LISBON REWIND THE BIG DAY: BERTIE AULD’S STORY

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CQN continues its EXCLUSIVE look at Celtic’s biggest day in history – the 2-1 European Cup Final victory over Inter Milan exactly 54 years ago today.

Author Alex Gordon, whose fifteenth Celtic book, ’50 Flags Plus One’, is out now, spotlights midfield mastermind Bertie Auld in an edited chapter from his tribute tome ‘That Season in Paradise’, which was published by CQN in 2016.

Please enjoy the walk down memory lane.

BERTIE AULD revealed he had been disappointed he hadn’t been given the opportunity to pit his wits against Inter Milan’s world-renowned Luis Suarez in Lisbon.

The midfield mastermind admitted: “Injury forced him out of their team and, immediately in the aftermath of our triumph, the Italians pointed out they would have picked up the trophy again if their much-vaunted Spanish midfielder had been playing.

“Believe me, that is utter nonsense. Suarez? They could have fielded Superman and they wouldn’t have prevented us from winning that day!

“The Italians, as ever, we just a bit too quick to delve into that well-thumbed tome, ‘The Big Book of Football Excuses’, although, to be fair, their manager, Helenio Herrera, and a few of their players were just as swift to congratulate us. They knew they had been outplayed, outfought and outwitted.

“But I really would have loved to have squared up to Suarez. I was on the left-hand side of the Celtic midfield and his favoured position was on the right of the Inter midline. It would have been very intriguing to see how we got on, to say the least. These days you can get live pictures of players and watch them in action at the flick of a button thanks to satellite television.

“Back then, of course, that was not the case. You rarely saw up-to-date film of foreign players and you had to take what your boss told you about so-and-so’s strengths and weaknesses. They were all a bit mythical back then and you had to accept someone’s else’s word about their ability. Of course, you could catch up with reports in the newspapers, but there was nothing quite like matching up with the guy in the flesh. Genuinely, I welcomed that opportunity in Suarez’s case.

GLORY BHOYS…Bertie Auld (No.10) and his Celtic team-mates celebrate at the full-time whistle.

“Suarez was one of the first football superstars. We all took a sharp intake of breath when we were told Inter Milan had paid a mind-boggling £214,000 to sign the player from Barcelona in 1961. That was massive money all those years ago, easily the world record transfer. Look at the Celtic team that took the field at the Estadio Nacional six years later – it cost a total of £42,000, a mere fraction of Suarez’s valuation.

“We were also informed the Spaniard had negotiated a signing-on fee of £60,000 for himself. I didn’t think there had been that much money printed. The player was said to be picking up around £7,000-per-year in wages. Okay, I know an average player in the Scotland’s top flight can now command a figure like that on a weekly basis, but back in the Sixties that was massive dough.

“If I’ve got my sums right, the Celtic players were lifting something in the region of £1,300 in those heady financial days.

“So, can anyone blame a wee chap from Maryhill for wanting to go toe-to-toe with this bloke? I would have loved it. I would have thrived on it. Apparently, Suarez was said to be suffering from a thigh strain in the run-in to Lisbon, but we did hear other suggestions that, at thirty-two, he might not have fancied playing against Celtic.

“He would have known about our high-energy levels. He would have heard about our fitness and our willingness to go flat out for ninety minutes. He was a cultured playmaker, of course, but this might not have been a setting for him to show those skills.

“I’m not say he chickened out, but what I will say is that it did not matter one jot whether or not he was on the field of play on Thursday May 25 1967 – we would have still won the European Cup.”

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