The night Celtic’s “howling banshees” spooked St Etienne, Champions of France

Earlier this week we looked back on the brilliant Celtic comeback from a 2-0 defeat in the away leg against Cologne in 1992. When Liam Brady said after the the first game that he believed Celtic could turn it around at Parkhead, the German media laughed. And if the German side had been scouting Celtic throughout that pretty awful month of September then they’d have been justified in reckoning that they had very little to fear from that particular Celtic side. How wrong they were.

But Brady’s Hoops side was by no means the first to turn around a 2-0 first leg defeat back at Celtic Park. For instance it happened on this day back in 1968 in a night that Celtic wore that distinctive all white strip for the very first time against the French Champions St Etienne, also wearers of distinction of the green and white hoops.

READ THIS...A remarkable night in Paradise, Celtic 3 Cologne 0

Celtic had played particularly poorly in the first leg and faced the awful prospect of exiting the European Cup at the first round for a second successive season – the two campaigns after becoming Champions of Europe in Lisbon on 25 May 1967.

Jock Stein went with Simpson, Craig, Gemmell, Murdoch, McNeill, Brogan, Johnstone, Wallace, Chalmers, McBride and Hughes and 75,000 Celtic supporters turned up with hope in their hearts. Celtic “seemed off the pace” in the first half according to Jim Craig, writing on this site and he noted that the crowd was “not happy in the first half.”

A goal though changes a great deal in football and just before the interval it came Celtic way. “Right on half-time, though, the Hoops got a break when Joe McBride was grabbed in a head-lock by a defender and the Czech referee awarded a penalty in spite of vociferous protests by the St Etienne players. Tam Gemmell made no mistake from the spot,” the Lisbon Lion recalled.

Incidentally when you have a look at the goals from this game, check out the size of that referee!

“The team was much better after the break and took the match to the French side. Yours truly got the second goal on the hour mark, Chalmers made it three in 67 minutes and McBride made it four just three minutes from time, putting Celtic through to the second leg on a 4-2 aggregate,” Jim Craig wrote.

Afterwards the captain of the French Champions – who were a very fine side – pinpointed the reason why his side had lost so heavily after being in such a commanding position after a dominating performance in the first leg in France which earned his side a well deserved 2 goal advantage.

The St Etienne skipper Robert Herbin  pinpointed the Celtic noise from the support describing them as making the difference on the night referring to the Celtic support as ‘howling banshees’.

Incidentally on the same evening, on this day in 1968, when Celtic were thrashing St Etienne in the European Cup, the other Scottish team were doing well too with all five Scots clubs going through to the next round.  Rangers beat Vojvodina (Yugoslavia) , Aberdeen beat Slavia Sofia (Bulgaria), Hibs beat Lublijana (Yugoslavia) and Dunfermline beat Apoel (Cyprus). Changed days indeed. 

Here are those highlights we promised you from Celtic 4 St Etienne 0 on this day in 1968…

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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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