LISBON LION Bertie Auld passed away on November 14 last year at the age of 83 after a brave battle against dementia.
CQN has been celebrating the life and incredible times of the Celtic 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 the journey to Celtic’s most supreme triumph in Lisbon on May 25 1967.
WHEN we took centre stage in the European Cup on a still evening in Glasgow on 28 September, 1966 we could only guess about what lay in store. The European Cup had been won by only four teams – Real Madrid, who had succeeded six times, Benfica and Inter Milan twice and AC Milan once.
These were giants of European football. It seemed you had to come from an exotic part of Europe to lift that trophy. Glasgow didn’t seem to fit the bill! In fact, we were the first team from Northern Europe to gatecrash that particular party. So, what on earth were these upstarts from Scotland doing mixing with the elite of football? We were about to provide an answer, of course.
Big Tommy Gemmell had the distinction of scoring Celtic’s first goal among the European top guns when he rocketed in a thirty-yarder in the sixty-fourth minute after Zurich had proved to be an extremely competent group of players. Big Jock, who was to celebrate his forty-fourth birthday four days later, had told us to keep calm at half-time.
PICK IT OUT…Tommy Gemmell (half-hidden, extreme left) rockets the ball high past Zurich keeper Steffan Iten to claim Celtic’s first-ever goal in the European Cup.
‘Keep moving the ball around,’ he urged. ‘Try to get round the flanks.’ And so on. We had started the season in whirlwind fashion and were used to being in command by the time the interval arrived. Previously, we had taken eight off St.Mirren and blasted in six against Clyde in League Cup-ties. The three league games before the meeting with the Swiss champions had seen three successes – Clyde (3-0), Rangers (2-0) and Dundee (2-1). We were flying, but Zurich were doing their utmost to bring us back to earth.
TG came up with his wonder strike after the hour mark and their keeper, Steffan Iten, probably did himself a massive favour by getting out of the road of yet another piledriver.
Five minutes later we doubled our advantage and felt a lot more at ease. Luggy broke up an attack, passed to Jose, Joe McBride, and he touched it onto me. I feigned to go one way and then backheeled it into the tracks of Jose. He was a guy who never had to be asked twice to have a go at goal and he swept it into the net. It got a slight touch off a defender, but it looked good enough to reach its destination, anyway.
TWO OF A KIND…Bertie Auld and Tommy Gemmell return to Celtic Park after a training session at Barrowfield.
And TG stole the thunder again in the second leg a fortnight later at the Hardturm Stadium when he walloped in two – one from the penalty spot – and Stevie Chalmers added another. One thing I recall about that evening was the fact that Big Jock was convinced we would find it easier to play them on their own ground.
They needed three goals to progress and had to give it a go. That would leave spaces for us to exploit. He was spot-on again.
Next up were the French champions Nantes and this time we played the first leg away from home in their Malakoff Stadium on 30 November. The French, in typical Gallic fashion, fancied themselves and they had some excellent players, notably their main midfield man Robert Herbin, who had captained his country during the World Cup Finals in England the previous year.
Robert who? I had him in my pocket in both legs, which we won 3-1 away with goals from Jose, Lemon and Stevie. They had actually taken the lead through Magny in the 20th minute before we decided to put the tie to bed. Jinky gave Europe an advance warning of his glittering array of skills with a marvellous performance.
It was also 3-1 in the second leg at rain-lashed Parkhead where Jinky was once again simply unstoppable. He got the opener in the thirteenth minute, but all credit to the French as they refused to roll over and they levelled through Georgin. It was 1-1 at half-time and Nantes might have thought they were on the verge of pulling off a shock. No chance.
Jinky meandred down the right wing, sent over an inviting cross and Stevie met it perfectly to send a header spinning into the net. It was deja vu all over again for the French when Jinky staged a repeat performance with Lemon this time finishing it off.
I have to admit I didn’t know an awful lot about our next opponents, Yugoslavia’s Vojvodina Novi Sad. Their country was enjoying something of a rennaisance and their international side had only lost 2-0 in a replay to Italy in Rome in the old European Nations Cup, now the European Championship, the previous year.
