25th May 1967 Celtic 2 Inter Milan 1 European Cup Final
It was, without doubt, the biggest moment in Celtic’s playing history and it took place on this day in 1967. Celtic became the first team from Britain to win the European Cup, they won it at their first attempt, the team was made up of guys who all lived not too far from Celtic Park, they broke the domination of Latin sides in that particular tournament and they won the Cup with a domineering performance against one of the best-known names in Europe.
For those of us involved, it was a wonderful day and it has been a privilege to go through my life being referred to as a ‘Lisbon Lion’. On the day itself, all those 45 years ago, I think I played my part, giving the square pass from which Tam Gemmell blasted in the equaliser, although in the early moments of the match, I was also involved in an incident which nearly blighted my evening in Portugal. I was ‘supposed’ to have given away the penalty from which Inter opened the scoring.
Now, I have always regarded this decision as one of the worst ever in the history, not only of European football but of the world game. Others, including some of my team-mates, are not quite so sure and, as talk about the decision comes up at every anniversary, I have to fight my corner. The whole day remains, though, undoubtedly the best in my football career and one of the most memorable days of my life.
Another of these great days occurred in 1982, when Pope John Paul II came to Scotland. He was due to visit St Andrew’s College in Bearsden, to the north of Glasgow, to meet with the students there and the local parish, also St Andrew’s, was asked to provide a number of men to act as stewards to help control the expected crowds.
I was one of the chosen ones and was in position in the driveway as the Popemobile drove past, so I got a good look at his Holiness as he waved to everyone. At the top of the driveway, he came out of the vehicle, again waved to the crowds and entered the main college buildings. The stewards could then relax a bit and most of us took the opportunity to grab a bite to eat. Suddenly, a priest I knew well came up to me and asked if I would like to meet the Pope? “Yes, please” was my very definite answer and he motioned to a rear door of the building and I followed him with anticipation.
The priest pushed open the door of a fairly small room and asked me to wait; I sat down and tried to get my thoughts into some sort of order. Only a few moments later, the door was pushed open, rather slowly and the figure of the Pope appeared, his white soutane and biretta rather dazzling against his tanned complexion.
“How are you, my son”, he said, holding his hand out; “I’m good, your Holiness” I replied, kissing the ring on his hand.
“The bishops were telling me you used to play football”.
“I did, your Holiness”.
“For Celtic, wasn’t it?”
“It was, you Holiness”.
“Did you play in that final in –where was it, Lisbon I think – against, wasn’t it Inter Milan?”
“It was, your Holiness, and I did play in that final”.
“Your team was very good; I remember the match well. But you boys got off to a bad start; that was never a penalty!”
Now there was a man who knew his football!