Charlie & The Bhoys: Gallagher at 80
Part 10 – The Charlie & Cesar Show Part 2 breaks Vojvodina hearts
An ear infection being suffered by Jimmy Johnstone opened up a slot on the right-wing for Charlie Gallagher as Celtic’s battle to regain the Scottish Cup – Our Cup – commenced with a home game against Second Division Arbroath on Saturday, 28 January 1967.
Charlie twice came close to making it 4-0 for Celts early in the second half, his shot hitting the post before he headed over from close-range. Bertie Auld would get a late fourth to add to first-half strikes from Bobby Murdoch, Tommy Gemmell and Stevie Chalmers, as the Hoops eased through. The major shock of this day and, indeed, perhaps in the history of the competition, was the defeat of cup-holders Rangers at the home of their Berwick namesakes, the Second Division Borderers 1-0 triumph masterminded by their goalkeeper/manager, Jock Wallace.
Jinky returned to the team for the following weekend’s game at Broomfield, however Charlie was back in the line-up for the visit to Somerset Park on Saturday, 11 February 1967, this time replacing Auld at inside-left. Jock Stein’s men would prove far too powerful for the struggling Honest Men of Ayr United, a second-half Chalmers hat-trick being the platform for a 5-0 win.
The next week would be a red-letter one for Gallagher, beginning on the Monday as news emerged that he had been chosen to represent the Irish international team for the European Championship qualifying tie against Turkey in Ankara later that month. Charlie had qualified through his Donegal-born parents, thus becoming the first man from Scotland to play for the country, a huge honour.
Jock Stein would recognise the magnitude of this achievement by giving Charlie the Celtic captaincy the following Saturday, as Elgin City arrived at Parkhead for their Scottish Cup clash, having knocked out Ayr United in the previous round. Presumably, Jock had a word with the match programme editor beforehand, as Charlie found himself the cover star for that afternoon’s edition!
This time it would be Bobby Lennox’s turn to notch a treble, the Highland League side holding out valiantly until the 43rd minute before finding themselves 3-0 down at the interval! With 25 minutes to play, Willie Wallace became Celtic’s first used substitute in a Scottish Cup-tie, celebrating the fact with a late double – not the last time he would do so in the cup this season – as Celts ran out 7-0 winners on the day.
Next up for Charlie was an exciting football adventure as he met up with his new international teammates in London for the flight to Ankara. The Irish side was managed by Johnny Carey, who had won the FA Cup with Manchester United in 1948, and featured full-back Noel Cantwell, who had captained the Red Devils the next time they had claimed the prize, against Leicester City in 1963. He was not the skipper of the international side though, that honour going to Charlie Hurley, who had lined up for Sunderland against Gallagher and Celtic back in the summer of 1965. Other big names in the side included Joe Kinnear of Tottenham Hotspur – also making his debut in Ankara – and Johnny Giles, another member of United’s Wembley cup-winners of 1963 but now a key man in Don Revie’s rapidly-improving Leeds United team.
Ireland had been drawn in a tough group, which also included Spain and Czechoslovakia, with one place in the quarter-finals available in the quest to make the finals in Italy in 1968. They had started really well, a goalless draw against Spain followed by a 2-1 victory over Turkey, both matches played at Dalymount Park in the autumn of 1966, before a 2-0 defeat in Valencia’s Mestalla just before Christmas. For Charlie Gallagher’s debut, on Wednesday, 22 February 1967, the FAI selection panel chose the following team to represent Ireland.
Alan Kelly (Preston North End);
Joe Kinnear (Tottenham Hotspur) & Noel Cantwell (Manchester United);
Mick Meagan (Huddersfield Town), Charlie Hurley (Sunderland) & Al Finucane (Limerick);
Charlie Gallagher (Celtic), Mike McGrath (Bradford Park Avenue), Frank O’Neill (Shamrock Rovers), Johnny Giles (Leeds United) & Eamon Dunphy (Millwall).
The Turks had also held the Spaniards to a draw in Istanbul, three weeks earlier, however, 90 minutes later they would join the Irish on the three-point mark after a 2-1 win in Ankara. Galatasaray midfielder Ayhan Elmastasoglu beat Alan Kelly to the ball to open the scoring 10 minutes before the interval, with Fenerbahce striker Ogun Altiparmak heading the second and clinching goal with 12 minutes remaining. Ireland’s consolation came in the last minute from Noel Cantwell, the Cork man’s 14th goal for his country being his final contribution to international football, six days short of his 35th birthday. Cantwell would see out the season at Old Trafford as Manchester United regained the English title, before retiring as a player and moving into management with Coventry City in May 1967.
Celtic’s latest Irish internationalist, Charlie Gallagher, would remain on the periphery as the Hoops travelled to eastern Europe the following midweek. The first day of March 1967 saw the Celts in Novi Sad, to take on Yugoslav champions, FK Vojvodina, in the quarter-final of our maiden European Cup campaign. It was new territory also for the hosts.
Vojvodina had pipped our old Euro foes, Dinamo Zagreb, to win their first Yugoslavian title, the previous spring, as Serbian rivals Partizan Belgrade were marching all the way to the final of Europe’s premier competition, where they would lose narrowly to the old masters, Real Madrid, in Brussels. An incredible sixth triumph for the Spaniards had seen them awarded the old European Cup permanently, and so a new trophy had been designed and was up for grabs for the first time as the Hoops made their debut in the competition. The script was being written for the type of scenario where Celtic, the fairytale club, traditionally excel.
