The Celtic Rising: The day the world changed

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The build-up to the Cup final is often a vital time. Both teams had something to pick themselves up from after last Saturday’s disappointments. Dunfermline Athletic were now out of the title race and Celtic’s performance had been truly abysmal with Jock Stein’s timeous statement about the need to clear things out and his promises to bring in new players not missing anyone and hitting the wall.

It was clear, however, that this was a decision for the future. At the moment, hardly anything in the whole world was more important than Saturday’s Scottish Cup final. For those in school, the “Highers” and “O” Grade exams were beginning. These were crucial, life-defining moments to so many people – but the Scottish Cup final was more so!

Jock Stein decided to take his squad to Largs on the Ayrshire coast from the Tuesday to the Thursday for light training before returning to Glasgow for a final training session on Friday. The 14 chosen were John Fallon, Ian Young, Tommy Gemmell, Jim Kennedy, Willie O’Neill, Bobby Murdoch, Billy McNeilll, John Clark, Jimmy Johnstone, Steve Chalmers, Charlie Gallagher, John Hughes, Bertie Auld and Bobby Lennox.

The squad surprises us from a modern perspective. In the first place, there are three left-backs in Gemmell, Kennedy and O’Neill, more than sufficient presumably but enough to lead to some speculation that one of them might be deployed as a left-half, allowing John Clark to play at right-half and then Bobby Murdoch could return to the forward line.

Speculation along these lines (and it did appear in certain areas of the Press) clearly did not understand Stein’s major positive move so far, namely the transformation of Bobby Murdoch from an ordinary to average inside-forward to a world class right-half.

But there was also no reserve goalkeeper. John Fallon thus went to Largs knowing that, barring injury, he was in the Scottish Cup final team. Ronnie Simpson was left behind at Celtic Park – he had only been brought in as a cover for injuries in September 1964 – and not for the first time, people began to speculate that Ronnie’s long and distinguished career, which had included two English FA Cup-winner’s medals with Newcastle United away back in 1952 and 1955 was coming to an end.

But it was not as simple as all that. Stein, never a great understander of goalkeepers, did not at this stage seem to rate Ronnie Simpson very highly. Indeed, it had been Stein when Manager of Hibs who had decided to transfer Ronnie to Celtic. But one thing was clear, and that was that John Fallon, that likeable redhead, would be in the goal at Hampden on Saturday.

There were others left behind at Parkhead for whom the exit door now seemed to opening; Hugh Maxwell, bought last November from Falkirk and who had never impressed apart from a brilliant early goal against his old club; John Divers, potentially a great player but always a little slow and who did not always give the impression of being too keen to get involved; Jim Brogan, whose time might yet come, it was felt, and John Cushley, who had performed adequately when McNeill was injured, but was never really likely to replace him.

Press releases from Largs emphasised that this was no strenuous training session. Phrases like “toning up” and “relaxation” were used. Indeed, the players at this stage of the season did not really need to be worked hard, and it was felt that a couple of days away from home and a break from training routines with different food would do them a great deal of good and would encourage team spirit and camaraderie.

It was an old ploy of Willie Maley and had brought the players and the club great benefits. Bertie Auld in The Scottish Football Book 11 tells how a photograph appeared of him wearing football boots on one of the greens of a golf course – but the studs had been removed!


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About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor David Faulds 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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