The late 1960s and early 1970s had been an excellent time for anyone with Celtic’s interests at heart.
For 9 consecutive seasons – 1966/67 to 1974/75 – the team had been involved in the European Cup. Then came two seasons when Celtic missed out on top spot in the Scottish League, so they ended up in the minor competitions, the Cup-Winners’ Cup in 1975/76 and the UEFA Cup in 1976/77. Another title triumph, though, in 1976/77 – indeed, a ‘double’ of League and Scottish Cup – put Celtic back into the European Cup for the following season. And when the first round draw was made and Celtic was paired with Jeunesse Esch of Luxembourg, regarded as one of the so-called ‘minnows’ of European football, there was rejoicing among the support, the fans quite sure that their heroes would progress into the next round.
TEAM OF 1976-77
Unfortunately, the first few weeks of season 1977-78 did not go to plan. After a 0-0 draw with Dundee United at Parkhead in the opening league match of the season, Celtic lost the next four – Ayr United 1-1 (A), Motherwell 0-1 (H), Rangers 2-3 (A) and Aberdeen 1-2 (A). In the League Cup, Celtic drew 0-0 with Motherwell at home, then had a comfortable 4-2 win in the second match at Fir Park. These results did not do much for morale so it was with some trepidation that 22,000 turned up at Celtic Park on the evening of this day in 1977 to see the Hoops take on the amateurs from Luxembourg. They need not have worried.
Celtic ran the visitors into the ground and could have reached double figures if Jeunesse Esch’s goalkeeper Rogues had not been in such brilliant form. Even so, the goals rained past him, from Roddy MacDonald (20), Paul Wilson (37), Joe Craig (53, 60) and Brian McLaughlin. The result put Celtic in a good position for the return in Luxembourg.
NB Brian McLaughlin was 23 by the time of that match. After signing an S-form in 1968, he had been farmed out to Linlithgow Rose and joined Celtic full-time in August 1971. Brian was highly rated by all of us who were there at that time, even though he was a laddie and we all felt that he would go on to have along career at the top level. In September 1973, however, he received a horrendous knee injury against Clyde and the damage took a long time to heal. And, of course, the longer one is out of the first team, one’s confidence takes a beating and it also allows a rival to come in and take your place. Both of those circumstances happened to Brian and he eventually left Parkhead and went to Ayr United, with whom he won the Division One Player of the Year award in 1979.