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No Very Sad at All !

Jim Craig photo
Jim CraigGlasgow
No Very Sad at All !
Quarter Final of the European Cup second leg against Vojvodina Novi Sad. What turned out to be as dramatic a football match ever witnessed at Celtic Park.

6th March

‘Joe McBride, of Celtic goes into Killearn Hospital on Wednesday and he will have his cartilage operation on Friday morning’.

That was the news in one of the evening papers on the Monday before the Vojvodina tie, a bitterly disappointing moment but hopefully one which will lead to a return to fitness for Joe.

Naturally, he was disappointed but, at the same time, he was pleased that a resolution to his problem was nearly there and he continued to train as usual at Parkhead, being quoted as saying – “I want to get back into the game as quickly as I can so want to go to hospital as fit as I can be at the moment”.

Before leaving Novi Sad for Glasgow today Vojvodina Boss Vujadin Boskov gave travelling correspondents a hint about his line-up for Celtic Park but the surprise was that Stanic, the man who scored the only goal against Celtic in the first leg, wasn’t listed in Boskov’s short leet for the match.

For some reason, we did not stay at Seamill before this tie but did all our work at Barrowfield and went back afterwards to our homes. As you might imagine, at this time of the season, there was little in the way of heavy stuff, short sharp sprints being the order of the day, followed by some work on throw-ins, corners and free-kicks. The atmosphere was great. There was obviously a bit of excitement in the air about the forthcoming match but we could cope with that. What was bothering us more was that the Parkhead pitch – which we were allowed to look at but not go anywhere near (they even put barricades up!) looked wet and heavy, just in that state where it would cut up badly – hardly the ideal conditions for a crucial European Cup quarter-final.
The news about Joe was welcomed by the guys. We were all aware that he had been struggling fitness-wise and were glad that he was now being treated in Killearn Hospital. Hopefully, he would make a quick recovery.

7th March

Celtic today won an off-the-pitch victory over tomorrow’s European Cup opponents Vojvodina by banning the Slavs from training on the Celtic Park pitch tonight.
Vojvodina coach Vujadin Boskov, who is convinced that Celtic will be out of the cup by the end of tomorrow’s tie, decided it would be a first-class idea to have a training session on the pitch just 24 hours before tomorrow’s eight o’clock kick-off.
Jock Stein soon ended any possibility of that happening. He said – “the pitch is too soft to allow the visitors to use it for training tonight. There can be no question of any change of mind on our part. The Yugoslavs can train at our Barrowfield training ground under the lights but certainly not at Celtic Park”.

The Boss might have sounded really sincere in offering the Vojvodina manager the chance to give his players a chance to train at Barrowfield but as we had trained on it in the morning – and left it in quite a state – Mr Boskov might not have such a happy man that night just along London Road from Celtic Park.

The day before a match can sometimes drag a bit although, as I was single at that time, I had no idea of how busy you could be if you had a family. In future years, I would realise that with a few kids there never seems enough hours in the day but on that particular afternoon, I was at a loose end, so when my Dad asked if I would like to see a football match with him, I readily agreed.

We did not have far to go to see the match and as usual, we walked. My Dad worked in the furnishing department of the Glasgow South Co-Operative Society in Glasgow, the Co-op had a football team, which always played on a Tuesday afternoon, his day off, and on that afternoon the match was being held in Bellahouston Park, just along from my parents’ house.

To be honest, I had never thought twice about going along but almost as soon as I took my place on the sidelines, I realised that I may have messed up. Players in both teams quickly worked out my identity, spent a fair bit of the game chatting to each other and pointing to me and I even got a request from one manager to give his side a half-time team talk! I left early… a brief round of applause.
The night ended with some disappointing news for everyone connected with Celtic. Rangers beat Airdrie in a league match and the two points gained put them above Celtic in the league table on goal average, although we had a game in hand.

8th March
The papers gave the fans some up-to-date information about that night’s teams. One said -

 ‘Steve Chalmers is 100% fit – and is certain to play tonight in Celtic’s sell-out European Cup tie against Vojvodina at Parkhead.
Manager Jock Stein said today “you can take it from me that the bruised shoulder has healed completely. If there had been the slightest possibility of his not being able to jump and move freely for the full 90 minutes he would not have been considered for a game that is unquestionably one of the most important in Celtic’s history”.

Another publication mentioned the role that the Celtic manager had in mind for the fans –

‘Jock Stein called up reinforcements – an army of 75,000 – for tonight’s make-or- break European Cup struggle with Vojvodina.
This is the call that went out from the manager –
“We have had wonderful support all season but I am now calling for a special effort from our faithful following. Celtic had a far-from-warm reception from the Yugoslav crowd a week ago and I want our supporters to show Vojvodina how we can welcome a team from overseas but once the first whistle blows I want every Celtic supporter to join with the team in defeating the opposition.
The Celtic players have had it drummed into them that their professionalism and their commonsense will be severely tested tonight.
On this night more than most I shall not stand for anyone not giving of his best. I may excuse mistakes but I shall never pardon lack of enthusiasm or real Celtic effort”.

