This one perhaps fell under the radar at the end of last week, so it’s well worth a catch-up as Matt Corr, with the valuable assistance of Celtic historian Pat Woods, provides us with a fascinating insight into the groundwork from Jock Stein – carried out before he was appointed as manager of Celtic – that led to that glorious triumph against Inter Milan in the European Cup Final in Lisbon on 25 May 1967.
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And then onto Part Three and that’s you caught up…
When Stein met Herrera – How our protagonists fared…Jock Stein
Like Willie Waddell, Jock would return from Milan still harbouring hopes of a domestic Double for his Dunfermline Athletic side, Dundee having ended the Pars League Cup hopes at the Sectional stage. Rangers had done likewise to Waddell’s Kilmarnock, in a group which also contained Celtic, and somewhat eerily, those same two clubs would swap places to defeat Kilmarnock and Dunfermline in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup on the same afternoon in late March 1964.
Rangers beat the Fifers 1-0 at Hampden as Dundee were putting four goals past Killie without reply at Ibrox. So there would be no second Scottish Cup in four years for Jock at East End Park, and indeed within two days of that defeat, he would be on the move from Dunfermline in an effort to revitalise a sleeping giant, Hibernian.
As it transpired, Jock Stein would spend less than 12 months at Easter Road, although Jock being Jock, he would still deliver a degree of success. That commenced with the new Summer Cup, where Hibernian joined bitter rivals Hearts, Falkirk and, of course, Jock’s former club Dunfermline Athletic in a four-team section.
The Gorgie club emerged from the six matches one point clear of both Hibs and Dunfermline, however they were forced to withdraw from the latter stages of the competition due to a forthcoming tour of the USA. With the Pars and Hibernian sharing identical points and goalscoring records, a play-off between the pair was required to decide which club would progress to the semi-final.
Hibernian won 3-1 at neutral Tynecastle to set up a semi-final with Kilmarnock, as Jock once again went head-to-head with Willie Waddell, the Leith side recovering from a 4-3 first-leg defeat at Rugby Park to win the return 3-0 at Easter Road at the end of May. The bizarre world that is Scottish football then produced another first, as a typhoid epidemic in Aberdeen delayed the final until August. The Dons won 3-2 in the first leg at Pittodrie, with Hibernian levelling the tie at 4-4 on aggregate in the return match four days later.
It would be early September before a slot could be found for a play-off and Aberdeen won the right for home advantage, however Stein worked his magic, his side winning 3-1 in the Granite City to secure a first trophy in 12 long years.
In the meantime, the football gods had decided to have some more fun as the formal 1964/65 season got underway, Hibernian and Dunfermline Athletic paired together in a League Cup section. This time it would be Jock’s former club which would progress, thanks to a 2-0 win for the Pars at East End Park and a draw at Easter Road.
That early setback did not prevent Jock’s side going from strength to strength in the two major competitions, whilst taking time out to beat European Cup-finalists Real Madrid 2-0 at Easter Road in a friendly match in October, Stein once again looking to test himself against the best on the continent.
That same month, he sold back-up keeper Ronnie Simpson to Celtic. By the turn of the year, Hibernian were one of four clubs in with a chance of winning a domestic Double, Jock removing one of those when his team knocked Rangers out of the Scottish Cup at Easter Road on Saturday, 6 March 1965.
That same afternoon, Jimmy McGrory’s Celtic eliminated another of the four, Kilmarnock, from the same competition. This would prove to be an historic day, the end of the great McGrory’s 20-year tenure as Celtic manager, as he was succeeded 48 hours later by his former captain, Hibernian manager Jock Stein.
The change had been announced on the last day of January with only the timing to be agreed. With his friend Bob Shankly now cleared to move from Dundee to take up the reins at Easter Road, Stein headed back to Glasgow, and nothing would ever be quite the same again.
By the end of that month, Jock’s Celtic had beaten Motherwell to progress to the Scottish Cup final, their opponents being the winner of the other last-four tie between…his two previous clubs, Hibernian and Dunfermline Athletic! It would be the Pars who would prevail as Hibernian’s season, which had promised so much, ended in bitter disappointment and a fourth-placed League finish.
The rematch of the 1961 Scottish Cup final at Hampden in April 1965 saw Jock switch dugouts, but the outcome would be the same, his side triumphant at the end, in this case having twice come from behind to clinch the famous old trophy with a late Billy McNeill header, and the long-awaited Celtic Rising was finally underway.
