The build-up throughout Scotland was intense, made all the more so by the fact that the Scottish League was to be decided that day as well. It had, in fact, been quite a thrilling campaign. Celtic had never really been in the race other than as outsiders since early December, Rangers had similarly disappeared out of contention after Jim Baxter broke his leg, and Hibs and Dunfermline both looked likely candidates until they had both blown up at exactly the wrong time. So it boiled down to the favourites Hearts and outsiders Kilmarnock. By sheer chance they were playing each other that day at Tynecastle. Under the complicated system of goal average, (not the simpler goal difference) Kilmarnock could just pip Hearts if they managed to beat the home side 2-0. It did not look likely, but then again as the late Willie Maley would often say “Only a fool would predict the result of a football match”.
Perhaps Gair Henderson of The Evening Times might have done well to listen to Mr Maley, for he predicted victories for Dunfermline and Hearts! The town of Dunfermline was girding itself up for another celebration like they had experienced in 1961, and the Provost, a man with the unlikely name of John Forker, (and we can, I suppose, guess, what they called him!) and the MP Adam Hunter were all set to gain some more political credibility by being part of it. Celtic on the other hand played it low key. They had returned from Seamill Hydro on the Thursday, with all their preparations complete, and had an ordinary, routine day at Parkhead on the Friday with Stein making the bland statement that there was no point in upsetting any routine at this stage of the season.
There was even more of a special atmosphere on Cup final day in Glasgow that day as the trains and the buses rolled in. Green and white favours prevailed, rosettes were on sale at Buchanan Street Station and even some of the ladies in the cafeteria of Lewis’s Polytechnic were wearing green. Dunfermline supporters too, always a decent bunch with loads of women and children and a distinct absence of aggressiveyoung men, added to the occasion with their black and white favours and willingness to discuss the game with Celtic fans.
The Evening Citizen which came out at Saturday lunch time before the game – the much bruited and trumpeted “Cellic SoovenirSpeshul” as the leather voiced street vendors called it – contained a stark warning to several players saying that changes were to come at Celtic Park, and that no player was to think himself immune from the possibility of being “moved on” even those who thought that theyhad been “built in with the bricks”. Gallagher as one of the longest serving players at Parkhead may have been aimed at here, but the same newspaper also predicts that “even if, by some unkind quirk of fate, the Scottish Cup is not wearing green and white ribbons tonight” the future will be good for Celtic. Echoing this mood, a couple of supporters at Central Station while awaiting their train to Mount Florida or King’s Park began to sing a pop song of a group called Herman’s Hermits with the lyrics “Something tells me I’m into something good”.
Players and supporters, however, were genuinely finding it hard to contain their excitement. Cup finals always are exciting occasions, but this particular one had more riding on it than most. Victory would mean ecstasy, defeat would plunge us yet again into the depths of depression with even less chance now of seeing our way out of it. We had a new charismatic Manager, he had chosen the best team available, we must not fail. We could not face any more of this. Already this season, there had been alarming signs of attendances dropping and Celtic supporters beginning to speak about English football, or horse racing or snooker or golf. Celtic had been dangerously near the edge inmidwinter. But now on 24 April 1965, glory beckoned.
The game was played on a bright, breezy spring day in front of a crowd given as 108,000 but which was probably a great deal bigger than that, given the amount of children lifted over the turnstile and the amount of young men who were able to climb over the wall. Allowing for Dunfermline supporters and neutrals (in 1965 a remarkable amount of people, genuine football fans, went to every Scottish Cup final, no matter who was playing) it would probably not be an exaggeration to state that Celtic fans made up over 80,000 of that crowd. “We’ll forgive everythin, Cellic, everythin, as lang as ye just win the day” seemed to be the motto or war cry of the green and white brigade.
When the teams came out just before 3.00pm, Charlie would have seen green and white all over the ground with the isolated pocket or two of the black and white of Dunfermline. The huge King’s Park terracing was grossly over-populated by Celtic fans with overcrowdingparticularly bad near the top. If Gallagher had not known already just exactly what Celtic meant to so many people – and how could he not know that? – here was the proof. It was indeed Celtic’s Day of Destiny.
