LISBON LION Bertie Auld was a mastermind in the Celtic midfield as Jock Stein’s all-stars illuminated football in the sixties and early seventies.
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 an amazing evening in Madrid.
BIG Jock took me aside and told me, ‘Real Madrid are desperate to do us. We’ve just won the European Cup, but they still think they are the best team in Europe. Amancio is their best player – do your best to keep him quiet. Keep an eye on him. I want to win this one.’
It was only thirteen days after our victory over Inter Milan and we had been invited to play for the legendary Alfredo di Stefano in his Testimonial Game at the Bernabeu Stadium. Real Madrid had won the European Cup the previous year, beating Partizan Belgrade 2-1 in the final, and they were as determined as us to win this one.
We had a player called John Cushley, a back-up central defender to Billy McNeill, and he spoke good Spanish. He read the newspapers and told us what they were saying about Celtic. Basically, they were informing everyone we had borrowed the European Cup from Real for a year.
Oh, yeah? When we turned up at the Bernabeu that evening we knew we were not going to be involved in a friendly.
NEW CHAMPIONS v PAST MASTERS…Celtic line up against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu in June 1967.
The great Alfredo, at the age of 40, graced the pitch for about fifteen minutes before taking his leave. Then we got down to the nitty gritty of seeing who was the best team in Europe.
Wee Jinky Johnstone was unbelievable that night against the Spaniards. Di Stefano, along with Stanley Matthews, was the Wee Man’s hero. He decided to put on a show for the Real legend – and what a show it was.
The Real players did their best to get the ball off Jinky, but it was one of those nights when it was superglued to his boot. He would show them the ball, they would lunge in and Jinky would do one of his little serpentine-weaving manouevres and they would be left tackling fresh air while he took off on his merry way.
Even I felt like applauding every now and again as he displayed his awesome talent. Meanwhile, Amancio and I were getting acquainted in the middle of the park. He didn’t like the attention I was paying him and we had a couple of kicks when no-one was looking. Nothing too serious, I hasten to add, but enough for him to realise I was there to do a job for Celtic that night.
CAPITAL SHOW…Billy McNeill and Real Madrid legend Alfredo di Stefano exhange pennants before kick-off.
It may have been billed as a friendly, but, please believe me, this was no game where there was any pulling out of tackles. They were absolutely determined to hammer us and, equally, we were just as committed to the cause to show we were worthy European champions.
Jinky tore them apart in one of the most spellbinding one-man shows I have ever had the privlilege to witness. He actually started to take the mickey at one point which was simply amazing. This wee guy from Uddingston playing in the most fabulous stadium on earth and giving their players a lesson in how to play football? It could only have been Jinky.
Meanwhile, Amancio and I were still having an interesting evening.
I don’t know if I was marking him or he was marking me, but we weren’t far from each other’s side all night. Then things got a bit heated. There was a 50/50 ball and we both went for it. Crunch! There was a bit of a fracas. He threw a punch at me and I returned the compliment. The referee was far from amused. He didn’t hesitate as he pointed to the tunnel for both of us.
To be honest, it was a fair decision. As I walked past Big Jock in the dug-out I looked over and said, ‘Problem solved, boss.’ He had the good grace to laugh.
SEEING RED…Bertie Auld and Real Madrid star Amancio head for the dressing room after being banished.
But it was Jinky’s night. It may have been Alfredo di Stefano’s final farewell in a theatre of dreams, but I’m sure the name on everyone’s lips that evening was Jimmy Johnstone. One of the Real Madrid defenders – I think it was a bloke called Grosso -must have had enough of our wee genius and tried to cement him. He came out of central defence and clattered into Jinky on the right wing.
You could see that he thought he had sorted out the Wee Man. No chance! Grosso walked back to his usual post and must have been more than slightly alarmed when he looked over his shoulder and saw Jinky back on his feet and preparing to take the free-kick.
Jinky, on that form, was irresistible. We played really well that night, despite my absence. Big Tommy Gemmell was bombing up and down the left wing as only he could and he might have got a hat-trick.
He had two superb efforts in the first-half that brought out two excellent saves from their goalkeeper. He just kept going throughout the second-half and it was easy to see why European coaches were acclaiming him as the best in the business.
We wanted to win this game and we duly did when Jinky – who else? – set up the only goal of a fiercely-contested encounter in the second-half. He had moved over to the left, in our own half, to take a pass from TG. He skipped past a couple of tackles in that effortless style of his and then planked the ball in front of Bobby Lennox, coming in from the right.
Wee Bobby didn’t even break stride as he hit the ball first time with his right foot and his effort flew low past the goalkeeper. Job done.
Real Madrid knew then who were the true masters of European football. To be fair to their support, they started to applaud Celtic and, especially, Jinky. He would sweep past a defender and the fans would shout, ‘Ole!’
It was a night for our wee magician to show everyone his tricks and flicks. I will never forget that performance. The Wee Man was unstoppable.
HAIL, HAIL…Jimmy Johnstone accepts the applause of the Celtic fans.
Jinky was going on holiday the following day with his wife Agnes. They left our hotel and the Wee Man jumped into a taxi and said, ‘Take me to Benidorm, driver.’ The cab driver asked, ‘You want to go to the airport, senor?’ Jinky replied, ‘No, I want to go to Benidorm!’
Geography might not have been Jinky’s best subject at school because Benidorm is about 300 miles from Madrid as the crow flies.
‘Are you sure, senor?’ asked the driver who must have thought he had won the pools.
‘Aye,’ said Jinky and the driver pointed the taxi in the general direction of the holiday resort.
Wee Jinky was a one-off, sure enough.
TOMORROW: DON’T MISS THE UNFORGETTABLE BERTIE AULD: PART TWENTY-SIX