This was a memorable day in the history of Celtic. Indeed, if I had to choose a Top Ten of the 231 matches I played for Celtic, this one would certainly be included. Yet beforehand, I probably felt more uptight than usual about any game.
The reason for the nervousness was quite simple. We needed a single point from the match to win the League Championship for the second consecutive year; our opponents were Rangers; the game was at Ibrox; and in our previous league match, we had struggled!
The previous Saturday, we had won the Scottish Cup, beating Aberdeen 2-0 in the final, both goals by Willie Wallace. Five days later, 40,000 were at Celtic Park to give the team a rousing reception before the match with Dundee United then provide the players with a few critical verbals as they left the field at the end after going down 2-3.
The next few days were difficult. The atmosphere at the ground was tense and out in the streets, fans were stopping us all the time and exhorting us to win. Even my Mother was at it. She told me that the Parish Priest would be very disappointed if we didn’t win. She was lucky she was my Mum; if she had not been, I would have told her where the PP could go!
On arrival at Ibrox, we found that the pitch was sodden due to the overnight heavy rain. Rangers took the lead in the 40th minute, thanks to fine strike by Sandy Jardine; one minute later, Jimmy Johnstone equalised, reacting quicker than anyone else to reach the ball after a shot by Bobby Lennox had rebounded off a post.
Considering the condition of the surface, some fine football was being played and with 16 minutes left, wee Jimmy scored a wonder goal.
Taking a throw-in from Steve Chalmers, he veered across the penalty area, evaded a challenge by Ronnie McKinnon and unleashed a vicious drive with his left foot that fairly screamed into the roof of the net. Roger Hynd got an equaliser 9 minutes from time but we held out, the single point enough to give Celtic the title. The Parish Priest could go to bed a happy man!
NB1 At the end of the season , the league statistics read; Celtic P34 W26 D6 L2 F111 A33 Pts58 ; Rangers P34 W24 D7 L3 F92 A31 Pts55
NB2. Both of Celtic’s losses were at the hands of Dundee United. Now, I can understand the first defeat, on 31st December, as I was not playing but I am completely at a loss to understand the second one?