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THE DAY BIG JOCK RETURNED TO PARADISE

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ON JANUARY 30 1965, John Hughes ran amok as he thumped in five goals during a ruthless 8-0 destruction of Aberdeen at Parkhead.

Bertie Auld, Bobby Lennox and Bobby Murdoch claimed the others to send the Hoops fans home happy.

More good news was just around the corner.

CQN looks back to a momentous day in the club’s history. Here, in an EXCLUSIVE edited extract from Alex Gordon’s ‘CELTIC: The Awakening’ book, published in 2013, is the story that shook Scottish soccer.

TWENTY-FOUR hours later, came the announcement that dramatically changed the fortunes of Celtic Football Club – Jock Stein was to become the new manager. He agreed to succeed Jimmy McGrory, but only after Hibs found a new manager themselves. Bob Shankly, brother of Liverpool legend Bill, got the Easter Road position after leaving Dundee and Stein was officially named the new Celtic boss on March 9.

However, the jungle drums had been beating long before the news broke. It’s not easy to keep secrets in football and Glasgow, it must be said, is a wonderful city of rumour. Stein, a well-known punter, played his cards extremely close to his chest. He had, after all, only become the Hibs manager in April 1964. However, the pull of Celtic was to prove irresistible.

Stein was originally asked to become joint manager with Sean Fallon. Stein never intended any disrespect towards the Irishman, a former team-mate, but clearly it was going to be his way or no way. Fallon had taken over the duties as manager during the reign of Jimmy McGrory and it had been widely acknowledged within the walls of Parkhead that one day the job would be his.

Stein, though, stuck to his guns. News was somehow leaked that Wolves, searching for a new manager, were casting a gaze in Stein’s direction. A friend of Stein, Jim Rodger, a Daily Record sports writer, may have been behind the tale. Very probably.

Kelly, as everyone realised, liked to get things his own way. Stein was prepared for a game of bluff and double bluff. He won in the end, as he knew he would. ‘FIRST PROTESTANT MANAGER OF CELTIC’, blazed the front page of the Scottish Daily Express.

And history had been made at the club seventy-seven years after it had been formed by a Marist priest, Brother Walfrid. Jimmy McGrory was appointed head of Press Relations and Sean Fallon became the official assistant manager.

THE CUP THAT CHEERS…Jock Stein sips from the newly-won 1965 Scottish Cup.

Stein met his new players only twenty-four hours before a league match against Airdrie at Broomfield on March 10, but it was obvious the main target for Celtic was the Scottish Cup after reaching the semi-final following a real humdinger of a quarter-final tie in the mud of Parkhead four days beforehand. Celtic overcame Kilmarnock 3-2 and suddenly there was a belief about the place, heightened with the imminent arrival of Stein.

The new boss had a brief message for his players. “You work hard for this club and I will work hard for this club. Together we will achieve something.”

Bertie Auld said: “It was as brief as that. I knew Jock, of course, and many of the Celtic players had been in the reserves when he was coaching the second string. For a couple, though, it would have been the first meeting with Jock that morning. I’m sure they didn’t know what to expect. Jock kept it simple.”

Stein, of course, was welcomed by most. Billy McNeill admitted as soon as the news was confirmed of his return: “On a personal level, I got a tremendous lift. I knew things would start to happen again at the club.”

Ronnie Simpson was less enthusiastic. Stein had sold the goalkeeper to Celtic from Hibs the previous year and, after being told about his former manager’s arrival, Simpson is reported to have gone home and informed his wife she should get ready to pack. “We’re on the move again, Rosemary,” he is alleged to have said.

Tommy Gemmell was overjoyed. “I knew Jock actively encouraged his full-backs to drive forward. There would be no more of this: ‘Don’t you dare cross that halfway line’ again. Thank goodness. We were going to be given the freedom to express ourselves and I was going to take full advantage.

“There was no looking back for me the day Jock Stein walked back into Celtic Park. I clearly recall his very first instruction to me. ‘Remember, you are a defender and your first job is to defend,’ he said. ‘But get up that park as often as you can when you see an opportunity.’ That suited me perfectly.”

In Stein’s first  game in charge against Airdrie at Broomfield, Auld slammed in five goals, two penalty-kicks among them, in a 6-0 victory.  Auld laughed: “I always thought I had good timing.”

