European Champions ‘Celtic Available for N.Z. Tour,’ Christchurch Press, October 1967

Inspired by the photo of the day the other day, here’s a wee piece on the time Celtic were supposed to be going to New Zealand after winning the European Cup. Seems the year’s supply of sheep wasn’t enough to tempt the Lions along.

Craig Stephen

‘Celtic Available for N.Z. Tour,’ Christchurch Press, October 1967

This article, shown below, is from the Christchurch Press from October 1967 was certainly optimistic about getting our beloved Hoops out to the other side of the world.

“Glasgow Celtic, winner last season of soccer’s most coveted club competition, the European Champions’ Cup, is now a strong possibility to play in New Zealand next season,” the newspaper wrote somewhat excitedly.

The idea wasn’t quite as fanciful as it seemed in an era when European clubs regularly made close season tours to various parts of the world. Just that year Manchester United came with virtually the team that won the European Cup the following season, including a certain George Best.

25th May 1967: The Celtic team line up before their European Cup Final match against Inter Milan in Lisbon. They went on to win 2-1. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

And a Scotland XI with several bright hopes came calling a couple of weeks later as part of a world tour. There were no Celts among the squad, they were otherwise engaged that season. The basis for this audacious bid centred on Celtic’s participation in its defence of the Cup.

Bobby Murdoch was ordered off against Dynamo Kyiv

Having suffered a shock early defeat to the Soviet Union’s Dynamo Kyiv the path was seemingly clear for the New Zealand Football Association to discuss arrangements with the Glasgow club for a tour. How far negotiations got is not known, but the star-studded side never did travel Down Under that decade.

Behind the plan was a Glaswegian, Charlie Dempsey, now living in Auckland. He was the NZFA’s tours director and wanted the best to come to his adopted homeland. On a trip to Scotland, Dempsey tried to persuade several British sides to come over, with the absolute carrot being Celtic.

Bobby Lennox scores For Celtic in the 1-1 draw but the damage was done losing 2-1 at Parkhead.

Dempsey had left Glasgow for New Zealand in 1952, without much money and started from scratch in the building trade rising to a successful businessman in Auckland. In the 1960s and 1970s teams such as Slovan Bratislava, Sparta and Slavia Prague, Dundee, Hearts, Spurs, Wolves, Stoke, England B and the original Rangers all came out, usually as part of a tour that also dropped in on Asian countries, Australia, and on the way back, Canada and/or the United States.

On this day in 1965, Jock Stein became manager of Celtic…David Potter’s bestseller The Celtic Rising ~ 1965: The Year Jock Stein Changed Everything is available now in print on Celtic Star Books, and also on Amazon kindle, links below…

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email

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