Celtic in Europe: A long talk with Tommy Gemmell (part 6)

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TOMMY GEMMELL is a Celtic legend. This morning we started to look back on a Q&A I did with Tommy back in 2013 with Celtic supporters and we’re now onto Part 6 of this wonderful feature.

Not a bad way to get you in the mood for Rosenborg tonight…

Here’s Part 6, enjoy…

I have two questions for Mr Gemmell. Do you think that Celtic will ever appear in another European Final? And even mediocre, modern-day players make far more money than you did in your prime, do you resent this?

I’m assuming you mean the Champions League Final. That’s the big one and that’s where Celtic deserve to be although, of course, the UEFA Cup Final in Seville will always be a great memory and an incredible feat in reaching that stage. What a pity we lost!

I would like to think it is possible for Celtic to grace another Final in the top-flight competition, but, obviously, it would be an extremely difficult task. I can always hope and dream. As regards the cash flying around football at the moment, I have to say I don’t resent the current players their good fortune to be operating in an era when satellite TV is pouring millions into the game. Good luck to them.

When I was playing, we were earning more than the working man. Mind you, I wasn’t looking for untold riches when I kicked off. I think I started with £7 and that rose to £12, then £18 and up to £25 before the basic wage was pegged at £40 while I was still a young player. Remember, too, there were bonuses on top plus appearance money. And, thankfully, we started getting a lot of win bonuses from 1965 on!

Regarding your goal against Feyenoord in the Final in Milan. Was that one you had worked on in training? Was it knocked back to you to give you more room to score? I am surprised more teams do not use this as a way of getting more room to get the ball up and over a wall or through it as your shot did? Or were you just aiming for the referee’s backside?

We worked on that routine in training every day. When we were awarded that free-kick and Bobby Murdoch stepped up to take it, I knew exactly what he was going to do. No, I didn’t aim for Italian referee Concetto Lo Bello’s rear end, but I have to say it was a very strange place for him to stand behind the Feyenoord wall. I’ve never seen a referee adopt that position since. He did a good job of getting out of the way of my shot, didn’t he?

What importance did Jock Stein put on trophies? Did he set out to win them all or was there a slide rule of trophies that Celtic would play for? Outwith European success, which trophy win or match gave you the most satisfaction as a player? My auld man met you once at a Player of the Year dance in Newcastle. He had somehow blagged his way into the function and was giving you stick about your nose and you said to him, ‘I might have a big nose, but you have a big mouth!’ Still tells that story to this day. I think he took great pleasure in a Lisbon Lion having the banter with him. The Lisbon Lions are not heroes to him they are gods!

Big Jock sent us out to win EVERY game. It didn’t matter if it was a Cup Final or a friendly, he expected his team to be victorious in them all. So, he didn’t pick and choose – he wanted EVERY trophy EVERY year. As I have stated elsewhere, the 1965 Scottish Cup win over Dunfermline gave the players a lot of confidence and got the club back on the trophy-winning trail after being in the wilderness for far too long. Yes, that ‘you’ve got a big mouth’ was my normal reponse to the cheeky buggers who had a go at my hooter!

Tommy, I’ve just come across a photograph taken shortly after Celtic had beaten Hibs 6-2 in the 1969 League Cup Final. You are holding a bottle of beer and sporting a moustache! Can you tell us about that game and that moustache?

I didn’t have that moustache for too long. I grew it as a sort of experiment. It had as many colours as an average rainbow! The game against Hibs was fairly memorable – Jim Craig scored one of his rare goals for the club that afternoon. Bobby Lennox hammered in a hat-trick and Willie Wallace and Bertie Auld got the others. We were leading 6-0 with about 10 minutes to play when Hibs got their consolation goals. That was a very good win for us because the Edinburgh outfit were really strong at the time. They had players such as Pat Stanton, John Blackley, Peter Marinello, Peter Cormack, Jimmy O’Rourke and Eric Stevenston in their line-up. They were a nice team to watch, but they had no answer to Celtic that afternoon.

Tommy Gemmell! WOW! Just WOW! I wish I could think of a question worthy of the man! Have you ever been star struck, Tommy?

Yes, when I was a kid I used to watch Motherwell train. They were known as ‘The Ancell Babes’ after manager Bobby Ancell. I would rush from my house down to Fir Park to snatch a glimpse of my heroes. The club let the local youngsters in to see the players going through their routines. What struck me was the lack of ball work. It seemed all the players were asked to do was run round the pitch about one hundred times without stopping! They had stars such as Ian St.John, who joined Liverpool in 1961, Pat Quinn, Andy Weir, Andy Paton, Archie Shaw and Willie Hunter. I was in total awe of those guys.

Well that’s enough for today. We’ll start at Part 7 before another Celtic European night.

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