The Celtic Rising ~ Hoops win at Ibrox despite the floodlights

It was a totally different matter on Saturday when Hearts came to town. The events of Saturday, 24 April 1965 had effectively caused Celtic and Hearts to reverse roles. Celtic had won the Scottish Cup, but Hearts had lost the League on the same day and their supporters were now sentenced to a generation and several decades of mediocrity.

They would now turn nasty as well, beginning to ape the songs of Rangers supporters and failing to see the sheer incongruity of Derry and sashes in Dalry and Gorgie, and this abominable trait was beginning to develop when the Edinburgh men came to Celtic Park on Saturday, 9 October 1965.

Match Programme

It was a fine autumn day, and the crowd was well over 35,000. Stein brought back Charlie Gallagher, that fine passer of a ball, and it turned out to be a wise move. In fact, although Charlie had played several games for Celtic this season in the first eleven and the reserves, this was actually his first game at Celtic Park, and today the Parkhead crowd saw just exactly what they had been missing.

The forward line read Johnstone, Gallagher, McBride, Lennox and Hughes. It had been rumoured for some time that Stein was interested in Willie Wallace of Hearts, but he did little to boost his chances of a transfer or indeed a Scottish cap when he got the ball just outside the penalty box but shot hurriedly high and wide past Ronnie Simpson’s goal.

Joe McBride scores against Hearts

Joe McBride at the other end was far more clinical when Bobby Lennox put him through to tuck a neat ball past Jim Cruickshank in the 12th minute, then 20 minutes later repeated the process to make it 2-0. This time Joe lashed the ball home from about 20 yards, and it was one of these moments when there was a split-second of total bewildered silence before the crowd erupted in acclaim.

Click to order

Just before half-time came another goal, this time from Bobby Lennox after Jimmy Johnstone remembered the golden rule that the fleet-footed Lennox needed the ball in front of him so that he could score without breaking stride, and Bobby had the simplest of tap-ins.

Seconds later, referee Mr Henderson of Dundee blew for half-time with Parkhead in an uproar and reflecting, not without cause, that this was the best Celtic team they had seen for years. They had put seven goals past Aberdeen a fortnight ago, and now they were 3-0 up against Hearts.

And it continued in the second half, when a long ball out of defence found Lennox who ran on and hooked the ball over the head of Cruickshank. That was on the hour mark, and then ten minutes later, Charlie Gallagher scored a great goal when he sent a swerving shot past the goalkeeper to put Celtic 5-0 up.

There was a slight sting in the tail however, when Celtic visibly relaxed, possibly lulled into a sense of false security by the songs of triumph resounding all over the stadium, and Hearts managed to pull a couple of goals back through Alan Gordon. It was too late to make any significant difference to the scoreline, but it did not save the Celtic defenders from the wrath of Jock Stein at the end.

They were forgiven, however, by the fans who left Parkhead that night in rare good humour. They were now confident that form like this would be sufficient to deal with what was to come in the near future.

And it was a difficult programme with Falkirk at Brockville, then the League Cup semi-final replay against Hibs at Ibrox (which could of course lead to a Cup final against Rangers) before a trip to Dens Park to take on Dundee, all before the end of October.

But the immediate midweek would see Celtic take a back seat, because Scotland had a crucial World Cup game when Poland came to Hampden. Billy McNeill, John Hughes, and of course interim Scotland manager Jock Stein would be very much involved in that one.

So Jock went off to Largs with the Scotland squad, while The Celtic View kept beating the drum about the Ibrox floodlights, this time adding the point that the game between Rangers and Celtic on September 18 had seen problems of crowd congestion. This was an irrelevant factor, it has to be said, because the Celtic v Hibs game was never likely to attract anything like as large a crowd as an Old Firm game, but it still remained a stick to beat Rangers with.

Clik to order

But the Scottish League remained obdurate. Celtic and Hibs both reluctantly accepted the decision, but the point had been made. Rangers were duly rattled and from now on, European opposition and even Scottish teams who played at Ibrox in midweek games would look upwards at the floodlights and ask questions.

It was one of the many propaganda battles that Celtic won against Rangers. The immediate story had now run its length, however, and the replay would go ahead at Ibrox.

Before the game against Falkirk, melancholic news reached Celtic Park and the older generation of supporters of the passing of Joe Dodds at the age of 77. This removed the last remaining link of Shaw, McNair and Dodds, the iron defence of 1913/14.

Dodds could also play at centre-half and left-half and he was a much-loved old Celt.  Jimmy McMenemy had died in the summer, and now the only Celt left from the great pre-World War I days was Davie McLean, a somewhat peripheral figure at Celtic Park admittedly, but one who was by no means finished yet and who still came to Celtic Park and Hampden to see big games.

Joe Dodds (right) and Alec ‘Icicle’ McNair against Aston Villa at Celtio Park in April 1912 with the old Jungle in the background

But now for Brockville! If there was any club which symbolised in a way the fortunes of the under-performing Celtic teams of the late 1950s and early 1960s it was the Bairns of Falkirk. Celtic had played some good games against them, but far too often Celtic let themselves down at Brockville, as often as not to the accompaniment of hooliganism with memories of men like Pat Crerand and Dunky Mackay standing with a bottle in their hands appealing to the supporters to behave themselves.