At that same moment, some 40 miles away in Edinburgh, his old friend and rival Willie Waddell was dancing a jig of delight down the Tynecastle tunnel after his Kilmarnock team had defied the odds to snatch the Scottish League title from under the very noses of final-day opponents Hearts with a stunning 2-0 victory.
With Inter Milan reigning as the current Italian, European and World Champions, it’s probably safe to assume that all three main protagonists from that Milan get-together of November 1963 would certainly enjoy the summer of 1965. Jock even splashed out on a new striker, the prolific Joe McBride, signed from Motherwell in June.
Celtic’s 1965/66 League and League Cup campaigns began at the same venue, Tannadice, albeit the outcomes were very different. Former Celt Bobby Carroll scored the first of Dundee United’s two goals on the opening day of Jock Stein’s first full season in charge, a 2-1 defeat giving the Hoops an uphill battle in a tough League Cup section.
They would find themselves on the brink of elimination after Dundee left Celtic Park with both points seven days later, but four straight wins combined with a series of favourable results in the other fixtures saw Stein’s men top the group two points clear of Motherwell.
In contrast to that rollercoaster opening, the Hoops League form was seriously impressive, a 4-0 win at Tannadice on the opening night – John Divers with the first goal of what would be an incredible sequence of success lasting the best part of a decade – setting the tone for what was to follow. Celtic dropped just three points in the first half of the campaign, scoring goals for fun. Five against Hearts, six against Stirling Albion, seven against Aberdeen and poor Morton hit for eight on Christmas Day.
By that time, Stein’s men were also the League Cup-holders for the first time since the 7-1 humiliation of Rangers back in October 1957, the Ibrox club again the beaten finalists in this season’s competition thanks to two first-half penalty conversions from John Hughes, albeit it had taken a last-gasp Bobby Lennox equaliser at Ibrox to prevent elimination in the semi-final to Jock’s old team Hibernian.
The balance of power in Scottish football was changing, a fact emphasised by Celtic’s 5-1 destruction of their Glasgow rivals in the Parkhead fog on Monday, 3 January 1966, Stevie Chalmers with the last-ever hat-trick in that series of fixtures stretching back to the opening League campaign of 1890/91.
Rangers would fight their way back into contention in the second half of the campaign, assisted by three League defeats suffered by Celtic on the road in the opening two months of the new year. But another last-minute strike from Bobby Lennox at Motherwell on the final day of the season sealed a first League title for Celtic in 12 long years, since Jock himself had captained the Double-winning team of 1953/54.
The Ibrox club would have some consolation in the shape of the Scottish Cup, a late winner in the Hampden replay killing hopes of a first-ever domestic Treble for Celtic, after the Hoops had eliminated tough opposition in the shape of Dundee, Hearts and Jock’s old employers Dunfermline Athletic en route to the final.
This could indeed have been an incredible Celtic season, another final minute goal from Bobby Lennox incorrectly given as offside at Anfield in the second leg of the European Cup-Winners’ Cup semi-final. That would have sent Stein’s men through on the away goals rule to the dream ticket of a first European final, which would have been played at Hampden! Sadly, instead it would be Bill Shankly’s Liverpool who would progress, the Reds beaten 2-1 by Borussia Dortmund. The Germans had beaten cup-holders West Ham United in the other semi-final.
Celtic’s progress to the last four had been comfortable, Jock’s first continental match in charge of the Hoops producing a 6-0 win over Go Ahead Eagles in the Netherlands. The Danes of AGF Aarhus were also beaten home and away before Russian representatives Dinamo Kiev felt the full force of Bobby Murdoch’s shooting to leave Glasgow’s east end 3-0 behind.
The job was duly completed with a 1-1 draw in Georgia two weeks later. Celts had also reached the last four of the competition in their only previous appearance, two years earlier, losing on that occasion to MTK Budapest having been three goals up from the first leg. There would always be next year for European glory, perhaps.
Given that these articles came about due to the repeated failure of Scottish football teams in European competition, it is perfectly fitting that we end with a review of Jock Stein’s perfect 1966/67 season. Even the most optimistic of Celtic supporters could not have envisaged the outcome as the League Cup campaign opened with a 2-0 win at Tynecastle in August 1966.
Celts would storm through the section with six straight wins, Clyde hit for six goals and St Mirren for eight before Dunfermline were dispatched 9-4 on aggregate in the quarter-final. A straightforward win over Airdrieonians in the last four set up a third successive match-up between Celtic and Rangers in the League Cup final, that man Bobby Lennox yet again with a vital winner as Stein’s men retained the trophy.
