CELTIC fans were puzzled at the non-appearance of John Hughes – known to the supporters as “Yogi” – during the tribute to club legend Billy McNeill before Saturday’s 1-0 win over Kilmarnock at Parkhead on Saturday.
Jim Craig, John Clark, Bobby Lennox and Bertie Auld, who played in the historic 2-1 triumph over Inter Milan in the Portuguese capital on May 25 1967, were introduced to the supporters at a packed Paradise.
In attendance was John Fallon, back-up keeper to Ronnie Simpson who was stripped and on the subs’ bench for all eight home and away ties against Zurich, Nantes, Vojvodina and Dukla Prague as well as the Final against the Italian superstars.
Charlie Gallagher, whose last kick of the ball in the unforgettable European adventure was to set up Big Billy for his headed winner against the Slavs in an epic quarter-final second leg encounter, also took a bow on the pitch before kick-off.
Willie Wallace, who scored twice in the 3-1 semi-final first leg win over the Czech aces, was absent as he now lives in Australia.
WHAT A LINE-UP…Jimmy Johnstone, Willie Wallace, Bobby Lennox, Jim Brogan, Bobby Murdoch, Stevie Chalmers, John Fallon, Tommy Callaghan, Jim Craig, Billy McNeill, Tommy Gemmell and John Hughes.
Big Yogi, however, cleared up the mystery when he told CQN this morning: “I was at the game and sitting in the stand and I have to say I was quite surprised when I saw my old team-mates coming out of the tunnel before the match.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t receive the message to tell me to be with the guys on this special occasion.
“An invite was left on my mobile, but, alas, I didn’t check my phone until later that evening.
“I knew there had to be a simple reason. But, yes, I was a wee bit taken aback when I saw Jim, John, Wee Bertie, Bobby and the other lads coming out prior to kick-off.
“Disappointed? Listen, the main thing is we won and Big Billy couldn’t have bettered that header from Jozo Simunovic.
“It would have been marvellous to take part in the procession for a very special guy such as my old skipper. I loved Billy McNeill and we were in at the start at Celtic when we couldn’t win anything.
“The league was normally kaput some time early in January and normally our only hope of silverware lay in the Cups.
“Billy and I were Celtic fans and we never wanted to leave, even during the darkest days.
“So, it was all the sweeter for us when the team started winning trophies. I played the April afternoon in 1965 when Billy headed the Scottish Cup Final winner against Dunfermline.
“That was out first piece of silverware in eight years and we all knew it would be the start of something great.
HOOP, HOOP HOORAY…Back row (left to right): Davie Hay, Jim Craig, John Hughes, Evan Williams, Billy McNeill, John Fallon, Tommy Gemmell, George Connelly and Tommy Callaghan. Front row: Bobby Murdoch, Jimmy Johnstone, Harry Hood, Bobby Lennox, Stevie Chalmers, Willie Wallace, Bertie Auld, Lou Macari and Jim Brogan.
“We just didn’t realise how marvellous.
“Playing alongside Billy McNeill was all about winning and I know my old pal would have been proud of the fighting spirit among the present-day players against Killie.
“It’s all about getting the team over the line in an extremely emotional season.”
Hughes, who played five out of the nine games on the Hoops’ European Cup adventure 52 years ago, also paid tribute to fellow-Lion Stevie Chalmers who passed away on Monday at the age of 83.
Seventy-six-year-old Hughes, the club’s seventh-highest scorer with 189 goals, said: “Stevie was an absolute gentlemen, a pleasure to play alongside.
“He was perpetual motion when he was out on that pitch. Stevie put himself about, took the knocks, didn’t dive around like others I could mention in today’s game and, of course, scored goals.
“Look at his strike tally for the club – 231 in 406 appearances to put him in fourth top place in the history books.
“That’s phenomenal shooting by anyone’s standards.
“Like Billy and I, Stevie was another Celtic fan who was at Parkhead when we just could not win a trophy for the club or our wonderful fans.
“He played against the Fifers, too, in 1965 when everything changed.
“I’ll miss those two guys and, of course, the other lads who have, sadly, gone before them.”
Hughes won six titles, four Scottish Cups and five Glasgow Cups before leaving Parkhead for Crystal Palace in a double deal with Lions colleague Wallace in 1971.