“Oh Harry, Harry…Oh Harry Hood”: Nothing Fawlty about the towering performance which brushes Basel aside

“Oh Harry, Harry…Oh Harry Hood”: Part 25: Nothing Fawlty about the towering performance which brushes Basel aside

It was a happy Celtic party which gathered at Glasgow Airport on Monday, 25 February 1974, just 48 hours after the tremendous victory at Easter Road which made them odds-on to retain their Scottish title for an incredible ninth successive year. Their destination was Switzerland, for the first leg of the European Cup quarter-final tie against the national champions, FC Basel.

This Swiss had been scoring goals for fun in this season’s competition, notching up 11 over the two legs in their first-round victory over Icelandic champions, Fram Reykjavik. Peruvian star Teofilo Cubillas had been on the scoresheet in both matches. He first came to my attention during that magical World Cup finals tournament in Mexico in the summer of 1970. I would be less enamoured with him eight years later, as he hammered two screamers past Alan Rough in Argentina, ruining my night and Scotland’s tournament before either had really started.

Cubillas would still be in Switzerland as Basel overturned a 2-1 deficit from Brugge by beating the Belgian champions 6-4 at their St Jakob Stadium in the second round, with German striker Ottmar Hitzfeld netting a hat-trick to set up the last-eight clash with Celtic in the spring. In the interim, the Peruvian legend would sign for FC Porto for a not insignificant transfer fee of £200,000.

This would be the third meeting of the clubs in just over a decade of continental competition. They had first been paired back in the autumn of 1963, in the opening round of the Cup Winners’ Cup, Celtic’s second European tie after the inaugural clash with Valencia 12 months earlier. The Hoops were doing their best to live up to their ‘consistently inconsistently’ tag at that time, having built up a 4-0 lead at home to Third Lanark on the Saturday only to see that vanish before the hour as the game ended 4-4. Three nights later, Tuesday, 17 September 1963, they would manage to rack up five goals without reply against Swiss Cup-holders Basel in the St Jakob, before a late goal from Heinz Blumer reduced the damage to 5-1. John Hughes would become the first Celtic player to score a European hat-trick that night, whilst John Divers and Bobby Lennox also notched their maiden continental strikes, club legends Billy McNeill and Karl Odermatt in opposition for the first of their many tussles.

Basel’s St Jakob ground

Celts would suffer League defeats at Falkirk and Paisley, then share the points at home to Jock Stein’s unbeaten table-topping Dunfermline Athletic, after again conceding a two-goal lead, before the return match with FC Basel took place on Wednesday, 9 October 1963, perhaps a combination of poor results, a 5-1 aggregate lead and the most atrocious weather reducing the attendance to just 8,000.

This remains Celtic’s lowest European home crowd to this day. In fairness, the players did their job professionally, with a comprehensive 5-0 victory, John Divers netting a double to join Big Yogi at the top of the club European scoring charts, whilst future Lions, Jimmy Johnstone, Bobby Murdoch and Steve Chalmers all broke their European scoring ducks. The tie with Basel reflected Celtic’s first wins at home, away and on aggregate in continental competition. They are part of our long and proud European history.

The previously struggling Celts would then go on the rampage with five consecutive League wins, over which they amassed no fewer than 25 goals, Airdrieonians being on the end of the heaviest defeat, losing 9-0 as Hoops goalkeeper Frank Haffey missed a penalty for double-figures.

On the same afternoon, the 19-year-old Harry Hood had scored the winner as Clyde edged a five-goal thriller with Cowdenbeath at Central Park in the old Second Division, however, he was on the Celtic bench for his first continental tie the next time they faced FC Basel, in the first round of the 1969/70 European Cup in the St Jakob on Wednesday, 19 September 1969. As in 1963, Celts had again come into the tie on the back of poor domestic form, having lost to Dunfermline Athletic and Hibernian either side of a goalless draw at Pittodrie. They would again play out a 0-0 draw in Switzerland, Hood replacing Stevie Chalmers at half-time, which set things up nicely for the return in Glasgow a fortnight later.

Harry would return to the team and grab the winner as Celts got back to winning ways at Ibrox, three days later, followed up by victories over Aberdeen and his old pals at Clyde. He would then celebrate his first European start for Celtic by scoring in the opening minute, in front of 50,000 spectators at Parkhead, Tommy Gemmell sealing a 2-0 win and the tie with a fabulous shot just after the hour, as the first step in the Road to Milan was safely negotiated.

