CELTIC celebrated the 53rd anniversary of their unforgettable European Cup triumph in Lisbon a week ago today.
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 Three of this CQN special.
BILLY McNEILL would give his team-mates dog’s abuse during a game if he thought it was merited. If you gave the ball away needlessly with a slack pass you could expect to get it in the ear from Big Billy.
In fact, every individual in the Celtic team would give a colleague pelters if it was deserved. That was the type of team we were. We all wanted to be winners and no-one was shy about firing out a verbal volley if we thought somebody was falling short of the required standard.
It didn’t do us any harm, did it? We could spend an-hour-and-a-half shouting and bawling at each other, but it never carried on into the dressing room afterwards.
Not once. You hear all sort of stories about bust-ups among players in the privacy of their sanctuary away from prying eyes, but, no matter how heated it got during a game, that wasn’t the case with us. Sure, there could be a word or two, but that was all.
Big Billy was Jock’s general on the park, but he realised he was surrounded by players with the same positive outlook. Billy got it in the neck every now and again, too. No-one was immune. We won as a team and we lost as a team. People can look at the surviving Lisbon Lions today and see us all getting on well with each other. They may think that is merely for the public’s consumption.
Believe me, that affection we have for each other is genuine and has lasted well over four decades. My wee pal Willie Wallace may now be living on the other side of the world in Queensland, Australia, but we still keep in touch. That wee bugger will telephone me in the dead of winter to tell me he is enjoying a barbeque in his back garden. Now that’s what I call a friend.
It was a minor source of irritation to some players that Big Billy was getting a tenner a week more than the rest of us. Jock’s secretary revealed this to me once and I took it up with the manager.
At first, Jock, who was always very careful with Celtic’s cash, denied the claim. I couldn’t drop the secretary in it, so I wouldn’t disclose my source of information. Jock then twigged that I knew something I shouldn’t. He dropped the charade.
He said, ‘Billy gets more because he is the captain.’ I hasten to add that no-one at Celtic was thinking of walking out, taking strike action or anything as drastic as that over the issue. However, I pressed the matter with Jock, in the nicest possible way, of course.
Remarkably, he relented and said, ‘Ach, I’ll have a word with the board about it. Away you go now.’ He waved his big left paw at me once more.
About a week later, Big Jock called a team meeting at Parkhead. Our crafty manager didn’t mention that he had a wee wage ‘negotiation’ with yours truly.
‘I’ve got some good news for you,’ he said. ‘I think you are well due a pay rise and I have presented the case to the chairman and the board of directors. They have agreed to give you all an extra fiver a week starting immediately. I think you’re worth it.’
My team-mates were delighted at their unexpected windfall – £5 was a reasonable bit of money in those days – and I was pleased, too. So was Big Billy, who was still getting a tenner a week more than the rest of us!
TOMORROW: LISBON LOOKBACK: Tommy Gemmell continues his memoirs.