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STEIN’S LAST HURRAH

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ANDY LYNCH’S entire life had prepared him for one kick of a football at twenty past three on the afternoon of 7th May 1977 at Hampden Park.

Twenty six years of toil, treatment and training culminated in a Scottish Cup-winning penalty kick, which wrote Lynch’s name into the annals of Celtic history.

It was the first he had ever taken in the green-and-white hoops, and that goal against Rangers is now 40-years-old.

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“I knew I was going to score. Not a single doubt entered my mind,” wrote Lynch in his autobiography – Hoops, Stars & Stripes (signed copies currently only £10 from CQN Bookstore).

“Maybe all the injury problems in my career were meant to happen as a test. Perhaps the mental strength I had gained from coming through those terrible years of anguish had prepared me for that single kick in the 1977 Scottish Cup final against Rangers.

“I faced Rangers’ Stewart Kennedy without fear. The yellow-jerseyed keeper stood in the centre of his goal motionless, as I took six paces backwards…

“Six short steps, one left-footed strike, 54,252 supporters, and only one outcome: I wrote my name into Scottish football’s history books…

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“At the beginning of the 1976-77 campaign, Jock Stein had signaled his return from his near-fatal car crash with the truly inspired signing of Pat Stanton. What a coup that turned out to be, as the Hibs legend shored up our leaky defence and became one of the main reasons for our terrific success that season. In the short period of time that I played alongside Pat, I realised that he was one of the finest footballers I ever had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with.

“Other huge reasons behind our double-winning glory that year were the performances of Danny McGrain (who was named Scotland’s Player of the Year), and Kenny Dalglish (who scored another 26 goals in his final, vintage, campaign with the club). Johnny Doyle finally had the opportunity to make a telling contribution, and the resurgent Ronnie Glavin was like a new signing for us.

“Alan Davidson of The Times, wrote at the time: ‘Stein, of course, has been rebuilding. And the indications are that he’s got the mixture to just about the right consistency for success in Scotland. The signing of the vastly experienced, subtle Pat Stanton is proving to be a clever piece of business. Stanton’s influence from the sweeper’s position has steadied and organised the defence, and Celtic now appear to have firmly bolted a back door which in the past was sometimes left ajar. His experience and calm is helping young centre-half Roddie MacDonald to accelerate to maturity and allowing full-backs Danny McGrain and Andy Lynch to do what they’re best at, supporting the attack.’

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“We wrapped up Celtic’s 30th league championship with a 1-0 win at Easter Road. I felt it was fitting that Pat Stanton won his only title at his spiritual home. What an outstanding season he had enjoyed with us and it was a privilege to call him my team-mate.

“The prospect of a tilt at the European Cup was one I looked forward to, especially after the disappointments of our previous two campaigns. Following on from our quarter-final exit at the hands of the East Germans under Sean Fallon, we had been unceremoniously dispatched out of the club’s first-ever Uefa Cup campaign in the first round by the Poles of Wisla Krakow. It was clear that in order to reclaim some of the European prestige gained by Jock Stein however, the big man would need to strengthen his championship-winning side.

“Before concerning ourselves with continental trips, we had the familiar journey to the Ayrshire coast and Seamill to prepare for the 92nd Scottish Cup final. Ronnie Glavin had enjoyed a vintage campaign in which he was top goal-scorer with 26 goals, and my former Glasgow RC Schools’ team-mate was thoroughly deserving of his international call up ten days before the final. Ronnie had picked up a knock though, and didn’t make the cut for Jock Stein’s side.

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“Six of Ronnie’s goals had come from penalties during the season, and seven of Kenny Dalglish’s total had also been attributed to spot-kicks. The natural penalty taker in Ronnie’s absence would have been his fellow top goal-scorer but Jock Stein arranged a competition the day before the final in any case.

“I had only taken two penalties in my senior career (for Hearts), and I had missed them both. I had no designs on becoming a regular penalty taker but my performance in the spot-kick competition suggested otherwise as I failed to miss a single shot and converted more than any other player in the squad.

“As Kenny and I walked up to the hotel to get changed, we were discussing who should take the kick the following day should we get one. Unbeknownst to us, big Jock had been listening in to us and, as he held the door open for us approaching, he remarked, ‘There’s you pair arguing about who should take the penalty… If I got the opportunity to take a spot-kick in the final against Rangers I’d bite your hand off for it.’

