TOMMY GEMMELL: ‘ONCE A CELT ALWAYS A CELT’

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LISBON LION Tommy Gemmell was born on this day in 1943 in Craigneuk, North Lanarkshire to proud parents Alfie and Margaret.
Coincidentally, Celtic will face the team he supported as a boy, Motherwell, this afternoon.
“My dream was to play for the Fir Park team,” the Hoops legend told long-time friend and Celtic book author Alex Gordon. “I used to cycle to the ground on match day to cheer them on from the terracing.
PARADISE IN PORTUGAL…Celtic’s goal heroes Stevie Chalmers and Tommy Gemmell – and friend – after the momentous European Cup Final triumph over Inter Milan in Lisbon. 
“However, that all stopped on the day I joined Celtic. They became my focus and long after I had stopped playing they were always the club closest to my heart. Once a Celt always a Celt.”
Hard to believe, but Big TG kicked off his career as an outside-right at Junior team Coltness United in 1959 before converting to full-back after joining the Parkhead club in 1961.
Remarkably, he signed for the Parkhead side on the same evening as Jimmy Johnstone. They shared a bus ride back home with the winger getting off at Uddingston.
BY THE LEFT…Tommy Gemmell fires over a cross from the wing.
BY THE RIGHT…Tommy Gemmell thunders in the unforgettable equaliser against Inter Milan on May 25 1967.
Gemmell made his first team debut as a 19-year-old in the No.3 position in place of the more experienced Jim Kennedy against Aberdeen at Pittodrie on January 5, 1963. Celtic won 5-1.
In all, he made 418 appearances for the club and scored 64 goals – an astonishing tally for a defender.
Gemmell left for Nottingham Forest in a £40,000 deal on December 12 ,1971 and netted six times in 39 league appearances.
“I never wanted to leave Celtic,” said Tommy years later. “I think everyone was aware of that. But you could never argue with Jock Stein. He had made up his mind to freshen things in the team and a few of us were on our way. There was a break-up of the Lions at the time and others such as Jim Craig, Willie Wallace, Bertie Auld, Stevie Chalmers, Bobby Murdoch and John Clark were moved on.
WALLOP…Tommy Gemmell thumps in the opener in the 1970 European Cup Final against Feyenoord in Milan.
JOY BHOYS…Tommy Gemmell celebrates his strike agsainst the Dutch with Bobby Lennox and Jimmy Johnstone joining in.
“I don’t think one of us had any desire to move, but you had to accept these things happen in football. No-one could ever take away the memories, though. They would live with me forever.”
Gemmell returned to Scotland with Dundee and was made captain of the club and helped them a 1-0 League Cup Final success in 1973 over Celtic, of all teams!
“That was a wee bit embarrassing,” recalled Tommy in his autobiography, ‘All The Best’, which was co-authored by his pal Alex. “I had to go up to receive the silverware and had to pass so many of my Celtic friends on my way up the stairs.
“To be fair, every one of them congratulated me on the victory. That meant a lot to me.
CZECH-MATES…Tommy Gemmell and Jimmy Johnstone celebrate the goalless draw against Dukla Prague that cemented Celtic’s place in the European Cup Final against Inter Milan in Lisbon.
“I was presented with the League Cup and I had to hold it aloft and wave it to the Dundee fans. I duly followed protocol, but if you see footage of that moment you will clearly see I couldn’t wait to hand the trophy to next in line, goalkeeper Thomson Allan!”
The Dens Park outfit appointed him manager in 1977 after ex-Rangers boss Davie White had been sacked after a series of losses in the league.
Gemmell left in 1980 for a new career as a financial consultant in the city, but returned to football in a part-time capacity as Albion Rovers gaffer in 1986.
READ ALL ABOUT IT…Tommy Gemmell’s autobiography, ‘All The Best’, published by CQN in 2014.
He lasted only a year with the Coatbridge club, but was persuaded to come back for another 12-month stint in 1993.
“Now that was an experience,” smiled Gemmell afterwards. “From Celtic to Cliftonhill is quite a step, believe me. Interesting times, though!”
Gemmell made his Scotland international debut in a 4-3 defeat against England at Hampden in 1966.
In total, he made 18 appearances for his country and scored one goal, a penalty-kick in an 8-0 World Cup qualifier against Cyprus at Hampden in 1969.
Thanks for the memories, Tommy.
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