The Celtic Rising – Yogi on the spot twice as Celtic triumph

The Celtic Rising: The League Cup final on this day in 1965…

Part 2: Yogi on the spot twice as Celtic triumph

The precedents were hardly encouraging. Last year at this time, the Scottish League Cup final had seen Celtic well on top, but the “death wish” took over in the missing of vital chances and the lapses of concentration in defence, and there were the vivid memories, still fresh in the mind, of the Scottish Cup replayed final of 1963, when 60,000 supporters turned their backs on Celtic in protest at a spineless and spiritless surrender to the arrogant Rangers.

Others recalled the semi-final of the Scottish Cup in 1960, when there had been a competent 1-1 draw followed by a dismal collapse in the replay.

Today attracted a massive crowd of 107,609 (still a record for the Scottish League Cup final) to see this game, which had clearly caught the imagination of both sets of supporters and quite a few of the neutrals as well.

The game was by no means the best there has ever been between the two of them – for example, there wasn’t a single good goal in the 90 minutes, and very few defence-splitting passes – but what the crowd saw was a different Celtic, a Celtic who were prepared to lower their much-vaunted standards of behaviour and good conduct (so cherished by Chairman Bob Kelly) in pursuit of victory. In short, Celtic descended to the same level as Rangers, and the game, though devoid of the finer touches of football, nevertheless gave some great entertainment, and lacked nothing in passion.

The teams lined up as follows.

Celtic: Simpson, Young and Gemmell; Murdoch, McNeill and Clark; Johnstone, Gallagher, McBride, Lennox and Hughes.

Rangers: Ritchie, Johansen and Provan; Wood, McKinnon and Greig; Henderson, Willoughby, Forrest, Wilson and Johnston.

Referee: Mr H Phillips, Wishaw

The first sight of the new Celtic was the foul by Ian Young on Willie Johnston. Johnston – from Cardenden in Fife, the home of John Thomson, had impressed recently for both Rangers and Scotland and he had to be stopped. Young mercilessly scythed him down. This was a clear indication that there was to be “no more Mr Nice Guy” from Celtic.

Both players were booked by referee Hugh Phillips, generally regarded as one of the best around, Young for the foul and Johnston for retaliation. Young, apparently, regretted that tackle for the rest of his life; Johnston, on the other hand, went on to collect what is claimed to be a world record for the number of times that he got himself sent off! And of course, the Scotland in Argentina story of 1978 features Johnston as one of its stars!

There would be three more bookings in the game – Bobby Murdoch and Jimmy Johnstone of Celtic and Ron McKinnon of Rangers. Five bookings in a game in 1965 was considered a lot, but possibly by the standards of the 1960s, the game was not quite as dirty as the banner headlines “Orgy of crudeness” and the “X Certificate Cup final” of The Sunday Post implied. But certainly, few prisoners were taken.

Celtic’s two goals came from the penalty spot at the Celtic End of the ground. One was when Ron McKinnon of Rangers – in a moment that he himself could never understand, handled a harmless ball in the box, and the other was when Davie Provan (no relation to the Celtic Davie Provan of the 1980s) brought down Jimmy Johnstone. He claimed there was no contact, but Mr Phillips said there was, and that was that, even though Rangers Chairman John Lawrence allowed himself to be quoted as saying that “what we wanted to say about that decision could not be printed!” An odd quote that, come to think of it.

It was interesting to recall an occasion 12 months earlier, in last year’s League Cup final, involving the same three characters – Johnstone, Provan and Phillips. A stonewall penalty was turned down at the same end at the same stage of the game. Now, Celtic got the benefit of a debatable decision, and it was hard to resist the conclusion that the difference was the massive figure in the Celtic dugout.  “He cowed referees into fairness,” was the way that it was put by John Divers.

Anyhow, all this meant that twice the lumbering figure of John Hughes had to come up to the mark. John, that quixotic, moody, temperamental, idiosyncratic, individualistic sort of player, the subject of many a discussion and argument on the terracing and the supporters’ buses, must have felt that destiny was calling him on those two occasions.

He had already in this campaign scored a marvellous goal at Dens Park, Dundee on the day that we qualified, and today he did not let us down. Billy Ritchie got a hand to one of them, but both went in, and Celtic now reached half-time 2-0 up. The Celtic End cheered, but there was anxiety as well, for 45 long minutes remained.

They were not an easy 45 minutes to watch. There was little in the way of good attacking play by either side, but Celtic had the edge in midfield. Such times as Rangers came close, the Celtic defence dealt with it competently and well, and we began to breathe just a little more easily as the minutes ticked away. Bobby Murdoch was immense and men like Charlie Gallagher and Joe McBride proved their versatility by acting as emergency midfielders and even defenders when required.

Behind them all stood Ronnie Simpson, who had twice won an English FA Cup winners’ medal with Newcastle United. By no means a tall man, Ronnie nevertheless radiated confidence and re-assurance. It was also apparent that Rangers forwards Alex Willoughby and Jim Forrest had their limitations when up against a good defence which stood up to them.

It was neither pretty nor relaxing to watch, and there were even some Celtic supporters who saw it as some sort of affront to the traditions of the club which demanded all-out attack, even when the situation in the game did not lend itself to cavalier, champagne, attacking football. This was a new, more pragmatic, practical Celtic doing what was needed of them. If you want to win honours, you have to do that sometimes.

But then within the last 10 minutes, disaster struck when Ronnie Simpson, Ian Young and John Greig all went up for the same ball, and the ball went in off the face of Young! It was a bizarre own goal. Now the heat was turned up as Rangers redoubled their efforts, and we became very introverted and worried on the terracing.

McNeill had had a great game but was now showing signs of tiring and beginning to lose the plot. But how comforting it was to see Ronnie Simpson talk quietly to him, banging one fist into the palm of his other hand, and generally taking control of the situation! A father figure indeed, and much loved by the 50,000 or so anxious hearts behind that goal.

David Potter

An extract from The Celtic Rising, the new blockbuster from David Potter which covers the events of 1965, the year Jock Stein changed everything. The book is out this week and all advance orders will be posted on Thursday and will have been personally signed by the author. Order details are below…

Next Up – Part 3: Winners and Losers…

About Author

I am Celtic author and historian and write for The Celtic Star. I live in Kirkcaldy and have followed Celtic all my life, having seen them first at Dundee in March 1958. I am a retired teacher and my other interests are cricket, drama and the poetry of Robert Burns.

Comments are closed.