TOMMY GEMMELL will take a bow along with his Lisbon Lions team-mates at a sell-out Celtic Park tomorrow night.
But the Hoops great has admitted he will miss the opportunity to catch up with Inter Milan’s legendary full-back Giacinto Facchetti.
Sandro Mazzola, who scored his club’s goal via the penalty spot in 1967, will be there along with a few other players from that era, but Gemmell said: “I was so sad to hear Giacinto had passed away a few years ago.
“He was a fabulous full-back and I can now reveal, 48 years after our European Cup Final win over his club, that I actually copied him.
“Back then, you never saw too much continental football on the television, so I always made sure I caught the action when Inter or Italy were on the box.
“He was a bit of a trail-blazer – a defender who scored goals. And in Italy’s ultra-cautious football-style, too.
“It was known as the dreaded “catenaccio” and it stifled imaginative, attacking play.
“Even worse, because Inter had been so successful using the tactic – they had won the European Cup twice in the previous three years – every other coach was doing the same.
“Even my mate Denis Law toiled to score goals in the Italian game, so that highlights Facchetti’s feat in scoring almost 80 goals for Inter. That’s a phenomenal strike rate for a back-four operator.
“I scored 64 goals in my Celtic career and I was happy enough with that.
“So, you could say he inspired a young Tommy Gemmell to get forward from his full-back berth to have a crack at the opposing keeper.
“I’ll say another thing about my old Inter Milan foe – he was a complete gentleman, if there is such a thing on the football pitch.
“Let’s put it this way, he wasn’t a hooligan!
“Seriously, he was an extremely cultured footballer and you can also see how much of a sportsman he was if you look again at the Brazil v Italy World Cup Final in Mexico 1970.
“Pele and Co ran amok, winning 4-1 with the rest of the planet looking on, but I can’t recall Facchetti even once having a kick at an opponent.
“No-one likes to be humiliated, but it must be even worse when millions world-wide are watching the action.”
However, Gemmell, 71, admitted the ambitious outlook of the flamboyant full-back could have led to the Italians’ against-the-odds defeat in the Portuguese capital in 1967.
He said: “By following his lead, my apparent devil-may-care attitude might have backfired on Facchetti and his Inter team-mates that unforgettable day in Lisbon.”
Gemmell, who scored Celtic’s first-ever goal in the European Cup in the opening tie against Zurich at Parkhead in a 2-0 win, added: “Really, I shouldn’t have been that far up the pitch at that stage.
“Big Jock Stein always insisted that I had to stay back if my full-back partner Jim Craig went forward and vice-versa.
“So, obviously I broke all the rules as I galloped upfield when Cairney was advancing on the right.
“Listen, we were a goal down, we had passed the hour mark, it was the biggest game in Celtic’s history and their keeper, Guiliano Sarti, was looking unbeatable.
“We had to give it everything, totally and utterly, to get back into the game.
“I had had a couple of efforts saved by Sarti, but I still had the belief that I would beat him if I hit one absolutely flush.
“Of course, that’s exactly what happened when Cairney squared the ball across into my favourite position on the edge of the box and I caught the ball just right.
“I knew in an instant that Sarti wouldn’t stop that one. It was a goal as soon as it left my foot.
“And the rest , as they say, is history. Glorious history.”
Gemmell hopes Rony Deila’s team rises to the occasion in the east end of Glasgow.
He added: “A lot of the Celtic players facing Inter will have never experienced a packed Celtic Park.
“They can take it from me – it’s awesome. Back in the sixties, we called it our twelfth man. They were the Celtic substitute before such things came into being.
“So, I’m sure the players will be inspired when they see the stadium rocking tomorrow evening.
“There is no place better to play your football than Celtic Park when it is a sell-out and the supporters are giving it pelters.
“I’m getting excited about it even now – and I haven’t played there for 46 years!”
* Relive the glory days in a personally-signed book by the Lisbon Legend, ‘Tommy Gemmell: All The Best’ published by CQN books and available at www.CQNbookstore.com at the bargain price of £10.99 including P&P.