Goals and wins were the order of the day in the League also, just three points dropped before Dundee United became the first team to beat the Hoops that season, at Tannadice on Hogmanay. Despite the loss to injury of the scoring machine Joe McBride – he would remain Scotland’s top goalscorer despite no appearances beyond Christmas Eve – Celts would repeat that consistency in the second half of the campaign, bizarrely the only defeat once again being a 3-2 loss to Dundee United, this time at Celtic Park on a night where the title could have been clinched with a draw!
That point was secured at Ibrox three days later, in front of the watching Helenio Herrera, as mentioned earlier, thanks to a double from the genius Jimmy Johnstone.
That point also secured Celtic’s inaugural domestic Treble, Aberdeen having been beaten at Hampden in the Scottish Cup final seven days previously, Willie Wallace this time with a brace.
In contrast to the previous year, Celtic’s progress to the final had seen them face less formidable opposition, only Clyde – the surprise team of the season with their dynamic young centre-forward Harry Hood – providing a degree of difficulty, the Bully Wee forcing a replay.
And then there was the European Cup, where Jock Stein and Helenio Herrera would be on a collision course for another meeting, four years after that enlightening session in Milan, this time at the summit of continental football in the fairytale setting of Lisbon.
Round one saw Celtic make their European Cup debut by eliminating Swiss champions FC Zurich, thanks mainly to the shooting sensation at full-back which was Tommy Gemmell. Inter defeated Soviet champions Torpedo Moscow at the same stage, the only goal of the tie scored by a Russian, Valery Voronin in the San Siro first leg, sadly for him at the wrong end.
The second-round opposition for Celtic involved a trip to Western France to face the Canaries of FC Nantes, and the aforementioned Vladimir Kovacevic. But the name on everyone’s lips would be Jimmy Johnstone, the Hoops winger destroying the French as Celts won both legs by 3-1.
Herrera’s Inter also enjoyed wins in both legs, the Hungarians Vasas unable to lay a glove on the former holders. It was at this stage that a Johan Cruyff-inspired Ajax inflicted a 5-1 defeat on English champions Liverpool in Amsterdam, and a new star was born.
Perhaps less attention was paid to the exploits of Yugoslav champions Vojvodina Novi Sad, which is unfair, as before the watching Jock Stein, they came from 2-0 down to beat Atletico Madrid in a play-off in the Spaniard’s own Estadio Manzanares (later renamed Vicente Calderon), despite ending the match with just nine men.
Jock was in Madrid as Celts would face the winner of that play-off in the quarter-final, the tie level on aggregate at 1-1 before Charlie Gallagher delivered the most famous corner-kick ever at Celtic Park and the blond head of Billy McNeill did the rest.
Inter Milan were involved in the tie of the round, against cup-holders Real Madrid, the teams sharing eight European titles between them. Herrera’s men would again win both legs to progress, whilst Johan Cruyff and Ajax would be beaten by the Czech champions Dukla Prague thanks to a late own goal.
A Willie Wallace double at Celtic Park in his first European game for the club put the Hoops in the driving seat for the return, but even so Stein’s men had to withstand significant pressure before securing a goalless draw and a place in the Lisbon final.
As expected, the opposition would be Inter Milan, albeit it took the Italians three games including a Bologna play-off to dispose of Bulgarians CSKA Red Flag (now CSKA Sofia).
Thus, in the sunshine of Lisbon in the spring of 1967, the fates pitched two men together who had shared a coffee and talked football back in Milan in the winter of 1963, Dunfermline’s young manager Jock Stein and the man regarded as the best coach in the world, Helenio Herrera.
Like all fairytales, it has a happy ending, for Jock and his current club Celtic, the underdogs, in any case. It was an evening which changed the direction of football for decades, perhaps forever, as Jock’s all-out attacking formation wore down the barricades of the greatest defence on the planet and effectively ended an era.
Despite the sickening setback of an early goal from the penalty spot, there is a Celtic shot at goal on average every two minutes of the 90, Inter keeper Giuliano Sarti producing incredible heroics between the posts before finally succumbing to Tommy Gemmell’s piledriver on the hour mark. Then with six minutes to go, Stevie Chalmers, like the greatest goalscorer of them all, Jimmy McGrory, a son of the Garngad, touches home the winner and ‘the European Cup is on its way to Glasgow.’
As Bill Shankly famously said an hour or so later…”John, you’re immortal now.” And he is.
Matt Corr, with thanks to Pat Woods for provision of the original article and his insights on it.