Slowly, Jock was winning the hooligan battle in tandem with the playing battle. Today, October 16, saw all that was good about Celtic and Scottish football, and give or take the odd hiccup, the behaviour of both sets of fans was exemplary.


Many of the problems at Brockville in the past had centred on overcrowding. Today the crowd was about 18,000 but they were well-marshalled and controlled. Ronnie Simpson failed a fitness test on his shoulder (something that was to cause him more problems in future years and would eventually lead to his retirement) and John Fallon was brought back. Apart from that, the team was the same as had defeated Hearts at Parkhead last week.

Falkirk scored first and it was through the agency of a man who would become a real character in Scottish football, particularly when manager of Partick Thistle, John Lambie, the man who kept pigeons, swore like a trooper on Saturday and went to Church on Sunday!

Every one of the seven goals scored that day would be a cracker and the first one set the trend as right-back Lambie was in the right place to hammer home a cutback from a corner kick. A couple of minutes later, Bobby Lennox equalised from a Joe McBride feed, but after chances and good goalkeeping at both ends, Falkirk scored before half-time when Sammy Wilson (not the Sammy Wilson of Celtic’s 7-1 League Cup win in 1957) swivelled and scored a cracker of a goal for Falkirk.

Joe McBride tussles with former Celt Jimmy Rowan in Celtic’s 4-3 win over Falkirk at Brockville

Bobby Murdoch equalised for Celtic in 60 minutes with a shot from outside the penalty box, but then Johnny Graham put the Bairns back in front by dribbling past Fallon. A minute later, a shot from Jimmy Johnstone hit the post and bounced in, and one felt that that might have been enough for everyone. A 3-3 draw would not have been unfair to either side, but it was Lennox within the last ten minutes with a fierce drive which beat Willie Whigham.

The game finished to great cheers from both sets of supporters, and Jock Stein and the Celtic party were full of admiration for the Falkirk team. At Easter Road that day, Rangers beat Hibs 2-1. Naturally, this was a disappointment for Celtic supporters, but it did have the benefit of perhaps unsettling Hibs in view of the replay showdown now appearing on the horizon for Monday night.

Celtic now decided to have an extra training session on Sunday, so that potential injures could be checked, but it was a gentle workout followed by baths and massage to keep the muscles in trim. It was ascertained that Ronnie Simpson was in fact fit, but that did not necessarily mean that he was playing, for Jock said that nothing would be divulged until kick-off time.

Hibs said likewise, so both sets of fans set out for Ibrox without any clear insight as to what or whom they were going to see.

In the event, before a crowd of 51,423 in a thin film of fog which did not impair anyone’s vision in spite of the alleged inadequacy of the Ibrox floodlights, the teams were on predictable lines. Simpson was in the goal and the forward line read Johnstone, Gallagher, McBride, Lennox and Hughes.

Hibs were also as expected, but what was not expected was the scale of the Celtic victory. The first game had been a classic between two equally matched teams; this one saw Celtic at their best and Hibs more or less totally outclassed in a way that baffled their supporters and journalists alike, although a clue was perhaps given when Neil Martin left for Sunderland soon afterwards.

Joe McBride scores in the League Cup semi-final against Hibernian with the controversial Ibrox floodlights in the background

Joe McBride scored first with the Hibs defence appealing in vain for offside, then John Hughes added a second before 20 minutes were up. Celtic were well on top and when Bobby Lennox scored in the second half the game was over. We then saw John McNamee bringing on himself one of the silliest dismissals you could imagine.

He fouled Hughes (and one suspects there may have been something personal in this) by scything him down. Rightly he was booked by referee Bobby Davidson for this, but then he persisted in arguing – never the wisest course of actions with Davidson – and he was sent off.

Even then, he still would not go, and was eventually escorted from the field by a couple of his teammates. Bobby Murdoch then scored a fourth to put the tin lid on a fine night’s performance. No more was said about the floodlights, although apparently at half-time there had been a loudspeaker appeal, presumably a wind up, for an electrician to make himself known!

Many years later, a story emerged about Jock Stein that night. The players were in the dressing-room celebrating and singing. Jock disapproved, because although it had been a good victory, the big job remained to be done on Saturday. Apparently, he slapped his own face so that it was red and angry looking, burst open the door and tore into everyone for premature celebration and lack of respect to their defeated opponents Hibs.

No-one knows if this story is true, but it would certainly be echoed in Wednesday’s Celtic View when Stein said that he wanted Saturday’s League Cup final team to be “the most determined ever to have worn the green and white striped shirts.”

David Potter

An extract from The Celtic Rising ~ The Year Jock Stein Changed Everthing, the new book from David Potter out next week and available to order from Celtic Star Books, link below.

About Author

I am Celtic author and historian and write for The Celtic Star. I live in Kirkcaldy and have followed Celtic all my life, having seen them first at Dundee in March 1958. I am a retired teacher and my other interests are cricket, drama and the poetry of Robert Burns.

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