LISBON LION Bertie Auld was an inspirational performer on the day Celtic conquered Europe on May 25 1967.
CQN are celebrating the life and incredible times of the Hoops great 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 the Portuguese capital.
I LOOKED looked around our dressing room at Lisbon’s Estadio Nacionale before kick-off and thought, ‘There’s no way we can lose.’
We were preparing for the most momentous match in Celtic’s history with the soccer aristocrats of Inter Milan barring our bid to become the first British club to conquer Europe.
My big mate Tommy Gemmell was wondering around, chatting away merrily, giving you the impression he didn’t have a care in the world. And, knowing our cavalier full-back, he probably didn’t. I honestly do not believe my old team-mate knew how good he was.
Frankly, I thought he was the best left-back in the world at the time. And I’m not saying because of our friendship which extended beyond the confines of a football pitch.
TG was formidable in full flight and he was a revelation as an attacking wide defender. The amount of running he did up and down that wing for 90 minutes during matches was literally breathtaking. He loved to launch himself into attack – I think he was a frustrated winger – and, of course, he possessed a shot of pulverising power.
BY THE LEFT…Tommy Gemmell whips over a cross from the flank.
Big Jock must take some of the credit for switching TG from right-back to left-back. Actually, Tommy started in the No.3 berth, taking over from The Prez, Jim Kennedy, in the early Sixties. But after awhile he moved across to right-back with Willie O’Neill coming in to take his place on the left.
Willie was one of those utterly dependable players you knew you could trust and rely on. Coming through at right-back, though, was Cairney, Jim Craig, and, like TG, he was a natural athlete. I never thought he received the praise he deserved.
He wasn’t as spectacular as his full-back partner, but, then, neither was anyone else on the planet. Cairney would just get on with the job, quietly and efficiently, and I don’t recall too many, if any, wingers giving him the runaround.
Jock also knew TG was a naturally right-footed player, but, and you might find this hard to fathom, that worked against him when he played right-back. He would thunder down the wing as usual, but, of course, if he turned inside onto his left side he didn’t have the same sort of goal threat. TG was two-footed, but there can be no argument that the better and more menacing foot was his right.
BY THE RIGHT…Tommy Gemmell thunders in the unstoppable first-time drive for Celtic’s equaliser in Lisbon.
So, consequently, when he was over on the left, he could come inside and terrorise goalkeepers with his thunderous shooting. Jock introduced Cairney on the right, switched TG back to the left and the rest is history.
Bobby Murdoch, ‘Chopper’ to his team-mates, was world-class, too. He was a lovely, beautiful lad and his chest simply expanded when he pulled on that green-and-white shirt. Like us all, he was so proud to be a Celtic player. What a guy to play alongside. His deft and exquisite skills used to baffle me.
Here was this big guy, with that barrel chest of his, and he had the touch of an angel. Chopper didn’t kick the ball, he caressed it. And, yet, when the situation warranted it, he could give it one helluva dunt. If anyone ever got round to putting together a DVD compilation of spectacular long-range goals from TG and Chopper it would probably run for about a week – and that doesn’t include the slow motion replays!
Like Cairney, Wee Luggy, John Clark, didn’t always grab the headlines, but what a vital component he was in our line-up. He was irreplaceable, if you ask me. He was a devotee of defensive duties and the fans used to call him ‘The Brush’ for the amount of cleaning up he did along the backline.
RISE AND SHINE…Ronnie Simpson prepares to pull the ball out of the air to repel a rare Inter Milan attack.
If TG was caught up the pitch and I wasn’t covering, you could always depend on Luggy to be in the right place at the right time to mop up. It took a special brand of player to sacrifice himself the way our sweeper did, but I never heard him complain.
He was magnificent at reading play as it came towards him. If there was a break on from our opponents, in a two-against-one situation, Luggy was outstanding in forcing them to play the ball where it would do us the least danger. He would direct them into a corner or suchlike. He was a brilliant organiser and, please believe me, every one of his colleagues appreciated what he brought to our team.
We used to joke with him, asking if he needed a route map to show him how to get across the halfway line. He played 318 games for the club and scored three goals. Ironically, one of them was against Ronnie Simpson when Celtic beat Hibs, with Faither in goal, in a Scottish Cup replay at Easter Road.
I saw film of it not that long ago and I have to say it was a whizzbang effort that TG or Chopper would have been proud to claim. Remarkably, it turned out to be the only goal of the game. I bet that date, March 16 1961, is indelibly burnt into Luggy’s memory banks! Luggy used to rib Faither about it every now and again, but our veteran keeper used to say, ‘Luggy, son, you’ve got the wrong Ronnie Simpson who used to play for Hibs – I’m the good-looking one!’
EYES ON THE BALL…John Clark and Billy McNeill at the ready as Bertie Auld challenges Inter Milan dangerman Sandro Mazzola for possession.
In fact, Faither and Luggy were the only guys in our set-up who weren’t expected to score goals. Jock demanded everyone pitch in, but those two were excused goalscoring duties. As I have said elsewhere, Jock loved to entertain the supporters. We could go in 2-0 or 3-0 up at the interval and he would be urging, in fact, ordering us, to go out and make it four or five.
Faither and Luggy knew they had carried out their tasks if we finished the game with our opponents having a duck egg after their name.
Our goalkeeper didn’t always get the praise he deserved, either, I have always felt. You look at Celtic in 1967 and you can marvel at the array of skills that are on display courtesy of Jinky Johnstone, Chopper, Buzzbomb Bobby Lennox, TG and, hopefully, yours truly.
The cameras never dwelt on what was happening at the back because most of the action was centred around the other half of the pitch. Take my word for it, Faither was an exceptional goalkeeper; one of the all-time best.
He may have been thirty-six years old when he won that European Cup medal, but age never diminished his outstanding reflexes. Faither was agile, supple and the possessor of uncanny anticipation. With Luggy and our keeper around, it gave the rest of us plenty of latitude to venture forward.
HISTORY BHOYS…Billy McNeill leads out his Celtic team-mates with everlasting glory just 90 minutes away.
If it hadn’t been for an unfortunate shoulder injury, I am sure Ronnie would have continued playing well into his forties.
What can I say about our immaculate captain Caesar, Billy McNeill, that hasn’t been said before? What an inspiration he was for all of us. He had a presence on and off the pitch and was a born leader.
So many people over the years seem to be astonished when I insist that the European Cup victory in 1967 was NOT the most important in Celtic’s history. I genuinely believe our Scottish Cup win over Dunfermline two years earlier put down the marker for what was to follow.
Without that success, we might have thought the gods were against us; we were fated to be also-rans. I scored two goals that afternoon, of course, but it was Big Billy who made sure the silverware was on its way back to Parkhead with a trademark header from a Charlie Gallagher left-wing corner-kick near the end.
We celebrated like crazy – it had been seven years since the club had won anything – and it was a party that was to go on for another six years for me and three more after that for Celtic.
*TOMORROW: DON’T MISS THE UNFORGETTABLE BERTIE AULD: PART EIGHTEEN