Supporting Celtic from Near and Far, 1972-73 Season (part 2)

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This is the second half of part ten of my story for The Celtic Star: “Supporting Celtic from Near and Far.” All previous editions can be found using the search function on the site. The first half of this feature has just been published on The Celtic Star and can be read HERE.

1972-73 Season Part 2

January 1973 was a frustrating month with three score lines of 2-1 but only one in Celtic’s favour at home to Dundee and a 3-1 win at Ayr. All four matches were tough with defeats at Rangers and Airdrie who at the time were in bottom place. Interestingly all four fixtures had late or very late goals and all were significant. (Conn (89 mins), Rangers winner; Dalglish (82) against Dundee; two more for Dalglish (79 and 85) at Somerset Park; and McCann (89) for The Diamonds.) All that meant that we were 2nd behind Rangers three points adrift but with three games in hand.

We commenced our defence of the Scottish Cup on 3 February at home to East Fife with Jock back in charge as we achieved a comfortable win 4-1. This was followed by a 4-0 success at Kilmarnock (Kenny scored 2 and hit the bar with a penalty), a 1-1 draw at Paradise against Partick Thistle (Bobby Murdoch scored Celtic’s 6,000th goal) and a 2-2 draw away to East Fife (Murdoch hit the bar with a penalty, Hood was entrusted with the re-take which the keeper saved and then he saved another from Dalglish on 87 mins with Dixie notching the equaliser after 88 mins).

The month closed with two 4-0 wins. The first was at Motherwell in the cup with our new goalkeeper Ally Hunter* saving a penalty at a crucial stage when we were one goal ahead. After that it was straightforward. (Incidentally, this was the first time since Tynecastle on 5 March 1966 that Celtic had played a Scottish Cup tie outside Glasgow.) The second was at home to St. Johnstone who put up stiff resistance making us grateful for Bobby Lennox’s opener on 15 minutes. The other three came in the last twenty minutes.

* I can add a little note to the signing of Ally Hunter from Kilmarnock. The Rugby Park outfit were part-time then. Ally worked in the same office as my late dad. The old man was very friendly with the three or four other Celtic supporters in the firm one of whom was a pal of Jock. When the Big Man decided to make his move this lad was asked to sound Ally out. It seems he jumped at the chance. Certainly he signed very shortly after.

March 1973 was a bit mixed. Aberdeen and Morton were beaten at home and then a visit to Tannadice produced a 2-2 draw. An early goal from Bobby Lennox was cancelled out four minutes later and after twelve more minutes we were behind but the Buzz Bomb was on hand one minute after that to square matters up. That effectively evened things up at the top of the table as well with Celtic and Rangers both on 43 points after 27 games but goal difference in our favour 43:34.

St. Patrick’s Day brought Aberdeen back to Paradise on Scottish Cup business and like the League match eleven days previously they attempted to put up the shutters (in the parlance of those days. In present times? They parked the bus). On this occasion they were successful but not so in the replay on the Wednesday evening.

This was a real cup tie. Dixie had a shot cleared off the line and then cleared one off our line to keep the hosts out. Four minutes from time Cesar produced a trademark header to put us in the semi-final. At the end of the month two goals at Tynecastle gave us a comfortable victory and four at home to Falkirk repeated the dose and so we were two points adrift of Rangers with a game in hand and still holding that goal difference advantage of 9.

April opened with what was Celtic’s game in hand and a 2-0 win over Motherwell put us on top with our goal difference slightly increased. In the cup semi-final Dundee made no effort to win and Celtic only came alive in the last ten minutes when Jinky joined in. The replay was as bad until extra time when Celtic scored three goals with Wee Jimmy notching two and Kenny the other between Jimmy’s brace. Comfortable wins at Perth (3-1), home to Dumbarton (5-0), and home to Arbroath (4-0) saw us a point clear of Rangers who could only draw 2-2 at Aberdeen.

With an advantage of 20 in the goal difference stakes a point in the final match at Easter Road would see us home for eight-in-a-row. Dixie gave us the lead after 22 minutes but Hibs battled all the way. After 71 minutes Kenny Dalglish more or less settled it and then on 80 minutes Dixie finished things off. Champions again!

Into May and the Scottish Cup Final. With the amateur football season finished in Manchester I was free to come up for the match. In a pulsating clash Kenny put us in front but we could not capitalise and Rangers equalised.

Immediately after half time they went in front but George Connelly levelled with a penalty. Just after the hour a header came off the Celtic goal post and ran along the line where Forsyth was standing. Surely he must score his first goal for Rangers. He stuck out his foot and in my desperation I was sure that he was about to miss but his studs connected with the ball and sent it over the line. We pressed for another equaliser but it was not to be.

It had been a long time since I had attended consecutive Celtic games but I had that joy, even if we had lost the Cup Final, on the following Monday evening at Elland Road, Leeds for Jack Charlton’s testimonial match.

Great anticipation as I drove over the Pennines with some friends, Celtic supporters and not, but all football daft. What an advertisement for the people’s game. The speed and standard was excellent. With such hard men as Norman “bite your legs” Hunter in the Leeds team and Davie “The Assassin” Hay playing for Celtic there just had to be at least one crunching tackle with “The Assassin” coming out with the ball. Cue wild cheers from the Hoops’ fans.

Three times we went in front and Leeds came back on each occasion but in 86 minutes when Jinky broke clear to run through and beat Gary Sprake we Celtic fans erupted in joy.

Earlier we had arrived at the stadium and just walked up to a turnstile and handed over our cash. We were standing beside many Leeds fans but while the atmosphere was electric it was also very friendly. The great fans of two great teams had come to salute a great player,  a World Cup winner.

Most appropriately the match was refereed by England’s top man at the time Gordon Hill.  After Jimmy Johnstone had scored what was going to be the winner and we had calmed down a little I looked round and saw a young Leeds fan looking forlorn.

Perhaps subconsciously I thought back to Palm Sunday 22 March 1970 when those other Leeds fans had organised the European Cup semi-final tickets for me and yet, remember that all I have ever wanted was for Celtic to win. Now I found myself saying to this lad, “Don’t be upset or disappointed. Your team has not lost tonight and mine hasn’t won. The winner is football. If I thought that Gordon Hill would play extra time I would go onto the pitch and equalise for Leeds myself.”

Equally in my mind I may have been delighted to think that in the same season I had been at testimonials for two of the finest players ever to grace a football pitch. The drive home was superb. The talk about the match was wonderful. A good feeling persisted for days. An amazing end to a successful season!


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