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20th March 1967: Bairns Put to Bed

Jim Craig photo
Jim CraigGlasgow
20th March 1967: Bairns Put to Bed
Tight league run-in, but we ease past Falkirk

After the match versus the Pars, some of the papers were surprisingly critical of the treatment Celtic were receiving both from the press and even from their fans –

Go Easy on Celtic: Fans are looking For too much

‘Since the beginning of August close to a million satisfied customers have watched Celtic in their home games alone. You cannot please all of the people all of the time and recently there has been some little criticism both inside and outside the club that the Celtic standard of non-stop action is not being maintained.

It is a fact that until late in the Scottish Cup tie with Queen’s Park there was a danger that the amateur men, who played like professionals, might have snatched a goal and made the final score an astonishing 4-4.

Likewise on Saturday, because of carelessness and lack of concentration Celtic might have lost a league point – and that is one thing they just cannot afford to do at this stage of the season’.

Pre-Match

The main headline in more than one national daily gave good news to the fans –

Johnstone in Celtic Team

‘Jimmy Johnstone, the Celtic and Scotland international outside-right who was suspended for seven days by his club after the cup game against Queen’s Park, resumes in tonight’s Celtic Park league game against Falkirk.

In this game, Celtic hope to gain the points to take them back to the top of the table with a two-point lead over Rangers’.



I was hoping of course to be back in the side myself for the Falkirk match but everything would depend on whether I could prove my fitness to the management team. I had been asked to come in just about lunchtime as the Boss wanted an input from Doc Fitszimmons and he normally arrived about that time at the park, just after he had finished morning surgery in his practice.

So, I got into training gear, put in a stint of some medium length runs, then some sprints before walking round to behind one of the goals where Neilly had already laid out his bibs in the fashion he liked. I had not paid much attention as to who was watching but as I walked round the track I took a glance at the bottom of the tunnel and could hardly believe my eyes.

Standing there was the Boss, Sean, Bob Rooney and the chairman Bob Kelly; just to one side of the tunnel were two other employees, John McAlindon the electrician and Hughie Docherty the groundsman; while further along the track were two other groundsmen. All to see me being put through the wringer!

Anyway, Neilly really went to town when he got the chance, getting me to twist this way and that. It was tough but the ankle held up OK and at the end, he gave me a cuddle and said in his best Camelon accent “well done, young man”.

I was then told to get home for a rest and come back at 6-30pm for the match. It had been a great morning and I sang along with a group called the Beatles all the way home.

Matchday

Pre-match

For the second time that day, I made the trip from my parents’ house over to Celtic Park. Curiously enough, I suppose I should have felt a little more apprehensive heading to Parkhead for a first-team match but in actual fact, I had been much more worried going over in the morning to go through Neilly Mochan’s fitness test.

The guys were very noisy, as usual, and my fitness was a definite topic of conversation. The general consensus was that if I had been fit enough to pass one of Neilly’s tests, then I must definitely be OK.

I have often been asked how players react when someone else comes in and takes their place. Well, I did not know what the atmosphere was like at other clubs but at Parkhead at that time, it would be fair to say that the five full-backs chasing two places – Tam, Pumper, Davie Cattenach, Ian Young and myself – were very civil with each other and if there was any animosity, then you would never have known it.

The big news before the match, though, was that the draw for the semi-finals of the European Cup had been held in Switzerland and Celtic had been drawn against Dukla Prague, with the first leg at Parkhead. As was the norm in those days, apart from the fact that they came from Czechoslavakia and were apparently an army side, we knew nothing about them!

The Opposition

Falkirk were at the wrong end of the table. They were not exactly in the relegation zone – Ayr United were a bit detached and St Mirren were also a bit off the pace – but the Bairns were not too far away from the Buddies and would not have been looking forward to that night’s contest.


The Teams

Celtic:
Simpson, Craig, Gemmell, Murdoch, McNeill, Clark, Johnstone, Wallace, Chalmers, Auld, Hughes.
Sub: Lennox

Falkirk:
McDonald, Lambie, Hunter, Markie, Baillie, Fulton, McManus, Smith, Moran, Graham, McKinney.
Sub: Scott


The Play

Wee Jimmy was back…and delighted to see me back too….or so he told me! I suspect that might have been true. I don’t think anyone else prompted him or covered for him the way I did. I didn’t mind. He was such a easy-going guy that we all got on with him and he was also worth watching. When he was on song, I had the best seat in the house!

And yet, before a match, he was a restless soul. Unable to sit still, tapping his feet on the floor, picking his nails, looking out of the window ( I never got the point of that – it was frosted glass ) or making another visit to the loo.



One of my favourite memories of Jimmy was when we were preparing for a European tie and the Boss, using a tactics board, had explained how the opposition was likely to play and how he wanted us to compete. At the end, he said “OK?” and was rather surprised when Jimmy put his hand up.

“Do you want to ask something, Jimmy?”

“Yes, Boss, how long is the flight to this place?”

Reasonable question…but perhaps the timing left something to be desired.



You could almost sense that the crowd of around 25,000 was expecting big things from us that night in the way of goals. And obviously, the manager of the Bairns was equally worried as he had set up his team with the majority of the players in a defensive set-up. They had so few players forward that our defence was seldom troubled and we spent most of the match trying to add some power and options for our attacking ploys. The Falkirk players did manage to keep us out for a while but few defences can cope with a succession of quick attacks and the Bairns’ rearguard eventually cracked –

25 minutes….some nice work by Jinky and a good ball to Stevie, who tried his luck, saw his first effort blocked by the keeper but followed it up to score with his second attempt. 1-0 Celtic

29 minutes…Bertie tried a nice lob which went over the heads of defenders and goalkeeper. 2-0 Celtic

At the break, the Boss said little. He did not have to. We knew we were in control and were keen to get back out again to keep the pressure on.

And we did, with the Bairns completely unable to put any attacks together. It took a while but eventually we made the breakthrough again.

66 minutes…the best goal of the night. Yogi picked up the ball in midfield, headed towards goal, beating several men en route then let fly with a right-foot drive. 3-0 Celtic

67 minutes…Jinky was brought down – quite needlessly – and Tam did the necessary from the penalty spot. 4-0 Celtic

74 minutes...a Bertie shot hit the post and re-bounded to Stevie, who prodded it home.

Final Score Celtic 5 Falkirk 0

The two points gained put us ahead of Rangers at the top of the table. On that same night, the Light Blues were going down 0-2 to Real Zaragoza in Spain, which left the aggregate score at 2-2. Rangers, though, won the toss of a coin to put them in to the semi-finals of the European Cup-Winners’ Cup.


Damage to the Environment
The supertanker Torrey Canyon ran aground on the Seven Stones reef off the coast of Cornwall spilling hundreds of tons of oil into the water and polluting the whole of the south-west of England’s coastline.

Success
Former Celtic, Hibs and Clyde footballer Willie Miller, of 11 Banchory Crescent, Bearsden was granted a provisional public house licence at Stirling County Licensing Court for the Commercial Inn, Lennoxtown.

Bid for Peace
United Nations secretary General U Thant has made new peace proposals to North and South Korea in a further bid to obtain a ceasefire and eventual peace negotiations.

Well-informed Vietnamese sources said U Thant’s latest proposals were received in Saigon last week. A reply was sent 48 hours later.

It was not known, however, whether there had been any reaction from Hanoi.

#Celtic FC, #Falkirk FC, #1967

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