LISBON LION Bertie Auld was Celtic’s Commander-In-Chief alongside Bobby Murdoch as the double-act dovetailed perfectly in Jock Stein’s all-conquering side of 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 the lead-up to everlasting glory of an evening in Lisbon on May 25 1967.
IF it had been barren in Prague, it was opulence all the way at the five-star Palacio Hotel in Estoril, a quite picturesque little coastal town to the west of Lisbon.
This was to be our HQ as we plotted and planned to overwhelm Inter Milan and become European champions. The jigsaw was coming together.
Big Jock was meticulous as he drew up his plans for the big game. He warned, ‘Watch yourself in the sunshine – the sun is your enemy!’ He timed us when we were in the swimming pool, too. You were allotted such and such a time and then you were out. He patrolled the hotel like a headmaster. He wanted everything to be perfect.
Big Jock had the habit of charging into your room without knocking the door. He would always try to catch you off guard just in case you were getting on the outside of a bottle of gin. As if! The night before the game Jock came into my bedroom.
ON THE BALL…Bertie Auld races at the Inter Milan goal with Armando Picchi for company.
‘Everything okay, Bertie?’ he asked. ‘No problem, boss,’ I answered. ‘Just reading a good book.’ He looked around the room and, satisfied all was in order, closed the door and moved onto another unsuspecting team-mate.
Actually, if Big Jock had bothered to look under my bed he might have got a bit of a surprise – he would have come face to face with my brother Ian!
My younger sibling had saved some cash to travel to Portugal to support us, but, being Ian, he hadn’t bothered with the little detail of booking a room in a hotel. With the help of some of my colleagues, I managed to smuggle him into our HQ in Estoril.
It was like something out of a Carry On movie as he ducked and dived to make sure he wasn’t spotted by any of the Celtic powers-that-be, including our manager who wouldn’t have been too pleased to discover someone had invaded our privacy.
No matter how much Big Jock tried to silently creep up on you, we could always hear him coming. He still had that heavy limp that ended his playing career and you knew immediately that he was about to descend on you. I was playing cards with Ian the evening he decided to pay me an impromptu visit.
A WORD IN YOUR EAR…Jock Stein and Inter Milan boss Helenio Herrera before the kick-off.
The alarm bells went off in my head as I heard him approach.
‘Quick, Ian, hide!’ I said.
‘Where?’ he asked.
‘Get under the bed. Now!’
Honestly, it was hilarious. Ian scrambled under the bed, the door opened, Jock looked around and left without a clue as to the whereabouts on the uninvited guest.
As he prepared for Lisbon, Jock picked the same eleven who had performed in the second leg in Prague and no-one would have believed that the same bunch of players could undergo such an amazing transformation.
We were going to conquer Europe and we were going to do it the Celtic way with the rest of the football world looking on. Inter Milan were masters of catennacio, a defensive-minded formation that stifled all the good things in the game.
They had won the European Cup twice in the previous three years and they had lifted the World Club Championship twice over the same period. They were dull, but they were successful. Other coaches, thinking it was the way ahead, copied their tactics.
These coaches were strangling the life out of football, but it didn’t seem to matter if trophies were being collected.
As I pointed out at the start, we must have frightened the pants off the Italians when they saw us storming through a training session twenty-four hours before the kick-off.
We later spent the evening watching England play Spain in a friendly international in the hilltop home of a Scottish golfer called Brodie Lennox – no relation to Wee Bobby – who had emigrated to this rather splendid part of the universe.
We walked down a hill in pitch darkness afterwards as we returned to our hotel to get a good night’s sleep before the rigours that lay ahead.
TOMORROW: DON’T MISS THE UNFORGETTABLE BERTIE AULD: PART TWENTY-TWO