25 March 1967: Title Race Hots Up
On the Tuesday morning, the Celtic fans in the country would have been pleased to read the headlines in the press and the accompanying words alongside. This is a typical example of the coverage of the Falkirk match –
Easy Victory Puts Celtic Back at Top of League
‘Celtic last night deposed Rangers from the leadership of the first division with an emphatic victory over Falkirk at Parkhead. They now have 48 points from 27 games, two more than their arch-rivals with the same number of games played’.
Some of the guys were feeling a bit stiff the morning after the match against Falkirk. And that was hardly surprising, as most of them had played two matches in 48 hours. By contrast, after my only outing of the weekend, I was feeling good, the bruised ankle still a bit tender to touch but not giving me any real bother when running, passing or shooting. Tackling was another matter but I had another leg to do that with?
We did little in the way of strenuous work at that late stage of the season; we merely put in some runs to loosen up, then some sprints before the Boss had a word, particularly with the defence, over some matters that were bothering him. And that was it for the day.
Not much done today either. We concentrated on a bit of shooting practice and of course, we finished most sessions at Barrowfield with our regular game, the Bibs versus the Non-Bibs. At the start of pre-season training, you were placed in one or other of these groups and we always met each other at the end of training on the full pitch. If everyone was fit, it could be up to 18-a-side, was always two-touch and because of that, was played at a really quick tempo.
Occasionally, one of the sides could be a few men short due to injury and that created a problem. Nobody in one side ever wanted to play for the opposition – you were either a Bib or a Non-Bib – so the Boss got round that problem by telling the side with the more men to play one-touch and the team with the injured personnel continued to play two-touch. It was fast and furious….and often harder that a tough workout!
On that Wednesday night, quite a few of us went over to Douglas Park, where we were part of the 9,497 who turned up to see Hamilton take on Clyde in a replay of a 3rd Round tie in the Scottish Cup. The teams had drawn 0-0 in the first match but on that night, Clyde were excellent, thrashing ‘The Accies’ 5-1, an excellent result which put the Bully Wee into the semi-final, where they would meet….us!
We had a special visitor at Celtic Park and everybody was delighted to see him. It was Joe McBride, of course, who had just come out of hospital the day before after his knee operation. He was all bandaged and plastered up of course but he was in good spirits, really pleased that he had received treatment and keen to get back into training.
He was a popular team-mate, was Joe, and the guys were all pleased that he was so positive about the future. A testament to Joe’s popularity could be seen in the number of our guys who went to see him in hospital. I think everyone made the long journey to Killearn and back – it was a fair trek – but he was such a nice lad that no one begrudged the time or the distance involved.
Supporters’ reactions can be strange sometimes. In the days following the good 5-0 win over Falkirk on the Monday night, the ones I met – both family members and the fans I just came across at the shops, the petrol station or the church – were all quick to tell that that there two big games coming up and we needed to win both of them!
Now, they were referring to the Scottish Cup semi- final against Clyde and the European Cup semi-final against Dukla Prague. They had obviously overlooked the fact that we were involved in a fight against our major rivals for the league title and they were just refusing to give in. Just as well the players, and even more importantly, the Boss, were able to keep a broader perspective. The fight for the league championship was definitely a tough one…and, as we all know now, it would eventually go to the final match of the campaign.
Yes, of course, the games against Clyde in the Scottish Cup and Dukla Prague in the European Cup would be big contests but on the Saturday coming up that week, the 25th March, we had another league match and that would be a real test as the opponents involved – Heart of Midlothian – always raised their game against us, particularly in their most atmospheric ground Tynecastle.
All of our guys loved playing there. Unlike the three bigger Glasgow stadia, Celtic Park, Ibrox and Hampden, which all had a running track round the pitch, thus keeping the crowd away from the action, at Tynecastle, there was only a small gap between the pitch and the crowd, so you had the impression that the hordes were right on top of you. And when you took into account that the terracings was pretty sheer too, that made the noise in the ground even more deafening.
The Coliseum in Rome must have been like that…although on this occasion the Lions had no desire to be killed!
A normal day-before-the-match, where all we did was some sprint work and even that was over with quickly. When it came to the actual composition of the team, there was always a dichotomy between what the players wanted and what the manager actually delivered.
The guys liked to know the team at the end of training on Friday, the Boss very often did not announce it until we were in the ground where the match was being held – and that meant Parkhead as well – and as near the time of the match as possible.
I worked out for myself – and in the future other managers agreed with me – that the Boss was worried that if he announced the side on, say, the Friday before a match, the guys who were not going to be involved firstly would be very disappointed or even annoyed and secondly, they might show that annoyance in ways that would be detrimental – like going for a good drink or heading out for the evening.
Obviously, they would be bitterly disappointed but if they did not know they were not involved until near the kick-off, then they would not usually be reckless enough to leave the ground before the match or go in for any other public display of resentment. Mind you, having been in that position a few times myself, I know how annoying that situation could be but all one could reasonably do was grit one’s teeth!
Morning of the Match
We reported around 11am to Parkhead.and soon boarded the bus for the trip to Edinburgh. In recent seasons, the club had taken us to the Norton Hotel in the west end of the city for the pre-match meal and that day was no exception. It was a very pleasant place, whose residents were a little douce, probably not used to having a bunch of noisy footballers in their midst but to be honest, they were extremely civil and I don’t think any of us let the image of the club down that day…or any day, for that matter!
As Ronnie lived not to far from the Norton, he was allowed to travel straight to the hotel. This rankled with me a bit, as you may recall I had not been allowed to travel direct to Love Street for our league match but was forced to go over to Parkhead first, then go all the way back in the team bus to the St Mirren ground that was about two miles from my house.
