’ve never been one to be bothered about the attendance of supporters just so long as they respect your privacy. You don’t want to be halfway through your dinner in a restaurant when some bloke you’ve never seen before pulls up a chair to your table and wants to talk about such-and-such a game.

There was little chance of that happening in Cascais. We had two or three beers before getting another taxi to drop us off at Estoril. Now that’s the truth.

Where were we the night before the Final, the most important game in the club’s history? Would you believe stumbling around in the dark coming back from a hilltop golfing complex owned by a top Scottish amateur golfer called Brodie Lennox, no relation to my wee team-mate. Big Jock was trying to arrange all sorts of things to prevent the players from getting bored and to keep us focused.

England were due to play Spain in a friendly at Wembley on the Wednesday and Jock thought it would be a good idea to herd up the troops and take us to watch the action on Brodie’s state-of-the-art big-screen TV. It also gave him the perfect excuse to keep an eye on his players, as well. The manager had no worries on that score. No-one was even thinking about misbehaving before such a momentous occasion. Not even Wee Jinky!

We had our evening meal, as usual, and then we took off up this long and winding road to Brodie’s place, which was about thirty minutes’ walk away. We were all fit guys, of course, so there was no problem in getting to the complex.

It was a fair old hike, though. Anyway, we reached our destination, watched England win the match 2-0 and, after a few soft drinks, decided to wend our merry way back to our hotel.

BUDDY BHOYS…Lisbon legends Billy McNeill and Bertie Auld.

Neilly Mochan, who was our trainer, decided to take a short cut. He pointed to our hotel and said to Jock, ‘I reckon we can cut about ten minutes off our trip, Boss. Let’s go down through the fields.’ Jock had wrapped us up in cotton wool in Portugal.

He watched what we were eating and drinking, how long we were in the sun or in the pool. Remarkably, he agreed that it was a good idea.

We found ourselves wandering around in the dark with no lights in sight. All you could hear was an ‘Ouch!’ or ‘Bloody hell!’ as we tried to find our bearings. We had to climb over a couple of rickety fences and there was wild bracken everywhere.

I felt some rocks go from under my weight a couple of times and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be so typical to reach the European Cup Final and get injured walking down a bloody hill!’

Honestly, someone could have picked up any sort of injury, turning an ankle or worse. Thankfully, we made it safely to our sanctuary. So, instead of being out on the batter with Wispy and Bertie, I was bumbling around in the pitch black of Estoril.

Now that’s the truth.

TOMORROW: LISBON LOOKBACK: Tommy Gemmell concludes his memoirs of his European Cup-winning team-mates.

 
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