The teams were:
Celtic: Fallon,Young and Gemmell; Murdoch, McNeill and Clark; Chalmers, Gallagher, Hughes, Auld and Lennox.
Dunfermline: Herriot, W. Callaghan and Lunn; Thomson, McLean and T. Callaghan; Edwards, Smith, McLaughlin, Melrose and Sinclair
Referee: H Phillips,Wishaw
Celtic started off playing towards the King’s Park End – the traditional Celtic End, as distinct from the Mount Florida End where Rangers supporters congregated on Old Firm days – but it was Dunfermline who drew first blood with a well taken goal from that crusty character called Harry Melrose. But Celtic had now settled a little and were better able to cope with the swirling wind. Slowly Gallagher and Murdoch began to make inroads and round about the half hour mark, Charlie Gallagher, with his slightly hunched shoulders which made him so easily recognisable even from the top of the huge terracing picked up a ball about half way inside the Dunfermline half, took a step or two forward, beat a man, changed the ball from his right to his left and crashed a terrific shot which looked destined for the net, but seemed to rise just a fraction in the wind and smacked against the bar.
Believe it or not, the sound of the ball hitting the bar was heard in many parts of the ground in spite of the noise of 108,000 people! But the cries of chagrin from the serried ranks behind that goal changed from exasperation to expectation when it was seen that the ball did not go over the bar, or even bounce back into play but in fact rose straight UP in the air, and not only that, but Bertie Auld was rushing in to head the ball in when it came down! Celtic were level, Bertie sat in the back of the net milking the moment, but congratulations were also due to the ever modest Gallagher for his terrific piece of play. It was not exactly his first great moment but it was the first time that he played a crucial part in the changing of the course of Celtic history. It was also one of the Scottish Cup final’s most remarkable goals, and would have been much more talked about, had it not been overtaken by even more momentous events.
1-1, and half-time approached. The interval would give Celtic a chance to regroup and mount an offensive in the second half. But then disaster struck when the Pars were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box. A loudspeaker announcement came just at the wrong time, distracted the Celtic defence, and the ball was passed to John McLaughlin, a man with a fine Celtic name, who beat Fallon with a fine angular drive. Minutes later, referee Hugh Phillips blew the half-time whistle and Celtic trudged off, depressed and disconsolate.
The depression on the terracing was commensurate with that in the dressing room. Celtic had been (marginally) the better team, but Dunfermline had availed themselves of the opportunities presented to them. There did of course remain 45 minutes, but it was hard not to recall an almost parallel situation in this season’s League Cup final when Celtic had the better of the game, but half time had seen them pegged at 0-0. Then Rangers got the breaks in the second half. It was even worse now, for Celtic were actually behind.
What exactly Jock Stein said at half-time will never be known for, apart from anything else, it is protected by “dressing room confidentiality” and none of the players seem clearly to remember in any case! Charlie himself has no great recollection. John Hughes, no great lover of Jock Stein, described him as “remarkably laidback” with “a word in our ear” and an “arm over an individual’s shoulders” with none of the “acid tongue” that he would use in later years. He probably didn’t say any more than “just keep doing what you are doing and the goals will come” sort of platitudes. Indeed, the team had little to reproach themselves for. They were unlucky to be behind.
But this was a real Celtic team who knew how to fight back. Auld and Lennox combined brilliantly to level the scores just after half-time, and then a real battle began with both sides coming close, never more so than when John Fallon saved brilliantly from Alex Edwards, grabbing a ball that seemed to have gone behind him and over his head. Gradually, Celtic’s midfield of Gallagher, Murdoch and Auld began to get the ascendancy, but a replay on Wednesday night now began to look more of a possibility. Indeed, many of the crowd would have welcomed that, for they would have enjoyed a relief from the tension. Most people were cynical enough in addition to suspect that the authorities and the clubs themselves would have welcomed an extra game and another big gate!