The aftermath of that match would see Ronnie Simpson suffer a recurrence of the dislocated shoulder problem which forced his retiral, Jock Stein going into the transfer market to sign former Third Lanark keeper Evan Williams from Wolverhampton Wanderers. Williams would see off competition from John Fallon then Denis Connaghan to retain the gloves, playing in the European Cup final in Milan in 1970, before the arrival of Scottish international Ally Hunter in January 1973 brought his run of over 150 appearances to an end.

When an injury to Hunter in that 4-2 victory at Easter Road in February 1974 forced him out of the trip to Basel in the first leg of the European Cup quarter-final the following midweek, Williams would find himself back in the spotlight again more than a year since his last first-team match. He would probably wish he hadn’t bothered, 90 minutes later, as his Celtic career ended in a series of blunders.

Stein named the following men for Celtic’s third visit to the St Jakob Stadium, on Wednesday, 27 February 1974.

Evan Williams; Danny McGrain & Jim Brogan; George Connelly, Billy McNeill & Davie Hay;
Harry Hood, Steve Murray, Dixie Deans, Kenny Dalglish & Paul Wilson.

Substitutes; Ally Hunter, Roddie MacDonald, Pat McCluskey, Tom Callaghan & Vic Davidson.

Celtic got off on the front foot and took the lead on 20 minutes. Harry Hood began the move by finding Jim Brogan wide on the left. The full-back made great progress down the flank before pitching over a cross which took out the Swiss central defence, Paul Wilson connecting perfectly to send a stunning volley straight over Frenchman Jean-Paul Laufenberger in the Basel goal.

The tie then turned on its head in a three-minute spell around the half-hour, with Evan Williams badly at fault on both occasions. First, he allowed a low shot from Ottmar Hitzfeld to squirm out of his grasp and over the line for the equaliser, then he watched as Karl Odermatt’s free-kick from 25 yards flew past him at the post he was covering for 2-1.

Celts would regroup and storm back after the interval, Kenny Dalglish and Danny McGrain combining brilliantly to allow The King to float in an exquisite equaliser, 10 minutes into the second half, Celtic’s 100th goal in European football. With two vital away goals secured and the home crowd deflated, sadly it would be Williams who let them back into the game again. This time his fluffed clearance landed at the feet of Otto Demarmels. A slick one-two saw the Basel midfielder chopped down in the box by George Connelly, Hitzfeld blasting the spot kick high past Williams to give the Swiss a 3-2 advantage from the home leg. Otto Hitzfeld, of course, would go on to win the trophy as manager of Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich.

Ally Hunter would return between the sticks for the visit of Hearts, three days later, albeit he suffered another injury early on which appeared to hamper his movement and would cost him his place in the following game. Still, he kept a clean sheet, as a Celtic side minus skipper Billy McNeill won 1-0, thanks to a strike from Dixie Deans on the half-hour. Jimmy Bone would appear in place of the matchwinner at the start of the second half to make his Hoops debut.

Eight days later, an excellent crowd of 46,000 rolled up to Parkhead for the Scottish Cup fifth-round tie with Motherwell, a sixth meeting of the season between the two clubs. Hunter’s injury gave Denis Connaghan the opportunity to wear the first-team gloves again, whilst Billy McNeill, Danny McGrain and Jimmy Johnstone were all still missing from action. The star of the show for Celtic was Harry Hood, who twice equalised to keep the Bhoys in the Cup after first Bobby Graham then Ian Kennedy gave the visitors the lead in the first half. Within two minutes of the restart, Harry made it 2-2 with a superb shot which beat keeper Stuart Rennie all ends up, as the circus moved on to a seventh performance at Fir Park in midweek.

Jimmy Bone received his first Celtic start at a jam-packed Fir Park on Wednesday, 13 March 1974, however, it was his striking partner Dixie Deans who would be the difference on the night. As the clock ticked towards the hour, Harry Hood sent substitute Tom Callaghan down the left flank with a deft pass, the big Fifer making ground before slinging the ball into the centre. That was the trigger for Dixie to launch himself full-length amongst the bodies to make a perfect connection with his forehead, the ball arrowing past Rennie to knock his old team out of the Scottish Cup, completing a cup double for the Bhoys.

There were two novel sights as League business recommenced with a home clash with Ayr United three days later. The obvious one was the first appearance of Celtic’s new change kit, black and green vertical stripes with black shorts and socks. From memory, it had been made popular by Coventry City and it would later be recycled in the Gordon Strachan era, a Champions League game at Old Trafford and a title-clincher at Kilmarnock springing to mind.

