LISBON LION WILLIE WALLACE scored an incredible 134 goals for Celtic in 231 appearances. Before joining Celtic he made 239 appearances for Hearts and scored an astonishing 127 goals! Here’s a selection of his goalscoring…
WILLIE WALLACE ON PLAYING AGAINST CELTIC
I played against Celtic on many occasions before joining the Club and after I was transferred. In the time spent with Raith Rovers and Hearts, I played against Celtic over seven seasons. I did have a few memorable games against Celtic with Raith Rovers but cannot recall any victories for Raith.
On 2nd May 1961 at Celtic Park against the Celtic team that had just lost the Scottish Cup Final to Dunfermline three days before, I scored my first goal for Hearts in the 15th minute and Hearts finished winning 3 – 1. I remember the centre-half for Celtic that day was John Kurila and John Divers scored for Celtic.
I had many good games against Celtic and I scored two goals at Tynecastle in a League match, which was another victory for Hearts. Celtic had had a problem travelling back from a European Cup tie in Kiev as the bad weather had held up all the flights. I believe they trained immediately after the flight before travelling through to Edinburgh for this game but Hearts had also played in Europe that week and had only arrived back into Scotland late on the Thursday before the Saturday match. Celtic did not play Billy McNeill that day at centre half but played John Cushley instead. I believe Billy may have played at Right Back. I had a good game that day and I think my performance may have interested Mr Stein!
WILLIE WALLACE ON SIGNING FOR CELTIC
I signed for Celtic on Tuesday 6th December, 1966 and four days later I made my debut with a Celtic team that had not been beaten in 30 competitive matches up to that time in the season. The game was against Motherwell at Celtic Park I played inside right, number eight, and that day the team, all but one, became the Lisbon Lions. Willie O’Neill played at left back and Tommy Gemmell was right back. Willie did not go on to play in the final. I had a quiet but a sound match. Steve Chalmers had a hat trick that day and I recall making a good pass to Bobby Lennox who hit the post with his close range effort, and the ball rebounded to Steve for his second goal. After the final whistle I was relieved that we had won 4 – 2 on the day and I fitted in to the team and performed well.
WILLIE WALLACE – LISBON: OUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT
My greatest memory and achievement as a Celtic player was of course winning the European Cup in 1967 in Lisbon against Inter-Milan. Before the game sitting in the dressing room, there was an air of calm and confidence. There was quiet chat and a few jokes going around. The boys knew this was a huge football occasion that meant so much to not only Celtic but also to Scotland and the whole of the British Isles; therefore, we kept our emotions under control.
The game was treated like any other fixture, the preparation had been good, and we were as fit as we could ever be, I think we all believed in our ability as a team so once on the field buoyed by the tremendous reception of Celtic fans we played our hearts out.
At full-time the fans streamed onto the field, a mixture of Celtic fans and Portuguese fans and it soon turned into a frightening experience. Mainly, the Portuguese were trying to remove strips and shorts for souvenirs and I was surrounded by a crowd when some Celtic supporters rescued me and escorted me to the tunnel.
In the dressing room most of the players had come through the same turmoil and were quite stunned but soon we realised what we had achieved the atmosphere changed to that of sheer joy. The dressing room became a thoroughfare with people coming and going to congratulate us and we all remember Bill Shankly being as proud and pleased as we were.
Billy McNeill had to go and pick up the cup and medals on his own. This was the only disappointment to us all as we would have liked to have had a victory parade on the field for all the Celtic fans who had travelled so far to see us win the European Cup.
WILLIE WALLACE – ON PLAYER’S WAGES
The exact amount of the bonus for winning the European Cup was nine hundred pounds after tax. The wages paid of two hundred and fifty thousand pounds per week to players in the Premier League shows, in my opinion, how much things have got out of hand.
WILLIE WALLACE – COMPARING THE LISBON LIONS TO THE MODERN DAY BARCELONA SIDE
Comparing the Lisbon Lions with Barcelona in today’s football might be a bit of a stretch of the imagination. Let us put both teams in the same time zone today. We would have the same facilities as Barcelona have, perfect playing fields, special footballs, special boots, all the pampering that modern day players receive, and the fact that they do not have to play a full match, I think we would more than match up given these conditions.
