LISBON LION Bertie Auld was the most irrepressible performer in Jock Stein’s team of all stars who conquered all before them in the sixties.
CQN are celebrating the life and incredible times of the club legend in an EXCLUSIVE series with extracts from his best-selling autobiography, ‘A Bhoy Called Bertie‘, co-authored by his friend and writer Alex Gordon.
The remarkable life story continues with Bertie reminiscing about battles against the club’s most ferocious foes, Rangers.
NITRO often merged with glycerine when Celtic met Rangers. Old Firm games were never always classical, but I believe you could say without fear of contradiction that they were most certainly always confrontational.
I never needed any extra motivation to go out and give my very best when I was playing against anyone. Just pulling that green-and-white hooped shirt over my head was enough to get me fired up and raring to go.
I don’t think for one fleeting second any other match on this planet could hold a candle to the Old Firm games. You’ve got to be involved in them to appreciate what these contests are all about. Passions from the fans would rocket through the stratosphere and some of these tussles should have carried a Government Health Warning such was the ferocity at which they were played.
Celtic supporters would be coming up to you days before the game and imploring, ‘Beat them for us, Bertie.’ Or ‘Don’t let us down, please.’ And so it went on. No pressure there, then.
I loved that rivalry. I thrived on these head-on collisions where no quarter was asked or given and the fans on both sides conjured up their own special – if that’s the right word – atmosphere. Bonhomie deserted Glasgow when these games took place. Instead, it was replaced by bedlam.
If you were not prepared mentally or physically for these 90 minutes of combat they would overwhelm you. Both sets of supporters gave it pelters and you could hear the racket that was being generated down in the dressing rooms as you prepared for these games.
You came out the tunnel and it never ceased to astonish me what I was about to encounter. In those days the games were played with the Celtic supporters in one half of the ground and their Rangers counterparts in the other half. It was a 50/50 split.
That’s changed nowadays, of course, with so many ticket holders at both clubs. The away fans are herded into a section behind a goal and, of course, they are heavily outnumbered in the chanting stakes.
PENALTY BOX PANIC…Rangers keeper George Niven lifts the ball off the toe of Bertie Auld as right-back Bobby Shearer looks on in an early sixties tussle at Parkhead.
You knew you were going to get stick when you played in these confrontations. There seemed to be an ignorance among a fair percentage of the Rangers support who didn’t seem to realise my parents, Peggy and Joe, had actually been married a few years before Robert Auld Esq debuted on this planet. And I’ve got the birth certificate to prove it.
Did I find it offensive? If they were screaming abuse at me at least they were leaving some other player alone. Embarrassed? I’m a Glaswegian – you couldn’t give me a red face with a blowtorch!
You got the distinct impression that Old Firm fans just lived for these games. To some, it didn’t matter that their club didn’t win any silverware – just so long as they beat their illustrious rivals when we locked horns. The vitriol bounced around the ground and created a din from start to finish.
I’m fairly sure that a huge percentage of those fans parked their brains outside the ground before the game and picked them up afterwards. But forget all the bigotry and the like that is associated with these clashes.
Believe me, both sets of players, ourselves as well as the Rangers lads, didn’t get involved in any of that. We both wanted to win. It was as simple as that. If you were an over-sensitive wee soul then Glasgow on derby day was not the place for you. The faint of heart were advised they would be far better off staying indoors when these games loomed on the horizon.
Obviously, I’ve got some fabulous memories of these games, including my debut first time around against the Ibrox outfit in a Glasgow Cup-tie in 1957. I was playing at outside-left and was up against the legendary Geordie Young. He really was an icon, captain of club and country, and was a monster of a man.
But he played me fairly that evening, I have to say that and, if memory serves correctly, we lost 1-0. For me, though, it was such an extraordinary occasion. The first of many I’m glad to say.
I recall another Glasgow Cup-tie at Ibrox in 1966 when I wished a black hole would open up and I could throw myself into it. I was ashamed of my performance that night which was rather strange because Celtic won 4-0! We did well as a team and Bobby Lennox netted a fabulous hat-trick with skipper Billy McNeill getting the opener.
But I wasn’t satisfied with my display on a personal level. It was just 90 minutes when I could do little right and I was growing increasingly frustrated with myself as passes went astray all over the place. I was playing like I had just been introduced to a football minutes before the kick-off.
We went into that game absolutely determined to beat Rangers. In fact, we wanted to hammer them; to rub their noses in it. We had played our old foes in the Scottish Cup Final only a couple of months beforehand and had somehow contrived to lose 1-0 in the replay after having the bulk of the play and possession over the two games. Our name wasn’t on the Cup that year.
I believe Rangers had one shot at goal in the entire three hours of the two encounters. It was from their Danish right-back Kai Johansen and his 25-yard effort simply flew past a startled Ronnie Simpson. There were only about 15 minutes or so to go at Hampden and we were stunned, to put it mildly, that we were losing 1-0.
Big Jock later blamed Yogi, our outside-left John Hughes, for not tracking back and picking up Johansen. That was a wee bit harsh because we shouldn’t even having been playing that night – we should have finished the job in the first game that ended goalless.
Caesar came closest to scoring in the Saturday clash when he hit the crossbar with a header. I missed that game, but I returned instead of Charlie Gallagher for the second match.
GOVAN GLEE…Bertie Auld and his team-mates celebrate a Celtic goal at Ibrox as disconsolate Rangers keeper Erik Sorensen and centre-half Ronnie McKinnon look on.
So, as well as everything else, we had revenge on our mind in that Glasgow Cup-tie at Ibrox. It didn’t matter in which competition we were playing – and no-one could claim the Glasgow Cup was the most glamorous tournament – we were hell bent on making our rivals pay big-style for stealing the Scottish Cup.
Caesar got the opener with a shot from close-range after Rangers failed to clear a corner-kick and then Lemon took over with a tremendous hat-trick.
So, our supporters were delirious at seeing the Rangers keeper Billy Ritchie pick the ball out of his net four times while Faither, Ronnie Simpson, in our goal, could have taken out a deck chair and read a good book such was the inactivity around our penalty area.
I still wasn’t satisfied, though. I did make one lung-bursting run that took away a couple of defenders and allowed Lemon to score one of his three goals. Big Jock always possessed the ability to surprise you with his observations and he made a fuss of that run from me.
‘Excellent work there, Bertie,’ he said. Maybe he knew I wasn’t happy at my overall performance and was just geeing me up.
Mind you, he could put you down, too. If you were caught swaggering around believing you had just put in a world-beating display, he was there to remind you of the things that hadn’t worked out.
No-one was going to get big-headed with this bloke around.
TOMORROW: DON’T MISS THE UNFORGETTABLE BERTIE AULD: PART TWELVE