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“THE SFA, VERY DEFINITELY RANGERS ORIENTATED,” LISBON LION (Part 3)

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IT’S TOMMY GEMMELL DAY on Celtic Quick News and we have featured so far today 20 questions put to the Lisbon Lion back in February 2013 by readers of this site.

Catch up on the first ten questions and Tommy’s answers HERE

and then move on to read the next ten HERE before resuming reading the third batch of the Q&A below.

Moving on to the next ten questions…

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Q21: Big Tam,  you scored 63 goals in 418 games for Celtic. That’s a better ratio than some of current strikers! Could you have played centre-forward? TALLYBHOY

A: The quick answer is ‘No’. A huge percentage of my goals came from long distance when I backed up the forwards. So, although I scored a few goals, they weren’t the type of strikes you would associate with guys such as Stevie Chalmers, Bobby Lennox, Willie Wallace or Joe McBride. They did their best work in and around the penalty box. I was happy to leave the goalscoring to the guys who knew what they were doing.

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 Q22: King Lud or Era Bar? THE SPIRIT OF ARTHUR LEE

A: Great question! Two pubs in Craigneuk when I was growing up. I didn’t have a favourite – I was far too young to drink! However, I do recall collecting empty beer bottles and returning them to the pubs. I think you got a penny on the empties. I made an absolute fortune in that area!

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Q23: How do you see the future of Celtic and Scottish football generally and what action can be taken to ensure a fairer distribution of TV revenues are received by Scottish clubs? TRADITIONALIST88

A: That’s up to the authorities to decide. The SFA and the League need to negotiate the best deals for our football clubs in general. There’s a lot to be considered, crowd money, TV deals, sponsorship and so on.

As for Celtic’s future, it would be highly intriguing if they ever got the opportunity to play in England. That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? At the moment, though, I think we should concentrate on building a team that will rule domestically and perform consistently well in Europe. Just like the good old days!

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 Q24: Uncle Tommy, can you tell is about your party piece? The German Song? Adam, Luke, Milly & Chloe. LYMMBHOY

A: Oh, you mean, ‘Fritz a Grand Old Team To Play For’? Yes, I have been known to belt that out at parties. Normally, I start off with a bit of Sinatra, but it’s not long before the ‘German Song’ gets an airing!

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Q25: Serious question this time. Wee Deedle Henderson claims you cheated when playing against him. Is it true you breathed on his contact lens before and during the game to restrict his vision? GG

A: Yes, of course, I did – anything to give Celtic an advantage over the old enemy!

Seriously, though, Wee Willie was a marvelous winger and we had some memorable jousts.

He was lightning quick and he never gave me a minute’s peace when we were facing each other. I think Wee Willie would be the first to admit that I played him hard, but fair.

Do you know we are still pals to this day? He was at my 70th birthday party last year.

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Q26: What’s the story with Jinky’s night out with a young Gordon Strachan while they were both at Dundee and you were the manager? I think Wee Gordon became teetotal after that night! TALLYBHOY

A: Actually, I’ve talked about this impromptu drinking double-act in the book. Yes, I had to give the current Scotland manager a bollicking. I told him, ‘Don’t go near that little bugger again!’ For the sake of his liver, I don’t think he ever did. Jinky? What could I say to my wee mate? He would just smile back and that was the end of the matter.

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Q27: What is your opinion of the present Celtic team and how does the club get the fans back onside after a season full of conflict between the fans and the club? CARRIGAN

A: The present Celtic team certainly has its merits and Neil Lennon has done an exceptional job in keeping them focused in the absence of their oldest rivals.

People will look at the Premiership and believe it is a one-horse race. In such circumstances, the players may just relax a little. Possibly, not intentionally, but subconciously.

I’m certainly not in full possession of the facts about any conflict between the fans and the club. One thing is certain – they need each other.

In my day, there were few politics in the game as we left that to the guys who made their living in parliament. But Celtic and its support have always dovetailed together and I don’t see that ever changing.

