To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Jock Stein taking over as manager at Celtic NTV has been featuring a short series of articles in this season’s issues commemorating what was to prove a momentous year in the history of the club.
Part 2 of our stroll down Amnesia lane looked back at the climax to the 1964-65 season which ended in an unlikely Scottish Cup win on April 24th.
David Potter describes events in his book ‘Our Bhoys Have Won The Cup’ in a chapter entitled The Dawn of the Free.
Thus it would be Celtic v Dunfermline Athletic in the Hampden Park Final on April 24th.
This was a particularly ironic pairing for it inevitably brought back memories of 1961, and that particular result which seemed to symbolise all the suffering of the lean years. The sheer power of Pat Crerand had made Celtic seem world beaters in every respect bar one, and it was the vital one of goalscoring. Feckless finishing and lucky goalkeeping had made that night one of the most frustrating of anybody’s life, and the Pars had run up and scored two goals, both well taken but at least one gifted by sloppy goalkeeping, to make it Dunfermline’s greatest ever night, but Celtic’s worst.
But now we had Stein.
This would make the vital difference, we were told, but it did not seem that way as League form continued to be deplorable. Falkirk hammered Celtic 6-2, admittedly a weakened Celtic without McNeill and Clark, and then on the Saturday before the Final, when no excuses were possible on the grounds of injury or anything else, Partick Thistle beat Celtic 2-1 at an ominously silent Celtic Park.
Yet on that same day, Dunfermline also lost in a game which mattered and which probably cost them the League Championship, a point raised by the more perspicacious of Celtic optimists before the Final.
The day of the Final also contained a dramatic finish to the Scottish League Championship. It all boiled down to Hearts and Kilmarnock. Dunfermline had lost it the previous week; Hibs and Rangers had fallen by the wayside, and unless Hearts lost by 2-0 at Tynecastle to Kilmarnock, they would be League Champions. Hearts would in the event live up to their tradition of blowing it on the last day by doing just that – losing 2-0 to Kilmarnock.
All this however was of precious little concern to those 108,000 people who gathered at Hampden Park to watch the following two teams take the field:
Celtic: Fallon, Young, Gemmell; Murdoch, McNeill, Clark; Chalmers, Gallagher, Hughes, Lennox, Auld.
Dunfermline Athletic: Herriot, W. Callaghan, Lunn; Thomson, McLean, T. Callaghan; Edwards, Smith, McLaughlin, Melrose, Sinclair.
‘We’ll forgive every thin, Cel-lic, every thin, if ye’s jist win the dae’ screamed a desperate Glasgow voice in my ear as referee Hugh Phillips of Wishaw started the game.
Celtic were playing towards their own supporters, although in truth, there were enough of them at the other end as well, and green and white favours seemed to outnumber black and white ones by about 20 to 1. The weather was fine – a bright spring day with more than a hint of a breeze.
The Pars drew first blood as Melrose hooked a ball from the edge of the penalty area after the Celtic defence had failed to mop up a throw in and goalkeeper Fallon had been caught off his line. Time 15 minutes and then Celtic began to surge forward, playing the sort of football that would become their hallmark in years to come.
On the half hour mark, inside forward Charlie Gallagher picked up a loose ball and shot from about 25 yards. The ball hit the bar, and the cries of frustration from the packed Celtic end were strangled when it was seen that the ball, caught in a capricious gust of wind, did not fly over the bar, nor bounce back into play, but shot straight up in the air. The bar was still shaking with the vehemence of the shot as the ball came down, and the ever alert Bertie Auld kept his eye on it and headed in from about six inches out.
It was one of the strangest goals ever seen at Hampden Park, but totally deserved, you felt, before about thirty strangers of all ages and sexes jumped on your back in ecstasy.
1-1, but then just at half time a cemetery silence descended once again on the Celtic End amid the odd call for the sacking of Queen’s Park’s public address system man.
It was bizarre the way Dunfermline went ahead again. A soft free kick had been conceded outside the box. Melrose shaped to take it, but instead tapped the ball to McLaughlin. At that very instant the P.A. system announced a message that nobody heard but might well have gone down in infamy. The Celtic defence’s concentration fatally wilted, and everybody hesitated as McLaughlin hammered a great goal past Fallon.
The half time whistle went soon afterwards, and everybody felt that this was rough justice. Celtic had played better football, had had more possession of the ball, and yet these two Dunfermline goals had given them a 2-1 lead.
Half time was spent in a curious state of introverted pessimism and everybody was wishing they hadn’t come and that they’d never heard of football or Celtic, for there was that sickening promise of another disappointment, one that would be hard to handle psychologically.
But this was a different-Celtic team. This one had passion as well as skill. The days of the cavings-in had gone, and within five minutes of the restart, they were level again. It was that left wing pair of Lennox and Auld again! Auld had released Lennox, then had charged into the penalty area to receive the return pass, to hammer home a low shot at the very instant of being tackled.
It was now that we began to have our alternate dream and nightmare scenario, as both teams served up what would be described by all the papers as a great game of football.
If anything, Dunfermline upped a gear once they got over the shock of the equaliser, and on at least two occasions Celtic were indebted to John Fallon for saving them. He may have been partly to blame for the first goal, but he made up for it now as first Edwards, then McLaughlin shot for him-to save brilliantly. Then Celtic began to take command for a spell, as the feeling began to grow once we were in the last quarter of an hour that the next goal would be the winner. Nine minutes remained as Lennox’s speed won Celtic a corner on the left at the Mount Florida end. Charlie Gallagher took it, sent over a perfect ball and Billy McNeill appeared from nowhere to head home, taking radio and TV commentators as much by surprise as he did the Dunfermline defence.
This was indeed story book, B(h)oys Own stuff, full of romance and joy with plucky winners and gallant losers.
But journalists and historians have tended to ignore the truth when they talk about Celtic’s meeting with destiny and so on. The truth was that we had nine undignified minutes to live through. Nine minutes of sweating, praying, pleading, bowel churning, bladder bursting, promising to attend Church every Sunday for the rest of our life, agony to live through.
Fortunately the players on the park were calmer than we were at the top of Gangway 25 as Bertie Auld pretended to trip over and stand on the pile of policemen’s coats as he shaped to take a corner kick.
Hugh Phillips eventually gave way to the pressure of 100,000 hysterical voices and pointed to the dressing room. Now we could talk of Captain Courageous, of the old Celtic Cup Magic, heroes of the hour, and the glorious uplands of our august destiny.
Why, somebody even said we could maybe win the European Cup – ‘maybe no’ next year, but the year efter that’, and we all slapped him on the back as we shared his unfettered joy. We cried as they ran towards the Celtic End with the trophy, some whose childhoods had been flawed and underpriviliged but whose young manhood would now be rich with the joys of triumph. Introverted, sad children suddenly became alert, cheerful, confident young people, and life would never be the same agalll.
There was an appointment with history in one sense. Rangers’ victory over Dundee in the 1964 Scottish Cup had meant that for the first time since 1922 Celtic had slipped behind in the table of Cup winners. Now we were back level again, for we had won the Scottish Cup for the eighteenth time. The pendulum had swung back.