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THE NIGHT JOCK BLAMED ME FOR CUP FINAL LOSS: BIG YOGI REVEALS ALL

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SCOTTISH football is still reeling from the aftershock of the tumultuous Glasgow derby at the weekend where Celtic swept to a 13-point advantage in their pursuit of their eighth successive crown – a feat which could be achieved this weekend if results go the right way.

CQN has been paying tribute to the legendary John Hughes – the original Big Yogi to Hoops fans – who celebrated his 76th birthday on Wednesday.

To mark the occasion, CQN have been publishing EXCLUSIVE extracts from his autobiography, ‘Yogi Bare: The Life and Times of a Celtic Legend’, co-authored by Alex Gordon.

Hughes, the club’s seventh-highest scorer with 189 goals, has been recalling some explosive tussles from the past.

Here is today’s exciting instalment in Big Yogi’s walk down the Old Firm Memory Lane. 

ONE game against Rangers that is embedded in my memory bank for all the wrong reasons is the 1966 Scottish Cup Final replay.

By the way, Celtic fans, there are a lot of exceptionally joyous tales still to come, so let’s get these ones out of the way. I always love a happy ending!

Celtic were overwhelming bookies’ favourites to lift the silverware for the second successive season after our 3-2 triumph over Dunfermline in the previous campaign. It was easy to fathom the reckoning of our Rolls-Royce-driving friends. We had annihilated Rangers 5-1 at Parkhead in the traditional New Year fixture and had also beaten them 2-1 in the League Cup Final where I netted two penalty-kicks.

The first game ended goalless and was a huge disappointment as far as spectacles go. The nearest to a goal came when Billy McNeill sent in a typical effort after getting his head to a Charlie Gallagher corner-kick. The ball whipped over the hands of Billy Ritchie, but, unfortunately for us, clattered off the face of the crossbar and was hastily booted to safety by a desperate Rangers defender.

Dame Fortune continued to snarl at us in the replay the following Wednesday. Midway through the first-half I got clear and picked out Joe McBride, normally so lethal with his head in the penalty box. Joe’s timing was perfect as he got in before the hesitant Ronnie McKinnon, but his direction was just off. Ritchie was helpless, but the ball agonisingly swept just inches wide of his right-hand upright.

HIGH AND MIGHTY…John Hughes puts the pressure on Rangers keeper Gerry Neef and skipper John Greig in an Old Firm confrontation at Parkhead.

Worse was to follow in the seventieth minute. Rangers built a move on the left before Willie Johnston sent over a low cross. George McLean missed it completely smack in front of goal about six yards out. If he had connected our opponents would surely have scored – and I would have escaped a rollicking from Jock Stein. Let’s continue, though. The ball ran to Willie Henderson who was also unguarded on our left and his drive was scrambled clear by Ronnie Simpson and our defenders.

The ball could have gone anywhere, but, unfortunately for Celtic and me, it went straight to the feet of their right-back Kai Johansen. It sat up perfectly to be hit and he walloped in a screamer from twenty-five yards. Ronnie didn’t stand an earthly as the effort flew over his left shoulder. We were all disconsolate and I knew I would have some explaining to do to The Boss, who could be very unforgiving in these circumstances.

I was always instructed to get into defence to mark the opposing right-back when he came forward. Normally, I would have done so, but the truth of the matter is I was struggling with an injury knock that night.

I informed the backroom staff at half-time I could feel my hamstring and, clearly, all was not well. Those were the days before substitutes. If they had been around in 1966 I have no doubt Big Jock would have taken me off and put on a replacement. Alas, we didn’t have that luxury back then. So, I went out for the second-half and was told to disguise my injury. That was something that was drummed into us. We were continually told to never let our opponents know we were hampered in any way.

I did my best, but I’m sure Johansen must have had an inkling I was not firing on all cylinders. I had destroyed him in the New Year game, but, on this occasion, I could hardly get away from him. I just couldn’t get into my stride and, possibly, that was why he ventured so far forward at that crucial moment.

The Danish defender seemed to score as often as there was a sighting of Haley’s Comet. In fact, the record books show his ratio was a goal in each year of his five seasons at Rangers and it was just my luck that one came along that evening to pinch silverware away from Celtic. Such is football.

AUTHOR! AUTHOR! Celtic legend John Hughes and co-author Alex Gordon enjoy a couple of beers after the publication of his autobiography, ‘Yogi Bare: The Life and Times of a Celtic Legend’. 

But even after he scored, no-one wearing green-and-white at Hampden that evening thought the game was over and the Cup was lost. No chance. We still had twenty minutes to play and that was plenty of time for Celtic to turn this game on its head. Only minutes after Johansen’s strike, I did manage to clip over a ball from the left and once again Joe McBride was there to snap in a header. It looked a goal all the way until it hit the Rangers keeper on the shoulder, flicked up, ran along the top of the crossbar and then dropped onto the top of the net.

In moments like that you could be forgiven for believing your name is not on the Cup. And so it proved. I explained everything to the manager afterwards and fitness tests backed up everything I said, but Big Jock just let it be known he thought I had let down the team. There was no point in arguing.

Interestingly, that was Rangers’ last trophy success for over four years and they were knocked out of the Scottish Cup the following season at the first hurdle when they were beaten 1-0 by little Berwick Rangers at Shielfield. Surely it would be churlish of me to even suggest they used up all their good fortune against us in that Cup Final replay?

Also, we played them in the Glasgow Cup the following August at their place and gubbed them 4-0. Just thought I would mention it!

TOMORROW: The unforgettable day I ran amok against Gers – Big Yogi reveals all!

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