One particular individual hadn’t bothered with the irksome task of booking a room for the duration. He was positive his big brother would take care of all his needs.
He would be occupying a very special suite reserved for some visiting VIPS at a luxury hotel on the outskirts of the city. Which was just as well because this Glaswegian had spent a heavy percentage of his cash on the flight to Portugal’s breathtaking capital and there wasn’t too much left in the kitty. But he was confident his brother wouldn’t let him down.
There was only one problem. And it came in the formidable shape of a bloke not renowned for his patience or tolerance. Some claimed he could be canterkous, others went as far as curmudgeonly.
His name was Jock Stein.
Ian Auld reckoned his older sibling Bertie would look after arrangements and make certain he had a bed for the night at the official HQ of Celtic Football Club at the five-star Palacio Hotel.
Big Jock, of course, would not have welcomed such an intrusion on the eve of the team’s most important game in history. The Celtic manager had been meticulous in his preparations for the encounter. Players were ordered inside when he thought they had spent too much time in the sunshine.
He would insist: “The sun is your enemy!” They were timed in the swimming pool, when to get in, when to get out, told what to eat and drink and training sessions had been planned with the utmost precision. He had been diligent, thorough and, as some players later atested, somewhat finicky. Nothing had been left to chance.
It was an accepted fact that interlopers would not be welcome.
Ian Auld didn’t take too much notice of the demands of the Celtic boss. Luckily for him, his brother Bertie, with typical Maryhill bravado, agreed with him. On this occasion, anyway.
The masterful midfielder, who dovetailed so awesomely, bewilderingly and consistently with Bobby Murdoch in the team’s engine room, takes up the story. “Big Jock patrolled the hotel like a sergeant major.
He wanted everything to be perfect. He had the habit of charging into your room without knocking on your door. He would always try to catch you off guard just in case you were getting on the outside of a bottle of gin. As if! The night before the game, Big Jock came into the room I was sharing my good buddy Joe McBride. We were tucked up in our single beds.
“He surveyed the scene. ‘Everything okay, you two?’ he asked, still peering around. I answered: ‘I’m just reading a good book, boss.’ Joe said: ‘Me, too, gaffer.’ Jock took one last look around the room and, satisfied all was in order, closed the door behind him and moved onto another unsuspecting team-mate somewhere down the corridor.
“Actually, if Big Jock had bothered to look under my bed he might have got a bit of a surprise – he would have come face to face with Ian!
“My little brother had saved some cash to travel to Portugal to support us, but, being Ian, he hadn’t bothered with the little detail of arranging a room in a hotel or elsewhere. With the help of some of my colleagues, I managed to smuggle him into our HQ in Estoril. It was like something out of Colditz – only in reverse. Ian was trying to break IN.
“He ducked and dived to make sure he wasn’t spotted by any of the Celtic powers-that-be – and, please remember, Big Jock had spies everywhere. I had little doubt of what I could expect if the manager got wind of my part in the invasion of the team’s privacy. A firing squad might have been hastily arranged on the spot!
“No matter how much BIg Jock tried to silently creep up on you, we could always hear him coming. He still had that heavy limp that prematurely ended his playing career and you realised immediately he was about to descend upon you. I was playing cards with Ian and Joe the evening he decided to pay an impromptu visit.
The alarm bells went off in my head as I heard him approach, stealthily, he hoped, towards our door. ‘Quick, Ian, hide!’ I practically screamed. ‘Where?’ he asked, almost as frantically. The wardrobe was too obvious. Big Jock had been known to swing the doors open, look inside, touch a garment and say: ‘Nice material.’ Of course, he was fooling no-one.
“The footsteps got closer. ‘Get under the bed. Now!’ Ian didn’t hesitate as he scrambled out of sight. Looking back, I can see it was a hilarious situation. Didn’t seem like it at the time, though.
Big Jock had a ferocious temper and I know what I’m talking about because, unfortunately, I was on the receiving end of it a few times. Joe and I grabbed books off the bedside cabinets and threw ourselves under the covers.
“The door swung open, Big Jock looked in, squinted around, said his piece and left without a clue as to the whereabouts of the univited ‘guest’. I didn’t have to worry about getting a good night’s sleep – I practically passed out.”
*This is an extract from Seville – The Celtic Movement. Before telling the story of the Celtic fans at the UEFA Cup Final, the book opens with a chapter about our support in Lisbon.
When you order That Season in Paradise – Ten Months of Celtic Heaven from www.cqnbookstore.com we will also send you a copy of the Seville book to enjoy – both are great reads!