Willie Wallace this week paid an emotional tribute to his great friend and fellow Lisbon Lion Bertie Auld after the Celtic legend passed away last weekend. Having published Willie’s biography Heart of a Lion around eight years ago, I spent an enjoyable few months in the company of both Willie and his pal Bertie who was only too delighted to be of assistance to his former Celtic teammate at the various events promoting the book.
One night we sat with a full hall in the Celtic supporters club in Greenock and the two Lions bounced off each other all night. If you didn’t know who these men were you’d have been forgiven for thinking that a top quality comedy double act had been booked and that’s why so many people were in the club.
Speaking to Scottish Sun earlier this week Willie talked about his pal, the latest one to pass away, from that remarkable team that lifted the European Cup for Celtic in Lisbon in May 1967.
“When we first went into the tunnel that day, it felt like we were queueing up to go to a funeral. It was quiet. There were nerves and tension because it was such a big moment in our lives. We all knew what was at stake. We knew we could go down in the history books if we won,” the words of Willie Wallace as he looks back on that late afternoon in Lisbon 54 years ago.
“People were understandably apprehensive as we’d never played in a European final before. But then Bertie started singing and it just picked everyone up. It was an incredible moment. “Right there and then, we realised we needed to go out and enjoy this game of football.
“Bertie’s singing changed the whole mood of the team. We joined in and all the Italian guys were looking at us. They must have been stunned at what was happening, but we didn’t care!
“Any fear had gone. It really helped us get out there and have a go at Inter and win the game.
“Bertie had an unbelievable will to win, but he also had a gift of being able to get the best out of others. He was always a big personality around the place. There was never a dull moment. If a dressing room was quiet, Bertie would be the one to get everyone up for it.
“He was an outstanding footballer, but he was also a true leader. Younger guys looked up to him and respected him. Bertie was never beaten. He was absolutely fearless.”
“I’ve been in touch with the family and it’s really sad. My youngest daughter always called him Uncle Bertie from when she was a wee girl. Like everyone, she was really upset at the news over the weekend.
“I last spoke to Bertie about a month ago and he truly is a Celtic legend. What a great player he was and what a big character too. He had a presence about him. I knew Bertie a long time and he gave a lot of clubs great service as a player and as a manager.
“But Bertie was just Celtic through and through. That’s where his heart always was. He loved the club. Like me, he was brought up in a working-class family and he fought to get to where he did in the game.
“Bertie was a great professional and I first got to know him when we played against each other in his first spell at Celtic. He was a fierce opponent, but he was also one of those guys who everyone respected. Friend or foe, people always appreciated Bertie for the footballer and the man he was.
“He worked harder than anyone to achieve what he did in the game. You don’t get anything for nothing and that attitude rubbed off on everyone he played with. Put it this way, nobody would be slacking on the pitch with Bertie around. He wouldn’t let you.
“He will be a huge miss for everyone and our thoughts go out to the family.”
Celtic players will today wear number 10 on their shorts at the League Cup Quarter Final tie against St Johnstone at Hampden and two Green Brigade displays ahead of the game and on the 67th minute will honour Bertie as the entire Celtic Support remembers the man we all knew and we all loved.
God bless you Bertie. YNWA
— Celtic Gossip (@CelticGossip) November 20, 2021
The Lisbon Lions. Final Copa de Europa, Celtic de Glasgow / Inter de Milán. Estadio Nacional. Lisboa. 1967. pic.twitter.com/ssBSiWnYMe
— Nostalgia Futbolera ® (@nostalgiafutbo1) November 19, 2021