JOCK STEIN was on the brink of a silverware breakthrough just a month after his return to Celtic in March 1965.

It was a dramatic comeback for the manager that was to inspire an extraordinary turnaround in the club’s fortunes.

The team had not won a major trophy since the unforgettable 7-1 League Cup Final romp against old foes Rangers on an October afternoon at Hampden in 1957. On April 24 1965, Celtic faced Dunfermline in a Scottish Cup Final that was to act as the spctacular launchpad for unimagineable success for the Hoops.

Today, in the fifth and concluding part of another CQN EXCLUSIVE series, author Alex Gordon looks at the kick-off to a glorious chapter in the club’s history with edited extracts from his tribute book, ‘CELTIC: The Awakening‘, published in 2013.

Please enjoy!

THE spectacle could not have been scripted better; the finale more exciting or nerve-shredding.

The Scottish Cup showpiece showdown had ebbed and flowed at a frantic pace right from the first whistle from referee Hugh Phillips as the hopes and dreams of both worthy opponents see-sawed in the most thrilling of confrontations.

Dunfermline had twice taken the lead through goals from Harry Melrose and John McLaughlin and twice the defiant Celts had fought back with goals from the irrepressible Bertie Auld, a showman who rarely failed to rise to the occasion.

The Celtic fans in the 108,800 crowd held their breath as the Fife team’s tricky little winger Alex Edwards attempted to claim a third goal for his team with a deft flick from the dge of the box.

HAMPDEN HALLELUJAH…triumphant captain and matchwinner Billy McNeill is hoisted onto the shoulders of his celebrating Celtic team-mates following the breathtaking 1965 Scottish Cup Final triumph.

The ball soared towards its intended destination until keeper John Fallon catapulted across his line, securely grasped the ball in his vice-like grip and came crashing back to the turf with sphere safely in his grasp.

With the game deadlocked at 2-2 and with only nine minutes remaining, Celtic won a corner-kick out on the left. Charlie 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 Jim Herriot hesitated before leaving his line and that moment of indecision 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, Willie Callaghan and John Lunn, guarding the posts; the area in between splendidly vacant.

THAT’S MY BHOY…Jock Stein expresses his delight with skipper Billy McNeill at the conclusion of an epic Hampden occasion. Charlie Gallagher and Bobby Lennox are next in line to be congatulated by the Celtic boss.

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.

On a bright Saturday afternoon at the national stadium in April 1965, Billy McNeill, Bertie Auld and their gifted and determined team-mates propelled Celtic on an entirely different and more memorable pathway.

With a little help from manager Jock Stein, of course.

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