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 Q28: Tommy and the Lions gave the Celts more pleasure than all the tea in China ever could. No need for alcohol, drugs, cigarettes or anything else. Just watch that game. Happy days. How lucky the older generation were to have that team to watch. What was your most memorable match domestically as a Celt? JOHN O’NEIL

A: There is little doubt the 3-2 success over Dunfermline in the 1965 Scottish Cup Final was a major turning point in Celtic’s history.

Before that game, the last trophy the club had won was the League Cup when we beat Rangers 7-1 in season 1957/58.

That was quite a gap that had to be filled. We did that against a very good Fifers team in that Final. The victory gave us confidence and kicked off a very enjoyable winning habit.

That was a big win for Celtic and the support.

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Q29: Mr Gemmell, what was the feeling of the Celtic team of that era regarding the lack of International recognition of Celtic players? Did they care or was it just accepted as typical of the regime and their referees! MICK TT

A: We always had the feeling back then that the SFA was very definitely Rangers orientated. And I mean that as no disrespect to the Rangers players who were chosen to represent their country – they weren’t the ones doing the selecting, after all.

However, it got to such a situation that the SFA couldn’t ignore what we were achieving at Celtic.

They HAD to bring our players into their squads and teams.

All of the Lisbon Lions won full caps with the curious exception of Wee Bertie. That still amazes me to this day. My little chum was undoubtedly one of the finest left-sided midfielders of my era and, on his day, was simply mesmerising.

But Bertie, of course, was never slow to speak his mind and maybe the blazers at Park Gardens thought they had enough on their plate dealing with Wee Jinky!

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Q30: Obviously, in hindsight, Big Jock cannot be criticised for his team selection on that day in 1967, but on the day prior to kick-off when the team was announced, was there a player who’s exclusion from the line-up raised eyebrows in the dressing room amongst his fellow team-mates and you? MOONBEAMS

A: The outcome of the European Cup Final tells you Big Jock got his team selection spot on.

Remember, this was the same line-up that had earned the goalless draw against Dukla Prague in Czecholsovakia to get us to Lisbon. Also, it was the same selection that had beaten Aberdeen 2-0 in the Scottish Cup Final only a few days after Prague.

So, it was a fairly settled formation. Players such as John Hughes, in particular, Willie O’Neill, Charlie Gallagher and Joe McBride made solid contributions earlier in the competition, but the team that beat Inter Milan was obviously the right one for the occasion.

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*We will post more Questions asked by CQN’ers and Tommy’s wonderful answers throughout the day, part 4 to follow this evening. It is clear reading these questions that Tommy is held in the highest of esteem by the Celtic support. We can tell you that in the last few years of his life he enjoyed the company he found on CQN when we managed  to get onto the site for a read.

The last time Tommy made it onto CQN was on a late afternoon last year, appropriately enough on 25th May, when he popped on unannounced and chatted to the CQN’ers who happened to be around. He signed off as his tea was ready.

CQN has a Lisbon Celtic shirt, the last one signed by Tommy, and so far it has also been signed by Willie Wallace, John Hughes and Charlie Gallagher. Paul McStay also signed it when he popped in for a coffee and a chat when he was over from Australia. Willie Wallace will take this very Celtic shirt and get ALL the Lisbon Lions who are participating in this month’s 50th Anniversary to sign it too.

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We are raffling this Celtic shirt at the moment on CQNBookstore.com and ALL of the money raised will be used to thank the Lisbon Lions (players from 1966/67 European Campaign) or for those we have lost, their families.

CQN is staging an IN THE HEAT OF LISBON party at Greenock Celtic Supporters Club on Friday 26 May feating Willie Wallace and the Lisbon Lions. This is 50 years to the day since the Bhoys returned to Scotland with the Big Cup. Tickets are £10 and available at the bookstore – demand is very high so please book now.

You can also order our new book IN THE HEAT OF LISBON together with the wonderful CQN Lisbon 1967 JOCK STEIN t-shirt both for just £19.67. The t-shirts sold out but we ordered 100 more to see us through May and satisfy the orders that were coming in. Profits from this to our THANK YOU fund.

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