However, let us go back to our time and bring the Barcelona boys back with us. They would have to play on pitches that resembled a bog at times. They would have a trainer, a physio, and that is your lot brother! The football boots of the time are unlike the modern boots of today, footballs resembling cannon balls, – would they have coped with these conditions and remember tackling had no boundaries then?
To compare will always be hard but bringing the Lisbon Lions into today’s period would benefit them enormously and I would say Barcelona players would find it very difficult to play in the 1967 conditions.
WILLIE WALLACE – THE PRIVILEGE OF PLAYING FOR CELTIC IN MADRID
There were many highlights playing with Celtic, one was the privilege of playing in Alfredo de Stefano’s benefit match in Madrid in front of an 110,000 crowd. Alfredo had always been one of my heroes and even today, I think he would more than match the Messi’s of this world. Celtic won 1-0 that night with Bobby Lennox scoring the only goal and Jimmy Johnstone gave a display of a lifetime.
Another highlight was playing against Penarol FC at Parkhead. This was the first South American club that I had played against. The Boss played a very attacking formation that night, it worked perfectly well and to my delight, I scored the only two goals of the match.
WILLIE WALLACE – PLAYING AGAINST RANGERS
I always enjoyed playing in the games against Rangers, either home or away and always managed to get my fair share of goals against them. To be honest I did not really worry about playing Rangers as I believed, as the Boss did, all you gained was two points, the same as beating any other team.
Players of both Celtic and Rangers have always received abuse from the terracing. I had received abuse from both Rangers and Celtic fans when I played with Raith Rovers and Hearts. A few times remarks if playing Rangers were that “my Mother was a Nun” or playing Celtic “did my Father ride a white horse?” These were comments you would hear if you were near the touchlines but most of the time you could not make out what was being said in the din – but perhaps this was just as well. Off the field, I never encountered any problems, as I knew where to go and where not to go socially.
WILLIE WALLACE – MY FAVOURITE GROUND
My favourite ground was Tynecastle, Hearts ground, which was compact, and when full, a great atmosphere. The playing surface was always in A1 condition, even going back to Tynecastle with Celtic was an enjoyable experience.
WILLIE WALLACE – MY FAVOURITE PLAYER
The finest player I ever played with was Jimmy Johnstone. I can thank Jimmy for many of the goals I scored during my time with Celtic. I played with Jim Baxter, Denis Law, and Billy Bremner in the Scottish team all great players. The finest defender I came up against was Bobby Moore of West Ham and England. One defender who never had a bad game against me was the Aberdeen centre-half whose surname is McMillan, I never played well against him.
WILLIE WALLACE – PLAYING FOR SCOTLAND
Most publications have recorded that I won four caps but that’s incorrect! I played three times against England, twice against Ireland, I played against Holland, Russia and I played for Scotland in the John White Testimonial game in London and played at Leicester in Alex Dowdall’s Testimonial. I was also selected while at Hearts in the World Cup Squad when Jock Stein was Manager and travelled to Poland and Finland and was on the bench against Italy at Hampden in Scotland’s famous 1-0 victory.
I think it was understood in Scotland that if you played for the other part of the Old Firm you had a much better chance of being selected for the Scotland team. Not only Celtic players missed out on caps that they should have earned, to name a few players at Raith Rovers and Hearts, Willie McNaught, John Cummings, Willie Bauld all great players but did not seem to fit the criteria for the SFA. As I understand at that time back in the 60’s there was a panel of 22 selectors so each of the 22 would have their own favourites.
WILLIE WALLACE – ON JOCK STEIN’S BUCKINGHAM PALACE SNUB
I was surprised when Jock Stein was not knighted after the European Cup win as the year before Alf Ramsey became Sir Alf overnight for winning the World Cup. I do not think that Jock was concerned about this, as we only became a “British” club after winning the European Cup!
From an interview Willie gave to CQN Magazine a few years ago. When Willie was over at the weekend he kindly signed a very limited number of copies of both THAT SEASON IN PARADISE – TEN MONTHS OF CELTIC HEAVEN – £15.99 plus p&p (order HERE) and his own biography, WILLIE WALLACE – HEART OF A LION – £9.99 plus p&p (order HERE), both published on CQN Books. If you would like a signed copy of one, or both simply order now from www.cqnbookstore.com