Gemmell added: “The remarkable thing about that display was that Bertie actually played wide on the left. He wasn’t playing right up front in the middle or just off the strikers. Forget the two spot-kicks, to score a hat-trick from a wide left berth was an incredible feat.

“It was only when Big Jock settled into the job that Bertie eventually moved into a midfield role, but against Airdrie that night he played as an orthodox left-winger, actually setting up opportunities for the likes of John Hughes and Bobby Lennox. I was playing right behind him and I can remember thinking: ‘This guy is class; he is giving us a new dimension.’ Exciting times, indeed.”

Three days later there was a double disappointment of St.Johnstone winning 1-0 in Glasgow in front of only 18,000 fans. There was a 3-3 draw with Dundee before the next home game and, once again, the fans didn’t exactly flock to Celtic Park. This time a crowd of only 19,000 watched Hibs win 4-2, a result that would undoubtedly have wounded Stein.

However, he would have been much happier just over two weeks later when Celtic travelled to Easter Road for a rearranged league game that had been frozen off during the winter. Goals from Auld (2), Stevie Chalmers and Bobby Murdoch gave the club a 4-0 victory.

The focus was the Scottish Cup, of course. It kicked off in February with a 3-0 win over St.Mirren at Love Street, but Celtic made it astonishingly difficult for themselves in the next round when they had to rely on a Lennox strike to see off the amateurs of Queen’s Park. Then came a classic confrontation against an excellent Kilmarnock side that brought goals from Lennox, Auld and Hughes to win the day 3-2 against stubborn, dangerous opponents.

THREE MEN AND A TROPHY…manager Jock Stein, chairman Bob Kelly and skipper Billy McNeill.

There was the intriguing possibility of Stein leading out Celtic against Hibs in the Scottish Cup Final at Hampden on April 24. While Celtic were due to play Motherwell in the semi-final at the national stadium, the Easter Road side were preparing to face Dunfermline on the same day at Tynecastle on March 27. Hibs lost 2-0 and Celtic struggled to a 2-2 draw with the Fir Park side.

Joe McBride, always quick to declare his passion for all things Celtic, stuck the ball past John Fallon twice. Bobby Lennox and Bertie Auld, with another superbly-executed penalty-kick, scored to ensure a replay four days later. This time there was no mistake. Celtic piled the pressure on Alan Wylie, in the Motherwell goal, and swept to a comfortable 3-0 victory, Chalmers, Hughes and Lennox on target.

The fact that the main aim of Celtic’s desire was the Scottish Cup was underlined by an awful 6-2 collapse against Falkirk a fortnight after the semi-final replay win. That was followed by a 2-1 defeat at home to Partick Thistle and the league campaign would come to a close against Dunfermline in a 5-1 flop at East End Park after the two clubs had fought out an enthralling Scottish Cup Final four days earlier.

To this day, Bertie Auld is still convinced that the 3-2 Scottish Cup Final triumph over Dunfermline in 1965 was the most important win of that era.

“‘Yes, even more so than the European Cup,” he insists. “Remember, Celtic had won nothing, absolutely nothing, for eight years. I was at the club when they beat Rangers 7-1 in the 1957 eight years earlier. I still found it extraordinary that the club STILL hadn’t won anything in between. Eight years without a major success? That’s a lifetime to a club such as Celtic.

“Would everything have fallen into place if we hadn’t beaten Dunfermline? We took great confidence from that success. For me, that was the game that turned everything on its head. That broke the spell we  were under. The club had reached other Cup Finals, but had not delivered during that period. Was this going to be another failure? No, we had to win the Cup, simple as that.”

Stein had tried to relax his players at a hotel in Largs before the game, changing it from the usual haunt at Seamill. He wanted a fresh outlook and he always paid attention to the smallest detail. Billy McNeill recalled: “Jock knew what he was doing. We didn’t go into this game thinking the end of the world was nigh if we were unsuccessful. He made certain he, and not us, absorbed the pressure and the players could actually enjoy the preparation for the Cup Final.”

There was the usual guessing game before Jock Stein announced his line-up for Hampden. He went with John Fallon; Ian Young and Tommy Gemmell; John Clark, Billy McNeill and Jim Kennedy; Stevie Chalmers, Charlie Gallagher, John Hughes, Bobby Lennox and Bertie Auld. A crowd of 108,803 was in attendance.

