Happy 80th birthday, Willie Wallace…Lisbon Lion and so much more (Part 4)
“Here, you carry it for a while, it is bloody heavy!”
“Not as heavy as it used to be!”
“How do you mean?”
“First time I lifted that Cup I nearly broke my back it was that heavy!”
“It isn’t THAT heavy”
“You haven’t tried lifting it with wee Jimmy hiding inside it!”
Speechless! https://t.co/zh1Vjj9a9C pic.twitter.com/5UNhXobngO
— Brogan Rogan Trevino (@BroganRoganTrev) June 24, 2020
August 1967 marked the beginning of Willie Wallace’s first full season in the hoops of Celtic. The striker marked it appropriately on the evening of Tuesday 22nd with his first hat-trick for the club, debutant Pat McMahon from Willie’s old stomping ground in Kilsyth notching the other two goals as Celts beat Partick Thistle 5-0 in the first round of the Glasgow Cup.
Full-back Chris Shevlane had also made his first appearance for the Bhoys that evening, having been a teammate of Wallace’s at Tynecastle for several years before that. Shevlane would eventually move back to Edinburgh to sign for Hearts big rivals, joining Hibernian in May 1968.
Another extremely tough League Cup section saw Celts in with Rangers, beaten Cup-finalists Aberdeen and Dundee United, who had inflicted two of the team’s only three defeats in the whole of the previous season, the 1-0 loss in Novi Sad making up that set.
The Tannadice side would be dispatched home and away by that same 1-0 scoreline this time around, with a draw at Ibrox the only point dropped in the six fixtures. The key moment in the qualifying phase came at Celtic Park on Wednesday, 30 August 1967. Rangers were leading by an early Willie Henderson strike with 15 minutes remaining, when the same player went down following a challenge from John Clark.
Referee Tom ‘Tiny’ Wharton pointed to the spot and up stepped Kai Johansen to win the match and the group for the Ibrox side. Rangers’ Danish full-back had scored the late winner which had won the Scottish Cup Final replay the previous spring, his shot flashing past Ronnie Simpson after a goalless draw on the Saturday, however, this would not be his night.
His spot-kick rebounded from Simpson’s crossbar back to him, and as 75,000 supporters collectively held their breath, instinctively the Dane played the ball a second time, so giving away an indirect free-kick. Celtic raced up the pitch and Willie Wallace compounded Johansen’s error by equalising for the Bhoys. The Hoops then stepped up another gear to add further goals from Bobby Murdoch and Bobby Lennox, to win 3-1 and thus take the section.
September would contain both highs and lows for Celtic, Willie netting a double against South American outfit Penarol at Celtic Park on the first Tuesday, to give the Hoops a 2-0 win in front of 56,000 spectators. The Uruguayans had won the Copa Libertadores, then succeeded Inter Milan as World Club Champions in 1966, beating their European equivalents, Real Madrid, in both legs by the same 2-0 scoreline. Just the week before the game in Glasgow, their South American crown had passed to Argentina’s Racing Club de Avellaneda, following a play-off victory over Penarol’s main rivals Nacional in Santiago. Both Penarol and Nacional were based in the capital city, Montevideo. Celts would face Racing Club imminently and Montevideo would, unfortunately, become very relevant. More, or perhaps less, on that to follow shortly.
On Wednesday, 20 September 1967, Celtic’s defence of their own European title commenced with the visit of Russian champions Dynamo Kiev to Glasgow. Celts had eliminated Kiev from the European Cup-Winners’ Cup the previous January – you may recall the infamous midnight Friday training session ahead of the following day’s clash with Willie Wallace’s Hearts at Tynecastle – and were favourites to do so again. The omens were good, Jock naming the Lions for the seventh time and the referee being Kurt Tschenscher of West Germany, as in Lisbon.
It would be clear early on that tonight would be different gravy, goalscoring hero Tommy Gemmell stumbling to allow Pusach to stun the champions within four minutes, that lead doubled by the half-hour by Bychevetz, following a rare mistake by captain Billy McNeill. Bobby Lennox would restore some hope of an unlikely Hoops comeback, by pulling a goal back on the hour, however, the Russians would eventually hold out to inflict a first-ever home defeat in European competition for Celtic. This was most definitely not in the script.
The return leg will mainly be remembered for a catalogue of controversial decisions from the Italian referee, Antonio Sbardella. On the hour, he took great umbrage at Bobby Murdoch’s reaction to the award of an innocuous free-kick against him, issuing the midfielder with a second caution before ordering him from the field.
Despite that setback, Lennox again came to Celtic’s rescue, netting at the far post from a near-impossible angle within minutes of Murdoch’s dismissal. And when John Hughes appeared to score a vital second away goal soon afterwards, after a howler from Russian keeper Bannikov, all Celts efforts looked to have paid off.
Incredibly, Sbardella blew up for a non-existent infringement. In the dying seconds, that man Bychevetz again found the target, the cup-holders sent tumbling out at the first hurdle.
On Wednesday, 18 October 1967, the now-deposed champions of Europe began their quest for a world club title by facing Racing Club before 91,000 spectators at Hampden, the venue changed from Celtic Park to allow the huge crowd entry. In a tousy, bad-tempered match, Billy McNeill would grab the only goal with a towering header with 20 minutes remaining.
The next day, Willie Wallace travelled with the Scotland party for the European Championship qualifier in Belfast. The annual Home International tournaments of 1966/67 and 1967/68 had been ‘doubled up’ to serve as a qualification group for the finals to be held in Italy in the summer of 1968. The wonderful 3-2 win secured at Wembley in April 1967 had put Scotland in pole position to win the section, with both Wales and England still to come to Hampden.
There were 55,000 noisy spectators packed into Windsor Park on the afternoon of Saturday, 21 October 1967, to watch the following Scotland side take the field for Willie’s sixth full cap.
Ronnie Simpson (Celtic)
Tommy Gemmell (Celtic)
Eddie McCreadie (Chelsea)
John Greig (Rangers)
Ron McKinnon (Rangers)
Ian Ure (Arsenal)
Willie Wallace (Celtic)
Bobby Murdoch (Celtic)
Jim McCalliog (Sheffield Wednesday)
Denis Law (Manchester United)
Willie Morgan (Burnley)
Although Ronnie Simpson would receive some plaudits for saving a Johnny Crossan penalty, that afternoon would belong to George Best, the Irish superstar very much in the mood and running through the Scottish defence at will. The only surprise on the day was that it was Dave Clements of Coventry City who scored the winner rather than George, his drilled finish with 20 minutes remaining the only goal of the game, as the Scots slumped to a costly defeat.
Seven days later, the Celtic contingent were back on the Hampden trail for the season’s first domestic showpiece, Dundee the opposition for the Scottish League Cup final.
John Hughes would replace the suspended Jimmy Johnstone in the only change to the Lisbon line-up, Yogi adding to Steve Chalmers’ early goal to put Celts 2-0 up within 10 minutes in front of 67,000. Former Rangers striker George McLean, an Ibrox casualty from the shock Scottish Cup defeat at Berwick Rangers earlier that year, pulled a goal back for Dundee midway through the first half, the score then remaining at 2-1 until a goal rush in the final 17 minutes of the match.
Chalmers added his own second, before future Dundee United manager Jim McLean struck to make it 3-2 in the 77th minute, Bobby Lennox then immediately restoring Celtic’s two-goal advantage. The Hampden goal spree continued, as George McLean notched his own double for 4-3 before Willie Wallace had the final say, his late strike sealing a third successive League Cup win for Celtic and a second winner’s medal in the competition for his personal collection.