CELTIC, after a gruelling and ultimately disappointing trip to Madrid for their European Cup semi final defeat to thugs of Atletico in midweek – even after decades had past the Celtic anger still existed about this mob.
“Any time that we got the ball, they fouled, they fouled, they fouled, not so much me as a defender, but the front players got slaughtered. Wee Jimmy got massacred, and it was a warning of what was going to happen…every time Jimmy got the ball, they just kicked him,” Billy McNeill said in the documentary ‘The Football Years: Celtic’s War with Atlético’ in 2010.
A year later Cesar returned to the subject. “Real Madrid were the aristocrats of European football. Their neighbours Atlético were the sc*m. Even now, 37 years after their scandalous conduct in the European Cup semi-final at Celtic Park, the mere mention of Atlético fills me with revulsion,” Billy said.
Dixie Deans had this to say about Atletico Madrid back in 2014.
“Atletico would have been thrown out of the Champions League, never mind being fancied to win it, if their antics of 40 years ago had been repeated in the modern day.
“You can’t help yourself if you lived through that match. I was watching the game with Barcelona the other night thinking to myself, ‘I hope these b*****s lose’. But I must say they played well, and you have to admire the result they pulled off.”
“They had three players sent off for violent conduct and received a total of seven yellow cards. But I felt myself losing the plot in retaliation from time to time.
“I seem to remember Davie Hay and me finishing up scrapping in the tunnel at time-up with one of their players, Ruben Ayala.”
“I’ll never forget the pre-meditated, waist-high intimidatory tactics that went on that night. It was woeful and a sign of the times. But times have changed, I’m glad to say,”
So from Madrid, Jock Stein and his Celtic side travelled to Brockville to play Falkirk on Saturday 27 April 1974 knowing that a draw would be enough to win the Championship for the ninth successive season. And the Spanish hangover was apparent in the early stages when the home side could have scored then did after just three minutes, with the goal coming from Lawson.
But Celtic settled down to the task at hand and Kenny Dalglish brought the Champions level with 19 minutes played. It was a typical piece of magic from King Kenny who collected a ball 30 yards out, ran forward, feinted left then right, then cracked a glorious shot into the net.
The experienced Celtic side weren’t going to lose another goal and were happy with the point that guaranteed them 9 in a row, beating nearest challengers Hibs who finished second ahead of Rangers.
The Celtic team that won 9 in a Row : Connaghan, Hay, Brogan, Murray (McGrain), McNeill, McCluskey, Hood, Dalglish, Deans, Callaghan, Lennox. The unused substitute was Jimmy Johnstone.
Bobby Lennox had scored the goal that started the run towards 9 in a row and along with captain Billy McNeill and Jinky, were the three Celts who were there every step of the way.
The current crop of Celts looking to do 9IAR next season could also include 3 Celts who were there from start to finish – again the captain – Scott Brown, and the right winger, James Forrest and perhaps Mikael Lustig (depending on whether he is given a contract extension).
The Buzzbomb, speaking to the official Celtic website in 2014, identified the main reason why Celtic were able to win 9 Championships in a row – manager Jock Stein.
“The manager’s arrival was a big thing. He turned us into a good team and it just went from there,” Lennox said.
“No matter who we played against, there was nobody going into the last 20 minutes who was fitter than us. We had a lot of good players in the team but we were also very fit.
“His team-talks were great and so were his tactics. Without him we couldn’t have done it. He knew when to give you stick or pat you on the back. His man-management was brilliant. He was hard as nails, and he could bury you in a minute but he could also lift you in a minute.
“It’s a great honour to be part of it. I know Billy and Jimmy were the other two members of the team who did nine-in-a-row and it’s a great honour to be in the same company as those two guys.
“Being involved with such a great Celtic team for so long is one of the great successes in my life. When we played, Celtic were the team who everyone wanted to play for, and we were all lucky enough to play for them.
“At the time, we were just going out, enjoying our football and playing for the team. I don’t think we realised what we were doing. We just kept playing away, winning games and winning titles. It’s great to be part of it.
“It was great for the Celtic support that the team was successful. You were playing with so many good players throughout the years, I was quite fortunate to play in such fantastic teams.”
Here’s a wee look at the story of Celtic’s first 9 in a Row…