But Destiny was beckoning for Celtic and for Charlie Gallagher.
Nine minutes remained when Celtic forced a corner on the left on the Main Stand side of the field. Across trotted (newspapers always use the word “trotted” when a player takes a corner kick!) Charlie Gallagher. The move had been rehearsed and Charlie knew that McNeill would come up for the corner. This ploy was new enough, however, for it to carry the element of surprise for the well-drilled and organised Dunfermline defence. Even as he shaped to take the kick with his right foot for an inswinger, he noticed McNeill starting his run. Charlie sent over a perfect corner at exactly the right height with the right pace and the angel of Destiny, Captain Courageous of all the Boys Own yarns, Billy McNeill arrived just at the right time to propel Celtic to a decade of unprecedented glory.
High up on the East Terracing, as far away as you could get from the action without being outside the ground, your back was pummelled, people you had never seen before hugged and kissed you, your feet left the ground as people shouted “Billy McNeill! Billy McNeill! BillyMcNeill!”. Someone ventured to suggest it might have been Tommy Gemmell with the fair hair. “Was it hell. It was Billy McNeill! BillyMcNeill!”
You simply could not make all this up. The next nine minutes were painful for all the fans as the green and white flags gradually began to wave with more and more courage and conviction. Bertie Auld was capering and wasting time making great play with the pile of policeman’s coats stacked near the corner flag. Dunfermline got the ball over the half way line, and we all held our breath, but Ian Young booted the ball down the field. We tried not to think of the wilderness years which might have been coming to an end. “Just kick the baw onywhere Cellic”. Fortunately, Charlie Gallagher did not obey this advice and passed the ball about sensibly to Bobby Murdoch and Bertie Auld, until referee Mr Phillips signalled full time to unleash an enormous tide of emotion. Gentle reader, you cannot imagine what it was like on that King’s Park terracing with tears, hugs, embraces, singing, dancing and general madness. It really had to be experienced to be believed
Tom Campbell and Pat Woods in The Glory And The Dream, still one of the best books ever written about our club, describe the winning goal and its aftermath thus
“Another corner, this time on the left, to be taken by Gallagher, hurrying over to place the ball. Across it comes, a high, floating ball and too far out for the keeper, but he has left his goal… somebody is there – McNeill… and his header rages into the net. For two seconds, Hampden’s vast bowl was still, stunned by the sudden shock of decision, and then erupted into bedlam; the roar continued minute after minute and its prevailing note changed; it was not merely the burst of joy that a goal produces, rather it was a tumultuous welcome to the future and the instinctive realisation by all Celtic’s support that the young men had grown up and that nothing, now nor in the years to come, would withstand their collective spirit. McNeill, the young captain, had emerged from nowhere to score the goal that history demanded. As a member of the team in the past he had delighted in the joy of victory and been despondent in the misery of defeat, but now in full maturity he stood revelling in the moment of triumph”
This is fine literary stuff, and captures the flavour of the moment, although this author cannot in all honest claim that he experienced any “instinctive realisation” that “nothing…would withstand their collective spirit”. Rather he was standing at the top of the East Terracing, gripping tenaciously the post that indicated stairway 25, and praying to God to allow Mr Phillips to blow that whistle!
Charlie went out of his way to shake the hands of all the Dunfermline players. He knew how they were feeling, and there were some fine players among them, several of them Celtic supporters in their boyhood, and of course Tommy Callaghan would join Celtic in 1968 in circumstances which we shall discuss. The Scottish Cup was presented – the green and whites collecting the Scottish Cup! – and Charlie was given his medal. It was his greatest day. The team came up to show the trophy to the exultant fans on the East Terracing, quite a few of whom were unashamedly in tears, having feared that this moment would never come. A veteran supporter who had seen Scottish Cup finals since Joe Cassidy in 1923, and who had played his part in the liberation of Italy in 1943, stated quite emphatically, that he had never seen anything like this.
