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History in the making

Jim Craig photo
Jim CraigPrague
History in the making
Dukla v Celtic 25 April 1967 "The most important club match in UK football to date" : Bill Shankly


20th April

On the Thursday following the goalless draw against Aberdeen in the league, it was a fairly reserved group of players who boarded a bus at Celtic Park and headed for Seamill. The Boss was noticeably quiet and his aides – Sean, Neilly and Bob – took their cue from him, so the normal banter and good humour was quieter than it usually was.

We – the players I mean – were not in trouble or anything like that. Looking back now, I think the problem was that the Boss had been expecting to have the league title wrapped up by this time but - and here we must give them some credit - Rangers had just refused to give up and were still lying a close second. Which meant that our endeavours were being spread across three trophies – League, Scottish Cup and European Cup – and no one was more aware than the Boss of how small our pool of players was at that time. If we had suffered a couple of serious injuries, we would have been in real trouble.

We spent a couple of days down in Ayrshire, doing some light work, using the golf range rather than the course and taking advantage of the leisure facilities at the Hydro. Then, it was back up to Glasgow on the Saturday evening to spend some time with our families before the trip to Czechoslovakia.

22nd April

Talking of Rangers, while we had the Saturday off that week, they had an important league match against Clyde and glory be, they messed up, as the headline in the Saturday night papers suggested;

It’s a Flag Flop For Rangers

‘Rangers’ League Championship challenge to Celtic is slipping. At Ibrox today the men who beat Slavia Sofia on Wednesday could only draw 1-1 with Clyde.

It means that Rangers are two points behind Celtic with two games to play, while Celtic have three to play – and the ‘Old Firm’ have still to meet at Ibrox.


League Results for 22nd April

Airdrie1-4Dundee
Ayr United0-0St. Mirren
Dundee United2-2Partick Thistle
Dunfermline3-3Stirling Albion
Hearts1-0Kilmarnock
St. Johnstone12Hibs

Table

TeamPWDLFAGAvPts
Celtic312551105283.7555
Rangers32245389243.7153


23rd April

The guys all had a couple of days at home after our supposed ‘rest’ period down at Seamill, although I had to work hard that Sunday morning after Mass. It seemed that most of the congregation came up to me afterwards for a few words about the forthcoming game, with everyone very excited about the prospect of Celtic getting to the final and most ‘advising?’ me to make sure that we beat the Czechs.

It is funny sometimes how someone who I had always regarded as a sweet, good-natured older lady could turn into one nasty piece of work when Celtic’s opponents were mentioned? What is it about football that makes that happen?

Anyway, apart from those occurrences at church, the remainder of the day passed peacefully.


24th April - Morning

We reported to Celtic Park early in the morning for the trip to Prague and, judging by what we read in the morning papers, there had been some work we did not know about going on behind the scenes;

Celts use the loaf!

‘A special batch of bread was baked in Glasgow yesterday and today, along with dozens of cans of fruit juice and pounds of tea, it will be packed on to the aircraft and flown with Celtic to Prague.

‘Quartermaster’ for Celtic’s second-last big match in the European Cup is assistant manager Sean Fallon.

He told us – “We know that the food in Czechoslovakia is first-class but we like to be in a position to give the players the homely touch – and keep them happy’.

24th April - Afternoon

The flight to Prague was uneventful and we landed in the Czech capital just after lunch-time. From the airport, we headed for the International Hotel, where we were allocated our rooms but then almost immediately got into our training gear for our final session before the match.

This was held in Dukla’s home ground, the Stadion Juliska, an odd-looking affair with one huge stand on the west side, with very little on the other three. Still, on that day, the pitch was pretty good so we could have no complaints about that and the session went off very efficiently.

Immediately after the training, Jock Stein went in to a room to be confronted by some 20 or so Czech journalists and, in answer to the first question – “can you name us your team? – he replied “Simpson, Craig, Gemmell, Murdoch, McNeill, Clark: and five forwards from these six – Johnstone, Wallace, Chalmers, Auld, Hughes and Lennox’.

So, thanks to some Scottish journalists who were present and told us, we found out the team before being given the official team announcement for the players which would come on the morning of the match. And those journalists also informed us that the Dukla squad was staying in a hostel some 22 miles form Prague to prepare. I just hope that they were enjoying their dinner as much as we were lapping up the Scottish food we had brought along.


The Morning of the Match

After breakfast, we had gone for a little walk round the area in which our hotel was situated. I was back a couple of years ago and found that it was not the International any more but was now the Crowne Plaza, although the original layout inside seemed to be much the same. I took a number of photos at the time but later on the trip, someone lifted my camera out of a bag I was carrying so these shots are from the official website.

