LISBON LION Bertie Auld was a veteran of Glasgow derby battles when they were legitimately tagged Old Firm.
The midfield mastermind made his debut in the uncompromising duels at the tender age of 17 and featured on this unique occsions for more than a decade until the final farewell in a goalless draw at Parkhead on January 3 1970.
The thoughts of the irrepressible Bertie, who sadly passed away in November 2021 at the age of 83, are revealed by his long-time friend, author Alex Gordon, who co-wrote the Hoops legend’s best-selling autobiography, ‘A Bhoy Called Bertie’.
In another CQN EXCLUSIVE, we conclude a series of edited extracts from the Hoops icon’s life story as he discusses the world famous Glasgow duels.
THE fans up in the stands or on the terracings who roar their heads off and those who spit bile and venom from start to finish at Old Firm games would never believe it, but there were moments of levity among the swinging boots in these torrid encounters.
Big Tommy Gemmell knew he was always in for a tough time of it when he was up against Wee Willie Henderson. He was a pacy right-winger who was always at his happiest running directly at defenders with the ball. TG used to try to show him inside and pass him onto one of the other defenders to stop him in his tracks. I think Willie would be the first to admit his left foot was only for standing on.
There was one game when TG and Willie were going at it hammer and tongs. The challenges were thundering in all over the place and on one occasion my big Celtic pal caught the wee Ranger and sent him flying. The raging Ibrox support was demanding the referee send off TG and I saw Willie having a bit of backchat with my team-mate.
SPOT ON…Tommy Gemmell lashes a penalty-kick past Rangers keeper Erik Sorensen in a 1-1 draw at Ibrox in August 1967.
I sidled up minutes afterwards and asked Tommy, ‘What was the wee man complaining about?’ Tommy laughed and answered, ‘He was just saying if he had known he would be up in the air so much this afternoon he would have brought a parachute!’
On another occasion, John Greig, who also revelled in these confrontations, went over to the Celtic end to fetch the ball for a throw-in. A voice exclaimed, ‘Greig, I didn’t realise you were such a dirty bastard.’
The Rangers captain swiftly replied, ‘Have you not been watching me all season!’
I remember a smashing League Cup Final against them on October 29 1966 when 94,532 crammed into Hampden. We all realised it was going to be a fabulous piece of skill or a huge blunder to break down the barriers both defences had erected. Luckily, we conjured up something to get the only goal of the game.
I sent over a nice cross and Joe McBride magnificently back-headed the ball into the tracks of the inrushing Bobby Lennox. The wee man from Saltcoats took the ball first time in his stride and it was in the back of the net before the Rangers keeper, Norrie Martin, and his defenders knew what was going on.
PICK IT OUT…Bobby Lennox fires in the 1966 League Cup winner with a whiplash drive past Rangers keeper Norrie Martin while centre-half Ronnie McKinnon looks on helplessly.
Joe, known to everyone as Jose, might not have scored against our deadly rivals, but he more than played his part in helping us to beat them back then.
Of course, it wasn’t all sweetness and light on these occasions. I was left seething after a January 2 1968 clash at Parkhead. Bobby Murdoch, Chopper to his friends, and I had scored and we were the dominant force that day. Yet we dropped a point in a disappointing 2-2 draw and our keeper, John Fallon, had a howler.
Okay, your goalkeeper can make one mistake and you have to accept it. We are all human, after all, and there is often no way back for your last line of defence if he makes an error. John – or Peter as he was known and I’ll tell you why in a moment – blundered twice to gift Rangers their result.
The first was bad enough as he allowed a half-hit shot from Johnston to go through his legs. However, we still thought we had done enough to rack up a victory when we were leading with about a minute to go. Kai Johansen tried a speculative shot from about 40 yards out on the right.
OOPS…Celtic keeper John Fallon juggles with a high ball as Tommy Gemmell looks on during an anxious moment in a game at Ibrox.
I recall it was a foggy afternoon and I don’t know if our keeper saw the effort properly. But it was a sclaffed shot from such a long way out and shouldn’t have given him any trouble. He could have thrown his bunnet on it, as they used to say. However, Peter dived right over the top of the ball as it squeezed under him.
Even the Rangers players couldn’t believe it. I swear that neither of their shots that day had enough oomph even to touch the back of the net. They simply crawled over the line.
Peter was a dejected figure as he sat in the dressing room. He didn’t need to be told he had performed miserably. At least, he lived up to his nickname! We called him Peter after a character called Peter Brady in the popular television series The Invisible Man. Fallon, who could be some shotstopper when he was on form, would often go AWOL.
The defenders would look round and think, ‘Where on earth has our goalkeeper gone now?’ I think he enjoyed a wee walkabout his goal area when it might have been a better idea to remain on his line.
FOILED…Ronnie Simpson makes a breathtaking diving save to deny a close-range shot from Rangers’ Orjan Persson with Billy McNeill and Tommy Gemmell looking on.
There was another occasion when Rangers beat us and we should have thanked them for that. Let me hastily explain just in case you think I have taken leave of my senses. A goal from their Swedish winger Orjan Persson gave them a 1-0 victory at Ibrox in September 1967.
As European champions, we were so sickened by the defeat that we didn’t lose another league game throughout the campaign. That was only the second league match of the season, too. We were angry with ourselves. We didn’t think we had done ourselves justice that particular afternoon and we all vowed to make sure there would be no more slip-ups. And so it proved.
Celtic became the first club since 1935 to secure a hat-trick of titles and we did it by scoring 106 goals and conceding a mere 24 from 34 games. That was the best league campaign in Big Jock’s years.
By the way, I am sorry to inform the Rangers support that they did not beat the European champions that day. I have heard it said many times that the Ibrox loss was the first by the Lisbon Lions, but that is not the case.
Davie Cattenach, a talented utility player, was in at right-back for Jim Craig at Ibrox, so that was not the team that had conquered Europe four months earlier.
Thought I might just clear that one up!
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