There was a sequel in the dressing room. Jock Stein had, apparently, said at one point that it was difficult to imagine a successful Celtic team with both Bertie Auld and Charlie Gallagher in it, because they were both the same type of player. Bertie came up to Charlie and said “Come on, put on your medal, and come and talk to him”. The self-effacing Charlie would never have done this on his own, but the street wise cocky Auld had no such qualms, and he led Charlie to the smiling Stein. “Hey boss, what was that you said about us no’ being able toplay in the same team?” Normally such insubordination – and sheer impertinence – would have earned a suspension or even a transfer to another club, but these were special circumstances, and Stein, although temporarily discomfited, made a quick riposte and turned to beam on someone else.
The next few hours passed like a dream for Charlie Gallagher with the bus going through thousands of Celtic fans in the heartlands of the Gorbals to the Central Hotel for the celebration meal, and the bus being stopped several times by the sheer pressure of the fans. Charlie, ofcourse, recalled the day when he had been one of the fans running to see the team with the Coronation Cup of 1953. Now he was on the bus waving in triumph to the adoring thousands. And in the front of the bus was the source of all the euphoria, the Scottish Cup, now won by Celtic for the 18th time. Seldom had it been won in such dramatic circumstances by any team, and never had it meant anything like as much tothe supporters of Celtic. They had now won it 18 times. Charlie Gallagher remains so proud to have played such a significant part in this proud day of Celtic history.
The team and their wives (who were all friendly with each other) had their meal in the Central Hotel, near Central Station, and then some of them went to Charlie and Mary’s new flat in Wellshot Road near Tollcross to celebrate. (Goalkeeper John Fallon didn’t, though, for his wife had gone into labour and gave birth the following day!) Charlie tells a story about this occasion. They were all queuing for a fleet of taxis to take them to Charlie’s house, when Charlie was approached by a couple of fans from Bishopbriggs whom he knew well. They asked if they could come to the party. The answer was a polite but firm “no”, so they asked again, asking as well what the “kitty” was for the drinks. They were told £100, a large amount in 1965, and they promised they would double it if they were
allowed to come. True to their word, they did just that, then spent the evening, happily dispensing drinks to the players! As drink was involved, it was a fair bet that Mr Stein was not invited!
The players watched the highlights of the game on TV. Bob Crampsey, of course, one of Charlie’s old teachers at Holyrood, was very muchinvolved in STV’s coverage and praised the contribution of Charlie. This provoked cries of “teacher’s pet” and “that’s yer faither, Charlie” and other things about Charlie from the other players! It was believed that Crampsey, basically a Queen’s Park supporter but sometimes finding it hard to hide his admiration of Celtic, never said anything bad about Charlie. It was a great night, and although the team were as yet far from world beaters, it was now abundantly clear that something big was happening for Celtic.
Supporters changed overnight. Shy, diffident, insecure youngsters suddenly began to talk about football with confidence, assurance andhappiness. Gnarled old veterans who used to hold the floor talking about Patsy Gallacher and James McGrory now smiled and yielded gracefully to their sons and grandsons who sang the praises of Bertie Auld, Billy McNeill and the new Gallagher. The exile in the wilderness was over. Parkhead was Paradise once more. The Celtic people had risen.
Historians, football ones included, love to play “what if ”. If Celtic had not won that day, Celtic would still, under Jock Stein, have gained some sort of success, one feels, in Scotland at least. He was too good a Manager and the players were all sufficiently good that the perpetual continuation of the wilderness years a la Newcastle United would probably not have happened, although one can never say with certainty. But it is certainly difficult to imagine Celtic winning the European Cup in two years’ time. It was just as well that Charlie found Billy’s head that afternoon then, wasn’t it?
*Extract from David Potter’s wonderful book Charlie Gallagher? What a Player!
This concludes our tribute to Charlie Gallagher who turned 80 today. Hope you had a great day Charlie and enjoyed reading the articles from both David Potter and Matt Corr.