CQN concludes its week-long tribute to the one-and-only Bertie Auld who celebrated his 82nd birthday a week ago.
The irrepressible Lisbon Lion has been sharing his Celtic secrets with CQN readers in EXCLUSIVE extracts from his autobiography, ‘A Bhoy Called Bertie,’ co-authored by Alex Gordon, and today the Hoops great gives you an insight into his dealings with the legendary Jock Stein.
Enjoy the last in the series of sitdowns with the iconic Parkhead favourite.
HERE’S something that may surprise you – Jock Stein wasn’t a bad singer. He liked to get up, grab the microphone and batter out some Sinatra songs to startled guests at one of the many functions we used to attend. The gruffness was gone as he belted out some numbers and let his hair down.
But, back at the park the following day, it was business, as usual. Looking back, I can now heave a sigh of relief – thank goodness there wasn’t such a thing as Karaoke around then. We would never have got Big Jock off the stage!
I had a few run-ins with Jock, of course. I recall one day storming out of Celtic Park after a particularly bad fall-out between us. I had been a substitute on the Saturday when Celtic drew 3-3 with Partick Thistle during a Scottish Cup-tie at Firhill in January 1969. I didn’t get on that afternoon, but I thought there might be a chance of getting the nod in the replay. Not only was I not in the first team, I wasn’t even on the bench.
I had been ditched without kicking a ball. I was more than just a wee bit incensed as well as puzzled.
I went to see him in his office. As a seasoned pro, I thought I deserved better treatment than that and I told him so. He could have pulled me aside at training and told me what he was going to do. I would still have been bewildered, but, at least, it would have softened the blow. But he never uttered a word – not one.
Then when the team sheet went up there was no sign of my name. I couldn’t bite my tongue on this occasion. I was angry. After I told him how unhappy I was at his selection process, I just got out of his room before he could even say a word. I went straight out of ground, jumped into a taxi and went to a restaurant in Glasgow city centre. Stevie Chalmers – there was only one outfield substitute in those days – took my place as twelfth man and Celtic didn’t seem to miss me as they won 8-1!
Things were more than a little strained after that. If only he had taken the time to explain his actions. Look, I’ve fallen out with many players while being a boss at Partick Thistle, twice, Hibs, Dumbarton and Hamilton. No-one likes to be dropped and everyone likes to play. Big Jock realised how much it meant to me to be out there with the rest of the lads doing my best for the club.
I loved playing the game and he knew it. I would even turn out for the reserves if it meant getting a kick at the ball. So, I admit I was furious that evening and it was better for all concerned that I removed myself from the immediate vicinity. But I still ask myself why he didn’t take the time to let me know I wouldn’t be involved. There were four days in between the first game and the replay and he had lots of opportunities and numerous occasions to tell me the news.
CUP THAT CHEERS…matchwinner Billy McNeill is chaired by Bertie Auld as Celtic celebrate their 3-2 Scottish Cup Final over Dunfermline in 1965. The skipper scored the third following two from Bertie.
Jock could be like that sometimes. He could make you look more than a wee bit silly in front of your team-mates and he certainly ruled with an iron fist. I could accept all that, but I repeat he knew only too well how much actually playing meant to me. He knew he would hurt me by leaving me out completely without a word of warning or explanation.
I missed the next two Cup-ties that season, wins over Clyde and St.Johnstone, but, strangely enough, I came back for the 4-1 semi-final success over Morton and I kept my place for the final – the famous 4-0 drubbing of Rangers. Jock was all smiles after that one.
I wasn’t at Celtic when he had his near-fatal car crash on the A74 in July 1975 when he was returning from Manchester Airport after a family holiday in Minorca and his Mercedes was in a head-on collision with a car coming directly towards him on the wrong side of the motorway. He was ordered to take a year out, but friends at the park told me he was there shortly afterwards although it was clear that Sean was in charge of the team on matchdays.
Thankfully, he made a full recovery, but those close to him said he was never quite the same again. Possibly, he now had new priorities and who could blame him?
I was watching Scotland’s World Cup qualifier against Wales in Cardiff on 10 September 1985 on television in my pub, The Buccaneer in Hamilton, when he collapsed and died shortly after the game. I was numb. The footage only showed the viewers that there was some commotion around about the dug-out area before the programme ended.
I wasn’t sure what on earth was going on. Telephone calls were made all over the place. Then the news bulletin came on and told us Big Jock had passed away. I felt as though I had lost a true friend, despite all our ups and downs. Big hard guys in the pub that night just broke down in tears. Yes, I cried, too.
I had to close early that evening and the blokes in the bar just accepted it. It was a very emotional evening for us all. Jock’s funeral at Linn Crematorium a few days later was one of the saddest days of my life. Football had lost a legend.
As I have pointed out, Jock could be complicated on occasion, but how can you ever doubt that his methods, controversial or otherwise, brought dividends? Just take a quick look at his trophy haul – ten league championships, nine Scottish Cups – one with Dunfermline – six League Cups. Oh, and a little matter of the European Cup. Jock Stein gave Celtic back their belief.
Above everything, he taught us all what it was like to be a winner. I hope he would accept that as an appropriate epitaph.
CQN READERS! Please keep a look-out for some more EXCLUSIVE series featuring Celtic greats in the forthcoming weeks.