Partizan Belgrade also reached the European Cup Final in 1966 before losing 2-1 to Real Madrid in Bussels. Dinamo Zagreb were to win the Inter-Cities’ Fairs Cup, now the UEFA Cup, in 1967, beating Leeds United 2-0 on aggregate over the two legs. We also realised that Vojvodina had seen off the much-vaunted Atletico Madrid, who had overwhelmed their city rivals Real to with the Spanish title, in the previous round.
These days, at the flick of a switch, you can find out what is going on all over the world and watch players and teams in foreign leagues and have a good idea what they are all about. However, in 1967, that was not the case. You had to take the word of your boss and Jock let us all know that this was an exceptionally well-equipped team with quality players who were very comfortable on the ball.
They also had a goalkeeper called Ilija Pantelic who was rated as the best in the world at the time. So, we had a fair idea what to expect when we took the field at their stadium on a cold evening on 1 March, 1967. The pitch was rock solid and hardly conducive to football artistry. They were a good side alright, but we were holding out with only 20 minutes to play and they looked just a little bit despondent.
They had tried all sorts of ways to get through our rearguard, but we were holding firm. A draw looked on the cards.
Then, horror of horrors! TG, so often the hero, was a bit wayward with a passback that dropped between Chopper and Luggy. Djordic, a speedy little attacker, nipped in, squared it across to Stanic who sent the ball wide of our exposed and helpless goalkeeper. Faither was well known for his infectious sense of humour. It deserted him at that moment, though. The Slavs celebrated like they had won the cup already.
ON THE RUN…the inimitable Bertie Auld.
They arrived in Glasgow a week later and one thing I detected was that Jock and his Vojvodina counterpart, Vujadin Boskov, were never going to be big buddies. Boskov, who would later manage Real Madrid, was a cocksure character, that’s for sure, and he had Big Jock sucking out his fillings when he said, ‘We expect to win in Glasgow. Why not? We are the better team.’
Oh, Really? Wrong thing to say, comrade!
Unfortunately, I had to sit this one out through injury and Charlie Gallagher took my place in the middle of the park. What a game he had, too. I’m not the greatest spectator you are ever likely to meet and it was murder sitting up in that stand watching this encounter unravel. The fans, and I make no apologies for repeating myself, were magnificent yet again.
The encouragement they gave the side that night was simply awesome. But it didn’t appear to be knocking the Slavs out of their stride. They were a solid, compact unit and extremely well-drilled. I was talking to my big chum TG before the match and he was desperate to atone for his mistake in the first game. ‘I’ve got to score, Bertie,’ he said. ‘I don’t want the blame for us going out of the European Cup.’
TG didn’t score, but he did the next best thing – he set up the equaliser just before the hour mark with another assault down the left wing as he had been doing all night. Yogi, at outside-left, played his part by dragging a defender inside and that allowed our full-back to hit the line and fire over a cross. Pantelic made to grab the ball, but he reckoned without the bravery of Stevie who launched himself at TG’s effort to deflect it into the net.
The place was in uproar. Jose and I were dancing up in the stand and the fans, all 69,374 of them, were delirious with delight. If they were overjoyed then, it was nothing to the state they were in just before the final whistle.
My replacement Charlie went over to take a corner-kick on the right wing as Caesar trotted into the packed penalty area. There was the usual jostling as players tried to block our skipper. They were wasting their time. Charlie flighted over as sweet a cross as you will ever see and Caesar, with his usual impeccable timing, soared high to meet it perfectly and arc a lovely header into the roof of the net.
That was the signal for bedlam. The old Parkhead roof must have been close to being blown off such was the racket – and that was just Jose and me! Do you know how long there was to go – TWO SECONDS!
Vojvodina just had time to kick off and the referee blew for the end of the game. If Caesar hadn’t scored it would have gone to a replay because extra-time had not been introduced at the time. I believe it would have been in Rotterdam a couple of days later and anything could have happened against this gifted bunch. More and more I was becoming convinced our name was on the trophy.
Now there was just the little matter of taking care of Dukla Prague in the semi-final.
TOMORROW: DON’T MISS THE UNFORGETTABLE BERTIE AULD: PART SIXTEEN