My friend’s father worked at Celtic Park in late 1971. The club had encountered problems with the new main stand. Utgent repairs were required and a squad of ten workmen (six Celtic, four Rangers) were entrusted with the repair work.
Each day Jock Stein would visit them to check progress and enjoy some banter with the workers. As New Year approached the prospect of the traditional Celtic v Rangers fixture naturally came into the conversation.
One day a prominent Celtic director appeared and generously doled out a complimentary ground ticket to each of the workers as a reward for their hard graft. Unfortunately for the Rangers supporters these tickets were for the Celtic end of the stadium. They were told brusquely that if they wanted the Rangers end, they should contact Ibrox for them. The prominent Celtic director departed and a few minutes later, big Jock arrived. When he heard of the plight of the Rangers men, he shook his head as if he had heard it all before and left them to it.
A full hour later he returned with 4 Rangers end tickets and swapped them with the workers in what was seen as a wonderful and much-appreciated gesture.
As the day of the big game loomed, the Celtic workers pressed Big Jock to name the Celtic line-up. The big man was as playful and coy as ever. He answered their question with one of his own:
“Which player do you think is first on the team sheet when we play Rangers?”
“Jinky, because he can unlock the tightest defences.”
“Big Billy. He’s our captain and leader.”
“Wee Lennox, ‘cos he’s the fastest thing on two feet.”
To stop the men becoming exasperated, Jock explained it was Jim Brogan, his first pick. Rangers had a strong physical presence and could easily intimidate other teams. You had to fight fire with fire. Only by playing hard men like Brogan, Hay and Murdoch could he allow the likes of Johnstone, Dalglish, Hood and Callaghan to express themselves and perform.
This was a rare insight inside Big Jock’s mind. The irony is that Celtic won the Ne’erday fixture due to a dramatic last-minute goal from a certain Jim Brogan. Perhaps Jock really did have the gift of foresight.
(First published in The Celt, November 2006)
Fast forward to January 3rd 1972. With the score tied at 1-1, Celtic score a last-minute winner courtesy of the unlikely figure of Jim Brogan. This match report is from the Herald:
RANGERS STUNNED BY INJURY TIME WINNER FROM JIM BROGAN
BY RAYMOND JACOBS
The biters were badly bitten at Parkhead yesterday. Rangers, who had narrowly beaten Partick Thistle with a goal in the second minute of injury time, were themselves stunned in the same way by Celtic when everyone had reconciled themselves to a draw.
Of all the instruments that might have inflicted on Rangers their first defeat after seven successive victories and their fourth in as many games against Celtic this season, the least likely to have been chosen was the head of Celtic’s left back, Jim Brogan.
With the game heading towards the draw that would surely have soothed the strongest passions, Billy McNeill took a free kick. The ball came to Hood and, as he brought it under control, Brogan began a run into the area which he timed perfectly to infiltrate in front of McCloy, meet Hood’s clever lob, and glance the ball home.
By appearing as he did, apparently from nowhere, Brogan brought an unexpected climax to a game, which, on their endeavour in the second half, Rangers hardly deserved to lose.
Before the interval Celtic had established a rhythm and, through Dalglish and Callaghan, a useful measure of control in the midfield. Rangers, who had optimistically began the game with four men upfront, were gradually forced to withdraw as Celtic exerted great pressure.
Celtic thus made more chances for themselves and before Jimmy Johnstone opened the scoring in 35 minutes, Deans, Lennox and Hood had all gone close. Apart from that, Rangers put themselves in difficulty by needlessly giving away free kicks in dangerous positions.
It was from one of these that Celtic’s first goal came, almost by way of being a punishment. From the left side of the area Hood flighted the ball to the far side, and there was Jimmy Johnstone, standing completely unmarked so that he only had to stoop to conquer McCloy with his head.
For their part Rangers showed splendid willingness to carry the fight. McLean passed the ammunition effectively and Stein and Derek Johnstone gave Connaghan more than one uncomfortable moment as they ran on to the high ball with which Rangers tested the nerve and judgement of the Celts’ goalkeeper.
Together the sides put together a first half of football as fluent and entertaining as anyone can hope for in a match where the usual tendency of the occasion is for the tension to subvert normal skills into rushed passing, uncompromising tackles and trigger happy shooting.
The second half was much more of a patchwork. Rangers swung all their considerable weight into their attempt to beard those formidable lions in their den.
The pressure was then on Celtic and Connelly, just as Smith had done, stood out as the cooling influence in defence.
Yet despite Rangers’ exertions, Hood twice had shots saved by McCloy and Mathieson had his name taken for bringing down Lennox as he sprinted clear – not by any means he worst foul of a match that was controlled with commendable lack of fuss by referee Mr Mullan.
But with nine minutes left Rangers were at last rewarded with what seemed likely to be the equalising goal. Mathieson pushed the ball forward and Stein and Johnston took it almost in tandem with a rush that broke through Celtic’s defence. It was Stein’s shot that Connaghan got his hands to but could not stop.
And that, we thought, was that – until Brogan’s bolt from the blue brought the game to a stirring end and left the masses at the Celtic end of the ground to noisily exult over their rivals who stood in mute disbelief at the other end.
CELTIC – Connaghan, Hay, Brogan, Dalglish, McNeill, Connelly, Johnstone, Lennox, Deans, Callaghan, Hood.
Goals:- Johnstone 35, Brogan 90.
RANGERS – McCloy Jardine Mathieson Greig Jackson Smith McLean Johnstone Stein MacDonald Johnstone.
Goal:- Stein 81.