JOCK STEIN returned to Celtic in March 1965 in a move that totally turned around the fortunes of the Parkhead club.

The team had not won a major trophy since the memorable 7-1 League Cup Final romp against old foes Rangers on an October afternoon at Hampden in 1957.

Celtic were in the wilderness before Big Jock succeeded the club’s legendary goalscorer Jimmy McGrory who had been in charge since 1945.

Today, in part three 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 focus for a quickfire honour 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 Bobby 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, Bertie Auld and John Hughes to win the day 3-2 against stubborn, dangerous opponents.

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.

HAPPY LANDINGS…Bertie Auld crashes over the line after scoring Celtic’s second goal in a dramatic 3-2 Scottish Cup quarter-final win over Kilmarnock at Parkhead. Keeper Campbell Forsyth sits this one out as his defenders are clearly stunned.

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, Stevie 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 reverse 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.

PENALTY-KICK PERFECTION…Bertie Auld slots his effort wide of stranded Motherwell keeper Alan Wylie in the 2-2 stalemate in the Scottish Cup semi-final.

“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.”

*TOMORROW: Don’t miss the fourth thrilling instalment of The Return of Big Jock.

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