Bertie Auld enjoyed a rapport with the fans in the Jungle that very few of his contemporaries could boast of. Indeed, only other characters with the confidence and streetwise streak he possessed, such as Charlie Tully and Jimmy Johnstone, came near to equalling this mutual respect the Jungle and Bertie had for each other.
“They were my kind of people,” Bertie says when discussing his vast army of supporters who packed into the north enclosure. And he was most certainly their hero as they showed on countless occasions during his long love affair with the club.
“The Jungle was the place for me,” says Bertie in a tone that dismisses any attempt at debate. “I was lucky, I suppose, that we were on the same wavelength for that was where the bulk of the real support came from in my days at the park. When those guys got behind you it was a case of knowing you dare not let them down. Many a game they turned for us with their backing and I always set out to get them going. If there was any wee trick I could pull during a game I always tried to do it over there just for their entertainment.
“Mind you, sometimes it got me into bother with big Jock. I remember we were playing Clyde and I had the ball and no one would come near me so i just sat down on it. The punters loved it but the big man nearly blew a gasket. He sent Neilly Mochan round the track to warn me of the dire consequences if I ever did that again. He thought I was taunting the Clyde lads and making a fool of them. There was no way I was doing that. It was just a wee bit of fun and the Clyde players realised that and joined in the laughter. But I should have known better than cross the Big Man, though, as he was very much the boss in those days and nobody ever got on his wrong side if they could help it.
“But that was just my wee gesture to the fans on what was the last apearance of the Lisbon lions before we split up and the fans were there for a bit of entertainment and I decided to give them something different for a change.
“Jock knew how to get the crowds in though. He was a master at pulling strokes. That game was on May 1st 1971 and in the previous game we had played Ayr United and Jock had a fielded a team that was a mixture of the Lions and some of his promising kids who were on the verge of breaking through to the first team. In that game the men from the Lions side were Jim Craig, Billy McNeill, Jimmy Johnstone, Bobby Lennox and Willie Wallace. The others included Kenny Dalglish, Lou Macari, Davie Hay and George Connelly. But for the last game against Clyde the Big Man decided to do it in style and brought back the entire Lison Lions side for the occasion, although Ronnie Simpson just ran out and then, at the kick-off, evan Williams took his place. We won 6:1 with Bobby Lennox getting a hat-trick, Willie Wallace two and Stevie Chalmers the last one.”
Another time when Big Jock pulled a fast one was once more against Clyde when every Celtic player wore the number 8 shorts to demonstrate the club’s eight successive league championship victories. Again Lennox was the scourge of Clyde with another hat-trick in a 5:0 win, with Kenny Dalglish and Danny McGrain getting the other goals.”
Auld, by that time, had left the Parkhead scene to go to Hibs. It had not always been plain sailing for him at Celtic Park and Bob Kelly, who was the chairman at the time, decided to do without Auld and had transferred him to Birmingham City for £15,000 in 1961. But you can’t beat skill and ability, even though it was tinged at times with a fiery temper, and finally Kelly was tempted by Sean Fallon to bring Bertie back into the fold.
In his days with Birmingham, Bertie picked up a winner medal when city bear arch-rivals Aston Villa to win the League Cup. But, as Celtic struggled, they realised how much they needed Auld’s guile and influential midfield skills, and jimmy McGrory signed him again in January 1965 for £12,000.
It was a masterstroke, for within a couple of months Jock Stein arrived to inspire Celtic to a thrilling 3:2 win over Dunfermline in the Scottish Cup final. Bertie played a significant part in that triumph and he was welcomed back where he belonged.
He says, “That was one of the best moves I ever made, although it cost me a fiver of a drop in my basic wage. But it wasn’t a question of whether the money was right for me. the club was right and that was all that mattered. I was back to play for the team I loved and the fans i loved.”
In those earlier days, when he had signed from maryhill harp in 1955, Bertie had made his mark on the senior players around him and these included such as Jock stein, Bobby Evans, Bertie Peacock, Neilly mochan, Bobby Collins and Charlie Tully. Charlie once said that he noted straight away that Auld was not like the other young players who had joined the club around that time. “He was full of confidence in his own ability,” said Charlie, “and he used to lark about in a jockey cap and before I knew what was happening he was calling me ‘daddy’!”
Although Bertie gave his very best at all times, the nights he loved most of all were the big European occasions when his big match temperament came into its own. he milked them to the full and the punters who packed the Jungle still get a warm feeling of contentment when they remember how they saw the home grown talent of the bhoy from maryhill take on the highly paid stars of Europe and emerge triumphant.
From Jungle Tales by John Quinn