16th October 1943 Tommy Gemmell born
On this day in 1943, in Craigneuk in Lanarkshire, Tommy Gemmell came into the world.
Tam’s career is fairly well-known and I do not intend to go though the various details in this article. I want to cover Tommy the man. We first met in October 1961, when he had joined Celtic as a part-timer and I was playing for the 3rd team which the club put out at that time. In my occasional match for the reserves, I played alongside him, thus beginning the full-back partnership that probably peaked in Lisbon.
Even at the age of 20, Tam was a very outgoing personality. He was confidence personified, although his on-field antics did not always please his superiors, particularly his tendency – not common at the time – to come up the pitch into attacking areas. Indeed, on one occasion he was told in no uncertain terms by Sean Fallon – at that time assistant manager to Jimmy McGrory –that if he crossed the halfway line once more, he would not be playing in the next game!
Thankfully, when Jock Stein came in, he was much more relaxed about his fullbacks coming forward and Tam came into his own, his performances over the next few years making him undoubtedly one of the world’s best performers in that position.
Off the pitch, Tam was a really good team-mate, the life and soul of any party. In spite of his ‘star’ status, he got on well with everyone and has maintained friendships with both friends and footballing foes through the years. He is now retired and living in Dunblane; and if any of you wish to send him birthday wishes, then please do so through the usual address and I’ll pass them on.