Gemmell recalled: “I believe Dunfermline were favourites. On league form alone, that would make sense. They completed the campaign only one point behind eventual winners Kilmarnock who shaded Hearts on goal average. We weren’t at the races, but, at the same time, there was a lot of confidence in the team.

“Jock Stein had brought a belief with him. And we had to show a lot of trust in ourselves, too, when our opponents took the lead in the fifteenth minute. Any time’s a helluva time to lose a goal, but it’s so important to keep things tight during that sparring spell of the first twenty minutes or so. And now we had conceded and we had it all to do. Harry Melrose was their scorer after a bit of a goalmouth melee when we just couldn’t get to the ball to hoof it into the stand.”

THE EQUALISER…Bertie Auld sits in the Dunfermline net after scoring the first goal in the 3-2 Scottish Cup Final triumph in 1965. Fife right-back Willie Callaghan gets a close-up view of the Celt’s delight.

Auld remembered: “I looked at my team-mates and I realised they felt to a man just like me. ‘We’re going to win this one,’ appeared to be the unspoken, but unified, response. Sixteen minutes later I was left sitting on my backside in the Fifers’ net, but I was not one bit upset; the ball was lying there beside me. I had equalised. I remember the goal like it was yesterday.

“John Clark slid a pass to Charlie Gallagher and he took a couple of steps forward, shaped to play it wide, changed pace and then sent a thunderbolt of a shot towards their goal from about thirty yards. Jim Herriot, the Fifers’ extremely competent goalkeeper who would become a team-mate of mine at Hibs later on, threw himself at Charlie’s effort, but he failed to divert its course and it thumped against the face of the crossbar.

“I saw my chance as the ball swirled high into the air. Herriot was on the ground and was desperately trying to get back to his feet as I moved in for the kill. The ball appeared to be suspended by an invisible hand. It seemed to be up there for ages. I was aware of their full-back Willie Callaghan coming in at speed from my right. He was wasting his time – I was never going to miss this opportunity. The ball came floating back down after what seemed an eternity and I launched myself at it to head it over the line. One-one – game on!”

Fallon, in the Celtic goal, surrendered again just a minute before the interval when Melrose rolled a free-kick in front of John McLaughlin who belted it first-time from twenty yards. The ball went straight through the defensive wall and eluded Fallon on his right hand side. Bobby Lennox recalled: “It was a quiet dressing room at half-time. I think Jock realised he only had us for a couple of months or so and if he lost his temper and bawled and shouted it might have tensed us up too much. That afternoon would not have been the right time to beef into the players. Jock was the big, friendly bear. On another day and on another occasion he might have savaged us.”

Auld looked back: “As we left the dressing room, Jock said: ‘Get that early goal…get that goal and we’ll win this trophy.’ Seven minutes into the second-half, Tommy Gemmell turned the ball to me and I swiftly passed it on to Bobby Lennox on the left. He took off like a sprinter and I chased into the penalty area, hoping to be in the right place at the right time. Bobby couldn’t have hit a sweeter pass into the danger area and I arrived on the button to first time a right-foot shot low past the helpless Herriot. Two-two – we’re going to win!”

The spectacle could not have been scripted better; the finale more exciting. Nine minutes remained when Celtic won a corner-kick out on the left. Gallagher, a gifted striker of a deadball, trotted over to take it. The midfielder floated in a curling cross that had all the devastating effects of a wrecking ball to the Fife defence.

Goalkeeper Herriot hesitated before leaving his line and that was to prove fatal. As he struggled to readjust his shape, Billy McNeill came thundering in with awesome timing to get his blond head to the cross and send the ball thudding into the net between the two helpless full-backs, Callaghan and John Lunn, guarding the posts; the area in between splendidly vacant.

I have heard it said that Hampden was actually silent for a split-second as the moment sunk in. I was there that afternoon and I have to say I believe this curiosity could be fact. So many things had gone wrong over so many years and now Celtic were on the cusp of actually winning a trophy.

I think a lot of the Celtic support around Mount Florida might just have been brainwashed into believing their team was destined never to be successful. Bertie Auld is right, this victory sent Celtic soaring to a new level.

* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report from Celtic v Aberdeen this afternoon – only in your champion CQN.

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