The second sight was a welcome one, Jimmy Johnstone making his return after a three-month absence, with various reasons put forward as to why he had not featured in that time, Harry Hood dropping to the bench. Jinky being Jinky, he promptly turned in a man-of-the-match performance, scoring twice from the penalty spot, as did the prolific Dixie Deans from open play in a 4-0 victory.

Both Johnstone and Hood would be in the starting line-up in midweek, as Celts set out to overturn a 3-2 deficit from the first leg of their European Cup quarter-final clash with FC Basel, on Wednesday, 20 March 1974. The ineligible Jimmy Bone was the player to miss out from the weekend, as Stein went with this selection.

Denis Connaghan; Davie Hay & Jim Brogan; Steve Murray, Billy McNeill & George Connelly;
Jimmy Johnstone, Kenny Dalglish, Dixie Deans, Tom Callaghan & Harry Hood.

Substitutes; Ally Hunter, Pat McCluskey, Bobby Lennox & Paul Wilson.

This was one of the classic European games from my childhood, perhaps the last great European victory of the Stein era. The Celtic Wiki talks about it as an all-ticket affair, however, my recollection is that it was pay-at-the-gate, and just two days short of my teens, I recall being overwhelmed at the size of the crowd and the crushing in the old Celtic End prior to kick-off. The attendance was given officially as 71,000. It felt like much more at that time.

What an emotional roller-coaster of a night. There was a crushing disappointment early on as first star defender George Connelly was stretchered off with what would prove to be a broken ankle, ending his season within five minutes of the kick-off, then Dixie Deans had TWO goals disallowed by the French referee within 60 seconds, shortly afterwards. Celtic then showed the spirit of true champions by storming into a two-goal lead by the 20th minute, to take the initiative back in the tie. Tom Callaghan’s inswinging corner from the left was met perfectly by the head of Kenny Dalglish to open the scoring, then Harry Hood slipped Steve Murray in to deliver a low cross from the right, Deans making it third time lucky by sweeping the ball past Jean-Paul Laufenburger for 2-0.

Just after the half-hour mark, the aggregate score was level again, as skipper Karl Odermatt’s curling free-kick from the left was bulleted past Denis Connaghan by Basel defender Walter Mundschin. Laufenburger then became the second casualty of the evening, limping off to be replaced by Marcel Kunz, a veteran of the 1969 clashes between the sides. An incredible first 45 minutes still had one final twist, in stoppage time, this time Swiss international striker Walter Balmer on hand to tap the ball home after Connaghan had parried Odermatt’s shot, yet another goalkeeping error giving FC Basel the aggregate lead back once again at 5-4.

There would only be one goal in the second half, as the tie continued to swing one way then another, however, what a goal it was. The ball was played to Jimmy Johnstone from a short corner on the right, before Harry Hood swung over a cross which reached Tom Callaghan at the far post, the tall midfielder controlling it on his chest before unleashing a fierce left-foot volley past Kunz. Now the aggregate scores were level on away goals, and extra-time loomed.

The winner, when it arrived, was a real seminal moment in the career of Steve Murray. With five minutes of the first period of extra-time remaining, Hood again showed wonderful poise and footwork in the box to hit the byeline, before pitching a cross to the far post, where Jimmy Johnstone was always second favourite to beat his Swiss marker in the air. However, pressure from the little winger forced the defender to miscue his clearance, the ball dropping towards Murray in the six-yard box. One stretch of the neck muscles sent the ball past Kunz, Celts into the last four and Steve into Celtic folklore. There was pandemonium in the old stadium and this time there would no way back for FC Basel, as the Hoops marched into the semi-final.

So, who would lie in wait?

There was the potential for a third successive meeting with Ujpest Dosza. The Hungarians had eliminated Czechoslovakian champions Spartak Trnava following a penalty shootout, after two 1-1 draws. They would be dangerous but known opposition.

Also in the draw were the powerful West Germans of Bayern Munich, who had overcome Bulgarian champions CSKA – conquerors of holders Ajax – despite a second-leg defeat in Sofia.

It would be another 24 hours before the third potential opponent was known, albeit Atletico Madrid would start their second leg as favourites, having beaten Red Star 2-0 in Belgrade.

Thanks, as always, to the wonderful Celtic Wiki.

Hail Hail!

Matt Corr

Follow Matt on Twitter @Boola_vogue

About Author

Having retired from his day job Matt Corr can usually be found working as a Tour Guide at Celtic Park, or if there is a Marathon on anywhere in the world from as far away as Tokyo or New York, Matt will be running for the Celtic Foundation. On a European away-day, he's there writing his Diary for The Celtic Star and he's currently completing his first Celtic book with another two planned.

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