23rd October 1971: LC Final Celtic 1 Partick Thistle 4
Among the many successes, there have been the occasional unsettling moment in the lives of Celtic fans. Under this heading, we could consider the European Cup final in Milan, the thrashing by Neuchatel Xamax, the loss to Raith Rovers in the League Cup final (at Ibrox, too, just to rub salt in the wounds) or that terrible night in Bratislava, when Artmedia tore us apart. However, on this day in 1971, I was part of a Celtic squad that was beaten in a League Cup final in a match that must rank as one of the most disappointing – and perhaps surprising – moments in the club’s history.
Celtic had come through a section involving Rangers, Morton and Ayr United to reach the quarter-final – where they comfortably disposed of Clydebank 11-2 on aggregate – before beating St Mirren 3-0 in the semi-final. That put us through to the final, where Partick Thistle, under future Celtic coach Davie McParland, were a-awaiting and boy! did he have his team prepared for the occasion.
Due to an injury to Billy McNeill, Jock Stein played Tam Gemmell and George Connelly in central defence, with Davie Hay and Jim Brogan as the full-backs. It was a slightly makeshift set-up and Thistle showed it up from the start, going 2-up within the first 15 minutes. When Jimmy Johnstone had to go off injured in 20 minutes, I came on as a replacement but, to be honest, that change did not improve matters as a rampant Jags attack scored two more before the interval.
That astonishing scoreline was – to use a Glasgow expression – the ‘talk of the steamie’ round the country at half-time. The Boss was furious and gave us a shellacking at the break but, although we responded and gave a much better showing in the second half, we only got the one goal and so the match ended in a 4-1 defeat.
PS….Just over a month later, in a league match at Firhill, Celtic beat Thistle 5-1. A case of the right score at the wrong time?