If You Know The History – 1st November 1967 Racing Club 2 Celtic 1

On this day in 1967, a Celtic team comprising 10 members of the Lisbon side was warming up in the Avellaneda Stadium in Beunos Aires prior to the second leg of the World Club Championship against Racing Club.

Suddenly, goalkeeper Ronnie Simpson was felled by some form of missile thrown from the crowd, and was taken to the dressing-room for treatment. The club’s medical staff decided that he would not be up to the task of playing that afternoon so John Fallon was hurriedly brought in from the substitutes’ bench and the game began in front of a crowd of 120,000 spectators.

With Willie O’Neill in midfield, in place of Bertie Auld, Celtic tried to control the play rather than go for all-out attack, although they were quick to break forward when opportunities arose. The game was tough and uncompromising but the Hoops took the lead in 22 minutes after Jimmy Johnstone, not the for the first time, had been unceremoniously hauled down in the box.

Tam Gemmell stepped up and fairly blasted the ball into the net. The goal gave everyone in the side – and those wearing green-and-white in the stands – a great boost and we took the challenge to the home side. Racing Club, though, were quick to come back and goals on either side of the interval gave them a 2-1 win, a result which meant there would be a play-off in Uruguay.

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Stein and Shankly

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Two great figures of the game, Jock Stein and Bill Shankly, deep in conversation. The photograph was taken in 1966 in the bowels of a football ground at a time when some re-structuring was being under-taken, to judge by the ladder and planks on the bare wooden floor.

No, it was not at Celtic Park…or Anfield for that matter. The shot was taken on the evening of Monday 21st March 1966, at Firhill, the ground of Partick Thistle, where Celtic had a league fixture with the Jags. On the previous Saturday, Celtic had thrashed Hamilton 7-1 at Parkhead, a comfortable victory entirely spoiled for me by an injury, torn ligaments in my left ankle, so I was in the stand that Monday night.

On that same Saturday, Liverpool had drawn 0-0 with close rivals Everton, a result which kept them near top in the race for the title. And when Bill Shankly heard about the Celtic match on the Monday, he would have realised it was the perfect opportunity to run his eyes over the Bhoys, as only three weeks later would come the first leg tie of the quarter-final clash between Celtic and Liverpool in the Cup-Winners’ Cup.

There is no indication on the photograph as to the time it was taken. However, I would have been surprised if any photographer would have managed to gain access to that area before the match, so I feel quite confident in stating that the shot was taken post-match. As to the subject of the discussion, well, could it have been football?

NB How times change! Just to the right of Jock Stein is the board on which were marked the winning numbers for the half-time draw. This was then carried round the pitch by a youngster so that those in the crowd could check their tickets!

Jim Craig

High then Low

Although my Saturday afternoon was spent in the local park with a grand-daughter ( isn’t it amazing what men – even old ones -get up to nowadays?) I did manage to travel up to Glasgow in the morning to meet the guys from the former Belfast Shamrock CSC ( now the Jim Craig CSC, I’m delighted to say).

As usual, they were great company and showed a marvellous enthusiasm for the club and all its activities. They were probably even more buoyed up by the fact that Celtic were meeting Hibs for the second time in four days, having disposed of them comfortably by four goals to one in the first match, at Easter Road last Wednesday. All of us were expecting a repeat dose of that thrashing at the weekend. Now, I have not heard from anyone since the match but I should imagine the expression ‘pig sick’ might have covered their emotions by the end of the game.

Like all of you, I was rather hoping that Rangers would have their usual struggle at Pittodrie, dropping at least one point if not three while we achieved a good win at Celtic Park, cutting the deficit down. Instead of that scenario, we now lie 12 points behind the Light Blues, admittedly with one match in hand, hardly a situation to the liking of anyone with Celtic’s interests at heart.