Ronnie could be very clever with his comments and that day, when I raised the subject with him, he had a ready answer to deliver, in the very authoritative voice he used to put on - “son, right now you have had more hot dinners than the number of matches you’ve played; when that situation is reversed, then you will be allowed to travel direct to the ground”. And with that, he gave me a cuddle then started getting ready for the game.
At that time of the season, Hearts were lying in mid-table, almost 25 points behind the leaders. Losing Willie Wallace to us had not helped their goal scoring tally but their biggest problem was the number of games they were losing by a single goal. That showed that they could put in a good shift at least and we would not take them lightly.
There was one other factor that also needed to be taken into account. The last time Celtic won a league match at Tynecastle had been on 4th September 1954, when a crowd of 32,000 was in the ground to see the Hoops beaten 3-2. The Celtic team that day was Bonnar, Haughney, Baillie, Evans, Stein, Peacock, Collins, Fernie, Fallon, Tully, Duncan.
The papers were obviously well aware of the long wait for success for Celtic at Tynecastle, as one headline read –
Celts to Lay That Bogey
It was perhaps time for our fans to have a bit of success in Scotland’s capital.
When we went out for the warm-up, it was cold, a biting wind coming in from the east coast. But the pitch was in reasonably good condition for late March and by the time we had come back in again, we were warmed and ready for the task before us. Once the referee, Mr Webster of Falkirk, had checked boots etc. we then headed back out to a loud ovation from the crowd, later given as 25,000.
I can still recall the Boss’s final words – “It’s Tynecastle…so you know what to expect!”.
Cruikshank, Shevlane, Peden, E Thomson, Anderson, Miller, Ford, Ferguson, J Fleming, Murphy, Hamilton.
Simpson, Craig, Gemmell, Murdoch, McNeill, Clark, Johnstone, Wallace, Chalmers, Auld, Hughes.
The wind rather played havoc with the play right from the start, with both teams having some trouble with players passing to their own men. And we were dealt a blow in only 10 minutes when Chopper received one on the ankle and had to leave the field for 10 minutes or so for treatment.
While he was off, Hearts missed a great chance when Ferguson, from close range and with all the goal to aim at, blasted the ball straight at Ronnie who fisted it over the bar. When Chopper came back on again, play became more 50/50.with Hearts holding their own. Both sides had their moments of quality play but neither goalkeeper was seriously troubled. Just when we needed it, though, we made the breakthrough –
42 minutes….Jinky beat his opponent Peden twice before crossing, Cruikshank palmed the ball out but only as far as Bertie, who slammed it home from 16 yards. 1-0 Celtic
It was a great time to get a goal and we could see that the Boss was really pleased. However, he merely told us to re-concentrate after the break and take the game to Hearts, not giving them any time to settle.
We took the man at his word and did as he suggested, making several chances. Billy went close with a header, Wispy skimmed the top of the crossbar with one shot and had another blocked on the line then Stevie lost his footing when in a great position. We were all over them but they were throwing themselves at the ball to keep us out. Then we got a second –
62 minutes…..Wispy was fouled by future Celt Chris Shevlane just outside the box. He took the kick himself and fairly hammered the ball past Cruikshank. 2-0 Celtic
It is not a very nice thing to say but I thought that the heads of the Hearts players dropped at that point. Suddenly, it was one-way traffic towards the home goal and with only six minutes left, we made sure the points were ours –
84 minutes….Jinky was brought down in the penalty area. It was a definite penalty and Tam stepped forward to do the necessary. Jim Cruikshank, however, pulled off a wonderful save but unfortunately, the referee decided that the keeper had moved too soon and ordered that the kick be taken again. This time Tam made no mistake.
Final Score Hearts 0 Celtic 3
While all this was going on at Tynecastle, assistant manager Sean Fallon was at Shawfield to see Clyde, our Scottish Cup semi-final opponents, take on – and beat - St Mirren in a league match.
A coach from Sussex bound for Glasgow with 41 children on board crashed and burst into flames near Brough, Westmoreland.
The bus went on fire only yards from a café on the A66, the road from Scotch Corner to Penrith.
One report said there was one death. Another report spoke of children with clothes and hair on fire leaping from the bus. Many of the children were badly burned.
Hours after angry seas snapped the stricken tanker Torrey Canyon in two a dramatic announcement said ‘She is now crescent-shaped and sinking’.
Meanwhile, as huge waves swept over her decks, another 5000 tons of oil gushed into the English Channel to pose a gigantic threat to the entire South Coast.
Beatniks, housewives, college girls and city business men joined hands in a giant ‘love circle’ and danced around Central Park, New York.
It was all part of a ‘be-in’ – the latest cult among trend-setting New Yorkers.
While about 1000 followers of the craze performed their love-circle antics, others played a variety of musical instruments or paraded in fancy costumes and painted faces.
Scots actor Duncan McCrae died today in the Victoria Infirmary after a long illness. He was 64.
Actress Betty Hutton (46) has filed a suit in Los Angeles to divorce her fourth husband, jazz trumpeter Pete Candoli (44) whom she accused of inflicting ‘mental and physical suffering’.
In her suit, Miss Hutton asked for reasonable support for herself and the couple’s daughter Caroline (4). She has custody of the girl.
The couple were married on 24th December 1960 at Las Vegas, Nevada and separated on August 10th 1966.
Air and Ground Attacks
Giant American B52 Super-Fortresses dumped their 30-ton bomb loads on the Vietcong’s War Zone C jungle stronghold as infantrymen stepped up the biggest U.S. ground operations of the war.
About 25,000 U.S. troops are involved in the ground battles around the heart of the Vietcong’s main guerilla headquarters. They have claimed more than 1000 Vietcong dead in a series of major battles during the past five days.