The first half of season 1966-67 had gone pretty well for Celtic Football Club. The League Cup was already in the trophy cabinet, Nantes and Zurich had been put to the sword in the European Cup, as the club made its way into the quarter-finals. And the league campaign had also started well.
By 17th December 1966, Celtic were on top, with 28 points from 15 matches, with Rangers four points behind. Then, over the Christmas and New Year period, Celtic had a couple of stutters, firstly drawing 1-1 with Aberdeen at Pittodrie then losing 2-3 to Dundee United at Tannadice. The results were disappointing for the team, the management and the support; for this player, though, they were just what the doctor ordered!
By the end of season 1965-66, I was the regular right-back in the side. However, when the squad went on the summer tour of North America – a highly successful trip in terms of results – I was at home, sitting my finals in dentistry at Glasgow University. While on the tour, Jock Stein moved Tommy Gemmell to right-back and brought Willie O’Neill at left-back, a combination which worked well and one which the Boss continued with in the early part of the new season. I spent the time in the reserves, although, to be perfectly honest, I became a regular in the manager’s office, making my case that the Gemmell/O’Neill combination was doing OK but not as effectively as the Craig/Gemmell duo of the previous season. I got the impression that he agreed with me but, unfortunately, with the team winning most matches, he was also in no mood to change the personnel.
Then, in that period over Christmas and New Year, my lucky star rose in its firmament as Celtic’s results stuttered. The Boss decided that some changes were necessary and I came in at right-back, with Tam switched over to the left. Not only did he make changes, Jock Stein made it quite clear that he was not expecting any more upsets and wanted us to get back on form for our next match, held on this day in 1967 against Dundee at Parkhead, when the team was Simpson, Craig, Gemmell, Murdoch, McNeill, Clark, Johnstone, Wallace, Chalmers, Gallagher and Lennox.
In front of a crowd of 37,000, the boys rose to the challenge and knocked Dundee for five, with two from Willie Wallace, one each for Jimmy Johnstone and Charlie Gallagher and an o.g. by Dundee’s right-back Wilson making up the tally.
The Dark Blues’ only reply was a goal by Cameron in 51 minutes. The result gave everyone connected with the club a real boost and we went on to win our next five matches, scoring 19 goals in the process. More importantly, the points picked up put us two ahead of Rangers in the race for the league title.
NB You will notice that 10 of the 11 players on the field that day were in the side which won the European Cup at Lisbon in May of that year. It would be another seven days before the side known as the ‘Lisbon Lions’ took to the field for the first time.