CELTIC great John Hughes dodged a bullet when he missed out on the club’s blackest day in the League Cup.
And the Hoops icon reckons a crazy afternoon in October 1971 will serve as a reminder to today’s Parkhead stars that anything can happen in football.
Hughes, the original Yogi, said: “Away back then, I was hoping to get a chance to play against Partick Thistle in the League Cup Final on the Saturday.
“So, imagine my surprise when Big Jock Stein told me a few days earlier that the club had accepted a bid from Crystal Palace for me.
“It was a £55,000 joint offer for me and Willie Wallace and, of course, I didn’t want to leave.
“Honestly, I thought I would be at Parkhead for the rest of my career, a one-club man, but Big Jock had other ideas.
“I was only 28 at the time and I believed I was in my prime. I had scored almost 200 goals and was one of the leading scorers in the club’s history.
“At the very worst, I thought I was good for at least another four seasons and I reckoned I would score a minimum of 15 goals in each campaign.
“That would have taken me to around the 250-goal mark and I knew not too many Celtic players had achieved that sort of figure.
“Jimmy McGrory was way out in front with a remarkable 472 goals and my team-mates Bobby Lennox and Stevie Chalmers were in the double-century club.
“At that time only Jimmy Quinn had gone over the 200 mark – he netted 217 – and I wanted to take my place in that exclusive bunch of players.
“Jock made it clear that wasn’t going to happen and reluctantly I moved to the London club.
“Two days later, on October 23, Willie and I were given complimentary tickets for the Hampden stand to watch Celtic play Thistle.
“I think the Firhill men were priced at 7/1 that day and it looked like a walkover for my pals.
“No-one needs reminding that the Maryhill side were four goals ahead at the interval.
“I was amazing sitting their watching my team – I may not have been a player any more, but I was still a fan – collapse against the underdogs.
“Thistle eventually won 4-1 for one of the biggest upsets in the tournament.
“So, I’m sure Brendan Rodgers’ team will not ease up when they take on Motherwell this afternoon.
“That lesson from 46 years ago is still there to be heeded.
“I don’t think the present line-up will take their eye off the ball, though. I believe they will have too much for the Fir Park side.
“The 7-1 loss in Paris is in the history books now and I don’t reckon for a split-second Brendan will allow his players to dwell on it.
“He’ll freshen up the team and, remember, guys such as Scott Sinclair, Stuart Armstrong and Patrick Roberts weren’t utilised in midweek.
“Leigh Griffiths, too, should be sharp after only playing the last 15 minutes or so.
“So, it’s not as though this will be a weary squad from which Brendan will select as he looks for his fourth piece of silverware since taking over 18 months ago.”
Fans’ favourite Yogi, now 74, won four League Cup medals with Celtic and scored both goals – two penalty-kicks – when they beat Rangers 2-1 in the 1965 Final.
He played the following season when a strike from Bobby Lennox gave Stein’s men a 1-0 victory over the Ibrox side and Hughes was on target again 12 months later as the Hoops thrashed Dundee 5-3.
Yogi led the attack when he picked up his fourth and final medal in the competition when a Bertie Auld goal was enough to beat St Johnstone in the 1969 showdown.
LISBON LION Jim Craig is the very special guest on the new CQN Podcast – out now!
Jim releases his new book, Right Back to 67, The Lisbon Lion Diary next week and we are pretty confident that this will be regarded as one of the classic Celtic books of all time.
There has been so much written about 1967 in some very fine books to-date but nothing like this. Jim kept a diary of his time at Celtic and in Right Back to 67 he is able to provide the authentic, inside story. It really is too good to miss.
You can order the book now from CQNBookstore.com and you will receive a signed copy. You can also add a personal dedication which is ideal for a Christmas gift. Simply email email@example.com with your dedication after you have ordered and Jim will sort this for you next week.
Jim is on fine form in the Podcast too, you’ll love it.
A Celtic State of Mind presents its 25th instalment of insightful discussion around the culture of Celtic Football Club, the city of Glasgow, and fans of the reigning invincible Scottish champions.
Jim Craig joined Paul John Dykes and Kevin Graham in the Tolbooth Studios in Stirling to discuss the Lisbon Lions’ 50th anniversary celebrations in a year which also saw Celtic winning an invincible treble, a prestigious award from FIFA naming their fans as the best in the world, and even a BAFTA!
In this emotional interview, Jim reminisces about Jock Stein, Billy McNeill, Neilly Mochan, Bertie Auld, Tommy Gemmell, Joe McBride and George Connelly.
He also discusses his latest book, his magnificent Lisbon Lion Diary: Right Back to ’67. This memoir is a real fly-on-the-wall recollection of events from 50 years ago, brought to life by Jim Craig’s intelligent and humorous brand of storytelling. Order HERE.
The CQN Podcast has gone from strength-to-strength over the last few months, and there are many more guests lined up in the months ahead from the world of sport, music, film, art, broadcasting, literature and politics.
Connect with A Celtic State of Mind @PaulDykes, @anorthernprose and @CQNMagazine and subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or through your podcast player.
ORDER YOUR SIGNED COPY OF JIM CRAIG – RIGHT BACK TO 67, A LISBON LION DIARY TODAY!