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.
IBROX was the setting for a game where I came off the pitch more than a little demoralised. It was back on September 16 1967 and we had lost 1-0.
It wasn’t the defeat that got to me, though. It was the fact I had been involved in a sickening collision with their left-back Davie Provan that saw him carried off with a broken leg.
I was horrified when I realised the Rangers defender was so badly injured. To this day TG, Tommy Gemmell, insists he could hear the awful crack as Provan’s leg gave way. And he was on the other side of the pitch, too.
There is always a lot of innuendo, insinuations and wild stories when a player is seriously injured and, with the Old Firm, there are always added ingredients. You are on the receiving end of some outrageous claims and, naturally enough, some of the Ibrox support believed I had ‘done’ their player.
FULL STRETCH…Rangers left-back Davie Provan launches into a tackle on Stevie Chalmers.
OLD FIRM UNITED…skippers Billy McNeill and John Greig help broken-leg victim Davie Provan off the field after his accidental collision with Bertie Auld. Bobby Murdoch, Sandy Jardine and Ibrox physiotherapist Davie Kinnear are in attendance.
Absolute nonsense. I had switched over to the right for a brief spell as Chopper, Bobby Murdoch, moved to the left. We did that every now and again just to freshen things up and give the opposition something else to think about. I remember chasing a ball down the right flank at the Celtic end of the ground that afternoon.
I was very much aware that Provan was coming across to tackle me. I got there a fraction before him to send over a right foot cross. Just as I delivered the ball, the Rangers player’s outstretched left leg appeared on the scene. I couldn’t stop my momentum and, equally, he couldn’t pull out of the tackle.
There was a crunch as my boot made contact with his leg and he went down. I knew immediately it was a bad one. I felt sick, but it was a complete accident. Later in another Old Firm derby in November 1976 – which we won 1-0 – Rangers skipper John Greig broke Bobby Lennox’s right leg and, as I said earlier, Celtic fans were far from convinced it was purely accidental.
Again, that wasn’t fair on Greigy. Wee Bobby was the first to absolve the Rangers player of all blame.
CRUNCH…John Greig tackles Bobby Lennox with the Celtic striker in full flight.
OUCH…Bobby Lennox winces in pain as he hits the turf.
CONCERN…it’s game over for the grounded Bobby Lennox with an injury later diagnosed as a broken leg. Roy Aitken and Ronnie Glavin try to comfort their stricken team-mate with Joe Craig and Kenny Dalglish looking on.
I should say here that Davie Provan was a player for whom I had massive respect. I saw him play against Jinky on loads of occasions and I don’t think he ever kicked our winger.
He might have been given the runaround, and I hope he doesn’t mind me saying that, but he never stooped to underhand means to stop Jinky.
It must have been frustrating facing the Wee Man when he was at his tantalising best. Being taken apart in front of thousands watching on cannot be too pleasant. But Davie never lost the rag and never tried to boot our player. You could not say that about too many left-backs Jinky came up against back then.
In fact, I rated the Rangers lad so highly as a person as well as a professional that I gave him a job on our backroom staff when I was manager of Partick Thistle. And, just to underline how well we still get on, Davie was a guest among the Lisbon Lions at my surprise 70th birthday bash at the Burnside Hotel in Rutherglen in March 2008.
He reminded me that night of the story of how he reckons he saved Jinky’s life!
Some nutcase managed to get onto the pitch at Ibrox and made a beeline for our player. Davie is convinced the yob was carrying some sort of object in his hand. You could be certain he wasn’t about to make a presentation to Jinky to congratulate him on another fine performance.
THREE v ONE…Jimmy Johnstone races away from Rangers trio Kai Johansen, John Greig and Sandy Jardine.
However, as he raced past the Rangers player, Big Davie did a quick bit of thinking and grabbed the would-be assailant. He wrestled him to the ground and the police eventually frogmarched the intruder off the field and up the tunnel. Well done, Davie!
I’ve got loads of happy memories, of course. Back on a gloriously sunny evening in August 1967 we faced our old foes in a League Cup-tie. We knew a victory would put us through; a defeat would knock us out of the tournament we had won the previous year when a goal from Bobby Lennox gave us a 1-0 triumph over Rangers in the Final at Hampden.
I’ll talk about that game in a moment. We were smack in trouble, though, as Rangers took the lead in the eighth minute through Willie Henderson on our ground and were then awarded a penalty-kick deep into the second-half. Something remarkable happened after that and it gave us all the wake-up call we urgently needed.
Kai Johansen stepped up to take the kick and thumped it high past Ronnie Simpson. But the ball crashed against the underside of the crossbar, bounced down and a posse of Rangers players raced into the box to get to the rebound. Johansen was first on the scene and got his head to the bouncing ball.
PICK IT OUT…Bobby Lennox celebrates netting the final goal in a 3-1 League Cup comeback win in August 1967. Kai Johansen and keeper Erik Sorensen are the beaten Ibrox men.
I’m sure there were a couple of other Rangers players in the vicinity who wanted to finish off the job. The referee immediately awarded Celtic a free-kick because Johansen had two consecutive touches of the ball without anyone else getting a kick.
Every Celtic player took a deep breath. We knew we had been let out of jail. We realised how fortunate we had been. There was no getting away from it. We had been given a second chance; a lifeline and we grabbed it.
Willie Wallace levelled in the 78th minute after their goalkeeper Erik Sorensen failed to clear a corner-kick and, in rapid succession, Bobby Murdoch put us 2-1 ahead and Bobby Lennox finished it with the third.
The Rangers players looked aghast and who could blame them? They were twelve minutes away from taking a 2-0 lead and then, in a whirlwind spell, we had completely turned it around and finished 3-1 winners.
I’m glad to say we went on to beat Dundee 5-3 in the final to retain the trophy.
TOMORROW: DON’T MISS THE UNFORGETTABLE BERTIE AULD: PART THIRTEEN