MEMORIES of the incomparable Bertie Auld have been flooding back in the past few days since the sad announcement of the Celtic legend’s passing at the age of 83.

In another CQN EXCLUSIVE, here is an edited extract from his best-selling autobiography, ‘A Bhoy Called Bertie’, co-authored by his friend Alex Gordon, which may make you chuckle.

A FAIR percentage of the referees I have encountered in my many years in football are a fairly compelling argument for birth control.

You know the ones I mean; those preening peacocks who labour under the mystifying notion that a game of football is solely taking place for their benefit. These guys, misguided souls that they are, appear to be under the illusion that they are there to take centre stage while the other twenty-two blokes invading their space are merely bit-part players in their own little theatre.

Bill Shankly, the former Liverpool manager, once said of referees, ‘They may know the laws of football, but they don’t know football.’ Who am I to argue with a legend? There are only seventeen laws in football and one that isn’t there is common sense. But you know what they say about common sense, don’t you? It’s not that common and, you better believe it, I have seen match officials demonstrate that sad fact over and over again as a player, a manager and a spectator.

These guys have the powers to spoil a spectacle. Unfortunately, they often do just that. The best referees are the ones you don’t see. Unless you have been living on another planet, you will already know that Bertie Auld and match officials haven’t always seen eye-to-eye. I admit there has been the odd confrontation with authority.

BIRMINGHAM BHOY…Bertie Auld during his three and a half years at St Andrews.

Tiny Wharton was one of the most famous Scottish referees of my era. He was known as Tiny because he was about 6ft 4in and must have weighed about eighteen stone. If I am being truthful, I have to admit I didn’t particularly like the man. I thought he was arrogant and there was no love lost between Tiny and me.

I recall having a go at him after a game against Rangers at Ibrox. We were heading for the tunnel when I said to him, ‘Well played, Tiny, you gave us nothing today.’ He looked at me and said, ‘I’m sure I awarded Celtic a shy at some point.’ I didn’t see the funny side.

I’m sure Jinky wasn’t a fan, either. Tiny sent him off twice and I recall one came against Rangers in a New Year’s Day game at Ibrox. Jinky had been fouled a few times, but completely lost the rag in the second-half when he assaulted – there’s no other word – Rangers’ Icelandic midfield player Therolf Beck.

I can’t imagine what the Rangers lad had done to warrant such treatment from our little winger. Beck, as I recall, was a player of slight stature and was never going to be famous for throwing his weight around. Jinky just lunged at him, though, and, before Tiny got the opportunity to order him off, our winger just turned round and raced straight up the tunnel. He didn’t need to be psychic to realise what was coming next.

I’M IN CHARGE…Bertie Auld on the ball.

When I was at Birmingham City, Tiny refereed a Fairs Cup-tie against Espanol at St.Andrews in 1963. It was the second leg against the Spaniards and we had lost 3-1 in the first game. It had been a really bad-tempered affair and our opponents were into all sorts of dirty off-the-ball antics. The referee was weak and allowed them to get away with all sorts of stuff.

However, we knew we still had to play them at our place, so we thought we would get our own back. First and foremost, obviously, we wanted to win the tie, but I know a few of my team-mates had earmarked a couple of our opponents for some ‘special’ treatment, if you catch my drift.

I had been walloped just before the full-time whistle in the first game. This bloke just charged into my back and sent me flying. I looked up and saw he was wearing the No.2 jersey. ‘I’ll remember that number,’ I thought. Before the second leg, my colleagues were urging me to talk to Tiny and see if we could possibly get him leaning just a shade in our favour. Like that was going to happen!

The Birmingham team back then consisted of mainly English players, as you might expect, but there were a couple of Welsh and Irish lads, too. I was the only Scot.

READ ALL ABOUT IT…Bertie Auld poses with the European Cup at Parkhead during the launch of his autobiography, ‘A Bhoy Called Bertie’ in 2008.

Tiny, as usual, came into our dressing room before kick-off to inspect our boots. I said, ‘Well, how about that, you and me the only Scots on the pitch in a big European tie?’ Tiny didn’t respond. While he was looking at our studs I told my team-mates, ‘Tiny is a great referee. He won’t allow anything like we had to tolerate in Spain.’

Tiny ignored my wise words to my colleagues. When he left the dressing room I warned them, ‘Don’t give him any backchat – he won’t stand for that. His first warning is also his final warning. Watch yourselves.’ I wish I had taken my own advice!

The game had barely started when I saw their No.2 going for a loose ball. It was either him or me as I went into the tackle. I caught him and he yelped in pain.

Tiny knew me well enough, but never called me Bertie – it was always Mr.Auld. He passed me and said, ‘Don’t think that tackle went unnoticed, Mr.Auld.’

Some time later I saw my opportunity for a bit more retribution. I nailed the guy again and once more he went down like a sack of spuds. Tiny came over to me and said, ‘Remember when you said there would be two Scots on the pitch tonight, Mr.Auld? Now there’s only going to be one. Off you go!’

And that was the end of the game for yours truly.

By the way, I later discovered that the Espanol No.2 I hammered twice at St.Andrews was a replacement right-back for the guy who had played in the first game. The poor bloke must have wondered what he had done to incur my wrath that night.


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