Having edged past Austrians Admira Energie Vienna in the first round, Vojvodina had then beaten Atletico Madrid 3-2 in a play-off in the Spaniards’ own Estadio Vicente Calderon, despite being two goals down after just six minutes then reduced to nine men! They would be formidable opponents for Jock Stein’s team, the 1-0 defeat on the night just Celtic’s second loss of the season to date but leaving the tie still open. Stevie Chalmers would suffer an injury in Novi Sad, Gallagher thus restored for the visit to Paisley three days later, as Celts hammered five goals past future Hoops goalkeeper Denis Connaghan without reply.
Charlie would retain his place four nights later, the football Gods determining that he would once again secure his name in Celtic folklore. The return match with Vojvodina drew 70,000 supporters to Celtic Park on Wednesday, 8 March 1967, to witness the stuff of fantasy, Jock Stein selecting the following men for the biggest night of the season to date.
Jim Craig & Tommy Gemmell;
Bobby Murdoch, Billy McNeill & John Clark;
Jimmy Johnstone, Bobby Lennox, Stevie Chalmers, Charlie Gallagher & John Hughes.
The Bhoys’ last-four dream was almost over before it began on the sodden Parkhead pitch. Vojvodina’s regular left-wing partnership, Trivic and Pusibric, had not faced Celtic in Novi Sad, the pair suspended following their orderings off in Madrid. Pusibric’s replacement, Stanic, had scored the only goal of the first leg with 20 minutes remaining, after Tommy Gemmell, hero of the first-round victory over Zurich, had been short with a pass-back. The two banned stars were both in the visiting line-up in Glasgow, with Stanic missing out, indeed, the best chance of the first half fell to Pusibric, who completely miskicked with the goal at his mercy, the waterlogged pitch no doubt a contributing factor. It was a huge let-off for Celtic.
Jock Stein switched things around at the interval, with John Hughes moving inside, and the effect was immediate, the green-clad Celts suddenly much more threatening and dominant. The tie-equalising goal finally arrived on the hour mark, Gemmell thundering down the Jungle wing to fire over a left-footed cross. Goalkeeper Pantelic, a thorn in Celtic hearts all evening, this time totally misjudged the flight of the ball, Stevie Chalmers greedily accepting the gift to bundle the ball home and suddenly it was ‘game on’.
As Celtic attack after attack broke down and the minutes ticked away, thoughts turned to the prospect of a play-off in Rotterdam, the following midweek, not an enticing one from a Hoops perspective given Vojvodina’s performance in Madrid.
Then, with one minute remaining, Jimmy Johnstone won a corner in front of the main stand, and over trotted Charlie Gallagher to bring his expertise into play. Two years earlier, in the closing minutes of the 1965 Scottish Cup final against Dunfermline Athletic at Hampden, Charlie had placed the ball on Billy McNeill’s head from the corner flag to commence the most glorious of eras for those with Celtic in their hearts. History could not possibly repeat itself. Not even for the fairytale club. Could it?
Gallagher swings the ball over under the lights. Pantelic and McNeill have their eyes on the prize. Cesar is there a split-second before the keeper, who has once again misjudged the flight of a cross. The ball soars towards the Vojvodina net. Defender Nesticki is on the goal-line. He throws up a hand in desperation. Like a goalkeeper. But to no avail. The ball is in the net.
There is a split-second before a deafening roar erupts around Celtic Park. Ronnie Simpson is swinging on the crossbar. The Yugoslavs are protesting vehemently that Pantelic was impeded by Chalmers. But the Swedish referee is adamant. The goal stands. Vojvodina trudge back to the centre circle and kick-off. And that is the last kick of the tie. Celtic are again in the semi-final of a European tournament. A third time in four seasons. But this time it’s the Big One.
The last four of the 1966/67 European Cup has not yet been established. The Battle of the Giants was completed last midweek, Inter Milan, under former Barcelona coach Helenio Herrera, completing the double over holders Real Madrid, with a 2-0 win in the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. And Dukla Prague have upset the odds by beating Dutch champions, Ajax, thanks to a late penalty and an own goal. The fourth tie is still at the halfway stage, Linfield drawing 2-2 with Bulgarian champions, CSKA Red Flag – later renamed CSKA Sofia – in Belfast. That tie will not be completed until next week, however, in the eyes of most Celtic supporters the winners of that match will clearly be the preference when the draw is made in a fortnight. But that’s for another time.
As the madness settles down following a glorious European night in the east end of Glasgow, Charlie Gallagher, Celtic’s new Irish international forward, can relax and think about his part in taking the Hoops into the semi-final of the Champions Cup.
Little will he know at that time, that more than half-a-century later, his name will be recalled as the man who took the most famous corner-kick ever witnessed at Celtic Park. One kick of a ball that changed the course of history for our great club.
Now that’s something.
Thanks, as always, to the folk behind the Celtic Wiki, a wonderful source of information, and to David Potter, author of Charlie’s biography, Charlie Gallagher? What a Player!
Follow Matt on Twitter @Boola_vogue