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“Jock was right. What a privilege it would be. ‘I’ll take the penalty tomorrow if we get one Kenny,’ I insisted. Kenny didn’t argue.

“I woke up on the morning of 7th May 1977 feeling certain that I would perform well and that Celtic would win the Scottish Cup.

“The ball-boys were waiting in the Hampden Park dug-outs with their ‘QPFC’ rain-jackets on. 12 years earlier, I had been one of them. Jock Stein and Jock Wallace led out their respective sides. They were the two great Jocks that I had known (Wallace being my ex-Hearts’ Coach). There was no time for sentimentality on my part though, I wanted to ruin Jock Wallace’s day.

“Jock Stein had believed in me. I had come to realise that. No matter what I had been going through, he had stuck by me. We had come to verbal blows but he didn’t get rid of me, and now there I was, ready to repay him even further.

“Kenny Dalglish led out the players, followed by Peter Latchford, Danny McGrain and then myself. I didn’t look back to see who was behind me. I was too focused on moving forward, on getting on to the Hampden turf, and on winning the match.

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“The pre-match white tracksuit tops we wore that day were a one-off. Neilly Mochan had arranged to have ‘League Champions 1977’ emblazoned across the backs of them in green. Every Rangers player behind John Greig was reminded as they ran out the tunnel, just who the top dogs were in Scottish football. Jock Stein was most certainly back.

“From the kick-off, I snuffed out the blue jersey I was up against and was able to get up into attacking positions. The ball broke to the edge of the box after 17 minutes, and I spotted Stewart Kennedy off his line. I looped a header from outside the box and he scrambled backwards. It looked like a certain goal but he managed to palm it past for a corner kick.

“Alfie Conn crossed the dead-ball in from the same corner of Hampden Park that Charlie Gallagher had back in 1965. Another header was sent towards our opponents’ goal, but it was Roddie MacDonald this time and not big Billy. The ball was stopped on the goal-line, but there was no doubt that Derek Johnstone had used his hands.

“Ten Rangers jerseys surrounded Bob Valentine, but he turned his back on them and ushered them away. I made my way to the penalty spot and every Celtic player knew that I was taking the kick. The Rangers players slowly dispersed, and Stewart Kennedy still had the ball. He threw it to me as he reached his goal, and I placed it on the spot.

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“I had waited my whole life for that moment. Behind me, Tommy McLean frantically pointed down to Stewart Kennedy’s left in an effort to help out his ‘keeper. He told him exactly where I was going to put the penalty. It didn’t matter if he knew.

“I took six steps backs. Ran six steps forwards. Sweetly struck it with my left foot, low to Kennedy’s left, tight to the post…

“Joe Craig, then Kenny Dalglish, and then Roy Aitken grabbed me in congratulation. The embraces were fleeting as we still had 70 minutes to play, but I had given us the lead.

“I made one mistake during the whole match. After about 25 minutes, I tried to flight the ball across the field. It got caught mid-flight in the wind and was intercepted. Rangers broke and the move could have killed me. But it didn’t, as we had the great Pat Stanton shoring up the defence.

“Big Jock ran on to the field and congratulated his captain, Kenny Dalglish. It was Kenny’s first and last cup win as Celtic captain. He crossed the border in the summer to win the European Cup with Liverpool.

“But before he did that, he led us up the Hampden steps to shake hands with Rankin Grimshaw and to collect our winners‘ medals.

“The glittering prize was passed from Kenny, to Peter, to Danny, and then to me. As I held aloft the Scottish Cup, the sounds of Celtic fans singing in my ears played like a symphony. I never wanted it to end.”

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Forty years after the momentous 1977 league and Scottish Cup double, Andy Lynch and Pat Stanton joined Paul John Dykes for the tenth episode of The CQN Podcast: A Celtic State of Mind.

Former captain, Andy Lynch, co-hosts this week’s show, and discusses current matters from Celtic Park. Meanwhile, his ex-team-mate, Pat Stanton, looks back on his vintage season in Paradise in another exclusive interview for A Celtic State of Mind.

The new Podcast is below. If you haven’t checked out A Celtic State of Mind yet, listen to this one and you will be inspired to go back and check out the earlier episodes. In this new episode, listen to Jock Stein taking about the 1977 Scottish Cup Final win after the match…you will love it.

NEW CQN PODCAST – PAUL DYKES PRESENTS WITH FORMER CELTIC CAPTAIN ANDY LYNCH AND SPECIAL GUEST PAT STANTON

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