Before the Match

Like the rest of the guys, I had an early lunch and then went back to bed for a couple of hours. However, the timing of all this was quite important. For some reason, which I was never able to work out, we did not meet for a pre-match meal that afternoon, so that had to be taken at home as well.

There was one other unusual feature of the day, though, and this one was for the record books. We had been split into two groups for reporting to Parkhead. One group, which we shall call the ‘heavy mob’ (consisting of Hughes, McNeill, Murdoch, Gallagher, Clark and Gemmell) was told to report at 4.30pm.

All of these liked – or possibly were told to – have a little workout before a match, a stint just a little more physical than that undertaken by the later group, the ‘skinny mob’ who reported at 7pm and just did a short stint on the pitch just prior to the match. I was in that group, along with Simpson, Chalmers, Johnstone and Lennox.

That 7pm time was also a very critical one for all of us. At that point, just as the crowds were beginning to come into the stadium in their droves, the team was announced.

The Teams
Simpson, Craig, Gemmell,
Murdoch, McNeill, Clark,
Johnstone, Lennox, Chalmers, Gallagher, Hughes.
Pantelic, Aleksic, Radovic,
Sekeres, Brzic, Nesticki,
Rakic, Dakic, Radsosav, Trivic, Pusibric.

The Play

Usually the home side in a tie like this takes the initiative but on that night, both teams went for it and Vojvodina missed a real chance in 5 minutes, Pusibric missing a positive sitter from 6 yards.

That caused a bit of looking around in our team – defences always like to look for a culprit at a time like that – but we soon threw that off and took control of the play, dominating for the next 40 minutes. However, the expected breakthrough just did not come.

It was not the happiest of dressing-rooms at the break, as we were all a bit gutted at the effort we had put in and the lack of rewards it brought. But the Boss was at his calm best, stressing that as long as we kept the pressure on, the break would come so he had us continue with the way we had been playing.

We went at them again in the second half and to be honest, just as we were thinking a goal would never come, it did…

59 minutes
a simple cross by Tam was fumbled by goalkeeper Pantelic and Stevie was right on the spot to do the necessary. 1-0 Celtic

The crowd went mad and we could all feel their tension in the way they were urging us on. Jinky was proving a thorn to the left side of the Slavs defence; Yogi was doing equally well on their right side. They helped make the chances and the shots rained in.

Charlie, Yogi, Jinky, Yogi again, Tam and Stevie. Most were on target but they found Pantelic back in wonderful form

Almost on the whistle, Jinky went on another great run, this time causing the defence to put the ball out for a corner. Over went Charlie to take it; up went Cesar into the box.

Charlie swung over a beautiful cross, a cluster of heads went for it but Cesar’s blonde locks were higher than the rest and he powered home a powerful winner.

The crowd went mad, as did Ronnie, belying his age as he turned cartwheels and swung from the cross-bar. The Slavs looked shocked and defeated; only seconds later, they were beaten, as the referee blew the whistle for the end of the match.

Final Score Celtic 2 Vojvodina 0 Aggregate 2-1

As you might imagine, the dressing room afterwards was bedlam. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it was the noisiest, most celebratory moment in my Celtic career.

Unlike Lisbon, we took a bow in front of the wonderful fans before heading up the tunnel to a place we knew well and then did we let go!

And eventually, once we had bathed and put on our normal clothes, there was another problem, that of literally fighting our way to our cars through hordes of supporters, all keen to cuddle us and tell us what a great night they had.

To be honest, so did we and, as one paper pointed out, Billy’s header saved us all a trip to Rotterdam for the third match.

Elsewhere in the World ........

Two armed East German guards, aged 20 and 21, fled to the West last night. They left their double-sentry post and crawled under barbed-wire fences into the British sector.

Dundee announced today that both Andy Penman and Alec Hamilton can leave Dens Park – if the right offer comes in.

Glasgow Weather Centre reported today that a 143 m.p.h. gust of wind was recorded yesterday 3500 feet above sea level in the Cairngorms.
When confirmed, this will be the strongest gust ever recorded by a surface wind recorder in the UK.
Previous highest was122 m.p.h. at 2142 feet above sea level, on Lowther Hill, Lanarkshire.
Nearer sea level, the highest recorded wind was 116 m.p.h. at Tiree on 26th February last year.

Could a Stone Come Back to Scotland?
A letter to the Queen asking that the Stone of Destiny be returned to Scotland, or alternatively that it should be lent for the 650th anniversary of Scotland’s Declaration of Independence in 1970, has been sent off by Provost James Braid, of St Monance, Fife

New Currency
Britain is to send two teams of observers to New Zealand to study preparations for the country’s change-over to decimal currency in July.
Britain plans a decimal change in 1971.

Nelson Eddy, the world’s highest-paid singer in the 40s, died in Miami, Forida. He was 65. He was taken to hospital last night after suffering a stroke during a performance at a hotel night club in Miami Beach.

#Vojvodina, #Novi Sad, #European Cup, #Billy McNeill