These are difficult times. Players and management will turn up again at Lennoxtown tomorrow, all feeling slightly miffed in their own way. The manager will be seething by the points dropped but cannot be too critical of his charges in case he causes relationships to deteriorate. The players who were on the field on Saturday will be annoyed by the stick the fans sent out and the criticisms in the press about their showing. And those not in the squad for the Hibs game will be queuing up to see the manager, demanding that they are included in the list for the next game……

…..which is another easy one against Rennes at home on Thursday, followed by a trip down to Fir Park on Sunday to face Motherwell, at the moment three points ahead of us in second place. Quite a schedule! Is this not the time for the players to show their worth and commitment to the cause?

Jim Craig

If You Know The History: 30th October

30th October Rangers 1 Celtic 2 Lou Macari’s 1st Old Firm match

After two years in charge of Stoke City, Lou Macari arrived as manager of Celtic on 26th October 1993. It was, perhaps, a surprising choice by the Board but as an ex-player, Lou took over with the best wishes of most Hoops fans.

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Four days later, on this day in 1993, came his first match in charge, when he led his troops over to Ibrox for the 3rd Old Firm clash of the season. Wisely, Louie had left team selection to coach Frank Connor, who had been at Celtic Park for a few months and he chose this eleven to represent the club. Pat Bonner was in goal…..the back four read Peter Grant, Tony Mowbray, Gary Gillespie, Tom Boyd……Pat McGinlay, Paul McStay and John Collins held the midfield roles…..with Paul Byrne, Charlie Nicholas and Gerry Creaney up front.

Rangers opened the scoring but John Collins soon equalised for Celtic and from then on, it was the usual frenetic Old Firm contest. It looked likely to finish as a draw but, with only a minute left, substitute Brian O’Neill, on for Charlie Nicholas, headed the winning goal to get Lou Macari’s tenure at Parkhead off to a winning start.

Jim Craig

One more time please!

There might have been a few worried faces among the Celtic contingent at Easter Road on Wednesday and probably at that point they had some reason to be concerned.

Celtic were one-down, the defence had looked not only uncertain but very square and just before the interval, Hibs had missed a great chance to go two-up. Then, at half-time, as one manager tore into his team for their lack of endeavour and carelessness, did the other, in this case Colin Calderwood, tell his men to lie a little deeper to absorb some of the pressure which Celtic would undoubtedly apply in the second half? If that was the case – and it certainly did look as though they were more defensive than in the opening half – then it played right into Celtic’s hands. The Hoops took control, quickly got the goals which put them in front, then dictated play for the rest of the match.

Now, both sides have to go it all again on Saturday, this time at Celtic Park, and it would be a brave – or possibly foolish – punter who would put a bet on Hibs to take any points from the clash. I hate to blow my own trumpet did I did say in my preview that there was a gulf in quality between the sides and my words proved prophetic in the second half in Edinburgh. The Celtic players will run out on the pitch tomorrow with the warnings of manager and staff ringing in their ears, ‘continue where you left off and do not let Hibs back into it!’ I have seldom predicted a Celtic win with more confidence.

There was another aspect to the match that I noticed, one which has always puzzled me. I have usually found that managers noted in their playing days for their ‘robustness’ of technique in the centre-back role rather than for their silky touch – think of ex-Celts John Hughes and Tony Mowbray, or indeed Colin Calderwood – are obsessed with their sides playing attractive football at the expense of making sure that their defence is watertight. Most league-winning sides are strong at the back; we only have to look across the city to see that. There are a few exceptions. Barcelona never look particularly strong in that area but they keep – and dominate possession – so well that their rear is seldom under real pressure. At Easter Road, once Celtic got going, the Hibs rearguard was all at sea, with the usual results.

In Scotland, the goals against tally for the league winners is usually on the low side. However, way back in the 1950s, there were occasions when that was not the case;

​​Year​ Winner Games​ Goals For Goals against

​1950-51​ Hibs​ 30 ​ 78 26
​1951-52 Hibs 30 92 36
1952-53 Rangers 30 80 39
1953-54 Celtic 30 72 29
1954-55 Aberdeen 30 73 26
1955-56 Rangers 34 85 27
1956-57 Rangers 34 96 48
​1957-58 Hearts 34 132 29
1958-59 Rangers 34 92 51
​1959-60 Hearts 34 102 51

Jim Craig