The team talk that morning was quite tense. The way we played in Prague has since been the topic of much discussion, with players having differing views of how we had been asked to play etc. My own recollection – and I have checked these thoughts against comments I made in the press at the time – is that the Boss, quite logically, told us that since Dukla were 3-1 down from the first leg and that the vast majority of the fans in the – admittedly small – ground would be supporting the Czechs, he was quite sure that the home players would come at us right from the start and we must be fully aware of that and ready to hold out against them, even if that involved extra numbers back in defence.

His hope was that once the initial thrust had been blunted, we would get more chances to come forwards ourselves.

It was quite an unsettling pre-match talk and we all went up to our rooms for a rest that afternoon with a few thoughts in our minds.

The Teams

Dukla Prague
Viktor
Cmarada, Novak
Taborsky, Zlocha, Geleta
Strunc, Pnebort, Masopust, Nederost, Vacenovsky.

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

The Play

You will have noticed that it was another outing for the team known as the ‘ Lisbon Lions’.

As we ran out on to the field, the surroundings were quite surreal. Most of the crowd - or that’s how it appeared to me anyway – seemed to be soldiers in grey uniforms, tier after tier of them. Other colours were conspicuous by their absence.

It was a bitterly cold afternoon with arctic-like winds blowing round the ground. We had the wind behind us in the first-half but that did not stop Dukla taking control of the play from the first whistle. Just as the Boss had anticipated, they threw everything at us, with Ronnie making two early saves from Strunc and Masopust running the show in midfield. And this is where the confusion about the tactics arose.

What the Boss had considered in his pre-match talk was that we would have to absorb the initial onslaught and as they began to drop off – you cannot keep pressure up like that for ever for physical reasons – we would get the chance to come out of the defensive shell and make some chances ourselves.

For whatever reason, though, that did not happen. Certainly, their attacks became more sporadic but we did not impose ourselves on the game. We were still back in defence for the most part and I have never worked out whether that was from a mis-understanding of the Boss’s intentions or just a little bit of worry that if we did come out we would leave ourselves open at the back.

Whichever was the case, we were in the trenches for the whole match, with the defence performing heroics (even if I do say so myself) and Stevie doing the work of three men up front just to keep the Czech defence busy. At one point, I came out of defence with the ball myself as there was no one in front to pass to; as I got to the halfway line still without an out pass in sight, I got two shouts from the bench. One said “keep going”, the other yelled “get back”. It was that sort of day! It was a long afternoon and we were all very glad to hear the final whistle and know that we were in the final of the European Cup.

Post-match

As you might imagine, at the end of the game we went ballistic, with hugs and cuddles the order of the day. Someone told me later that Masopust had refused to shake hands with us at the end of the match but to be honest, who cared. To give him credit, though, he did come into to our dressing-room to make amends.

The atmosphere in the dressing-room was euphoric. The team, the reserves, the Boss and his aides – everyone was ecstatic. When we eventually reached the outside, the Scottish press corps was equally pleased and showered us with questions. It was then a question of getting on to the bus and a trip to the airport through very disappointed Dukla fans.

Everything at the airport went smoothly and we were soon on the plane, having a nice meal and wondering who we would be playing in the final?

Everyone was in heaven……except for the team’s right back, who was sitting by himself well away from the other players, as he was not feeling too well!


High Winds

A swarm of tornadoes ravaged Northern Illinois, killing at least 60 persons and injuring more than 1500.

But it was feared that the death toll will go much higher. Thousands more were left homeless as the black clouds of disaster ripped through Chicago’s densely- populated suburban areas.

A New Adventure

Tom Jones is hoping to be a hit – as a racehorse owner! The singer has bought Walk on By and is having it trained by ex-jockey Brian Swift at Epsom, Surrey.

Trouble Expected

A Cologne newspaper said today it had received a note, saying that left-wing German extremists were planning to kill President Johnson.

The American President is expected in Bonn late tomorrow for the funeral of Dr Adenauer on Tuesday.

Nearly 10,000 police and troops will be on duty in the Bonn and Cologne area to ensure the safety of the President.

Uproar

Greece is suddenly in turmoil today. At 5.40am world communications were cut – except for Athens army radio, which told of a coup backed by King Constantine.

Prime Minister Kanellopoulos and leading right- and left-wing politicians, including the anti-royalist George Papandreou were arrested.

Change of Mind

Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana, left Zurich by air today for New York. She had been in Switzerland for six week, having travelled there from India after the U.S. State Department temporarily upheld permission for her to settle in the U.S.

She is being accompanied on the flight by a Swiss federal police officer.

Change of Name

Bonn’s main street in the government district, the Koblenzerstrasse, is to be re-named ‘Adenaurallee’ in honour of former Chancellor Adenauer, who died on Wednesday.

#Dukla, #Celtic, #European Cup, #Champions League

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